ANDOVER — Access to Merrimack College is tightly controlled amid efforts to limit spread of COVID-19, but neighbors of the campus complain that some of its students are slipping onto nearby streets to meet take-out delivery drivers and otherwise avoid the guard shack at the Elm Street entrance.
“The kids are skirting the front entrance, the screenings, and they are being dropped off in the neighborhood, and they will just walk through the back of the dorms to get where they need to go,” said Joanna Reck, whose Rock Ridge Road home is across the street from campus.
“Or they will use DoorDash and UberEats," she said of the delivery services. "So, the kids will call and just say, ‘Meet us in this neighborhood in front of this house,’ and the kids will come running out and grab their food.”
Dan Hartshorn, of Foxhill Road, said students are avoiding the coronavirus safety checkpoint at the college's main entrance by using his address as a rendezvous for take-out drivers as well as ride-hailing services such as Uber.
Hartshorn added that some parents "enable" the students.
"I have had run-ins with parents,” he said. “I’ve had parents blast by in their Mercedes, going 40 mph up the street, and I yell at them saying, ‘What are you doing? Slow down!’”
Reck said she’s complained to Andover police, who've forwarded her messages to Merrimack College police, yet nothing has happened.
“It’s frustrating that the college thinks that they have the campus on lockdown, and the campus is so much more porous than they know,” she said.
Two Merrimack College officials, Vice President of Communications Bethany LoMonaco and Executive Vice President Jeffrey Doggett, did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.
However, Andover police Lt. Edward Guy said the department is working with the college to address the delivery and speeding complaints.
Andover police have ramped up patrols in the area, he said.
“We have made a concerted effort to have patrols make extra checks in that area for speeders and any type of suspicious activity," Guy said. "As we have told the residents, it is a public road, and it is difficult to stop people from using the street as a cut-through. The residents have been instructed to notify the Police Department if they do observe suspicious or concerning activities.”
The college has worked to identify and contain cases of COVID-19 since students returned in the fall. A September outbreak prompted a quarantine of 266 students living in the Monican Centre residence hall. More than 90 cases were eventually associated with that outbreak.
Earlier this month, college leaders closed the St. Ann apartments, a dormitory for about 60 students, citing a spike in cases that was a "direct result of an indoor unsanctioned student gathering."
Many residents of the apartments had already departed for the Thanksgiving break when the dormitory was closed. Others were placed in quarantine in their rooms.
Hartshorn and Reck also complain about correspondence from the college. Both are members of an email list of about 30 neighbors who share messages from the college pertaining to traffic, speeding and students filtering through the neighborhood to access their dormitories. One such correspondence involved an email sent by Doggett on Saturday, Nov. 21, announcing the closure of the St. Ann apartments.
Reck and Hartshorn said they feel college is putting a “rosy glow” on conditions and wish Merrimack leaders would be more forthcoming with the community.
“I think they are spinning it in the best possible way they can put spin on it," Reck said. "I think that it's probably a lot worse than they are making it out to be.”
Hartshorn said the college is promoting its COVID-19 protocols, even as it sends home students who've been infected.
"They should be more forthcoming and transparent with everyone, not just our neighborhood," he said.