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Posts Tagged ‘Syracuse University’

Call it what you will – tactical urbanism, DIY urbanism, etc. – many urban planners and designers are thinking creatively about how improvements to the city can be made in an era of tight budgets. The video below showcases a project in Syracuse that could be considered in this vein. The project, called A Love Letter to Syracuse, is a public art project sited in a strategically important location in the city. My personal experience of the project matches the artists’ and community organizers’ intentions, I think. It makes me happy to pass through this area and generally feel good about the city. Residents of aging cities need more of this! It is also a good example of a public-private partnership between the private university, SU, and the local government.

The video was posted on YouTube a little over a year ago, but it deserves another look and wider circulation. I have to say, I’m growing more and more interested in the use of paint as an inexpensive tool for neighborhood improvement.

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Just as the notices reminding me of my expiring subscription to The Chronicle of Higher Education arrive in the mail, the top story in the local newspaper concerns a stinging article in the Chronicle from earlier this month. Robin Wilson’s article, titled “Syracuse’s Slide: As Chancellor Focuses on the ‘Public Good,’ Syracuse’s Reputation Slides,” is mostly hidden behind the subscription wall – unfortunate, especially, for readers of Syracuse Post Standard who attempt to follow the link to the article. The public does have access to the 43 letters to the editor written in response to Wilson’s article.

At issue are high profile initiatives by the university’s chancellor, Nancy Cantor, to actively link the university to the city surrounding it and to diversify the student population. Ms. Wilson’s article quotes several faculty members who voice concern that the university cannot afford these endeavors, that they divert the scholarly mission, that the quality of the students admitted is being compromised, and that a drop in rankings by U.S. News and World Report, from 40 to 62, is a sign that the ship is sinking. The comments section contains several rebuttals from faculty who say that they were interviewed by Ms. Wilson, but had their favorable comments excluded from the resulting article.

The issues raised regarding the role of public engagement in academia have application to praxis in landscape architecture and for landscape architecture academics whose scholarly focus is engagement. Therefore, I will focus on the public engagement side of the controversy and leave the rest of the debate to others (like this article on changing conceptions of university prestige). Here is how Chancellor Cantor’s initiative, Scholarship in Action, is described in the Wilson article.

Syracuse University, she says, “should have an impact on our democracy and do work that addresses pressing issues in the world.” She adds: “It’s not that you stop caring about the fundamentals or quality, you redefine what constitutes quality and exciting scholarly work.”

That’s exactly what Ms. Cantor has done through a campaign she calls Scholarship in Action. It involves moving students, professors, and research off the campus and into the community to work with local officials, nonprofit organizations, and businesses on projects designed to give students hands-on experience and help solve the problems of the city and its people.

How is this controversial? More after the break. (more…)

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