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JCU absent from Shaker council meeting

November 19th, 2009

Last Monday night, at a Shaker Heights City Council meeting, the Council voted to extend an interim ordinance regarding student housing for another 90 days. The ordinance affects the apartment buildings that John Carroll University recently purchased on Fairmount Circle.

Shaker Heights’ aim is to place a cap on the number of units being used by students at 87 percent of units in the Fairmount Garden complex and 50 percent in the Fairpark and North Park apartment complexes.

The Carroll News has already voiced their objection to this ordinance in a previous editorial in the Sept. 10 issue.

The interim ordinance, according to Mayor Earl Leiken, is to allow more time for discussion between the City and the University to reach an agreement that is equitable to both parties–no agreement has been reached yet.

Among the concerns being voiced by the residents who attended the meeting were increased traffic congestion and noise levels that would be created by more students moving into the University-owned properties in Shaker Heights.

While The Carroll News thinks it is a healthy debate for these residents to attend the city council meeting and voice their concerns, we are incredibly disappointed and discouraged that no one from either the JCU administration or Student Union were there to provide a defense of the students at the University or the University’s goals and/or policies.

The administration, through the office of JCU’s general council, sent a letter to the mayor of Shaker Heights, which both fiercely defended the University and took great care to emphasize that the University is open to an equitable agreement with the City.  We urge Shaker Heights to be more willing to work with the University than University Heights has been to further the goals of both the City and University. It is in the best interest of both parties that an agreement is made.

However, the fact that no student representative was at the meeting is, in our opinion, unacceptable.

At a time when we were voting for the Student Union executive board–a group of students who receive yearly compensation from every student’s Student Activity Fee–it is discouraging that not one candidate or current member could make the meeting.

Even if we were not paying members of the executive board, it is inherent within the job responsibility of being on the Student Union to be an advocate for the student body at large, and The Carroll News feels that this job responsibility was, in this case, largely ignored.

The Carroll News believes that the University has an opportunity to work with Shaker Heights, and in doing so can improve our relationship with University Heights, and that cannot be overlooked.

The expansion of the University is key to the future of the University–more student housing will expand the ability to adapt to increased enrollment, and that is something the University is attempting to do in order to keep their operating budget at an acceptable level.

Also, the University, largely through it’s students, provides a great service to Northeast Ohio. According to the letter sent by JCU general council, the University injects $115 million into the Northeast Ohio economy, some of which goes to Shaker Heights. A greater portion would go to Shaker Heights if we begin to further expand into the city.

This is a situation that can clearly benefit both parties.

The Carroll News urges the administration to have more of a presence at these meetings (although we do find the letter encouraging), and even more intensely urges Student Union to take their job of advocating for the student body more seriously. This is part of an important, and much needed, effort to expand the University and we cannot let this opportunity slip by.