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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.
By Roger L. Kemp
February 16, 2016
During my public service career, I have been a city manager and an adjunct professor in three states and on both coasts of the United States. I always had an interest in town-gown relations: how officials in communities and schools relate to one another, and how they work with citizens and students to resolve issues before they become problems. For the reasons outlined below, there are many mutually advantageous opportunities to work together on joint projects and programs.
Everyone benefits—public and school officials, as well as the citizens and students they serve—when proactive town-gown practices are used. The search of literature in this field reveals many best practices. This research resulted in a new reference volume cited below. The case studies presented in this book came from joint projects and programs undertaken by cities and schools throughout the U.S. and Canada.
These evolving and dynamic town-gown best practices are highlighted below.
There are multiple opportunities for communities, and the colleges and universities located within them, to participate jointly in mutually advantageous town-gown programs and projects. These positive practices, which are rapidly evolving, reflect joint efforts where everyone benefits.
In the past, town-gown officials have had misunderstandings based on different loyalties and priorities, and the fact that they have separate governing bodies. Over the years, few mutual discussions were held between public and school officials, as well as citizens and students. Today, town-gown officials are increasingly working together for the benefit of both of the groups they represent.
Town-gown officials increasingly recognize the positive impacts the academic community has on their municipal government, as well as the value of the public services provided to the campus by the municipal government. These benefits include joint employment opportunities, payments for services, mutual city-school projects, programs and services, and knowledge of the other revenues and taxes generated by the schools located within municipalities.
These evolving town-gown programs and services benefit the members of the municipal and academic communities as noted below.
This field is dynamic and additional best practices will no doubt be analyzed, approved, initiated, grow and be reported on in future years. The readers of this article should stay tuned for more information about the dynamic and evolving field of town-gown relations, where everyone benefits—the citizens and the students, the municipal and public officials, as well as the members of their respective governing bodies.
ASPA is a great professional association to promote these best practices, since they represent both the academic and practitioner communities—folks that teach and practice public management in cities throughout the nation!
Author: Roger L. Kemp, Ph.D., ICMA-CM, has been a career city manager and a career adjunct professor in three states. He is a professional in residence in the Department of Public Management at the University of New Haven and a distinguished adjunct professor in the Executive MPA Program at Golden Gate University. These best practices are reflected in his book, Town and Gown Relations: A Handbook of Best Practices (McFarland, 2013). Roger can be reached via e-mail at <[email protected]>.