Improving the quality of life for everyone in UB’s shared communities has always been, and will continue to be, a guiding priority for this university, says President Satish K. Tripathi in his recent message to the campus.
Published March 1, 2013
Dear University Community,
Over recent weeks, through our university-wide conversations about realizing our UB 2020 vision, members of our campus community have shared their thoughts and ideas for strengthening our university and expanding its impact. One topic I’d like to address today is engaging our neighbors in collaborations that improve the quality of life in our shared communities.
This topic is an important one involving every member of our university community, and it is important for all of us to be well-informed about the quality of life in our region and especially in the communities surrounding our North, South, and Downtown campuses. I also want to take this opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made together toward improving these communities, the challenges that remain, and the steps we can take to build on these efforts going forward.
UB is committed to the safety and welfare of all university community members and campus visitors. This has always been and will always be a top priority for the university. In addition to implementing extensive safety and security measures on campus, we work diligently to collaborate with the city and community in improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods. This is an ongoing commitment: more remains to be done, and will be done, to ensure our campuses and their surrounding communities are thriving, safe places to live, work, and visit.
Enriching the quality of life for our students and the community has always been a guiding priority for UB, and a key element of UB 2020. Collectively, UB has made, and continues to make, significant progress in this regard. And we can all be proud of the considerable good work that hundreds of members of our university—students, faculty, and staff—as well as our neighboring communities are doing every day to strengthen and revitalize our communities.
This important discussion is by no means limited to the South Campus area. As we work to improve the quality of life in all three campus areas, we are partnering with homeowners, businesses, and civic groups in our surrounding neighborhoods in Amherst, Main Street, and Downtown to enhance the vitality and well-being of our shared communities.
As part of UB 2020, for example, UB invested millions of dollars in safety measures across its campuses, including the installation of security cameras, emergency phones, improved lighting, and emergency blue light systems. We have partnered with the City of Buffalo to facilitate rigorous city inspections of off-campus housing in the University Heights area. While areas off campus are outside UB’s official jurisdiction and there are therefore limits to what we can do to police these areas, the university initiated a partnership with the Buffalo Police Department to conduct joint patrols in the neighborhoods adjacent to the South Campus and heighten the police presence in the neighborhood.
While these efforts are making a positive difference, we want to ensure we continue on this upward trajectory. We therefore are in active discussions with the City of Buffalo about ways we can continue partnering to improve off-campus safety and living conditions by expanding on these collaborative efforts.
Improving the quality of life on our campuses and in our broader communities is a university-wide discussion and responsibility. Both institutionally and individually, we are all part of our larger communities, and we all have a stake in making them better, safer, and more vibrant.
Taking proactive steps to improve university-community relationships is key to creating a healthier, safer shared environment. Collectively, our entire university community should continue working to build positive relationships between our university and our communities. Our partnership with civic groups like the University Heights Collaborative, a community group dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in the University Heights neighborhood, plays a vital role in addressing issues of safety, home ownership, and neighborhood vitality. UB has a thriving tradition of student volunteerism in the city and region, which not only enriches our students’ education and world view, but also has a tangible, positive outcome in improving our communities. The civic engagement of our faculty and students in the community and organized neighborhood outreach activities all likewise contribute to a thriving shared community.
My vision for the future of the University Heights area—and each of the neighborhoods surrounding our campuses—is of a vibrant, safe, and thriving living and learning environment. I believe this is a vision collectively shared by the broader UB community and our neighbors, and I look forward to working with our students, faculty, staff, and community members to make that vision a reality.
We have achieved a great deal together, and we have much more work to do. As a university community, we must continue to be open and honest in assessing our efforts and continued challenges, and we must thoughtfully and actively engage in addressing them. With our vision for the future in mind, let’s make sure that we acknowledge and respect the good work our people are doing to improve the quality of life for our students and our communities, and let’s take inspiration from these efforts as we continue to build even further on them.
This address may be perplexing if you don't know the back story. On Monday, Feb. 25, THE SPECTRUM printed a long article by Lisa Khoury on the deteriorating conditions in University Heights. THE SPECTRUM asked President Tripathi for a comment, and he declined. Then, on Wednesday, THE SPECTRUM announced that it would reserve the front page of Friday's paper for President Tripathi, and in the absence of that comment, it would print a blank page.
This peculiar piece is the result. It's apparently beneath President Tripathi's dignity to acknowledge the SPECTRUM piece and the concrete points it makes about students assaulted and threatened, unsafe and unsanitary living conditions, and particularly the international students who find themselves living in the Heights without knowing all that entails.
One of the strongest points in Ms. Khoury's story was a review of "best practices" of our fellow urban campuses: the ways in which OSU and the University of Pennsylvania found themselves in a similar situation and did something about it. Renewing the Heights would require some money and some organization with non-university bodies (government and businesses), but given the millions of dollars in increased tuition fees currently being devoted to partnering with medtech corporations and hospitals at the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus, that doesn't seem like such a stretch.
Here's the key point: The SPECTRUM article created an opportunity for dialogue. So far, President Tripathi has ignored it.