Thursday, October 1, 2009

Campus Community Coalition Turns Ten - Time for Renewed Efforts


Several days ago the City of Bellingham and Western Washington University celebrated the 10th anniversary of the formation of the Campus Community Coalition (CCC) at a ceremony at City Hall.* (Click here to find out more about the CCC). There are some encouraging signs that the CCC may become more effective. Mayor Pike and President Shepard signed a document affirming their commitment to the CCC.

From the city’s website comes this: “The Coalition, which has a longstanding “home” in Prevention and Wellness Services of Western’s Student Affairs Division, is changing its approach somewhat. It will continue its primary focus of addressing health and safety issues, especially challenges related to student alcohol use. However, it will also be positioned to assist with some other student/community related issues and to strengthen community partnerships through its new involvement with the WWU Office of University Relations.” (Click here to read full text.)

The expanded mission of the CCC reads as follows: “The Campus Community Coalition promotes working relationships and communication among the colleges and community to enhance shared responsibility through collaborative education and problem-solving to improve the health, safety, and quality of life of the entire community.” This new statement flows from the realization that the CCC’s mission was usually viewed by the public as going beyond the control of alcohol abuse by students. Now that the mission reflects the expectation we can, perhaps, anticipate more from WWU. I think we can also look for increased participation by Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College as members of the Coalition.

It is unfortunate, however, that the President of WWU did not use his “bully pulpit” during his annual talk to the faculty and students on 16 September to speak to the community. The talk (click here to read it), which rightly spoke to some of the severe problems that WWU is facing, said little about community ties except in the context of education and the Waterfront. I think WWU would obtain a more enthusiastic response to its desire to have a place at the Waterfront, if the issues regarding the impact of students on the quality of life of the community were dealt with more forcefully. When you are “educating a parade”, as Dr. Shepard put it, you have to get their attention.

I am also encouraged by the arrival earlier this year of Steve Swan, who is the Vice-President for University Affairs. We have had several meetings since his arrival and we regularly exchange emails. I find him most receptive to new ideas. Recently, I sent him a paper on actions taken by the University of Florida at Gainesville. This could serve as a model for WWU and the City of Bellingham. Here is the Executive Summary:

“The University of Florida Town/Gown Task Force was appointed by the University of Florida President Charles E. Young in response to an initiative of the University Faculty Senate. The Task Force met from April to September 2002 to develop an action plan that addresses university impacts in the neighborhoods around campus. The Task Force identified critical issues, defined countermeasures, assigned responsibility and set priorities for implementing change. This university effort was paralleled by a similar process sponsored by the City of Gainesville involving multiple citizen committees and a consultant report, ‘Analysis of Issues Regarding Student Housing Near the University of Florida.’ ” (Click here to read the entire report.)

The consultant report for the City of Gainesville can also serve as a point of reference for the City of Bellingham. You can read that report by clicking here. A similar study for this city would be a major investment in the future of the neighborhoods and the preservation of their character, which, by state law, the city is obliged to do. It would seem prudent to invest as much in this area as the city is dispensing for the future of the Waterfront. The Bellingham City Council ought to take a hard look at these studies to serve as start for the council’s decision in August 2008 to: “Initiate discussions with the University to allow the University to understand city and neighborhood concerns about the impacts of increased enrollment on the community and what we would hope that the University would do in a cooperative manner with the city.”

Now is the time.


*For the record I have been a member of the CCC for the last several years.

No comments: