In Wooster, we are all townies
I am sick of being told to be a “global citizen,” primarily because those words make no sense. I am a citizen of Wooster, Ohio. I have lived in Wooster for the last three years of my life, I am registered to vote in Wooster and I am proud to call this town my home.
I surely understand the importance of being aware and engaging in conversations about issues on an international level, but never will I consider myself a “global citizen.” Why? Because I see prescient issues happening within the immediate space I inhabit daily. To quote a recent email from the Dean of Student’s office, “This year has seen a steady pattern of hostile verbal confrontations, threatening behavior, and in a few cases even physical altercations between students and community members.” Focusing on “global citizenship” is secondary to being a citizen in one’s actual place of residence.
The discourse between Wooster residents and The College of Wooster students is dysfunctional at best. In an increasing number of instances, the “town and gown” rift has escalated to verbal and physical assault.
In the same email from the Dean’s office, they explained that, “For many years we have faced the challenge of having a major thoroughfare in the center of campus. At times this is a good thing, at other times a liability.” The thoroughfare referenced is Beall Avenue, the apparent locale of most confrontations of a violent nature. Assault and battery are criminal on state legal levels. It is my opinion that if any student is assaulted they should call the police and then Wooster security, in that order.
From within campus, it is easy to not see Wooster as a city that has been deeply wounded by the current recession and the forces of globalizing corporate interests. Student volunteer organizations work in the broader community. But volunteer outreach is only a part of the equation. If you live in a campus house or dorm that sits on the college-town border, clean up your act and be neighbors, not college kids. If you are walking to Drug Mart, say hello to townspeople and establish a rapport. If you are on Beall and someone verbally assaults you, do not respond with verbal or physical aggression and instead call the police.
I want to applaud the deans and professors who were present at the Safety Awareness Forum on Oct. 25. Holding the meeting at noon in an informal setting allowed students to be heard directly, if only in passing. Such familiar interactions between students, professors and the administration should occur on a regular basis. The college’s administration and professorship are important to improving student safety, but the student body is the responsible party in instigating change.
As neighbors we should expect every student to feel safe on campus. As community members, we should be calling the police in any instance of assault. And as paying students we should be demanding an open forum in Lowry during times of peak-student traffic until this trend of violence stops.
Bob West is a Photo Editor for the Voice and can be reached for comment at RWest12@wooster.edu