Town-Gown Council seen gaining traction

Methods of controlling excessive noise, rowdy parties and disrespectful college students were shared with the public at a recent Town-Gown Council meeting, in a combined community and university effort.

Originally conceived in 2003, when Salisbury University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach took office, the Town-Gown Council was formed to strengthen ties between the university and citizens and to exchange ideas.

On April 15, Town Gown Council members — community residents, city officials, business representatives, law enforcement and SU faculty, staff and administrators – updated citizens about about how SU is addressing problems that affect the city.

The name Town-Gown refers to city residents — “town” — and academic regalia – “gown.”

“We’ll be meeting every semester,” said Robby Sheehan, deputy chief of staff and director of government community relations at the university.

“At our meetings, we talk about issues the neighbors are having.  We have representatives from the community and the university. At the last meeting, we showed residents our Code of Conduct and what to do if they have a complaint about student issues. We walked community members through and told them what the complaint process is and what the sanctions are,” he said. About  30 attended.

Often isolated incidents are discussed, such as houses occupied by overzealous students. “The main issue is massive parties,” Sheehan said.

Among successes is a new policy to notify parents about their sons’ and daughters’ alcohol violations. It was first considered in the fall of 2013, and is now used to hold students more accountable.

SU officials use social media to learn where big parties are planned.

They discovered a few SU students were attempting to get the production company that films “I’m Shmacked” to come to Salisbury. Sheehan described it as a company that “tries to get kids stirred up, then they film it.”

“We caught word that some students were trying to get them to come here and we brought them in here and we threw the book at them,” he said.

Recently, he rode along with a sheriff’s office official and county councilman. During the ride, they spotted a large party off Eastern Shore Drive. Back at SU, Sheehan told co-workers, “We need to solve this issue.”

Dudley-Eshbach originally named the Town-Gown Council, Partners for Progress: The Salisbury Community and the University, and formed it “because she noticed a lot of issues that the previous presidents  didn’t care that much about,” Sheehan said.

“Things have really improved over the past year. We have a handful of problems every semester. We take a very proactive approach. We don’t have large issues. There have been complaints about certain houses. There’s one off Druid Hill that where we’ve had problems with over-occupancy. We are working with the city,” he said.

Jake Day, president of the Salisbury City Council,  praised university officials for that proactive approach.

“The university is saying to its students, ‘You have a responsibility to act as a good neighbor and we’re going to help you, just as we’re going to help you become a professional in your field.’ The city, the police and neighbors, are stepping up. They will handle problems more nimbly and have a more robust response,” he said.

Agreeing, Sheehan said Salisbury has no more trouble with students than other places in the country, but that the university is determined to stay involved and help citizens.

Anybody with a complaint can call his office at 410 546 4127.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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