SELINSGROVE — An effort to strengthen the relationship between Susquehanna University and Selinsgrove Borough got a boost Wednesday with a 90-minute public forum.
A panel consisting of University President Jonathan D. Green, Executive Vice President Mike Coyne, borough Councilman Marvin Rudnitsky, Mayor Jeff Reed, businesswoman Sara Maul, developer Robert Grayston and Rotary President Carol Handlan spoke about the issue before a crowd of about 60 people Wednesday night at the Degenstein Center.
Green said the university is working with members of the Selinsgrove Projects Inc. and the borough chamber on opportunities for a sustainable presence in the downtown to bring more of the school's 2,300 students into town.
"This gives me a glimmer of hope," said retired Selinsgrove business owner and 1963 Susquehanna graduate Joe Kleinbauer who for years called on the university to have a visible presence in a downtown storefront. "Susquehanna, in one way or another, needs to be our anchor in the downtown."
An investment by the university in the downtown would increase its visibility and encourage more interaction between students, staff, faculty and the community, Grayston said.
"If students are more involved with the town they're more likely to stay here," he said.
Rick Schuck, the owner of Bot's Tavern on Market Street, encouraged a joint venture, such as an office or book store in the downtown.
Another suggestion to promote more interaction is by improving access, including adding a bike lane from the campus to the Susquehanna River.
"We're a river town and not taking advantage of that distinction," said Handlan.
One student suggested SU's requirement that almost all students live on campus may be limiting the interaction and both Green and a representative of the Black Student Union spoke out about the harassment and racism some students face in the community.
"We all have to work to change that," Reed said, prompting Green to call for a collaboration on a "Not in our Town" movement to create a safe and inclusive community.
The forum, the first of its kind in many years, was "a great start, but the trick is to stay on the path and continue to work on the relationship," Reed said.
Coyne agreed and said they all have to find "more ways to work together."
Nick Clark, an associate professor of political science, said several students will be going out into the community over the next few months to interview residents about the university's role in the borough to find ways to improve the partnership.