University of Florida students participated in the 2008 Gator Plunge, a day-long service event throughout the Gainesville community.
Pictured, students planted trees and created a concrete game court at a local school.
conversations are not necessarily new, at least a segment of the
audience changes annually.
Some positions on campuses across the nation are jointly
funded by a university and the local community, such as
Melissa Emerson’s position as assistant director of off-campus
student services and community liaison at Colorado State
University. Emerson frequently receives queries from other
universities about her job description, and she maintains that
such a position should remain neutral in the town–gown
divide. “It’s a great way to be a bridge, and it’s important
when there are differences of opinion to remain neutral and to
remain credible,” she says.
Emerson’s mission is to bring all stakeholders together for
dialogue and problem solving. “To do town–gown relationship building, you need to have all parties and players at the
table, and this is the perfect forum to do that,” she explains,
noting that most professional associations through universities
or cities did not include all of the various entities.
Emerson organized the first best practices conference and
hosts the Town–Gown Network website and online discussion board ( http://towngown.colostate.edu/). Articles posted
on this website address recent news related to off-campus
students, such as revisions to local ordinances about the number of unrelated individuals allowed to live in a single-family
home and attempts to formalize party registration.
The city of Clemson, South Carolina, and Clemson
University are widely considered to be national models for
building and maintaining positive and mutually beneficial town–gown relations. The International Town Gown
Association (ITGA), based at Clemson University, is striving
to become the primary information resource for common
issues between institutions of higher learning and the communities in which they reside. ITGA is a membership-based,
non-government organization, managed by a board of directors with a full-time staff consisting of a director and administrative assistant.
Like many other areas in student affairs, off-campus life
issues have coalesced into a specialty within the profession,
and The Best Practices in Building University/City Relations
Conference recently celebrated its fourth year. Organized
through the Town–Gown Network and co-sponsored by
Murray State University in Kentucky and the local community, the 2009 theme was “Teaming Across Campus and
Community.” Its mission was to create an environment of
deliberative dialogue among students, faculty, staff, elected
officials, decisionmakers, and the public at large, and to
empower the creative development and implementation of
innovative solutions. The conference’s three primary tracks
included: teaming across campus and community, civic
(continued from page 10)
engagement/service learning, and college and community as
Town–Gown Coalitions and Stakeholders
Stakeholders in town–gown relationships are varied, but typically include students, faculty, staff, alumni, administrators,
and parents on the academic side. On the town side, stakeholders include landlords, realtors, law enforcement, elected
officials, neighbors, bars/nightclubs, and state liquor control,
code enforcement, and fire protection personnel. To improve
off-campus and community relationships, it is crucial to identify the local stakeholders and build relationships among them
to resolve pressing issues. Many campuses have recurring task
forces or coalitions to promote communication and to address
town–gown issues and initiatives, usually with high-profile
leaders as co-chairs.
Alcohol-related incidents and activities frequently dominate
discussions. Many communities create coalitions on alcohol issues with both university and local leaders to promote
behavior change in students within the community. In central
Florida, the Orange County Underage Drinking Task Force
combined the efforts of local government personnel with staff
from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Rollins
College to affect change. Co-chaired by UCF President John
Hitt and Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty, the task
force succeeded in changing local ordinances in Winter Park
to limit operations for vendors who repeatedly sell alcohol to
underage patrons and to create an ordinance to hold owners
and landlords responsible for illegal open-house parties.
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), the
NU Directions task force focuses on alcohol issues and is
co-chaired by Juan Franco, UNL’s vice chancellor for student affairs, and Tom Casady, chief of the Lincoln Police
Department. Goals of NU Directions for the 2008-2009 academic year addressed alcohol environment issues on campus
and in the community; drinking and driving among UNL
students; high-risk drinking among Greek-affiliated students
and specific non-Greek student populations; high-risk drinking associated with traditions, rituals, and celebrations; and
creating a statewide coalition of campus–community environmental efforts.
A philosophical issue that separates many campuses is the
decision to adjudicate off-campus offenses through university
judicial systems if the actions violate the student conduct
code. At the University of Florida, the university does not
adjudicate off-campus violations except in the instance of a
violent crime or if a student is convicted of driving under the
influence off campus.
Alcohol issues tend to be one area for which colleges and
universities make exceptions for off-campus violations. For