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By Roger L. Kemp
The UniTown Network recently held its first annual Town-Gown Relations Conference for representatives of cities and universities in the European Union. The City of Ferrara (Italy) and the University of Ferrara jointly participated in this conference. Special attendees included Tiziano Tagliani, Mayor of the City of Ferrara and Pasquale Nappi, President of the University of Ferrara.
In the past, town-gown officials have had misunderstandings due to different priorities and the fact that they have separate governing bodies. Over the years, few mutual discussions were held between the public and school officials. However, times are changing and town-gown officials are increasingly working together for the benefit of the groups they represent – the citizens as well as the students.
The UniTown Network of the European Union is headed in the right direction with their efforts to get municipal and school officials involved in working together. During the opening session of the conference, I shared some of the most common town-gown best practices. The case studies presented came from joint projects and programs undertaken by cities and schools located in the United States and Canada. Below are highlights of these evolving and dynamic town-gown best practices:
Town-gown officials increasingly recognize the positive impacts that 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 other revenues and taxes generated by the schools located within municipalities.
There are multiple opportunities for communities, and the colleges and universities located within them, to participate in these town-gown (UniTown) programs and projects. These positive practices evolve rapidly and reflect joint efforts where everyone benefits – both the citizens and the students, as well as public and school officials who consider and approve their recommendations. Some of the benefits of these evolving town-gown programs and services are noted below:
This field is dynamic and additional best practices will be analyzed, approved, initiated and reported on during the coming years. The readers of this article should stay tuned for more information about the dynamic and growing 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.
Roger L. Kemp, MPA, MBA, PhD, ICMA-CM, has been a career city manager and a career adjunct professor. He is presently a Practitioner in Residence, Department of Public Management, College of Business, at the University of New Haven. Kemp is also the author of Town-Gown Relations: A Handbook of Best Practices, which discusses the best practices shared in this article. He can be reached at [email protected]