Foster town-gown communication
April 15, 2011
Just one year ago, campus was covered in signs, rallies and fundraisers supporting Scott Foster ’10 for Williamsburg City Council. After a well run-campaign, Foster was elected in a landslide victory and became the first College of William and Mary student to be elected to city council. Many students are no doubt disappointed that Foster did not immediately rip the infamous three-person rule to shreds, and that students living off campus are still being punished for noise violations. It is easy to say that not much has changed. However, Foster’s election was a major milestone for students at the College, and we should remember to take advantage of the bridge his election has provided.
The Student Assembly should try to partner with Foster in order to link the city council to the College. Every year, the SA is allotted funds in order to provide students with events and activities. The SA needs to realize that some of these funds can be a bargaining tool if they want to sponsor events with the City of Williamsburg. By investing funds in events planned by the city, such as public concerts and homecoming events, the SA can ensure that students will be given a voice in their planning. Students frequently complain that Williamsburg residents resent us, but we have no right to complain unless we are willing to bring something constructive to the table.
Zoning policies ad development projects in Williamsburg are examples of areas in which it would be helpful to have more student interest. The successful construction of Tribe Square shows how cooperation between students and the city cam tremendously benefit students. Students should voice their concerns that more student-friendly housing needs to be built, like housing specifically focused on students which would allow students to live in apartment communities with their peers. Because fellow students are likely to have similar social expectations, a student-geared apartment complex not affiliated with the College would reduce noise complaints and generational clashes. Furthermore, students would be able to avoid living in derelict properties managed by slumlords just because it is a cheaper housing option. Without adequate communication and vested student engagement in Williamsburg government, such a complex is unlikely to be constructed.
Another and more immediate way SA interaction with the city council could benefit students is in the form of events. While the past month has seen a plethora of great performers at the College, I would still like to see more big name shows at the College. Because the College is not as large as other schools, it is harder to book more popular acts without raising ticket prices. This is where Foster’s unique position could best serve the College. If the College, the city and other community partners were able to come together, they could combine funds to book entertainment that would appeal to both citizens of Williamsburg and students. These joint events and festivals would create a tighter sense of community between the two groups, and although it would certainly not solve problems such as noise complaints, it would show that students are willing to work constructively with the city.
There is absolutely no doubt that the three-person rule and strict noise ordinances are still dark clouds hanging over town-gown relationships. We have the opportunity to be more productive players in decisions that are made in Williamsburg, which can significantly affect the future of student life. Students at the College played a major role in getting Foster elected, now we need to utilize the bridge he provides in connecting students to the city council. More constructive interaction between students and residents is the only way town-gown relations will ever be improved. With enough open communication, we can at least optimistically hope that one day students will not be plagued by the same problems about which we have been complaining for many years.