Students and Evanston residents unite over ice cream

Ally Mutnick

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Northwestern launched the first of several planned community-building initiatives with two ice cream socials for off-campus students and Evanston residents over the weekend.

Assistant Dean of Students Betsi Burns and the Office of Student Affairs are pioneering the events, which aim to establish stronger ties between the city and the University. The socials took place Friday for students and residents living south of campus and Sunday for those who lived north and west.

About 40 students and residents attended Sunday’s event at Fireman’s Park, at the corner of Simpson Street and Maple Avenue, and about 20 attended Friday’s, which was held at Raymond Park at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Lake Street, Burns said.

Weinberg junior Ethan Merel, who attended Sunday’s social, felt community-building events could help smooth over the tension that can occur between residents and students over noise and party-related issues.

“The only real exposure they have with each other is in the case of the extremes, when there’s a problem,” said Merel, a former ASG vice president for external relations. “When you can put a face to a community, someone you can relate to, it’s much more difficult to hold a negative impression.”

Evanston resident Matt Doherty attended Sunday’s social as the Fireman’s Park Neighborhood liaison to the Office of Student Affairs. Doherty said he also felt building relationships was essential to improving NU and Evanston relations and hopes events such as the ice cream socials will become more routine.

Problems arise because students are moving from college dorms to a family neighborhood, Evanston resident Jim Swanson said. He added increased interaction between NU and Evanston can help students make that transition.

“It’s important the University makes sure there’s a dialogue out there and that students know they could be moving in next to their grandmother or their little brother,” he said.

The Office of Student Affairs launched a new website this year to provide that kind of information to off-campus students, Burns said. The off-campus page, which is a part of the Office’s website, offers advice on living in Evanston ranging from how to find housing to the City of Evanston ordinances.

“It is developmentally appropriate for students to want to move off campus,” Burns said. “We want to make sure we are offering all kinds of opportunities, and part of that is learning how to be a member of the community.”

SESP junior Levi Mele, who attended Sunday’s social, has lived off-campus with his family since his freshman year.

Mele said his neighbors enjoy coming to watch his NU wrestling matches.

“We’ve drawn some of the community members to Northwestern,” he said.

Burns said she hopes to increase the amount of interaction between the University and the city because she feels they have much to offer each other. Students volunteer and provide great business for Evanston stores, while residents offer networking and baby-sitting opportunities, she said.

I hope students really do see that Evanston really wants the University and the students here,” Burns said.