ECU Appoints a community relations officer
(Aug. 3, 2004)
The neighborhood next to East Carolina University now a new advocate — one who can advise on ordinances, parties, lawns and pets.
Michelle Lieberman, the new Student Neighborhood Relations Facilitator for the university, is charged with helping student and neighbors avoid trouble. Her responsibilities include everything from teaching students safe and legal partying techniques to informing downtown residents of city ordinances that involve pets, yard care and trash.
"We are responding to the needs of students off-campus," said Lieberman, a former ECU police officer who began the position this summer.
The relationship between permanent downtown residents and students has often been strained because of a lack of awareness of noise, trash and parking regulations, Lieberman said.
With the new position, the university aims to provide a liaison between the city, the university and its off-campus population, which equals about 75 percent of the university's nearly 22,000 students.
Census 2000 figures place the renter-to-homeowner ratio of the downtown area at about 3:2 with about 15,000 renters and about 10,000 homeowners. Rental properties outnumbering homeowner-occupied dwellings is not ideal, Lieberman said, but that doesn't necessarily mean the relations are doomed.
"Certainly we want to have a healthy mix of owners and renters, but no one wants to move the students out," she said. "I'm here to help. I want to come across as an advocate, not as someone out to get them."
This fall, as students return, Lieberman will use three main tools to thwart potential problems: A hotline, neighborhood associations and a door tag campaign.
Lieberman has already implemented the Neighborhood Action Line, which residents can call to report concerns. Messages can be left anonymously at 252-328-5499.
Another project Lieberman will work on is the mapping of neighborhood associations. She hopes to encourage residents to meet their neighbors and establish stronger relationships with them.
"You tend to act differently when you know your neighbors," she said.
In addition, Lieberman has attended new student orientation and will soon be walking door to door with hang-tags touting: "How our ECU students can be good neighbors." The bright yellow tags include city ordinances, safety tips and parking regulations.