Your home away from home

Many students don’t consider Kent their home. They come from Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Buffalo – and when they leave, they think Kent will forget them.

It doesn’t.

As some of the students at Tuesday night’s community forum can attest, your presence in Kent can leave marks that last long after you graduate. For some, they’re damages in rental properties that landlords won’t or can’t fix. For others, they’re bad memories and dark circles under the eyes from parties that ended long before.

These marks are felt by both sides of the rift that divides Kent – students and life-long residents are affected. And it’s time for both sides to work together to solve the problem.

Tuesday night, the Undergraduate Student Senate began what we hope will become an ongoing open dialogue between Kent State students and the city of Kent. Students had the opportunity to ask questions pertaining to their individual experiences, and Kent residents and city council members were able to express their desires to work with students.

A profound concept quickly emerged: Believe it or not, the two distinct groups in Kent – students and residents – are not as different as you might think.

An issue that came up several times throughout the discussion revolved around the idea that students are often uninformed about the relationship they will have with the city when they move off campus. They didn’t know what questions to ask when looking at properties. They didn’t know which problems they can be reported to the police for, and conversely, which problems they can contact authorities for when they have issues of their own.

And most importantly, they don’t view Kent as home and have difficulty empathizing with those who do. So give this a try:

Picture your hometown. Imagine if, as far back as you can remember, a new wave of neighbors moved in every year. They make a lot more noise than you’d like and they don’t care what kind of mess they leave behind. When they move out, they’re replaced with more people you don’t know and don’t trust. One bad experience makes you distrustful of all your neighbors, even if it is without reason.

If students viewed Kent as home, they would take better care of their properties and be more mindful of their non-student neighbors. The university, the city and student governments should work together to give students a greater sense of their rights and responsibilities when living off campus. They can hold sessions in the residence halls for those looking to move into apartments or houses and invite city council members and police officers to come.

Students can also give back to the city. Residents of Kent will be more trusting when they see students taking part in the community and not just treating it like a revolving door.

There’s a legacy of distrust and dislike between the city and the students of Kent. This probably isn’t unique for a college town, but that doesn’t mean we should be satisfied with the norm. If we work together, we can excel.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.