|Town Gown is a term used to describe the a form of collaboration between administration at a university and local government leaders and elected officials. Town being the non-academic population; and, Gown the academic community at-large. In many cases the academic community population filling the off-campus neighborhoods are unsure if they are Town or Gown?
During the Middle Ages, students admitted to the European universities often held minor clerical status, particularly on the continent, and donned garb similar to that worn by the clergy. These vestments evolved into the academic long black gown, worn along with hood and cap. The gown proved comfortable for studying in unheated and drafty buildings and thus became a tradition in the universities. The gown also served as a social symbol, as it was impractical for physical work. (Defined by Wikapedia)
The initial relationship between the medieval universities and the host town was adversarial for various reasons, and over time the universities growing autonomy and independence from local control led to increasing tensions with host towns. Also, the steady encroachment of universities upon neighboring areas created a point of contention between town and gown. In many instances, this tension led to violence and riots such as the two-day Battle of St. Scholastica at Oxford University that resulted in the death of scores of scholars.
Today Town versus Gown disputes have moved from the streets into the courts and city hall. In the United States, a rash of disputes between public universities and host cities has developed in regard to the cost and benefits of the town-gown connection. Economic issues, parking, traffic, neighborhood conflicts, housing and many other issues still generate tension between both sides of this relationship. Despite the rising number of legal battles across the United States, many universities and their host towns are working together to minimize these tensions and improve their communities through joint efforts. This conference hopes to promote and encourage these collaborative efforts and celebrate the successes of the universities and college towns that have chosen to work together to reach common ground.
Typical town gown community constituents are comprised of representatives from neighborhoods, the student body, the Greek community, Tech administration, Town staff and Town Council, rental property managers and community service agencies. This group primary aim is to expand communication and develop partnerships betweens these groups. Main concerns traditionally include:
- Alcohol and influences on students behavior
- Development of Neighborhood Enhancement Programs
- Greek community participation and representation
- Litter and debris
- Noise violations
- Student awareness on community standards
- Traffic and parking
- Transit services and future planning
- Vandalism, rental rights and lease variations
The Goals for discussion were always focused on how to bring together constituencies and host the opportunity to discuss and resolve items of mutual and overlapping interest and concern regarding quality of life.