September 19, 2013

Mayor Myrick ’09 Talks Ithaca-Cornell Relations

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By JOANNA GAO

Cornell and the City of Ithaca hope to continue improving their relationship and the communication between the two groups over the years, officials said at a meeting Thursday.

The meeting was organized by communicators@cornell, a network of communications experts at Cornell.

The goal of communicators@cornell’s meetings to better connect students with the citizens of Ithaca, according to Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 and Gary Stewart, director of community relations for the University.

The dynamics of the relationship between Cornell and the city have been slowly improving over the decades, Stewart said. For instance, during the 1969 Willard Straight Hall Takeover, the University president and the city’s mayor did not even know each other, Stewart said.

Since then, the city and the University have both been working to improve town-gown relations, he added. Now, Myrick said, whenever there is an incident concerning public safety, President David Skorton is one of the first people who calls him.

“I used to think the magic in [communication] was the speeches,” Myrick said. “If that were the way it worked, I would have given [a speech] a year and a half ago. The truth is the way you make progress at an institutional level is by slow and steady — and sometimes slow — communication.”

Stewart said the University is also actively trying to improve communications with the City.

“I want to let people know that we welcome them on campus. There’s all these wonderful things up here that people can access,” Stewart said. “We want the goal to be for people to say ‘It wasn’t that bad.’”

Responding to Stewart, Myrick added, “We’ll put that on our bumper stickers. ‘Ithaca wasn’t that bad.’”

Officials present at the meeting also stressed the importance of continuing to encourage the city and the University to connect.

Gina Giambattista, a campus communications officer for communicators@cornell, said the network’s meetings are a pivotal way to bridge the gap between the Ithaca community and the Cornell community.

“Engagement with the community is not just topical — it’s what we as communicators do,” she said. “We have information about the research, the students, the events that are happening at Cornell and we want to share those. Our ‘Cornell community’ expands to the community of Ithaca because we do coexist.”

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