Town-gown: everyone’s concern
The coming of spring is upon us, despite what some of us may think considering the late snow that appeared last weekend. Heralding the spring with colorful costumes, floats and a day-long festival in the park, the Big Parade has become a major early-May Oberlin celebration since its inception four years ago. But the Parade does not just show us that spring and exams are near. It also strengthens town-gown relationships through projects that involve and benefit both communities.
In past years, the relationship between the town and the College has been somewhat tenuous. There are frequent disputes about housing as the town and College try to balance their needs. More students living on campus is a problem for landlords because they have trouble finding tenants. On the other hand, more students living off-campus drives up the price of rent, which causes members of the community living in rented properties to go to other cities to find more affordable housing. It is not uncommon for students living in primarily residential areas to have altercations with their neighbors because of the late hours kept by students as well as noise levels.
Last year, at the administrative level, some of these issues came to a head. At the same time the College was getting the permit to build the new Union Street houses from the city, they were also trying to get a permit to build on another piece of land behind Johnson house. The Union St. initiative was successful, but city council opposed the proposal for the Johnson House property and denied the permit. Negotiations grew heated. Dan Gardner, city council Chair, compared the College to a feudal warlord treating the townspeople like serfs.
This year, however, the outlook seems decidedly more positive. On Nov. 2, the get-out-the-vote efforts and poll watchers from both the College and town helped to ensure that, in spite of enormous challenges, voting in Oberlin went smoothly. Students waiting in long lines at the polls were treated to cookies and snacks, courtesy of town residents.
These last few weeks, talks taking place between the College and Lorain County Transit to renegotiate and re-evaluate the relationship between the College and the bus service and relieve the company’s ailing finances have been another demonstration of the College and surrounding community working together for a common goal. Oberlin senior Blaise Freeman, took on the initiative to renegotiate the terms of O-Pass, and is now facilitating those talks. A new student committee has been proposed to help assist the College from a student perspective. Decisions are being carefully weighed to make sure that the new arrangement is economical and beneficial for students and the LCT. Hopefully, this will set the tone for future interactions between the town and the College.
So when you’re out enjoying the sunshine on Saturday morning, take a
moment to stop and think. The Big Parade isn’t just a fun event, but an
opportunity for students and locals to interact on a more personal level.
Town-gown relations are not just the responsibility of administrators and city
council members but also all those who call Oberlin home, however temporarily.