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UCSC hosts first 'Good Neighbor' community forum May 12

By Jennifer McNulty

The first in a series of “Good Neighbor Forums” sponsored by UCSC will take place Thursday, May 12, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room at Harbor High School. The topic of the discussion, which is open to all members of the university and town community, will be the promotion of tolerance and a safe atmosphere in the public spaces of our diverse community.

From beaches and parks to public school campuses and downtown sidewalks, public spaces are designed to be welcoming to all. Do we, as a community, ensure that all our public spaces are used and enjoyed by everyone? This gathering will provide a forum for discussion and an opportunity to address the question, “What is needed to make individuals feel safe and comfortable in public spaces around Santa Cruz?”

Featured speakers will address different aspects of the issue. UCSC sociology professor John Brown Childs will discuss his vision of how groups can preserve their uniqueness while engaging across race, class, and gender, and former Santa Cruz mayor Scott Kennedy will discuss ways to diffuse potentially volatile situations. School and local government officials, as well as local residents and representatives of the university and community organizations, are encouraged to attend.

The event is being presented by the UCSC Good Neighbor Initiative, which was launched last fall to build and maintain better relations with the Santa Cruz community. UCSC undergraduates Kristen Townsend and Anthony Tucci are directing the initiative under the auspices of the campus's Office of Government and Community Relations. The Santa Cruz Community Good Neighbor Advisory Board is a network of people working to increase discussion about what it means to be good neighbors in a community that cares about its citizens.

“We've heard from students of color on campus and from some students at local high schools who say they avoid certain places because they feel unsafe or unwelcome,” said Donna Blitzer, director of the Office of Government and Community Relations. “We want to provide a forum for information sharing and brainstorming, so we can collaborate on ways to make our community more welcoming and comfortable for everyone.”

Participants are encouraged to share their experiences with exclusion and inclusion in the community and to offer input regarding changes they would like to see.

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