It’s been a little over three weeks since two Orange Coast College students died within 24 hours of each other in suspected drug overdoses at The Harbour, the newly opened, on-campus housing complex. Since then, Harbour residents have taken to social media, and other means to voice their concerns and experiences about living there.
“With recent events, I feel a little bit uncomfortable since it happened so close to my dorm,” said an OCC business administration student and resident of The Harbour, who wished to remain anonymous. “I feel like it’s really unfortunate for everyone, especially us students.”
The resident also said they didn’t feel like the security at The Harbour or resident assistants (RA’s) were approachable or able to help.
“I’ve never seen any type of security in the dorms,” the resident said.
The student believes it would be more helpful for residents to have ongoing counseling services available on site, especially in light of the recent tragedies. The Harbour did offer drop-in counseling the week of Feb. 16, but this resident didn’t know about the service at the time.
“If they don’t feel well, and need to talk to somebody, they could go ahead and do that here,” the resident said.
That resident was not alone in feeling that The Harbour has not provided adequate support to its residents.
“I've actually never met the RA. Never heard anything about them, other than they texted me the other day asking for my contact information and asking me to fill out a survey,” said Chloe Romney, a communications student at OCC and resident of The Harbour.
“I've never, ever seen a public safety or security officer in the building,” Romney said. “I've seen them out in the parking lot. Mostly I've seen them in vacant areas.”
Romney said that once, while leaving for work early in the morning, a man followed her to her car. She was able to get away into her car safely, but after leaving the parking lot, saw an OCC Public Safety officer in a patrol car parked in a vacant parking lot on the other side of campus, not directly in front of The Harbour.
Romney called The Harbour about the incident later that day, but had to leave a voicemail because it was Sunday. After calling back the next day, management only gave her a phone number to contact an OCC public safety escort to her car in the mornings.
“That kind of made me mad when they said that,” Romney said. “They would rather give me a number for somebody to walk me to my car, wasting my time in my morning, rather than just fix a safety issue and have security do their job.”
“The fact that I've never had a conversation with the RA or never had a conversation with any type of public safety speaks for itself,” Romney said. “If we have public safety officers, they should just be patrolling the area and making sure that our community is safe.”
According to Jim Rudy, director of OCC Public Safety, The Scion Group is responsible for what happens inside The Harbour, while OCC Public Safety is responsible for the parking lot. The Scion Group is the property management company for The Harbour, who hires a third party security company, Securitas, for security inside the building.
“We do patrol checks and show high visibility in the parking lot, which is our job to patrol,” Rudy said, regarding the safety concerns of students. “We also have 24-hour security transport for any student walking on campus or to The Harbour.”
Ray Tennison, senior director at The Scion Group, said the safety and wellness of their residents represents their company’s highest priority.
“The Harbour has dedicated overnight security personnel, and closely collaborates with OCC Public Safety and the College’s Office of Residential Life. Additionally, managers are on-call and available for emergencies 24/7/365,” Tennison said in a statement to Coast Report.
According to Tennison, OCC’s full code of conduct applies within The Harbour, including penalties up to potential eviction for non-compliance.
“We will continue to act to protect the safety of our community, including taking swift action to exclude from the community anyone whose conduct is detrimental to the health and safety of others,” Tennison said.
Coast Report reached out to OCC's Housing and Residential Education for a response but has not heard back.
A third student, who came forward anonymously, also doesn’t feel safe living in The Harbour.
“I feel like in the beginning, everything was fine,” the resident said. “But after, like, the first month there, I didn't like it there. It wasn't just what I was seeing around, but I just felt something like, ‘no, this isn't right.’ And I no longer feel safe.”
For them, that feeling worsened when the students died three weeks ago.
“Especially with what happened to those two students – it's really sad that it had to cost the lives of those two students,” the resident said.
When dealing with security at The Harbour, the resident has also been told to contact campus security when something happens at the dorms, such as a time they came across blood droplets in a bathroom at The Harbour.
“If something happens and you guys wanted to call campus safety, they don't come out or the call just gets forwarded to the Costa Mesa police,” the resident said. “So you don't even have direct access to campus safety basically. That's it – like literally it – to be completely honest with you. That's all they do.”
The resident also expressed their frustration with the RA situation at The Harbour and their inability to speak out or actually enforce any rules at The Harbour, such as when it comes to parties thrown by students and residents. According to the resident, some of the residents throw parties where drugs are present, and invite students to these parties and to partake in drugs. They have noticed the smell of smoke from drugs in the hallway, and heard of residents smoking marijuana and using other drugs in their rooms.
They also felt uncomfortable knowing that The Harbour is open to non-students, in addition to students.
“That’s really weird,” the resident said. “I didn't know., I thought it was all part of [the district].”
The resident also said it’s really hard for them to sleep at The Harbour due to parties with loud music, the fire alarm constantly going off (three times, just the day they moved in), and excessive barking, though dogs aren’t officially allowed in the building. They expressed concern that the fire alarm repeatedly going off could lead to students not exiting the building if an actual emergency were to occur.
“I can't focus on my education. I can't focus on myself right now,” the resident said. “Not to mention just being constantly sleep deprived. Instead, I have to worry about trying to get the heck out of [the lease]...Why did it have to come to this?”
When it comes to fixing the problems at The Harbour, the resident believes the solution lies in other students residing at The Harbour speaking out about what they’re experiencing. They said they wished there was a way to check into complaints filed by students to The Harbour, to see if any actionable steps had been taken to fix the problems.
“Some residents are just saying all this is because of what happened. I'm like, ‘no, if you were there, you see what's going on, like you'd actually see for yourself,’” the student said. “All this was already happening. And because of all that, that's what led to the loss of two residents, that could have been prevented if somebody who saw something, said something.”
Though multiple students are also looking to end their lease, other students such as Romney, still enjoy living at The Harbour.
“These dorms are extremely convenient to have at a community college like this – they help a lot of people out,” Romney said. “It's a pretty convenient thing to have, but they are kind of overlooking the general things that anybody in any community would need to feel safe.”
“I feel that the voices of the people who live here need to be heard a little bit more, because if anyone's going to know what to fix, it's going to be us,” Romney said.
Romney thinks safety at The Harbour could be improved simply by cracking down on rules and being a bit stricter in the dorms. She liked the idea of The Harbour setting up some kind of suggestion hotline for students.
“This is a fairly new apartment complex. I understand completely that you're not going to get everything perfect the first time – nobody gets anything perfect the first time,” Romney said. “Obviously there's going to be things to improve on. Without any type of suggestions being made, nothing will improve.”
Despite her concerns, Romney thinks The Harbour is a good place to live and doesn’t plan on moving out of the student housing.
“Rather than running away from The Harbour and ending my lease, I'd rather help to fix it and make the community better,” Romney said.
Meanwhile, other students are so desperate to get out of their leases that they have resorted to moving in with relatives, while still paying rent for an apartment they do not feel safe to live in, like a friend of one of the anonymous residents.
Students, staff and faculty who feel unsafe anywhere on campus and wish to request a public safety escort can call 714-432-5017. Safety escorts are available 24 hours a day.
If any students living at The Harbour would like to share their experiences, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 817-455-5310.