Come together, right now

By Josh Albrecht

I will never understand why the relationship between DeKalb and NIU is considered by many to be a problem.

The same old song and dance is revived every year as people claim that each side is against the other, thus creating a conflict when it comes to town/gown relations. Yet, it is easy to see that the city and NIU must coexist in a symbiotic relationship where they feed off of each other to create a utopian-type society. OK, so the utopian society is a stretch, but I think relations could at least be improved.

The fact remains that what affects the university affects the city, and once that is realized, things can improve. Despite the geographical placing of NIU to the city (with NIU toward the edge of town), the two should be able to merge easily.

So, here is a breakdown of why the city and NIU must learn to live with each other.

Before I ever applied to NIU, one thing was told to me & don’t drink the water.

With that knowledge in hand, I took the opportunity to further learn about the water situation from the “water update” that is often printed in the Northern Star. From that update, and through my two classes in the geology department, I was informed about how DeKalb’s water supply exceeded the limit for radium, which is 5 picocuries. All that radium scared me, but I never thought to blame DeKalb for the bad water supply. After all, DeKalb can’t help it that the water supply is radium-filled.

Sure, there were times when I became a conspiracy theorist and thought that perhaps the water problems were actually fabricated and that it was just an elaborate scheme designed to make me buy bottled water. I know that isn’t true, and it is important to note that the city has taken steps recently to solve this problem by Sept. 1.

Water is very important for the university because a large portion of the students use this water. Perhaps, once the radium level is lowered, NIU can use this as a way to bring in new students with a new campaign: Attend NIU because we have reduced-radium water.

Nonetheless, bravo to the city for trying to rectify this problem — a problem that affects everyone in DeKalb.

But before we delve into the issues of today, a little boundary history must be brought up.

Thirty-one years ago, the Kent State riots erupted on May 4, 1970, along with anti-Vietnam War demonstrations nationwide, and NIU was no different. An article by Hank Brockett in the May 4, 2000, Star examined how the war protests not only affect NIU, but the surrounding community as well.

Political science professor Gary Glenn was asked by DeKalb to be an inside observer to the demonstrations in case things got out of hand, according to the article.

“The DeKalb citizenry were simply terrified of students they thought had gone mad,” Glenn said. “By the way, that exists to this day among the good citizens of DeKalb on the grounds that they have become a foreign culture.”

The Kishwaukee River bridge on Lincoln Highway became a dividing line between NIU and DeKalb as students protested here, seemingly poised to attack the city. Once the protests settled down, with only a few DeKalb shops receiving damage, the dividing line between the university and the city had been set in place. Kishwaukee River continues to act as a geographical boundary for the university and the city today.

However, the actions and tension that developed more than 30 years ago, that consequently created a wall between NIU and the city, must be forgiven and

understood by both communities in order for that wall to come down. I am not saying to forget what happened & because it should not be forgotten. Rather, I am saying that we must let it be water under the bridge.

Today, NIU offers a lot to the city. Newly elected mayor Greg Sparrow stated that the student vote was a contributing factor to his victory. New businesses are sprouting around town, along with the mall for Northland Plaza, and those businesses need consumers to survive — something which NIU provides with more than 20,000 students.

NIU also features a variety of activities for the residents of the city. Whether it be comedy shows, music school concerts or sports, there is always something to do on campus. And DeKalb has plenty to offer students as well. Along with the businesses mentioned earlier, DeKalb also has a public pool, museums, the Egyptian Theatre, parks and endless bike paths.

Thus, NIU and DeKalb can come together and should because everything that happens in DeKalb affects both communities, whether that is radium water, liquor commission meetings or long lines at Wal-Mart.