President Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 10/07/08
University District Forums
This Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Compton Union Building auditorium, I will attend the first of four public forums regarding our proposal for the University District.
You can find a complete list of the forums at http://udistrict.wsu.edu/. We scheduled them at different times of day and at different sites to allow for maximum participation. At the website, you can also see a map of the area, read the proposed inter-local agreement between Washington State University and the city of Pullman and provide on-line feedback.
WSU put the University District idea forward in February after much fact-finding and discussion with many groups, including the president’s student advisory council. Based on the objections to the proposal that were raised by attendees at a recent City Council meeting, it is important for us to provide even more opportunities for public input.
Based on the feedback we receive, we will decide whether to ask the City Council to approve the agreement as it is currently written, to modify the proposal or to shelve the idea.
At this point, I think our reasons for pursuing this proposal are well-known, but I will restate them briefly here.
The section of College Hill covered by this proposal is primarily populated by students. The goals of our initiative are:
- Improved lighting;
- Improved maintenance of sidewalks and open space;
- Additional availability of parking, with a goal of eliminating much of the on-street parking which creates neighborhood traffic issues;
- Improved coordination between university and city police;
- Improved aesthetics for the neighborhood;
- Improved relationships between students and the permanent members of the College Hill community;
- Enhanced focus on safety and quality of student life.
In no way should this initiative be seen as a criticism of the role that the city has played. The city has a range of neighborhoods to oversee; College Hill is a unique place. The issues there are unlike those found elsewhere in Pullman; they are similar to those in student neighborhoods in college towns nationwide. By taking on a more active role, in collaboration with the city, I believe the university can help improve the quality of life on College Hill.
What is in this for WSU? If you were just making a bottom-line analysis, you might say, “Not much.” However, there are larger issues at play here.
I recently received a thoughtful e-mail from someone who spent a portion of his childhood living with his family on College Hill and later graduated from WSU. While visiting Pullman during Homecoming, he was dismayed by the deteriorating condition of some parts of the neighborhood that he remembered fondly.
After pointing out that “every university town in America does NOT look like Pullman on College Hill,” his note ended: “There MUST be something that can be done!”
His message and his concern were hardly surprising to me. I receive similar comments regularly.
I believe the university has a responsibility – to the students, to their parents and to the community – to be a more active partner in improving College Hill. As I stated in answering a question on the issue following my recent State of the University address, it is not acceptable to me to respond to questions from parents, alumni and former residents regarding problems on College Hill by simply saying, “That is not our jurisdiction.”
Despite that, if a strong sense emerges from the forums and other public comments that our increased focus on Campus Hill is not welcome, we will not ask the council to approve this agreement. There are too many issues facing our university for us to expend more time and effort pushing an unpopular idea.
That’s why I asked that the forums be scheduled. That’s why I look forward to listening to what people have to say. I know what I think about the University District proposal; I want to hear what you think.