Remember 2010, when the students of the College of William and Mary were impassioned about their Williamsburg community? We, as students, were tired of that silly three-person rule. We were tired of not having a voice in this community. So we decided to change that (or at least to attempt to).
Scott Foster ’10 was elected to the Williamsburg City Council by an overwhelming margin, due largely in part to the active pursuits of students. The students of the College spoke up to gain representation in the City of Williamsburg, but this past Sunday; it became clear that our voice was lost again. It was a whisper, almost completely ignored by the city.
There seems to be some hypocrisy here at the College. Students complain that Williamsburg residents are unfair to students, that Williamsburg residents don’t respect students as residents of the city. We have no right to complain because we have not acted to change city regulations and policies.
This past Sunday, a motion was raised which would increase the number of rooms that could be rented out in an owner-occupied home, such as a bed and breakfast. It failed. Why?
Perhaps because few college students actually attended the council meeting. Danielle Waltrip ’14, the Student Assembly Undersecretary to Williamsburg, was the only person to speak in favor of the proposal. She was literally surrounded by opposition to the bill. Students at the College in support of the bill should have been there to speak up for themselves. But they weren’t, and they didn’t.
At the College, we have a fascination with national and international topics, whether it’s service, business or politics. But we care more about the things we think are glamorous than the things that truly affect us: local politics. We aren’t even talking about Road to Richmond; the one day when we get riled up and lobby for the College. Shouldn’t we always be riled up to improve our college community? We never get that excited about Williamsburg council meetings. Yet, that is where we can make the most impact. Students have the power and opportunity to affect our community for the good, but we aren’t taking advantage of it. We must reach out and take this opportunity to show the city that we aren’t just spending time partying, breaking city ordinances, and being useless. We are smart young people with ambition and determination. We can help improve the city in many ways.
The relationship between students and city residents sometimes strained. But we can’t fix this relationship if there isn’t an obvious push by students to strengthen the bonds between the College students and city residents.
Yes, Foster was supposed to change this, but it isn’t up just to him to make the city better. We must take the initiative to become active in our community and city. We are here for four years. Williamsburg is our home, and we have an obligation as residents of Williamsburg to be civically engaged.
The students at the College must become active in the community if we are going to complain and moan about the perceived injustices we as Williamsburg residents who happen to be college students face. The SA should put council meetings and other Williamsburg activities in Student Happenings; students should attend these events and show residents that we don’t deserve to be rejected. We especially do not deserve to face applause after the rejection of a proposal that would benefit students. Foster and other individuals who are in city government and SA should put forth more of an effort to reach out to students. We must become active. It is up to us to transform this community in to one that is inclusive and supportive of students.