The College of the Holy Cross and its relationship with its neighbors has been a topic of a lot of debate and discussion recently. I thought it would be good to hear a student perspective on these issues. (I also hope that in the near future, I’ll be able to have other discussions with a Holy Cross neighbor and with a similar student/neighbor pair from WPI.)
Sam Garland, member of the class of 2010 and student chair of SADER, answered my questions via email.
Do you come from the Greater Worcester area?
I am not from the Greater Worcester area. I grew up in Bartlett, New Hampshire.
How much of a role did the City of Worcester play a role in your decision to attend Holy Cross?
I chose to apply to Holy Cross based on the academic merits of the school and my desire to attend a liberal arts institution, but I was moderately familiar with Worcester at the time I applied. My mother attended Clark University as an undergrad and I have a cousin who attended WPI, so I had been to Worcester before. While the city did not contribute to my ultimate decision to choose Holy Cross, my familiarity with Worcester eased the transition process once I began freshman year.
What did you expect about the City of Worcester and the neighborhood around Holy Cross? Did things meet your expectations?
I knew when I chose to attend Holy Cross that the city would afford me many opportunities both socially and academically. Venues like the DCU Center have major drawing power for musicians and athletic events, and the academic possibilities created by the Consortium along with other historically relevant sights in the City allow for education to truly extend beyond the classroom. The neighborhood surrounding the college, by all accounts, is a safe and invested community much like the one I come from in New Hampshire. My involvement as part of this community, particularly since I moved off campus prior to this academic year, more than I could have hoped for in terms of the passion each individual has for the place that they live and the people around them.
Can you describe a bit of your role in SADER?
My official title is the Student Chair of SADER, which stands for Student Ambassadors Developing External Relations. I became aware of SADER during my junior year, when I decided to move off campus and began to attend community meetings. When the opportunity for the leadership position opened this fall, I pursued it with vigor. Being Student Chair also gives me the opportunity to work with the Student Government Association on community relations issues.
Why were you interested in being the Student Chair of SADER?
I have always had an interest in local government, stemming from the intimate nature of the small town I grew up in, so when the opportunity to become actively involved presented itself I couldn’t resist. I think it is of paramount importance for Holy Cross students to recognize their inclusion in a much larger community and being involved in SADER gives me a chance to increase awareness of this fact. As students on College Hill, we are in a unique position where we are just one of numerous bodies who have a vested interest in the well being of the community and its relations with the College. Being a part of this in a leadership capacity is not only important for what we can accomplish in the short term, but also the effect of our current decisions on the generations of Holy Cross students that follow.
What do you do as the Student Chair of SADER?
As the Student Chair of SADER, I act as a liaison both for the College and the off-campus community in order to improve the relationship between Holy Cross students, the residents of College Hill and the surrounding areas, and the City of Worcester. I am actively involved in College Hill Civic Association meetings, as well as the Holy Cross Community Alliance and am in regular contact with the office of Student Affairs, the Student Government Association, members of the City Council, the Worcester Police Department, and the College Hill Civic Association.
What are the things you think Holy Cross students could do to improve community relations?
In my opinion the number one thing Holy Cross students can do to improve community relations is to become more actively involved in the College Hill community. I recognize the fact that students of the school are sometimes viewed as indifferent to the issues of the City and their direct neighbors on the Hill, and I don’t think this perception is without merit. Yet I do not believe this indifference stems from arrogance or elitism, as it has sometimes been attributed, but rather naivety to their impact on the surrounding community. In my experiences with my classmates I have found the student body to be extremely compassionate to the issues that face those around them and more than willing to become involved in any way that they can. It is one of the main goals of SADER to give students further opportunities to engage in open dialog with their neighbors on the hill, as well as the City officials who are making decisions that will directly impact Holy Cross students in the future. As student involvement increases (and I am confident it will) the personal interaction it will afford will allow for common ground to be achieved, hopefully improving the relationships between all those involved.
What are the things you think the Holy Cross administration could do to improve community relations?
My personal interaction with the Holy Cross administration over the course of the past two years has been nothing but positive. The individuals that I work most closely with have all taken a personal interest in community involvement. Given the past experiences many of these administrators have had, they bring invaluable knowledge to the current community relations situation on College Hill. It is my hope that the administration continues to strengthen its messages informing students of their direct impact on the local community and the responsibilities we, as off-campus residents, inherit when we choose to rent outside of the school gates. It is also my hope, and I am certain the administration’s goal, to provide further opportunities for students to get directly involved in the College Hill community. The school has recently provided details as to its plans for its own off-campus properties, as well as further dormitory construction on campus, and I think this in particular is a sign that Holy Cross is more invested in these issues than ever.
What are the things you think the City of Worcester (residents and/or government) could do to improve community relations?
I understand the concerns of the residents of College Hill and am immensely thankful for the opportunity to hear first-hand the residents’ accounts of the issues we all face as a community. I am also impressed with the response of the City of Worcester, which has demonstrated to me the value of an elected government that truly cares about the citizens that elected it. The steps that both of these parties have made to increase College Hill awareness cannot be understated, and I hope that this will allow for positive change to occur. While some of this change will be immediate, I do not think there is an instant means to fully mend community relations to the satisfaction of all parties involved, however. It is important to remember that this has been and will continue to be an organic process with ever-changing faces and certain presumptions will only be dissolved over time. I hope that the City, the residents, Holy Cross and the students will continue to recognize that the improvement of life on College Hill is ongoing and will not be fully remedied immediately. As long as all parties continue to have open dialog on the issues and the common goal is consistent improvement, each successive month and semester will ease the tensions that have been present for far too long. A certain sense of urgency is necessary to promote this change, and it is my sincere belief that in the near future (though maybe not next semester or even next year) a harmony will be achieved in the College Hill community that promotes the well being of all.