Loud noises, littered yards, trashed streets and unkempt recyclables that some Ewing Township residents experience have caused a strained relationship between members of Ewing and the College community over the past years, according to Ewing Township Business Administrator Jim McManimon.
McManimon, who serves to keep a balance between the two communities, noted that as Ewing residents’ nights end, college students’ nights begin.
According to the results of a Qualtrics survey sent to all students from the Student Government, 64 percent of off-campus students said that they openly communicate with some or all of their neighbors. However, 82 percent of off-campus students living in the Ewing community disagreed with the statement, “I believe that the residents of Ewing view (the College) students as positive members of the community,” according to Christina Kopka, senior Spanish and marketing double major and Student Government president.
Twenty-seven percent of freshmen and 78 percent of seniors disagreed with this statement as well.
In an effort to bring the College and Ewing Township communities together, a Town/Gown Committee was formed with its mission statement reading that the committee is: “committed to improving communication between the Township of Ewing and (the College), analyzing issues of common concern to achieve resolution, and facilitating mutual participation in community, cultural and civic activities.”
“We want to help strengthen the future not only of the relationship between (the College) and the Township of Ewing, but also the relationship between the student body, the Township of Ewing and (the College),” said Ewing Township Mayor, Bert Steinmann.
To accomplish this, the Town/Gown meetings update Ewing residents on the College’s projects, the amount and type of incidents committed by students off campus and how the township and College will follow up on those students and the numerous economic and social benefits the College brings to the surrounding communities.
Updates of Campus Town were given by vice president for Facilities Management, Construction and Campus Safety, Curt Heuring. Heuring told audience members that this project will benefit Ewing Township in many ways including adding amenities Ewing is lacking and creating more jobs. Work on Campus Town is projected to be completed in spring 2014.
The focus though was on the increase of incidents off campus.
“As a student body we neither condone nor support the inappropriate and disrespectful conduct of our peers, whether it’s on or off campus,” Kopka said. “We recognize that we are members of the Ewing community and we’d like to move forward in building a positive relationship and mutual understanding between our campus and the township.”
The first step in bringing the two communities together, according to associate vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Magda Manetas, is to hold students accountable for their actions and continue conversations with the outside community.
“We want to continue to hold students accountable, and they need to make better decisions. A change in our process that was very important to us and developed in the past few years is our new conduct code,” Manetas said. “We’d be glad, and it’s very healthy, to have those conversations with the students, hold them accountable and make sure that our larger community is feeling respected and our students are feeling respected with them.”
The Qualtrics survey also asked students to disagree or agree with this statement: “I believe I’m a valued member of the Ewing community.” According to Kopka, the results showed that 19.1 percent of freshmen and 52 percent of seniors disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement.
“These are numbers we want to change regarding the negative perception between (the College) and Ewing residents, but we can’t do it alone,” Kopka said. “Great potential exists for creative partnerships and collaborations for our campus and the surrounding community. However, such potential will not come to fruition if (the College) and Ewing residents don’t make a conscious, mutual effort and understand and respect and appreciate each other.”
Though the meeting was not heavily attended by Ewing residents, the students who went, including junior history and secondary education double major Devin Dimmig, were able to take away some important and interesting information.
“We got some really great, informative information about everything that’s going on on and off campus,” Dimmig said. “The whole meeting was focused on the issues, and bridging the gap between the communities.”
The expectations for the next Town/Gown meeting, which will be hosted by the township on Dec. 4, were expressed in an interview with Kopka after this meeting.
“Definitely continuation of the conversation that we had today,” she said. “I think we’re going to see hopefully more feedback from the township. I think we need to publicize out public meetings a little bit better as we saw today, but definitely a continuation of conversation, updates of data that was saw today, as well, and definitely plans for next semester, figuring out what we accomplished this semester and where we want to go for the next.”