New Committee Hopes to Strengthen Middletown Relations
This semester, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) formed the Middletown Relations Committee in order to create a stronger relationship between the WSA and the Middletown community. The committee was created as a part of the WSA’s Community Outreach Committee (CoCo).
Members of CoCo felt that they needed to facilitate a stronger line of communication between the WSA and members of Middletown. CoCo member Maurice Hill ’14 helped to establish the committee.
“The committee aims to establish a long-lasting relationship with Middletown schools, citizens, merchants, and service people,” Hill wrote in an email to The Argus.
WSA President Zachary Malter ’13 encouraged the creation of the committee to address past inconsistencies with community involvement. For him, the committee is a way to create more permanent engagements with Middletown.
“I wanted to solidify something that could be a permanent body where the WSA could be involved with Middletown,” Malter said.
Hill also hopes that an official committee would ensure stable and consistent involvement with the Middletown community.
“We want to build a long-lasting relationship,” Hill said. “We want to have something consistent, that the Middletown community can always look forward to.”
Malter and the members of CoCo, including Chair Grace Zimmerman ’13, met with the Office of Community Service (OCS) to discuss the development of the Committee and ways that the WSA can strengthen communication between Middletown and Wesleyan.
“We had a conversation about what the optimal role for the WSA was to play in Middletown relations,” Malter said. “[So that we] could define what they should do in that area, and what we could best do to support other efforts in Middletown engagement.”
One goal of the Middletown Relations Committee will be to create various projects every year that incorporate the two communities, Middletown and University, including a larger project that would become a permanent annual event.
“In the past, the WSA has hosted a Cardinal Night on Main Street, which was an event in which Wesleyan students would go to Middletown and there would be various discounts in stores and restaurants,” Malter said. “It was a community bonding event on Main Street.”
They are considering another Cardinal Night, or a day of service in which different groups could volunteer together.
“We are also exploring the idea of a member of the Middletown Relations Committee attending the Middletown Town Hall meetings,” Hill said.
One concern that the WSA and OCS isolated in their discussion about the Committee’s objectives was the lack of communication among different community service groups on campus. The WSA hopes that the group can act as a hub for the different groups to coordinate their efforts.
“[We are interested in] sharing information between different groups on campus that are already involved in community service, or interested in being involved, so that partnerships can be formed and everyone can be in the loop,” Malter said.
The Committee will comprise WSA and non-WSA members alike. The goal is to represent an even broader cross-section of the student body, with members who are all committed to strengthening the relationship between the town and campus.
“The Middletown Relations Committee will be working with the current student groups, current members of the WSA, and current students of the student body,” Hill wrote.
Many students are involved with the Middletown community through various programs on campus, and the WSA hopes to help facilitate these mutually beneficial relationships. Natalie Hunter ’14, who is involved with the Traverse Square Community Center, said she valued her experiences with Middletown residents.
“It’s great to be involved with the kids there, and get a chance to build relationships outside of the Wesleyan bubble,” she said. “I believe that it has helped me to develop a better relationship with community.”
Zoe Weitzman ’14 recently began tutoring through the Woodrow Wilson tutoring program. She felt that there was a definite separation between the residents of Middletown and Wesleyan and said she wanted to find a way to become more involved with the community.
“I feel like there is this divide, a sort of social and cultural chasm between [Wesleyan] and Middletown,” Weitzman said. “Tutoring is a great way to bridge that gap through education.”
She also believes that a committee would help to improve communication between different groups, and help more people to become involved.
“Every tutor group is sort of isolated,” Weitzman added. “If there was a committee it would be a lot more accessible for new students and people who were interested to get involved with community service.”