September 8, 2015

EDITORIAL: More Than the BEAR Walk

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Cornell held the second-ever Being Engaged and Responsible (BEAR) Walk last week in an attempt to foster a greater sense of community within Collegetown among Cornellians, Ithacans and local business owners. Throughout the event, undergraduate and graduate students filtered through the resource fair and had the opportunity to learn about community relations. While we laud the efforts made by the University and the City of Ithaca to ease the seemingly strained relationship between off-campus students and full-time residents, more work should continue to be done to solve the problems facing the neighborhood.

Town-gown relations and the problems that arise within college towns cannot be solved in a single event, no matter the positive intentions. Expecting an annual event like the BEAR Walk to have a lasting effect on the perennial need for students to become engaged and responsible members of the Collegetown community, we believe, is unreasonable. In trying to improve the Collegetown experience for students and full-time residents alike, all involved parties — Cornellians and Ithacans — must recognize that addressing these issues requires a more comprehensive plan.

Student Assembly President Juliana Batista ’16, who spoke at the event as part of the organized program, drew an important comparison between North Campus and Collegetown. “The further South you moved on campus — the more the communities become fragmented and stratified,” she argued. We agree. Outside of individual houses and apartments, the Collegetown community remains nonexistent. Attempts to foster productive relationships between students and full-time Ithaca residents should be followed by the formation of effective student-to-student communities, much like those ideally fostered within many on-campus houses.

The residential experience in Collegetown and other off-campus locations is dramatically different from that of on-campus living. To encourage stronger residential relationships among off-campus students as well as with Ithacans, everyone must make a concerted effort to developing and maintaining a system of resources and a process for productive dialogue. By engaging residents of Collegetown throughout the year, the University and the City of Ithaca can work to develop long-term solutions to the current state of a fractured off-campus community.