News

New committee hopes to improve student-community relationship

Keeton Wilcock | Fulcrum Contributor

WHILE THE PHRASE “town and gown” may be a familiar one to university students around the world, for most people at the University of Ottawa the connotation is foreign. No longer. Come September, U of O students will for the first time be represented by a major neighbourhood-to-student organization—the Sandy Hill Town and Gown Committee.

Some Sandy Hill residents are not wholly convinced the committee will have immediate results in improving the relationships between the more mature population and the students.

Christopher Collmorgen is the acting president of Action Sandy Hill, a volunteer committee that represents the community and has been a major partner in the development of the Sandy Hill Town and Gown Committee. Collmorgen explained that the new committee is a pilot project involving several partners working together to reduce disturbances, improve property standards, and generally better the lives of people residing in the university-adjacent community.

“It’s about peer education and peer-to-peer relationships,” said Collmorgen of the committee. “Through the establishment of Town and Gown we give real credibility and weight to the issues that we’re facing here in Sandy Hill.”

Collmorgen explained that because the U of O’s student population has approximately doubled over the last decade, long-term residents of Sandy Hill are seeing more young adults moving into their neighbourhood than ever before. This demographic shift has both positive and negative aspects, but the one constant is that it requires a coordinated response if all residents are to co-exist peacefully.

“There’s an increased pressure on city resources, and city infrastructure maybe isn’t being kept up or being maintained,” said Collmorgen of the recent student influx to Sandy Hill. “The end result is that there needs to be more education on what it means to live cheek-by-jowl with people in a near-campus, urban environment.”

The Town and Gown Committee is seeking representation and input from many groups, including the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, the Graduate Students’ Association of the University of Ottawa, and the Ottawa Police Service.

Uday Jaswal, an Ottawa Police district inspector, stated in an interview with the Fulcrum that the Ottawa Police Service is happy to be part of the new committee and that they expect real change to come from it.

“I think there’s going to be some tangible deliverables that come out of this,” said Jaswal. “When we look at some kind of community-based solutions to some of the issues we’re looking at, it’s a positive thing.”

The Town and Gown Committee is seeking representation and input from many groups

Despite Collmorgen and Jaswal’s optimism, some Sandy Hill residents are not wholly convinced the committee will have immediate results in improving the relationships between the more mature population and the students.

“It sounds like a good idea, but this is the first year that they’re putting this to work,” stated Amiel Carrier, a second-year civil engineering student who moved into the neighbourhood about a year ago. “So when frosh week comes around I don’t think that many people are going to think much of it and they’re just going to continue on with their partying.”

The effects of the Sandy Hill Town and Gown Committee remain to be seen, but students and long-term residents alike will get an inkling of what they can expect from the organization in September, when the committee will greet students and work to educate all community members during its official launch period.