Collaborating with the community

College Council (CC) has created a new student position, allowing an elected student to serve as a liaison between the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce and the student body. We think this is a welcome addition to the community. Based on evidence from student research about the interactions between the College and Williamstown businesses, a liaison has a great capacity to improve the exchange of ideas between students and business owners. We welcome this addition to CC as an opportunity to expand the reach of students beyond the College.

The primary importance of this position is that it will facilitate a cooperative relationship between businesses and student patrons. As Williamstown is a small community, the students who attend the College represent a significant portion of businesses’ patronage, and this new position will help businesses tap the student body’s buying power. With the high business turnover rate and current vacancies on Spring Street, soliciting and responding to student input about what types of businesses and initiatives they support can create more successful ventures in Williamstown. The position is also important to students at the College because it will help them influence the types of stores and restaurants to which they have access. For example, part of the reason that El Conejo Corredor was popular was because it responded to students’ desire for fast and cheap food, especially late at night.

Having businesses that respond directly to student desires is particularly important to current and prospective students. The College’s isolated location offers students fewer options than many other college towns have in terms of shopping, restaurants and other businesses, so offering student opinions in what options are available is desirable. However, students must accept this opportunity to voice our opinion with the responsibility of building a community not just for students, but for all 8000 citizens of Williamstown. Hopefully, the Chamber of Commerce will utilize student input to support opportunities for a successful variety of businesses.

This position can also facilitate student involvement in community service and other activities that build community by engaging the existing infrastructure of Williamstown. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, having such a liaison could have generated a more rapid and widespread student response to serving victims and rebuilding the community. This new liaison should function as an access point for the community to reach inside the College and create open communication between town residents and students. Furthermore, student input can help facilitate events, like the annual Holiday Walk and Reindog Parade, that bring the community together and into businesses.

In order to fulfill the promise of this position, CC must publicize it and solicit feedback for this representative to consider when they attend meetings with the Camber of Commerce. This representative must take an active role in shaping initiatives from the Chamber of Commerce and in maintaining the student perspective in dealings between the town and students.