On JCU Student Involvement, Citizen Committees, and Community

Over the weekend, I received this message:

Hello, as a student at John Carroll University and a four year resident of University Heights, how do you propose to give students at JCU a voice in the local government? In my experience, the existing leadership is more fond of simply waiting for students to graduate and move away rather than addressing their requests and concerns directly. Do you have a plan to make students' voices heard and to make them have a desire to remain a part of the local community rather than moving to other local suburbs?

Here was my response:

Thank you for your questions about student involvement in local government.

I am aware that a number of John Carroll students live and vote in University Heights. I respect that, and encourage student involvement in city government. Our city council and other public meetings are open to the public, including JCU students.  Even if you live in University Heights only while you are a student, you have the same right to be heard and to participate as any other resident in our city.

As mayor I intend to establish citizen committees on the several areas of improvement that our city needs, as well as bring back many of the citizen committees that have been lost over the last eight years. Any resident (including students) will be allowed to volunteer to be on a citizen committee, to formulate ideas and build momentum behind improvements for our city. As mayor, if a resident were to approach me and say that they’d like to see a committee on, for example, a dog park, or a splash pad for kids, or on improving recycling or sustainability, or establishing a food bank, and if we don’t already have such a committee, I would ask that resident if they’d like to help organize (or at least serve on) such a citizen committee, and empower them to do it – that is, help them find meeting space and a platform to publicize the committee and its meetings. I would also match them up with city council members who may be of like mind on that issue, because council involvement is integral to the advancement of our city, and because the legislative process that may result from citizen action is city council’s responsibility.  

I envision these committees to be full of citizen volunteers from all over the city, including students. I also plan to expand opportunities for internships with city government. This would be part of an overall effort between the city and university to work together to our mutual benefit, while developing a generation of young energetic leaders within our community. With JCU getting a new president, and University Heights getting a new mayor, I am hopeful of a fresh start in our relationship.

After graduation, I’d love to see more JCU students stay in University Heights as they embark on their careers and start families. University Heights has much to offer to people of all ages, and it is a great place to live.  You’re right, welcoming and encouraging student involvement is crucial to that process. 

I’d like to share a little bit about my background to provide some perspective.

As an undergraduate at Bowling Green State University, I was among the student leaders who took an interest in Bowling Green city government. We sought to be heard on a number of issues affecting students. The city leaders resisted at first, but we convinced them that we had a genuine civic interest in the Bowling Green community. That, yes, while we were students, we were also citizens and voters.

Some of my fellow student leaders stayed in Bowling Green. One became president of the downtown merchants association. Some went on to serve on city council. Others ended up working for the university. These things happened because they got involved in city government as undergraduates. 

Again, thank you for contacting me. If there are particular issues or concerns you’d like to discuss, please let me know. Also, we will be having a mayoral debate on campus at Donahue Auditorium on Thursday, October 26, at 7:00pm. I hope to see you there.


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