City reaching out to students

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September 16, 2008

1:44 PM

The Neighborhood Council of Williamsburg is working to increase student-city resident interaction.
Town-gown relations have had an unsteady history. City laws have made it difficult for students to live off-campus — zoning laws, noise regulations and the three-person rule complicate the rentals for off-campus students.

Residents have complained about parties, parking and debris produced by these students, contributing to the student-city animosity. In light if the recent City Council election, however, the city has been aiming to amend these relationships.

“We are looking forward to working much closer with the student body this year,” Neighborhood Council of Williamsburg chairman Jim Joseph said.

Around campus, eight signs bearing the city seal welcomed students back to campus. The city funded these welcome banners and placed them in high-traffic parts of the city.

“The signs were new for us this year,” Williamsburg Mayor Jeanne Zeidler said. She also emphasized the council’s desire to connect with College students.

“They were the first things I noticed when I got off the highway,” Student Assembly Undersecretary for Public Affairs Dave Johnson ’09 said Saturday at an NCW meeting.

Last week’s block parties were thrown in local neighborhoods to allow residents and College students to interact and get to know each other. Many students and city residents showed up to the block parties, despite poor weather. Although the city has thrown block parties for students in the past, this said this year’s turnout was especially high.

“Those were the best block parties I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Johnson said. “[I] appreciate the city’s effort on that.”

Zeidler agreed.

“The block parties were a huge success,” she said. “There was very good interaction between students and residents.”

The city has also gone online, using Facebook in efforts to connect with the College. Students can become a fan of the “City of Williamsburg” and gain access to local coupons, city newsletters, event calendars and the William and Mary Student Guide to the City of Williamsburg. The Student Guide offers valuable resources for accessing local services like bus routes and schedules, emergency numbers, and city contacts.

“We’ve been doing [the Student Guide] for a number of years, and it’s updated each year,” Zeidler said. “We will probably send it out once more so students can take advantage of it. … Students get a lot of information that way.”

Zeidler said Williamsburg will continue to make connections with the College, promising regular meetings with SA and student leaders to improve town-gown relations in the upcoming school year.

“The Student Assembly and city leaders will be meeting once every three weeks to discuss issues with the College,” Zeidler said. “So we can continue to include the College in our city planning.”

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