The UW-River Falls Student Senate and the River Falls City Council are working on creating a formal relationship for better communication and collaboration between the city and the University.
Legislative Affairs Director Matthew Shutey is the main senator working with Director of Student Life Paul Shepherd and newly elected Councilman Dan Gulick. Gulick approached Shepherd during the summer looking to start a “town and gown association,” which would be a representation of a formal relationship.
“Cooperation between the city and University is essential as we are equal partners in building a better community for both residents and students,” Gulick said. “Communication is one of the most powerful tools, one that we can better utilize.”
Shutey said cooperation between the city and the University is important because there are issues that both entities should work on together.
“You see a few issues between the school and the city,” Shutey said. “Some of the stuff comes from kids being too loud and whatnot, to the city doing something that the school doesn’t like so much.”
Shepherd did not know of any incidents that would impact the relationship between the city and the University negatively, but he said that the Cascade Avenue project completed last year is a good example of a good working relationship, which Shutey agreed with.
“I realize the chancellor does a lot of the communication with the city, like the Cascade project,” Shutey said. “It was a huge cooperation between the University and the city, which was great, but you didn’t get to see much student input on that project.”
Shutey said that a lot of the communication in the past has been through the chancellor or the mayor, and it hasn’t reached the level of student involvement.
“I would love to see something where student government and the city could work closer together to accomplish whatever is needed to benefit both the school and the city on different things,” Shutey said.
Both Shutey and Shepherd mentioned increased volunteer opportunities as a potential outcome of a town and gown association.
“Part of what Dan and I were talking about as well was inspiring community service and civic engagement among college students,” Shepherd said.
Shutey said that Gulick has done a lot of research on other town and gown associations, specifically associations in Michigan. One successful program coming out of a Michigan town and gown association is “Greeks clean the streets,” where students in sororities and fraternities clean up the streets of their college town. This program is mutually beneficial for both the University, whose students need volunteer hours, and the city, whose streets needed cleaning.
Currently, volunteer positions can be found on Student Life’s website, but Shutey said he would like to see a better system created.
“A lot of volunteering work is done through the campus for different things around town, and we talked about expanding OrgSync,” Shutey said. “They have a thing called OrgServices on there, and it’s like an expansion to OrgSync that allows us to basically put any sort of volunteering that needs to be done, or is able to be done, by students, or by anybody up on OrgSync where we can access it, update it a lot easier than can be done now.”
OrgServices may not come into play for a while, but Legislative Affairs is working on an event that will help band the community of River Falls and UWRF together. Shutey said that he, along with his committee, are planning a community social event to be held at UWRF so students and River Falls residents alike can mingle and connect.
Shepherd said that it makes sense to have a closer relationship because River Falls is a smaller city so the two should look at their common goals and work together to accomplish them.
“It’s two major entities within the same community. I think that sometimes the University can be viewed as a city within a city, and really we’re all a part of the same community,” Shepherd said. “The University has certainly benefited by being in the city of River Falls, and vice versa.”