University, city lean on each other

Ella Fowler and Ella Fowler

The University is not an island.

It is surrounded by a community that plays a vital role in the University’s survival and impacts it every day.

“One thing that has been very evident [in our community is] the downturn in enrollment at the University and with the University’s economic problems,” said Bowling Green mayor John Quinn. “When your No. 1 business is hurting, then you are hurting too.”

Quinn said the downturn in enrollment has caused a vacancy rate within the city.

He said students forget they inherit a city when they enroll at the University.

Quinn, who is starting his 11th year as mayor, has greeted students and parents at Orientation and Registration for the past five years.

“Welcome to campus, but also welcome to a community, ’cause this is going to be a part of your life for the next few years,” Quinn said.

But students often don’t realize they are a part of this community.

“I think students need to know right from the beginning they are a part of our community and that they are not just students at Bowling Green State University,” Quinn said. “Whether they live on campus or in an apartment, they are users of city services every day and they are a part of this community.”

Quinn said students need to be conscious of the role they play in the larger community.

“The reasons we want people to feel like this is their community from the beginning is because if you have a sense of community you do things that you might not do otherwise,” he said. “If you feel this is mine, you take greater pride in it and so you don’t abuse it in the same way.”

But senior Tiffany Cockrell has never felt that connection to the surrounding community.

“Now, in my senior year, I am starting to realize there is a city outside of the University,” she said. “That people actually live in the community.”

Cockrell said she enjoys the fact that the community is small, but she didn’t really go into the community until she was a junior and began to volunteer.

But the relationship between the two entities goes both ways.

Quinn said he has meetings with University President Carol Cartwright frequently and this has led to a healthy relationship with the two entities.

Dick Edwards, who has held various posts at the University as well as other universities throughout his administrative career and is now an active community member, said the relationship between the University and the city is the best here than anywhere else.

“One of the important ingredients of this relationship over the years has been … being sensitive to the needs of the other,” he said. “There has been a lot of hard work over the years to make that happen and it is something you don’t take for granted.”

Edwards said the successful relationship is partly due to people in both institutions who are aware of each other’s needs.

Sue Clark, executive director of the Bowling Green Community development center, said the correspondence between the two has changed as leaders are hired.

“The really good news is at the moment we have a wonderful relationship between the city and the University,” she said. “They are working collaboratively in many aspects and I can’t say that has always been the case.”

Clark, Edwards and Larry Weiss, co-chair of the Centennial Celebration Committee, said the corporation and collaboration between the two institutions occurs because Cartwright and Quinn work together.

Edwards said Cartwright is seen at various events going on in the community, while Quinn makes a habit of visiting campus and talking with students, Weiss said.

“I think it is extremely important and extremely valuable [to communicate],” Clark said. “[The University is] close to the city. It is not like the University is five miles away from downtown. We are neighbors. When there is a problem in a neighborhood, the best thing to do is to sit down and discuss it.”