10 Commandments of Town-Gown Relationships

Posted by Ohio State University on March 28, 2016

Town-gown a land-grant’s duty

Creating an engaging relationship with its surrounding community can and should be a public university’s mission, writes Stephen Gavazzi, and his research shows the commandments to follow to make it a success.

Interest in how campuses and communities interact — typically referred to as town-gown relationships — is growing at a steady clip. Most universities now emphasize the need to engage more fully with the communities they serve. Emphasis on the importance of town-gown relationships fits especially well within the mission of the land-grant university. The Morrill Act that gave rise to the land-grant mission in the 19th century called for universities to serve as regionalized institutions of learning in partnership with the communities that surrounded them. It has been argued, however, that this part of the land-grant mission largely has been abandoned by many universities, becoming a “box to be checked” rather than a duty to be fulfilled. This line of thinking assumes that universities have many other competing demands that, over time, have pulled the focus away from meeting the needs of communities.

So how well are universities actually doing when it comes to upholding this mission? This is the question I set out to answer through a set of interviews I conducted with university presidents and city administrators over the past year. As I report in my latest book — The Optimal Town-Gown Marriage: Taking Campus-Community Outreach and Engagement to the Next Level — it is very clear that the relative health of a town-gown relationship is the direct result of actions taken by both campus and community leaders. In fact, there was so much agreement in these interviews about 10 specific issues that I decided to label them the “10 Commandments of Town-Gown Relationships.”


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