• In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: Neighborhood Relations in a College Town

      Powell, Kathleen H.; Oktay, Julianne S. (2013)
      Residential neighborhoods adjacent to a higher education institution are home to diverse groups of people who share neither a common sense of community (McMillan & Chavis, 1986) nor the same degree of attachment to place (Low & Altman, 1992). These neighborhoods are characterized by transience and a lack of cohesion. They are highly prized by higher education institutions, municipal governments, and private developers who vie for control of their assets that include an ample supply of park-like spaces and ready access to cultural, educational, and sporting events and facilities. Despite this interest, the existing research on campus-adjacent neighborhoods is emerging and lacks internal consistency and methodological sophistication. Without a base of knowledge to understand these neighborhoods, the movement to establish stronger university-community partnerships is likely to be compromised. The aim of this year-long ethnographic study was to examine the culture of a campus-adjacent residential neighborhood in a small Appalachian city that is home to a public university in order to better understand the intergroup relations among residents who call this neighborhood "home." The study's design was informed by a paradigmatic synthesis and a social ecological framework. It included multiple methodological components to allow for multivocality and triangulation. Those components included participant observation, archival research, interviews, photography, GIS mapping, a series of focus groups, and a small Photovice project. Findings from the study were grouped into five major themes: (1) life in a "company town;" (2) historical context; (3) "hosts" and "guests;" (4) alcohol and other drugs; and (5) studentification (a term used to describe the transition of a campus-adjacent neighborhood from one dominated by owner-occupied homes to one dominated by "student rentals"). These findings were analyzed metaphorically and theoretically. Theoretically, the findings were linked to three areas: self and collective efficacy, intergroup relations, and ghettoization. The study reaffirms social work's commitment to community practice including neighborhood organizing, community development, and social planning. Its insights shed light on intergroup relations in diverse neighborhoods dominated by an anchor institution.