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The View from the Valley

An Exploration into Town-Gown Relations

State College & A Student Relations Committee

The Daily Collegian reported today on an idea first proposed by Safeguard Old State Executive Director Chris Morell on Oct. 13 at a meeting of the State College Borough Council. Mr. Morell proposed the creation of a Student Relations Committee of the State College Borough, to be established as a formal ABC committee in our town as a means to foster better communication, understanding and policy conflict resolution.

Now, in the wake of last Saturday’s downtown mini-riot after the Ohio State game, the need for such a committee is only further proven. In our vision of the Student Relations Committee, it would not have formal binding authority in its decisions, but would instead serve as a public means of discussion among town and gown on an advisory level.

The Daily CollegianRiot Heightens Town’s Concern – Oct. 30 – Saturday’s downtown riot after Penn State’s victory over Ohio State “heightens the importance of having an ongoing, open communication link between the town and the students,” State College Borough Council President Elizabeth Goreham said Wednesday.

Informal discussions among council members have centered around the idea of a new committee designed to foster increased communication between students and council members since the idea was originally raised by Safeguard Old State Executive Director Chris Morell at a borough council work session Oct. 13.

“It would only make our community better, and it wouldn’t take that much work,” Morell said then. “Whoever it is, whenever it is, as long as it is.”

Since Morell’s presentation, council discussions about the idea have largely been centered around the notion of a formal authority, board or commission (ABC) — a transition spearheaded by council member Theresa Lafer.

“If we had an ABC … we would have a permanent voice for town-gown relations,” Lafer said after the council’s Oct. 20 meeting. “My feeling is that it would make [town-gown communication] permanent, legitimate, ongoing.”

Now, I know some concern was raised by Borough Manager Tom Fountaine. Mr. Fountaine is concerned that such a committee could “duplicate” the mission of the Off Campus Student Union (OCSU), commissioned by the administration in 2004 to act as a liaison between town and gown.

While Mr. Fountaine’s concerns are not entirely without merit, Safeguard Old State is pushing for the creation of an independent Student Relations Committee of a specific makeup that would transcend whatever services that the OCSU could produce as an administratively controlled entity.

Safeguard Old State’s Executive Staff will be publishing a formal article on our website very soon with our proposal to the State College Borough Council.

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