Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An Open Letter to President Herbst Regarding Fairmount Properties

by Wanda Warren Berry

Professor of Philosophy and Religion, emerita

I write both as a long-standing member of the Colgate community and as a resident of the Village for 57 years.  Beyond teaching Colgate students for many years (during nine of which I taught all men), I have been an active and participating member in the civic and political life of the Village and Town of Hamilton. You may have heard of the numerous times when I have defended Colgate when it has been unjustly criticized by those in the town who resent Colgate's influence.  I have tried to explain the reasons it matters to Colgate that the Village be vibrant and attractive. I have tried to encourage realistic gratitude for the importance of Colgate to the village and of the village to Colgate.

I also have been well aware of the need for more rental housing in the village as well as the village's need to increase its tax base.  I was more than ready to support the proposals from Fairmount Properties if they met those needs without damaging the village and the college.

However, I think the current proposal for the Eaton Street location is bad both for Colgate and the village.  It seems designed to encourage exactly the kind of immature behavior our stated educational goals discourage.  I remember when my own daughters were tired of dorm living and sought apartments in the communities where they were in school.  But it is a very different thing to share an apartment with one or two fellow students than to be able to choose "apartments" with eight clustered bedrooms. This seems designed to encourage groups of students (many probably affiliated in Greek-letter societies) to move downtown for the senior year in order to be free of University supervision and to indulge in the most dangerous aspects of our drinking and drugging cultures. 

On Nextdoor Hamilton I have argued that the apartments over the retail units in the Eaton St. building might best be one and two bedroom units that cater to adults, either Colgate staff or students-- or others working in the region.  If Colgate seniors successfully competed for one of these apartments, they would be expected to live up to normal standards for decent behavior in interaction with other adults. 

After years of observing village and college, I think the better plan is to move all students to the campus.  But if 250 students must live in the village, I cannot think of a more dangerous plan for Colgate's reputation and the health and safety of the village than the current proposal. This is not said out of personal interest, since I live on the other side of the village.

In sum, I urge you to withdraw your agreement to guarantee full occupancy of the building Fairmount Properties has proposed for Eaton St.  If an attractive and secure rental complex is open to tenants on a first come-first serve basis, it will draw tenants by its own merits.   Our students who live there will be encouraged to be adults in a community of adults.

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