“Know Your Neighbors” campaign seeks to address division between students and community

Jothsna Sabbasani, Contributing Reporter

Case Western Reserve University’s students have always been focused on their engagement within the campus-community. However, some students now feel that it is time for change. 

Recent alums and undergraduate students at CWRU came together this summer to develop a community-wide effort called “Know Your Neighbors.”  Through empowering local residents and educating students on the many assets of the surrounding neighborhoods, the initiative focuses on recognizing the long-reaching effects of past institutional decisions and establishing positive relationships and mutual pride between students and residents of Cleveland.

This initiative began with only a few students. Many saw that there was a ‘bubble’ around the university, where students only interacted amongst themselves and not with the surrounding neighborhoods. Students were content to leave the areas outside the ‘bubble unexplored. In fact, some held negative stereotypes about residents, viewing the neighborhoods as being solely defined by poverty and crime. 

These opinions among students created a negative relationship with the local residents, creating an atmosphere where they do not feel welcome on campus. Residents’ frustrations grew with the students’ unawareness of the historical significance of the surrounding neighborhoods.  

The Know Your Neighbors Campaign grew as a frontrunner to facilitate discussion, improve student education and engagement of the community, and empower both residents and students of CWRU. Members of this campaign state their goal is to implement actions that are tangible and ongoing within the campus. 

Recently, the group has made efforts to incorporate their work in the SAGES department. They wish to use writing assignments as an opportunity to reflect on the process of learning about the local community. Various locations, such as East Cleveland Theater or Karumu Square, around the Cleveland area were proposed to be 4th hour off-campus locations for SAGES classes. With these changes implemented, the campaign members hoped to encourage “students to visit local community sites, learn about Cleveland history and first hand observe what is going on in the community.”

The Think Beyond the Bubble Campaign also hopes rising freshmen at CWRU understand the necessity of building relationships between students and residents in the community. During Orientation Week a video will be played as an introduction to the campaign’s mission. By doing so, the Campaign hopes the first message new students hear about East Cleveland, Glenville and other close neighborhoods is one that is positive and captures the true essence of Cleveland neighborhoods. 

Delaney Jones, a recent CWRU graduate and a member of the campaign, urges everyone to “break down the false stereotypes and myths that the neighborhoods need ‘fixing’. Instead let’s consider ourselves not just a member of the CWRU community, but a resident of Cleveland as well.”