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Chapter Four

On the connection between universities and the constituents of the communities they occupy.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the curriculum, participants will be able to:

  1. Develop a historical perspective on the evolution of town and gown relationships over time
  2. Describe the types of community organizations institutions engage and the benefits/limitations associated with community engagement
  3. More effectively engage their home institution’s mission and its implicit and explicit opportunities for community engagement
  4. Develop successful strategies for their home institutions to promote positive community engagement while discerning different approaches used by different types of institutions
  5. Describe opportunities and challenges associated with institutional activities (e.g. intercollegiate athletics, student organizations, performing arts venues) and
    town and gown relationships

Chapter Overview

Universities and their Communities

It is commonly recognized that a successful collaboration between the school and the community can lead to benefits for both. While openly adversarial relationships are largely a thing of the past, the potential for frustration between town and gown continues to exist.

A President's Perspective

On Working with the Community

Dr. Gogue discusses the varied aspects of town and gown relationships, ranging from mutually beneficial arrangements such as economic development projects to shared services to the role of community organizations in the life of the institution. He also addresses concerns about ethics laws and campus safety.


Review & Discussion

An institution must take seriously its place in the community and the impact of its decisions on that community. Drs. Bataille and Moulton discuss the importance of ensuring that the community’s voices are heard and stress the value of cultivating strong working relationships with the political leadership of the community, local media outlets and business operators.

Cases for Discussion


The vice president for finance and administration sits on the zoning board for the small city where Blue Skies University is located. One day he comes to the president with information about a new company coming to town and a related discussion at a zoning commission meeting about how to change regulations to enable the company to build a factory close to residential areas. Residents of the area have been appearing at zoning commission meetings protesting the potential changes.

The vice president tells the president that he had dinner with the CEO of the company, and they discussed how the company would support BSU with opportunities for faculty research and student internships. He believes that the company will eventually support the university financially. The zoning commission is divided on whether or not to change regulations, and the vice president is the swing vote.

What advice should the president give the vice president?

Is it worth potentially alienating the community to gain perks for faculty and opportunities for students?

What are the implications of having key administrators serving on community boards and commissions—should they vote independently or are they voting as representatives of the university?


On the basis of research indicating that students who live on campus perform better academically and graduate sooner, Horizons University has decided to require all students to live on campus during their freshman and sophomore years. The institution has ample residence hall space and the president is confident that this decision is in the best interest of the students.

However, real estate companies, most of which have significant numbers of students living in their properties, are strongly opposed to the decision, and claim the university is ignoring the economic interests of the community. The companies say they’ll withdraw support—financial and otherwise—from Horizon if the decision stands.

What should the president do? How can he or she carry out a decision that the president believes best serves the students and the institution without permanent damage to Horizon’s relationship with the community?