- Grinnell College President Raynard Kington writes in the Washington Post about the stark contrast in political views between many college campuses and the communities in which they are stationed, many of which voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
- Kington says Grinnell is a perfect example of how divides can be created between colleges and communities, as the institution boasts respectable diversity statistics — more than 40% of the student body is non-white, compared to the city of Grinnell, IA, which is more than 90% white. He says engagement efforts, like moving the campus bookstore to the city's town center, help students to develop a better understanding of these differences, along with an appreciation for solving them.
- Working with local school districts and civic organizations, Kington says, also helps to foster stronger town-gown relationships which can transcend political differences.
Many colleges throughout the United States face similar issues, and the differences became clear during the student mobilization efforts of the late fall to encourage voter turnout. For college leaders, town-gown relationships are an important part of showcasing a successful administration, as schools like the University of Washington and Princeton have learned by way of their real estate expansion efforts.
It is up to campus leaders to begin conversations about partnerships to solve problems and to grow solutions through collaboration. Most residents of a community want better schools, more jobs and to live longer, but citizens disagree on how to achieve these goals and who should pay for them. Colleges can offer research and platforms for dialog for people to share views on common objectives and to reach goals.