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University Students and Staff Observe 20 Years of Building Strong Relations with Albany City Neighborhoods

UAlbany-based Committee on University & Community Relations has worked to unite off-campus college students and long-term neighbors

Tom Gebhardt, at right, chairman of the Committee on University & Community Relations Committee, participates with a City of Albany policeman in one of the frequent distributions of door tags in student areas, promoting better and safer neighborhoods.

For 20 years, the UAlbany-based Committee on University & Community Relations has labored in the City of Albany to build strong relations between off-campus college students and their long-term neighbors.

The Committee will mark the anniversary with a program featuring speakers Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff, UAlbany Vice President for Student Success Christine Bouchard, Mike D'Attilio of the College of St. Rose, and Pine Hills Neighborhood Association President Todd Hunsinger.

The event will be held Wednesday, April 13, at 7 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church Hall, 646 State St., Albany.

In the fall of 1990, the committee inaugurated monthly meetings with the goal of improving relations between college students off campus and their long term neighbors. Since that first meeting its goals have expanded to include improving safety off campus, developing alcohol and other drug prevention and education programs off-campus, and improving the quality of life in city neighborhoods where college students reside.

The committee currently comprises student leaders and professional staff from the University at Albany as well as other local colleges, officials from the Albany Police and Fire Departments as well as the Albany Common Council, neighborhood association representatives, community and religious leaders, tavern owners, landowners and representatives from the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association and the New York State Division of Alcohol Beverage Control.

"The longevity and success of our campus-community coalition is a testament to the hard work and commitment of the diverse constituencies represented on our committee who are willing to tackle the challenges in neighborhoods where town and gown meet," said Tom Gebhardt, director of UAlbany's Office of Personal Safety and Off-Campus Affairs and chairman of the Committee on University & Community Relations.

Committee activities include regularly distributing door tags to student areas entitled "How Safe Are You?" and "Arrests & Fines for Having a Party," the committee’s brochure, entitled "Off-Campus Student Survival Guide: How to Be Safer and a Better Neighbor," and new this year the "Tenant and Landlord Rights and Responsibilities" brochure. These publications highlight safety tips, good neighbor practices, responsible tenant tips and the Midtown Neighborhood Watch as well as describe City of Albany and New York State laws and ordinances that could be violated as a result of hosting a house party.

Other activities to combat underage and high-risk drinking by college students and improve safety include: annual meetings with local tavern owners and, through the years, representatives from the New York State Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Albany Police Department, the Albany County District Attorney's Office and the Department of State for the State of New York; meetings with various student groups, including representatives of the university's fraternities and sororities; conducting late night safety "walk and talks," which offer safety tips on not walking alone and being aware of outside surroundings; and "door-to-door safety and behavior chats" on blocks with a high density of college students.

Award recipients

From left, award-winners Brian Viglucci, Outstanding Business Community Member; Albany Police Officer Janet Zalatan, Outstanding Public Official; First Lutheran Church Reverend Vernon Victorson, Outstanding Neighborhood-Community Member; with Tom Gebhardt, chairperson of the Committee on University & Community Relations. (Photo John Bollentin/University at Albany)

 

UAlbany promotes its "Off Campus Hotline" for long-term neighbors and students to report problems or concerns about behavior off campus. The University's Office of Personal Safety and Off-Campus Affairs, in conjunction with Albany Police, appropriate city offices and the respective colleges, respond to Hotline calls.

The University and the Committee also conduct their annual "lighting and safety survey" to identify and recommend steps to make the area in the vicinity of Alumni Quadrangle, the College of St. Rose, Albany High School and the LaSalle School safer.

In 1995, the Committee on University & Community Relations was named by the Neighborhood Resource Center in Albany as the Organization of the Year. The following year, the committee was declared a 2006 Model Program by the U.S. Department of Education's Alcohol and other Drug Prevention Models on College Campuses Grant Competition. In 2007 it was recognized as an "Innovative Program" by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the New York State College Prevention Program.

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