West Chester Borough, West Chester University unite for West Chester Together

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
Representatives from West Chester Borough and West Chester University gathered together as advisors for West Chester Together, a project to promote shared community values and positive community norms. (Candice Monhollan)

Representatives from West Chester Borough and West Chester University gathered together as advisors for West Chester Together, a project to promote shared community values and positive community norms. (Candice Monhollan)

WEST GOSHEN — A group of representatives from both the West Chester Borough and West Chester University has been referred to as a “legacy project” by Mayor Carolyn Comitta.

These advisors from both contingents came together Tuesday morning at the Sykes Student Union as part of West Chester Together, a collaboration between the borough and the university to promote shared community values and positive community norms.

“What we’re always trying to do is figure out how we can come together and make our university and community stronger together,” Comitta said.

This isn’t the first time this concept has been approached, though those cases have generally been in an introductory and casual level.

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“(We want to) articulate how we can come together with a vision for our shared future that will really make West Chester even better by identifying and putting into words … who we are and who we want to be.”

Drawing from the brains of representatives from the university, the borough, the police, the Business Improvement District (BID) and the Chamber of Commerce, the almost 20 people spent the morning presenting West Chester Together.

Among the movers and shakers in attendance were Comitta; Don Braceland and Diane LeBold, of the borough council; Alice Hammond, a borough resident and member of the Community Values Committee; Malcolm Johnstone, of the BID; Marsha Haug, of Admissions at the university; Mary Jane Rogan, coordinator of the university’s Alcohol Education; and more.

To give some background into what has already been done so far, Rogan discussed some of the data which was collected in September 2015.

Over a Friday and Saturday, university students stood at the north and south corners of High and Gay streets with clickers to count the number of people who go by during certain two-hour blocks of the day and night.

As an example, from 9 to 11 p.m. on that Friday night, the students counted 1,500 people.

“I was astounded,” Rogan said. “There are a lot of people there and a lot to deal with. We wanted to know who our audience was.”

To get those answers, students also surveyed roughly 400 people on the streets of the borough and some of the data collected was a bit eye-opening.

Over half of the people surveyed were female and almost half of the 400 people surveyed said they visit the main hub of the borough at least two or more times per week, most notably for the restaurants for the culinary experience (83 percent).

Restaurants also topped the choices (66 percent) for what the people enjoyed most about West Chester.

An audible “wow” was heard from several in the room when Rogan showed that 97 percent of the people surveyed said they felt safe in West Chester, and almost three-quarters of those 400 people weren’t university students.

“It was interesting to know who we are dealing with,” Rogan said.

Part of West Chester Together’s idea is to look at a social marketing campaign. The hope is to highlight shared, responsible community values of West Chester students, residents and business owners.

“The idea of the Broken Windows Theory is basically that if you’re walking down the street and you see a broken window, an individual is more likely to behave negatively than if there wasn’t a broken window,” said Meghan Mahoney, of the university’s Department of Communication Studies. “It’s the idea that really small things make a difference and that if a community looks put together and looks cleaned up, people will behave more responsibly.”

The goal is for the group of advisors to meet at least four more times throughout the year.

The university has even now made West Chester Together as part of its Strategic Plan as well as its goals.

“Each of us at the table represents a different viewpoint, but that’s how we will come to our shared, articulated vision,” Comitta said.

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Categories: Community, Education, Government, Local Government

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