We tend to many relationships in our lives—those with our significant other, family, friends and so on—but in College Park, there is another relationship to consider: the one between students and permanent residents.
All harmonious relationships require communication, and Patch interviewed one of the individuals charged with bridging communication between students and permanent residents. John Natalizio is the student liaison for the University of Maryland Student Government Association.
John Natalizio: I would first like to preface my responses with a few comments. I do not believe my thoughts on student-resident relations to be the only or correct one. Every member of the community has a different experience and may not find any of these issues; however, I am speaking in general terms from what I know and what I am told. I believe that there are a lot of positive relationships between the two groups, and don't want to negatively image everyone as such.
And now for the questions, the first set in a two-part series:
College Park Patch: So your role, in part, is to enhance the relationship between students and residents. How do you describe the current state of that relationship?
Natalizio: In a college town there always seems to be a tension between the students and the permanent residents. Currently, College Park is no different. Residents and students quite often don't see eye-to-eye on many issues as they have different goals; however, what both groups share is an investment in the same community. Policies need to be implemented that highlight those similarities. There needs to be reasons for both residents and students to be invested in their community. As of right now, I believe there is a lot of work that can be done between the two groups to improve this relationship. I see a lot of potential, especially with President Loh and the new administration to really improve relations. But the question is, what's the best way to do it?
Part of the issue is a divided community. There are residents of College Park and there are students of College Park. We need to discover ways in which to bridge that gap. Residents should feel just as comfortable interacting and socializing with students as they do with other residents and vice versa. We need to find ways in which residents and students don't express dissatisfaction for the other side. In College Park, it is inevitable that these two groups will be living together, and so we must find ways to mend the cut that has been emplaced. I believe this distrust is something that will take some time to improve, but I believe some ideas we are putting forward currently will help increase relations. College Park is a great city, and I see a lot of potential for improvement in resident relations.
Patch: You mentioned at [a] council meeting that you're working with the director of orientation to get students involved in downtown College Park. Can you share more about that initiative, and why you think it's important?
Natalizio: Yes, I met with the Director of Orientation to discuss with her ways to get new freshman students to see College Park, not just as the university, but as a city. Too many students think of College Park as a campus. There needs to be ways in which students are reminded that we are a part of a greater community. It is too easy to forget that there is anything outside of the campus. We were able to agree that some packet or pamphlet of information should be given to new freshman students at orientation. In this packet there would be a brief history of College Park, and what resources the city has to offer students. The best way to create a better community is investment. As of right now, a large portion of students have no investment to the city and treat it as such. But if you give a student an incentive to care and devote time in the city, then you will see an improvement in relations. This pamphlet is just a small step by getting incoming students to see that information on the city is important. Also, it's great to get information about the city at orientation because parents will see it as well.
Another initiative I am working on is a big collaborative effort. I believe that this will dramatically improve student-resident relations and hopefully be a lasting effect. As I understand, there is a lot of community service that can be done in College Park. Whether it be removing spray paint from bridges, removing invasive plant species or picking up trash after a long weekend, there are ample opportunities for students to give back. I hope to create a community service initiative that will allow students to work with the City in a collaborative effort in improving the health of College Park. This is still very much in the works as I have not yet met with University Administration, but it is on the horizon as a potential effort.
Visit Patch on Tuesday for the final questions with John.