Elon, North Carolina, home to Elon University, has never been named one of the “best college towns in America,” but residents do not think the relationship between the school and the town is lacking.
The small town of Elon is home to more then 9,000 residents, and about 7,000 of them are students according to the town’s website.Though the student-to-resident ratio is anything but balanced Jerry Tolley, the mayor of Elon currently serving his fifth term, thinks the relationship between the town and the university has always been positive and strong, contrary to what students might believe.
“Elon, of course, was chartered in 1889 and the town received our charter in 1893,” Tolley said. “The first mayor of the town was professor Silas Holleman from the college. He was a math professor before he became mayor, but he was the one who drew the plaques for all the streets of the town. So when you go down Williamson, Haggard, Trollinger and Lebanon, he did every one of them. And it’s been a close relationship ever since.”
“Ever since I’ve been on the board, since 1983, theres been at least one person from the college working for the board.”
Sophomore Andrew Walsh said he does not think about the community outside of the university too often.
“I feel like the campus isn’t that involved with the surrounding community all that much,” Walsh said. “I don’t really think too much about the surrounding community. I don’t try to bother them — I try to stay out of their way.”
Sophomore Kristina Meyer said she thought a lacking relationship might be the result of the Elon bubble effect.
“I think that residents of the town of Elon would be interested in a stronger relationship,” Meyer said. “Often times students at Elon are so focused on themselves and focused on things that are on campus that they don’t realize that there is that support system [in the town of Elon] of people who are willing to be there,” Meyer said.
Tolley said he believes the town and university are close, pointing to the small, four-mile square area that makes up Elon. By comparison, Chapel Hill takes up almost 20 square miles and is home to almost 60,000 residents.
“The college has really grown faster than the town,” Tolley said.
Tolley said because of that close physical connection, relationships have always been able to flourish over the years.
Elon Police Chief, and Elon alumnus, Cliff Parker said he has also seen a strong relationship between the university and town.
“I personally, and our department from my perspective view the students as our students and our community,” Parker said.
Having been active on campus during his time as a student and then continuing his life working for the Town of Elon Police Department, Parker said he has a “unique perspective on the relationship specifically between the student body and police.” One thing he points out is the perception some students have of the police.
“It’s not a town versus university situation,” Parker said.
“We try to, and the officers try to, spend more time interacting with students — even in situations where students may think the officers are out to get them — because they’re not.”