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Mark McCarty

Good Neighbors

It takes cooperative spirit and constant engagement to ensure friendly relationships with South Hill residents.

One of the most important relationships Ithaca College has is with fellow residents of the Ithaca community, particularly those who live on South Hill. These relationships are vital to the well-being of our students and the College.

About four years ago, along with administrative, local, and law enforcement representatives from Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College, the Ithaca Police Department, the Ithaca Common Council, and local businesses, we entered a partnership: the Campus-Community Coalition of Tompkins County. Its mission is to address concerns of our neighbors and raise awareness among students as to how to live in harmony with them. In addition, with representatives from the city, town, Student Government Association, South Hill Civic Association, Neighbors of Ithaca College, Ithaca Police Department, and the sheriff’s office, we established the IC Community Work Group to improve communications among constituencies and address problems specific to South Hill.

Vice president for student affairs and campus life Brian McAree and his staff are constantly working to maintain cordial relationships and educate students about being good neighbors. As we have brought more students to live on campus, relationships have naturally improved. But some 1,730 undergraduates, mostly seniors and juniors, live in off-campus rental housing. Our neighbors’ biggest complaints are excessive noise, large parties, and misbehavior by our students. Misbehavior tends to be worse when the students have no relationship with their neighbors (bad neighbor relations generally start when people don’t take the time to get to know one another) and when students abuse alcohol.

Improvements to student drinking problems include earlier education and better social environments. Earlier education requires good abuse prevention programs in the high schools. By adding housing for 700 students in the College Circle Apartments two years ago (bringing the total number of campus-housed students to 4,270 of some 6,000 undergraduate students), we helped create a better social environment. A new statewide beer keg law, which identifies purchasers, and a local noise ordinance have had positive effects, and neighbors report fewer large rowdy parties.

Under the direction of Priscilla Quirk, coordinator of health promotion and substance abuse prevention, the College teaches students about alcohol use. In 2005 we implemented a mandatory web-based education program for first-year students, AlcoholEdu, which we hope enables them to make healthy decisions. The College subsidizes and encourages programs such as those run by IC After Dark, a student-led organization founded in 2001 “to provide free late- night programs that improve . . . student life through immersive entertainment experiences. . . .” These alcohol-free programs are very popular.

Being a good neighbor also involves taking an active role in the community. As you know from reading ICQ, service is very important to me personally and to the College as a whole. The College mission statement underscores this.

By service we mean service to one’s department, office, school, or division; the College; the community; and one’s profession. We try to instill a sense of service in students from the moment they arrive, beginning with the annual Community Plunge, which brings 100 first-year students to campus a few days early to volunteer with local service organizations. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors who share an interest in community service act as site liaisons, work with their assigned teams, and advise as needed. This is a great way for new students to meet others, connect with our neighbors, and begin on a path of service and leadership that, we hope, will make them better neighbors if and when they move off campus as students and throughout their lives.

Another in the many service–oriented events held on campus is our participation in the national Make a Difference Day, an annual October celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. Each year the College holds a community cleanup in partnership with the South Hill Civic Association; last year about 50 students and community members collected dozens of bags of trash. 

IC community members contribute to our greater community as scout leaders, nonprofit board members, hotline volunteers, children’s coaches, foster parents, tutors, hospice workers, Habitat for Humanity workers, and many more service roles. As you will read on page 17 of this issue of ICQ, our students, staff, and faculty participated for the ninth straight year in the Relay for Life, which raises funds for the American Cancer Society. The team, known as IC Hope, captured the gold medal for fundraising and gathered the most “spirit points.” Its cocaptain, bursar Anne Woodard, said, “It’s important for the greater community to see IC as part of that community.”

We agree with Anne, which is why we host the annual Fourth of July fireworks display and community party, the Founder’s Day Concert in the Park, the lighting of the IC towers at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and other community events, and why we welcome our neighbors to partake in the rich cultural and educational life of our campus throughout the year.

All of this collaborative work with our neighbors and the greater Ithaca community is ongoing, because, of course, our students change every year. We hope to help them become good citizens and good neigh­bors, and we start by setting a good example.

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