Union Admits That It’s in Schenectady

This NY Times article is a month old but the subject - a college trying to be a better neighbor and part of a better community - is a timeless one.

The story mentions that Union ranked 2nd on The Princeton Review's list of 20 schools with “strained town-gown relations” (Holy Cross was the only Massachusetts school listed). Princeton Review also list 20 schools where they think town-gown relations are great - Olin College of Engineering and Stonehill are the MA representatives.

Union, a liberal arts college that enrolls about 2,100 students, has also nudged the revitalization along by buying and restoring more than two dozen ramshackle houses across from its campus. It purchased a struggling Ramada Inn, turning it into a new dorm, and transformed a polluted site into new athletic fields.

A group of 16 students who are part of an independent study project led by an economics professor, Harold Fried, plan to open a combined boutique and coffeehouse downtown this year.

Good for Professor Fried! Note that this is not a story about Union dipping into its endowment (which was $292 million as of December 31, 2008 - approximately 1% of Harvard's endowment) to undertake massive capital construction projects that caused pain and suffering for the school. To the contrary, those 16 students might learn something interesting from their project that could complement nicely what they learn from a textbook like Principles of Microeconomics by Harvard Professor N. Gregory Mankiw.

What little Union has done in Schenectady can, of course, be a model for what Harvard can do in Allston.

If one of the 66 professors in Harvard's Econ department or someone at the Business School (which has 228 full-time faculty) wanted to, don't you think they could lead a project with a group of students to open a little business on Western Ave?

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