In September 2016, Colgate’s Student Government Association (SGA) launched a campaign titled “Be Respectful.” The campaign’s stated goal is to improve relations between the Village of Hamilton and Colgate students, and to facilitate a sense of community among these groups. Ultimately, the campaign seeks to reverse an implicit notion among students that downtown rules, law and etiquette do not apply to Colgate students.
The SGA’s External Affairs Committee (EAC) has been responsible for spearheading and promoting this initiative. The EAC is responsible for hosting events and promoting initiatives that strengthen the relations among student body members, university faculty and residents of the greater downtown Hamilton community.
On September 1, Interim Dean of the College Mark Thompson released an email to students in which the campaign’s goals were introduced. SGA President senior Matt Swain and SGA Vice President senior Iris Kang collaborated with Thompson on the email, which highlighted the Be Respectful campaign’s intended goals. When drafting the email, Thompson met with SGA members to discuss complaints filed by village residents.
“We ask that students be aware of their surroundings when spending time down the hill, especially in the later hours of the evening. Disrespectful behavior from students in the village can be very disruptive to our friends and neighbors,” Thompson said in the email. “Remember, even though you may be out of the classroom, you still represent Colgate University.”
Director of Communication for the SGA senior James Sullivan discussed the SGA’s collaborative efforts with Hamilton community members.
“We have been listening to the concerns of Hamilton residents and are doing everything we can to make sure students act as the best representation of Colgate at all hours of the day, especially when off-campus,” Sullivan said. “The Be Respectful campaign aims to combat the existing attitudes surrounding student behavior downtown. We don’t want to stop students from enjoying what the town has to offer, but [we do want to] make this relationship one of mutual respect and benefit.”
Hamilton community leaders met with various members of the Colgate administration and with Swain and Kang, during which time the village representatives emphasized the importance of maintaining amicable relations with the Hamilton community.
Rather than penalize students who fail to respect village residents, the Be Respectful campaign seeks to eliminate negative town-and-gown interactions altogether. To accomplish this, the SGA hopes to erase the dichotomy between those who live up the hill and those who live down the hill. The campaign seeks to remind students that downtown does not, and should not, function as a playground for Colgate students. SGA hopes to imbue students with the sentiment that Hamilton is an essential extension of the community, and that the mutual success of Colgate and the village relies on maintaining positive relationships between the two.
“The SGA is committed to improving relations with our neighbors in the local Hamilton community,” Swain said. “This campaign is only a small piece of what the SGA is planning to do to rebuild the bridges between Hamilton’s businesses and residents that have been so often mistreated. The respect campaign is meant to target not just first-years, but [all] student class years, lower and upper. Additionally, the campaign is not just targeted at the residents of Hamilton, but also the businesses, as they are a critical part of the Hamilton community.”