Forum focuses on community

Landlords, neighbors and students gathered in Room 106 of Loser Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 28, to take part in an open forum titled “Opening the Door to Lasting Relationships” conducted by the volunteer organization Township and College Together (TACT). Together with Ewing Township and the College, TACT provided an opportunity to discuss different strategies and ideas on how to create and maintain harmonious relationships with each other and as members of the community.

Marita Sciarrotta, TACT chairwoman, began the meeting with a formal introduction. “The one real motivation behind this forum is to facilitate dialogue and talk about things that will bring us together and things that possibly create a wedge in our relationships.”

She made sure to establish that TACT is not an arm of the College or of the township; it has no administrative powers. Rather, “it aims to handle problems before they become affairs of the police or the College.”

Patricia Coleman-Boatwright, associate vice president for Public Affairs, continued, “We have high hopes for what can be accomplished.”

The group was then divided into two distinct categories – student renters and landlords. Neighbors, members of the Ewing Township Council and police officers could decide which subgroup discussions they wanted to attend.

During their discussion, the landlords shared techniques they employ to create a workable and enjoyable business relationship with their tenants.

“We have a role and task as good landlords to help these students learn to be good community members,” Lynn Golan, a landlord and representative speaker for the group, said.

At the same time, they are not there to “baby” students. Methods such as a $25 penalty for not bringing the garbage to the curb are used as motivation for good communal behavior. Another technique used is reducing the rent by $200, but increasing it once a noise problem involving police intervention occurs. Guest behavior at parties is also the sole responsibility of the tenants.

All of the landlords agreed it is imperative to rent to good tenants.

“The most important thing is to get the best tenants you can find,” Marian Jordan, a veteran landlord who also trains other landlords, said. “With students, I look at personality and their behavior. If a group comes in and they look like party animals I won’t rent to them.” She also feels it is important to meet the parents of the students and create a relationship with them as well.

In the students’ group, topics such as the importance of being a good neighbor were discussed. Lauren Russo, executive vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA), mentioned how she hands out index cards to her neighbors with all of her contact information on it. If the noise level gets too high, she urges the neighbors to call.

“All ‘neighborhood’ is is a fancy word for relationships,” Ewing Councilman Joe Murphy said. “You should be able to count on your neighbors for help.”

Once the groups were reunited, the floor was opened for forum participants to share the ideas they discussed. Both sides listened to each other as they said what they felt their role should be relative to one another and the community as a whole.