Letter: University works very hard to be a good neighbor in Bristol

EastBayRI.com ·

I was disheartened to see that your Christmas wish list for Bristol included a call for “responsible growth at Roger Williams University,” implying either that we have had “irresponsible” growth in the past, or that, absent vigilant oversight by Bristol officials, we will have irresponsible growth in the future.

I cannot imagine what we have done to engender such concern on your part.

You say that we have “never really stopped growing, and the long-range plan calls for more.” While it is true that we plan to continue to upgrade our facilities, we have no plan at present to increase the size of the undergraduate body, as you imply. The residence hall construction now under way is designed to allow more of our current students to live on campus, and fewer of them residing in Bristol.

RWU works hard to be a good neighbor, and we do a good deal more than most colleges and universities:

  • We employ more than 330 Bristolians who enjoy a good salary and benefits, as evidenced by a very low turnover rate.
  • Well over a dozen students — sons and daughters of our employees, and a handful of top students from Mt. Hope High — attend RWU every year on a full tuition scholarship, saving their parents tens of thousands of dollars in education costs.
  • Our Community Partnerships Center has, over the past six years, worked with many local non-profits and town officials to design answers for thorny problems, including one project that paved the way for an $860,000 federal grant for the Maritime Center.
  • Our annual day of service (“Community Connections”) builds a spirit of volunteerism in our student body as the entire freshman class fans out across the area, working with dozens of groups to tidy up the shoreline of Bristol Harbor, or paint a cemetery fence, or weed the garden at Coggeshall Farm, among many other projects.
  • We have recently doubled our annual payment in lieu of taxes to the Town of Bristol, and we contributed $500,000 toward the cost of replacing a sewer trunk line.
  • Our students enter a float in the Fourth of July parade every year, and in addition RWU makes a substantial gift toward offsetting the costs of running the parade.
  • Almost every week, we offer athletic contests and nationally known speakers at no cost for community attendees.

You blame us for high rents. How about crediting us for high property values? Homeowners in Bristol benefit from having RWU in their back yard because our presence helps make Bristol a desirable place to live.

We work closely with the Bristol Town Council, the Bristol Town Administrator, and the police and fire chiefs to deal promptly and effectively with issues that arise from the inevitable conflicts that occur between a college and a town. But having worked all my life in college towns across America, I can say that I have never worked in a place with a better town/gown relationship than I see in Bristol — and I pledge to all Bristolians that I will continue to be personally involved in making RWU the best neighbor that we can be.

Oh, and the Bristol tree you want all those gifts to be under? That’s probably a tree our students inventoried when they mapped the entire tree canopy of central Bristol.

Donald J. Farish

President, Roger Williams University

This story was originally posted by EastBayRI.com. Click here to view the original story in its entirety.

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