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UISG cookout builds neighborhood relations

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | SEPTEMBER 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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Jane Ruppenkamp would rather knock on a door than call a cop to quiet down her neighbors.

Ruppenkamp, a Coralville resident, said she tries to avoid involving the authorities if a neighborhood party gets a little out of hand.

"I think it's nice if you can try to make a personal connection and give them a chance, rather than to call the police," the 42-year-old said as she ate a hamburger during a University of Iowa Student Government cookout Sunday evening.

And the Meet the Neighbors cookout, held at College Green Park, aimed to reach out to community members and students for just that.

UISG President Elliot Higgins said he thinks it's important to create strong bonds in the community to try to cut down on disruptive house parties.

"The idea behind Meet the Neighbors is to build relationships between long-term Iowa City residents and students," he said. "And perhaps create dialogue."

Higgins said he thinks students would be less likely to throw large, disruptive house parties if they know the people who live in the neighborhoods near them. In turn, he said, residents may hesitate to immediately report a party to the authorities and instead knock on the door to ask students to quiet down.

But this idea may not be true — at least not for all students.

"I feel like [Iowa City] is a college town, and [partying] will never go away," said UI sophomore Jackie Renn, who found out about the event on Facebook.

However, the 19-year-old said mutual respect could also play a part in neighborhood cooperation.

"If you know the neighbors, then you'd respect them, so you wouldn't throw a giant party all the time," she said.

Higgins said approximately 400 people showed up to the picnic and UISG paid nearly $1,700 for the food.

"We're eager to keep the connection up," he said, and he'd market more to long-term city residents in the future.

Community-outreach events can have an almost immediate effect, said Mary Campbell, a UI associate professor of sociology, especially with large numbers like those of Meet the Neighbors.

She said community events such as this can be very effective in creating a cooperative environment in neighborhoods, which can lead to fewer parties by students and fewer police reports from residents.

"If people interact with each other in a friendly environment with the potential to be friends, they can develop a much more positive [relationship]," Campbell said.


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