Northeastern's new president sets and example that others could follow

Northeastern tries a lighter tread - The Boston Globe

Soon after he became president of Northeastern University last August, Joseph Aoun made a symbolic, fence-mending gesture to the university's Lower Roxbury neighbors. He moved his office across campus to Columbus Avenue, just over the Roxbury line, changing the office's ZIP code.

Aoun didn't stop there. He has been personally courting clergy and neighborhood leaders and gone door to door to talk with residents to warm an often chilly relationship between the city campus and its neighbors.

"You cannot put students in a tower for four years and expect them to be engaged citizens," Aoun said last week at Peoples Baptist Church on Tremont Street. "It cannot work this way."

Northeastern's effort and Aoun's personal investment have won praise from many city leaders and neighbors, who say it marks a sharp break with the past.

"They're being a little more pleasant," said Adline Stallings, cochairwoman of the Mission Main Task Force, a community group. "They haven't always been a good neighbor. They would push, not ask. But now they are listening a little bit."

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