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Mutual Benefit

Campus and community are intertwined

Dear Aidan R. Smith: You asked me for a response to your letter to the editor [“Student Disconnect,” 5/31], so here it is. 

I‘m sorry that you feel deeply disconnected from Eugene’s government. We’re here to serve you and every other member of our community.

While you live here, this is your city and we value you as part of our community. As you know, there are approximately 25,000 students who live, study, work and volunteer here. We benefit every day in terms of our local economy, the many cultural opportunities the UO provides, and from the amazing contributions students make to our community in sharing their skills and talents. I often say that I would never think of talking about Eugene without talking about the UO and I invite those of you who attend the UO to thoroughly participate in our city.

Just a week ago I was on campus reviewing some student proposals for a local indoor/outdoor farmers market. These proposals broaden our thinking and contribute to our local planning efforts. They matter a great deal. Last week at the First Friday Art Walk, student art was on display for our community to enjoy. This past weekend’s track and field events filled our community with activity. And, in our Regional Prosperity Plan, the spin-off businesses from student research have a key role in ensuring a more successful future for our community. Your impact is large and important to us.

I’d be the first to admit, there are always town and gown conflicts here as in every university community. We work at this consistently and contribute to the broad discussion in the International Town and Gown Association.

Personally I take every opportunity to recognize and appreciate students for the role they have in community. That’s why I’m on campus every month talking to classes and attending events. 

Former President Richard Lariviere and I introduced the annual community welcome and asked ASUO presidents to join us in walking door to door to welcome and thank students and to encourage them to be good neighbors and active in their neighborhood associations. As a community we struggle to provide for student housing needs and maintain our beautiful older, close-to-campus neighborhoods. We’d welcome your help with this. 

The university has created a Communiversity Assistants program and the city facilitates a neighborhood livability work group, which includes student leaders, and meets once a month to address quality of life and relationship issues near campus. These do include the challenge of how student parties (and after-party behavior) affect the people who live and raise their families around them. 

Eugene Police Department has built a comprehensive education campaign to help students avoid being victims of property crimes, especially during school breaks when students are gone. The crime reduction has been substantial. 

I think investigation would find that the neighborhood and university spend a great deal of time considering parking issues. It’s not easy. There are many needs that must be balanced. To that end the city is doing its utmost to increase options that work, whether that’s pedestrian, transit, bike or car. 

The city encourages students to participate on city boards and commissions and we take pride in having students or former students currently serving on both the police and planning commissions. If you have concerns/observations, please know that you can contact your city councilor, speak at the community forum part of our council meeting, or speak directly to boards and commissions. We welcome your input and participation.

We’ve had students come to our City Council meetings to discuss options for skateboarder use of bike paths, and we’ve had students directly influence city rental policies. We’ve had students speak out for social, environmental and economic justice and equity. These voices are valuable and their activism an important part of our city.

Finally, we know our economy is tough and we’re all working on it. We’d love to have more students stay in this community and that means there must be jobs. UO, LCC, the Chamber of Commerce, Eugene, Springfield, Lane County, Metro Partnership, the Workforce Partnership, the hospitals and schools are all working together to foster entrepreneurship, bring in more investment, offer loans, one-stop online business help, incubator space, training, research and cluster development. Our hope is not only more jobs, but also jobs with good wages and in keeping with our community values. 

This is just a small part of the picture. I encourage and invite you to become involved and I wish you well with your studies. Don’t hesitate to contact me at Kitty.Piercy@ci.eugene.or.us