SGA hosts community dinner with township members

Kelsey Ruane

Student Government Association welcomed members of Radnor Township to the first annual Villanova Community Dinner on Feb. 26 in the Radnor/St. David’s Room in Connelly Center.

Organized by SGA’s External Affairs committee, the dinner was intended to strengthen the relationship between students and the surrounding community.

Last year, SGA held a town hall-style meeting with community members for this same purpose.

They found this year’s community dinner more successful in terms of turnout.

Chair of the External Affairs Committee Courtney Thompson and Assistant Chair Jennifer Neary gave welcoming remarks and introduced speakers Rob Dormish, student body vice president, and John Fisher, vice president of the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners.

“Hopefully you consider Villanova an economic and cultural benefit for the community,” Dormish said. “It’s time to expand our community’s reach and welcome you into our house.”

Fisher expressed a similar wish for the relationship between the University and the township.

“I hope we will help the students be a part of this community [Radnor],” Fisher said, adding that the dinner was an “opportunity to put a face to the name [of Villanova].”

Pennsylvania State Representative Gregory Vitali and Radnor Superintendent of Police John Ruddy both attended.

Members of SGA sat at each table to facilitate discussion and help set up a dialogue between community members and External Affairs.

They posed questions to discern what specific things put a strain on the relationship and elicited suggestions for possible solutions to the problems.

Off-campus student housing is a main source of conflict.

For example, some residents of Garrett Hill believe some students disregard restrictions on the number of people allowed to live in a house.

Seated at table three, Tom Masterson, president of the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners, and his wife, Jody, an adjunct faculty member of the College of Nursing, suggested some ways to improve the relationship between off-campus student residents and their neighbors.

Students should build a relationship with their neighbors, rather than be just another temporary occupant passing through, according to Mrs. Masterson. For example, shoveling sidewalks and helping elderly neighbors would help students blend into the community with less conflict.

The Mastersons and SGA Deputy Chief of Staff Christopher Bellotti discussed the idea of an “adopt a neighbor” initiative to encourage positive interaction among off-campus student residents and Radnor community members.

Conversation at table three strayed to a discussion of Villanova nightlife.

Masterson appeared interested in student life – a sign that community members are indeed willing to engage in a closer relationship with students.

“Sometimes I think that Villanova students get a worse reputation than they deserve,” Bellotti said, suggesting that they cause much less of a disturbance to the surrounding community than do the student bodies at other institutions, in other parts of the country.

“It’s amazing the things that Radnor and Villanova can do when they work together,” said Director of Student Development Tom Mogan in his closing remarks.

“I think this event was a huge success,” Thompson said. “We hope this effort will be the first of many positive opportunities to work with and within the surrounding community.”