Thursday, May 14, 2009

University & Town Relations

The spring 2009 semester ended at Bloomsburg University with a flurry of activities, academic honor society inductions, a nurses’ pinning ceremony, research presentations, recognition ceremonies for dozens of high achieving graduates from each college, and commencement -related activities, just a few examples of the optimism, ambition, energy and enthusiasm students bring to our campus and to the Town of Bloomsburg. Because of them, we have a relatively vibrant downtown and amenities other towns our size do not share, such as a professional theater company, boutiques and fine dining. Our students add to the local quality of life with their volunteer activities, including an estimated 58,000 hours of volunteer services, through the University’s SOLVE Office, during the 2008-09 academic year and to the prosperity of the region, contributing $57 million to Columbia County’s economy each year.

Along with all that is positive comes the challenge of every college town - student gatherings and occasional large outdoor parties. Bloomsburg’s Block Party started as a fundraiser and grew by word of mouth, the Internet, social networking sites and YouTube, to name a few. Much of its growth can be attributed to young people with no affiliation to Bloomsburg University. In fact, preliminary information compiled by our student standards office shows that nearly 75 percent of this year’s alcohol-related citations and offenses were issued to non-students.

I truly believe that cooperative efforts among representatives of the Town of Bloomsburg, the university administration and students, specifically the Social Gathering Task Force, have helped make Block Party a more manageable event. Rules and standards were established which Bloomsburg Police Chief Leo Sokoloski and the University reinforce in letters to each student. Landlords must sign off on the permit applications for large parties and hosting organizations issue wristbands to identify those who may legally consume alcohol. Bloomsburg University students know what type of behavior is expected and the limits of what will be tolerated. But regardless of our involvement in the task force, Block Party is not a university-sponsored event. Block Party is hosted by students who live in town, with their landlords’ consent.

The issue of Block Party is complex. Both the university and the town share the challenges of reigning in the exuberance of young people - our students and, especially, those from outside our community - and protecting the property of local residents. Mayor Dan Knorr and I have discussed expanding the Social Gathering Task Force into a Town/Gown Task Force that addresses Block Party and the broader issues of diversity and town climate for all students, faculty and staff. I am pleased to be involved in this continuing dialog and I welcome your participation as part of the task force.

This letter was also published in the local media.

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