Members of the Town-Gown Advisory Board reflected on the committee’s first year in existence during its third and final meeting of the academic year on Wednesday evening.
Around 19 board members, along with a handful of guests and community members, convened at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator in Downtown Binghamton to discuss ongoing initiatives and present proposals for the 2018-19 academic year.
The board, co-chaired by Jared Kraham, deputy mayor of the city of Binghamton, and Randall Edouard, assistant vice president for student affairs at Binghamton University, has sought to expand positive relations between the greater Binghamton community and the University over the last year.
“We can show the community that for the first time in a long time, or maybe even for the first time ever, that there’s been this type of unity between the community and the University,” Kraham said.
Many of the subcommittees’ proposals presented focused on improved safety measures in Downtown Binghamton, communicating information about off-campus student housing and improved transportation service throughout the city.
Rebecca Ho, Student Association (SA) vice president for finance and a senior majoring in business administration, presented on behalf of the student housing subcommittee on a potential student intern program to disseminate information about housing codes on campus. If passed, the city would train interns on the housing codes, who would then hold information sessions and office hours on campus. Approximately six interns would be paid by the University. According to Ho, the SA is willing to facilitate the program.
“There’s a need for correct information from the city to be better disseminated to students where they are,” Ho said.
The transportation and parking subcommittee proposed extending bike-share services to Downtown and opening the use of the bicycles to community members, in addition to students.
According to Edouard, the board’s executive committee will review the proposals within the next month, and hopes to decide on funding allocations by next fall.
Edouard also introduced several visiting community partners leading projects that overlap with the goals of the board. Luke Grant, a representative from Barton & Loguidice, an engineering firm, gave an update on a current project to examine and repair safety measures at 25 intersections along Main Street, most of them falling along Off Campus College Transport bus routes.
According to Grant, many of the intersections do not include countdown timers, push buttons or ramps that comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The project has applied for a federal grant and expects to start construction this fall, Grant said.
BU’s Center for Civic Engagement Director Kelli Huth and Associate Director Alison Twang also gave a presentation on the progress of Broome County’s community schools partnership.
Since 2015, the University has partnered with the Broome County Promise Zone to collaboratively develop a volunteer and internship program that is both meaningful to BU students and impactful for local school districts. In fall 2017, 270 BU students volunteered for 15,913 hours and impacted 1,726 youth throughout the county.
According to Twang, the program is the first and only countywide, University-assisted community schools model in the country.
“It’s basically the idea that schools should serve as a hub for a variety of services and resources to help kids and families succeed,” Twang said.
Edouard said he was moved by many of the ideas presented during the meeting.
“I’m very optimistic about where we will be going with this,” Edouard said.