Some universities have the privilege of being located in destination cities, and some towns are fortunate enough to host globally renowned institutions. In Ontario, students typically get the best of both worlds.
Such a scenario doesn’t come easily though; it takes work -- a lot of it. “Town and gown relations,” as they’re called, are vital to the success of a university, its students, and the local community. Collaboration between stakeholders could be as simple as providing adequate means of transportation for students or assisting in community clean-ups, or as complex as instituting enhanced oversight of student housing standards, but the end goal is always the same: to improve the experience of all involved parties in a fair and mutually-beneficial manner.
For the second year now, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance is releasing its Habitats project: a series of case studies by campus researchers that cover the very topics mentioned above, and more, that affect students at a municipal level. They are by all accounts unfiltered, real, and constructive testimonials by students on what parts of the town and gown relationship are working in their local community, and what issues need more attention and cooperation.
This year, student authors from the University Students’ Council at Western, the University of Waterloo Federation of Students, the Queen’s Alma Mater Society, the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, and McMaster Students Union have written submissions on a variety of topics that offer policymakers, the media, and university administrators insights to the issues students currently face in their municipalities.
Specific topics covered include student housing in the City of Waterloo; the student rental market in London; student housing around McMaster University; campus mobility at the University of Waterloo, and the Student Maintenance and Resource Team at Queen’s University.
Going forward, students wish to foster relationships with their communities that are cordial, respectful, and productive for all parties. Such a partnership begins with honest and open dialogue, and that starts here, in Habitats 2016: Students In Their Municipalities.