Few students attend meeting with residents

Elizabeth Gibson

Northwestern sent about 3,000 e-mails informing off-campus students about a meeting bringing them together with their Evanston neighbors.

But only four students attended the May 10 meeting. And three of them were members of Associated Student Government.

Aldermen, police, landlords, Evanston residents and Northwestern administrators also attended the meeting, aimed at improving cooperation between off-campus students and their neighbors.

Although those who attended the meeting said it was productive, many students said they just don’t see a point in going.

The low student attendance is typical at community meetings like the one on May 10, sponsored by University Police and the Departments of Community Relations and Student Affairs.

“There’s not much motivation (for students) to go out and cultivate a relationship if they aren’t going to live in the same place next year,” said McCormick junior Mike Duffy, an off-campus student who saw the e-mail but didn’t go to the meeting. “I think my relationship with my specific neighbor is more important than talking to an alderman.”

Other students agreed with Duffy’s reasoning for not attending. “I’m leaving in a month,” said Meagan Kudchadkar, a Weinberg senior.

The only non-ASG student who attended was Elaine Helm, a former Daily editor in chief who wrote a column about the meeting.

In the face of student apathy, NU administrators are looking for ways to better publicize the meetings. The university sent an e-mail to advertise the event to the off-campus housing listserv for the first time, said Cate Whitcomb, assistant to the vice president for student affairs.

“But if it doesn’t really matter to them,” Whitcomb said, “they won’t come.”

Whitcomb said students failed to show up also because they didn’t recognize the name of the building — the Family Institute, 618 Library Place — where the meeting was held. She added that they are too busy to come at the end of the quarter.

Students who went said attending such meetings is important and urged others to go.

“It’s in their best interest to voice their opinions,” said Jill Sager, a Weinberg junior ASG’s external relations chairwoman.�”Until students step up they will miss out on some of the decision-making that affects them.”

Even without students, Sager said, the meetings are productive. They provide an opportunity for police, aldermen, NU administrators and ASG members to hear what Evanston residents are concerned about.

Likewise, Whitcomb stressed the importance of Evanston residents realizing they have a place to voice their concerns.

“Just knowing we have the meetings is a step in the right direction,” Whitcomb said.

When the meetings began a few years ago, residents came with complaints about students urinating in driveways and students using all the parking in residential areas. Now, Whitcomb said, residents mostly come for information. At the May 10 meeting they received information about Dillo Day, student move-out and ways to help improve student safety off campus.

“When we started doing these, (residents) came to yell,” she said.�”Now they pretty much just come for updates. It’s a pretty neat evolution.”

She also said she was glad that Alds. Cheryl Wollin (1st), Delores Holmes (5th) and Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) attended the meeting. She added that it was a “training session” in off-campus student-resident relations for recently elected Holmes and Wollin.

“It’s wonderful,” Holmes said. “I learned that the community has been meeting for a long time and that there’s a good relationship.”

Whitcomb said she doesn’t expect better turnout at future meetings.

“It’s really a time for us to have a conversation with the community,” Whitcomb said. “And if the students don’t have anything to say, then that’s fine.”

The Community Coalition will hold a similar meeting for students and Evanston residents Friday at 8 a.m. at Hardin Hall, Rebecca Crowne Center, 633 Clark St.

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected]