Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Town and Gown

The University of Michigan-Flint displays its pride outside one of the most prominent buildings on campus: The beautiful "Northbank Center"

The relationship between a university and its host city can be a finicky one. Cities like East Lansing, New Haven CT, and Springfeild OH, have all had notoriously rough relationships with the places of higher learning that reside within them. In Flint, it is hard to go a day without hearing some city booster proclaiming us as a "college town," and while many are banking our success as a community on academia, others are not so quick to bite, and others are even unsure if they want an influx of students.

My question is what about this "College Town" idea is so appealing, esspecially to Flint's post collegiate community?

First, our colleges oare undeniably expanding. Just today it was announced that U of M Flint is the fastest growing university in the state. Mott, Baker, Kettering, and U of M have all seen major expansions of their physical campuses, and the infrastructure of our city has even worked to allign itself with the needs of the colleges, with the renaming of 3rd Avenue to University Avenue, and the opening of Kearsly Street.

Recent years have also brought an onslaught of websites, campaigns, and initiatives, like flintstudenthousing.com, collegetownflint.com, and FIA collegetown, all aimed at pushing the idea that Flint (particularly downtown) offers lots of studenty experiences.

It isn't hard to see why many people are skeptical. Rewinding thirty years, we found much of the same energy, except it was rallying around a much different, now infamous attempt at revitalization. In fact if you replace the word "Autoworld" in the press releases from 1983 to "Student Housing" in one from 2007, you might have a hard time telling the difference. The idea of transforming our entire city is still a difficult idea for many to put stock in.

So again, why are we so many attatched to this idea of being a student centered town? Many people look to places Ann Arbor as an ispiration for what downtown Flint could be like, and it is this that I find extremely interesting. Is it really the students that many Flintoids find so impressive about this quintessential college town? Or is it something else?

I think this could be a pretty in-depth discussion, let me know what you think

...more to come