Editorial Board

Syracuse University should get involved with the greater communities it resides in, but only to a point

Syracuse University’s recent announcement that two administrators will assess the university’s relationship with the greater Syracuse and regional communities will be a worthwhile exploration of how SU interacts with other organizations.

Considering the university is one of the biggest employers in the central New York region, it’s important for it to maintain strong relationships within the community it resides in. But while assessing SU’s role in the Syracuse area, it’s important that the administrators heading the Community Engagement Initiative keep in mind that university resources should be distributed first and foremost for the benefit of SU’s students, faculty and staff.

The initiative is meant to integrate resources to address issues within the Syracuse and regional communities, said Bea Gonzalez, vice president for community engagement at SU. Gonzalez added that the initiative also aims to catalog the direct resources SU provides to businesses, government agencies and organizations within the community.

Coupled with the assessment of SU’s relationship with the greater community is an analysis on SU’s economic impact on the central New York region. Gonzalez and Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation Mike Haynie, who also will charge the Community Engagement Initiative, will oversee this analysis, which will be conducted by an external firm.

It is interesting that Chancellor Kent Syverud is undertaking this initiative for SU three years into his tenure rather than tackling it at the start. Former Chancellor Nancy Cantor was a proponent of integrating the university and the greater community, especially through her Scholarship In Action program, but she often did so in an arguably fiscally irresponsible manner.

Syverud’s decision to assess the university’s relationship with the greater community before creating any collaborative programs is wise because it provides a backbone that Cantor’s plan lacked. A final report on the assessment is due to Syverud in May.

And to choose Gonzalez and Haynie, two very respected members of the SU community, to lead the initiative is commendable. Both have extensive relations with the greater community — Haynie is head of SU’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and Gonzalez is the former head of SU’s University College, which enrolls students in the greater community.

Members of the immediate SU community often say the university should interact with and do more for the city and regional communities it resides in. Hopefully the report on the Community Engagement Initiative will provide answers as to how feasible it is for SU to engage to a greater extent with the communities it is a part of.

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