September 8, 2008

Event Fosters Community Cohesion

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The Collegetown Neighborhood Council hosted “Info and Wings” yesterday in an attempt to bridge the gap between non-student residents living in Collegetown and Cornell students. A sign outside the Collegetown fire station read “Free Wings, Pizza, and Info” as members from all parts of the local community congregated for informative discussion and delicious food.
“This purpose of this event is to get the local community and students to meet each other, communicate with each other, and share information,” said Jenifer Westbrook, community relations assistant for Cornell. “Last year, we had 50 to 100 people show up and they seemed to enjoy it.”
Cornell University organizations, including the Public Service Center, Off-Campus Housing Office and the Cornell Police Department hosted informational tables. Kim Fezza, director of Cornell’s Off-Campus Housing Office stated that relations between Collegetown tenants and Cornell students “have gotten better due to events like this and a more pro-active approach from both sides.”
Tiffany Moncur, center program specialist for the University’s Public Service Center, was happy to be involved in such an event that hopes to increase Cornell’s public service possibilities.
“We are trying to get the word out there,” Ms. Moncur said. “The service center hopes to speak not only with students and faculty, but also with the entire Ithaca community and explain the importance of lending a helping hand.”
Community members not affiliated with the University also took an active role, making the event an Ithaca-wide effort. For example, Thousand Villages, a fair trade craft store located in the Ithaca Commons, hosted a stand to pass out information and to field questions. Thousand Villages, which depends mainly on volunteers, looks to find students eager to participate and support their cause.
“We sell crafts from under-privileged countries from all over the world,” said Ingrid McWilliams, vice president of the board of directors for Thousand Villages. “This is our first time being involved in the event … it’s a great way to meet students and let them know that they can make a great difference from volunteering.”
With the presidential election approaching, the CNC also had a table offering voter registration forms for New York and absentee ballot information.
Joel Zumoff (D-3rd Ward), who attended the event, is a proponent of this town-gown event, saying it provides a venue where Collegetown residents, students and non-students may interact.
“Collegetown is predominantly students, but there is a reasonably large non-student population who live here as well, some for decades,” Mr. Zumoff said. “They anticipate a certain level of lifestyle, and students have a somewhat different perspective.”
While Collegetown residents may have divergent perspectives, Mr. Zumoff does not see conflict in their living arrangement as long as both sides are considerate of each other.
“Basically, the idea is to get students to meet non-students so that both sides will behave differently if they can put a face or name to the other side,” Mr. Zumoff said. “Collegetown is not a student ghetto, but a neighborhood.”
While many thought the event was a success, not all were aware of its occurence.
“I definitely would have gone,” Alex Di Iorio ’10 said. “I’ve been here for over two years and yet know very little about the greater Ithaca community. This event is definitely worthwhile, but it could have had an even greater impact if more students knew about it. Plus, there was free food.”