By Nicole Stout
I remember entering college in 2011 and being told I was going to miss out on a lot. Everyone was excited to be in a new place filled with opportunity and new things to explore. It just wasn’t the same for me. Ewing was not new for me — it has always been my home.
Today, I am one of a large amount of commuters. Commuting has grown to be extremely common at the College since I started. Over half of the student population seems to be made up of commuters and, yes, that includes the people who live just across the street from the College since they don’t live in a dorm. While commuting works for many students and families, some don’t appreciate the growing number of college students living off-campus in their neighborhoods.
As a Ewing resident who is still pretty close to the community, I hear the complaints of those I grew up with who are now surrounded by students from the College. They are aggravated by trash on the lawns and houses not being taken care of by tenants to the point that they must be knocked down. Although that behavior is unacceptable, some of the claims are exaggerated, and the attitudes of some Ewing residents make it worse. Many of those who live next door to college housing have such predisposed negative opinions about students based on previous neighbors or rumors that they don’t give them a chance. I’ve heard of neighbors calling the police if more cars are at a house than normal just to kill a party before it happens (even if a party wasn’t even happening).
A few have repeatedly called the homeowner to get him to kick out residents. There has been a growing want to keep houses in Ewing as “family homes.” Regarding some houses for sale, the lister has been told not to sell to anyone who wants to rent the house out. If this trend ever catches on, it will be tough for commuters to find a place to stay.
Not every Ewing resident is against having college students for neighbors, though, just as not all college students are disrespectful to their neighbors. I know students from the College who, after snowstorms, have shoveled and made spaces for elderly neighbors’ cars, have gotten together with neighbors over some wine and treats and have helped out their neighbors constantly while going through school. In suburban pockets like these, Ewing residents and college students seem to be much happier. I’ve even been told that the neighbors, children and grandchildren of these neighbors will miss them after they graduate.
So what could we, the students at the College, do about making all our interactions with the Ewing community positive ones? Things won’t get better overnight, but every small step puts students from the College in a better light to Ewing residents. Introduce yourself and offer to help if you have any skills that might be needed. As a Ewing resident myself, we just want to see college students treat this town as if it was your home, because for now, it is. We don’t want such a disconnect from those renting houses.
So please, go out, meet your neighbors. Bake cookies for them or take a bottle of wine or a meal over just to spark that connection. If we all did that, we’d be a few steps closer to fixing relations with the residents of Ewing.