Recently the City/University Community Relations Committee [CRC] met at the Coral Gables Commission Chambers of City Hall to address, among other issues, the latest concerns of the UM neighbors.
UM representatives on the committee highlighted the latest initiatives taken by the University to reach out to the surrounding community.
The biggest initiative launched by UM is College Town, a new quarterly publication aimed at informing the neighbors about campus news and activities.
“We’ve heard from neighbors that they would like to know what activities are being offered on campus,” Sarah Artecona, assistant vice-president for University Relations, said. “Since we don’t have a driving street through campus, we’re trying to think of ways to attract the neighbors to come to campus.”
In a letter to neighbors featured in the inaugural issue of College Town, Pat Whitely, vice-president for Student Affairs, says that UM will continue to work together with the neighbors on opportunities for collaboration and to address concerns from the neighborhood.
The administration hopes that, by better informing the neighbors about the facilities that are available to them on campus, they can build stronger ties with the community.
“We would like the neighbors to enjoy and use the Lowe Art Museum, the Convocation Center, the Ring Theater and the Cosford Cinema, or just come over and walk the campus,” Artecona said.
According to Artecona, this is just the first step in a coordinated plan devised by the University.
“Later this summer we will be fully launching a College Town campaign for the neighbors,” Artecona said.
As part of this program, Artecona says, the University is looking into offering UM Bookstore discounts and discounted rates for athletic programs, as well as a spring concert early next year on the Commencement Green.
During the CRC meeting, Maria Cruz, one of the homeowners in the area, complained about illegal student parking in the green area behind the Sigma Alpha Epsilon [SAE] fraternity house, despite the recently erected “no parking” signs.
“I stopped counting at 20 cars,” Cruz said.
UM authorities told The Miami Hurricane that they are unable to enforce the signs because the area in question is not owned by UM.
“I am currently working with the owner of the property [SAE Fraternity] to solve this situation,” Chuck McConnell, director of Parking and Transportation, said. “Because it is private property, it is not within our jurisdiction to enforce the University’s parking rules and regulations. We are aware of vehicles taking advantage of this situation and hope to have this resolved shortly.”
Later in the meeting, Cruz said that she had witnessed students sitting on a couch drinking beer in front of one of the fraternity houses while she was on her way to church with her young niece.
“They were sitting there with beers and an improvised cooler,” Cruz said.
However, Henry Christensen, director for Public Safety, told The Miami Hurricane that he was unaware of any official record of the incident.
Another concern voiced by the neighbors on the committee was the increased volume of traffic on Ponce de Leon Boulevard due to the Power 96 reggae concert last Saturday.
However, UM administration working with the event said traffic in and out of the event was handled well.
“There were no problems with the parking for the reggae concert on Saturday,” Dave Touhey, general manager of the Convocation Center, said. “In fact, traffic flow into the event went very smooth, and all lots were clear after the event within 40 minutes.”
According to UM administrators, the issue of the University Village was not discussed at the meeting because the matter is currently in mediation between all parties concerned.
The UM community hopes that the issue will be resolved as soon as possible.
CRC meetings are held the first Monday of each month at 5 p.m. at Coral Gables City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way.
All meetings are open to the public.
Arnab Basu can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org