Local News

UNC initiative brings off-campus students, neighbors together

Posted September 9, 2014 10:59 p.m. EDT
Updated September 10, 2014 5:40 p.m. EDT

— Alex Leitner and her friends have lived off campus for about two years, but the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students don’t really know their neighbors.

They hoped to change that on Tuesday by participating in a neighborhood walk and block party that kicked off the school’s Good Neighbors Initiative.

“I feel like this in general is a really good thing for us because we haven't met any neighbors,” Leitner said.

In its 11th year, the initiative was started to encourage UNC students living in Chapel Hill’s Northside neighborhood to meet their neighbors - about 40 percent of UNC students live off campus.

The annual event comes less than two months after an UNC professor was killed while walking off-campus. Feng Liu, 59, a research professor at UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, was assaulted and robbed July 23 near the intersection of West University Drive and Ransom Street. Liu died from his injuries the next day.

Derick Davis II, 23, of Scots Pine Crossing in Durham, and Troy Arrington Jr., 27, of Johnson Street in Chapel Hill, have been charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the case.

While the incident wasn’t the focus of Tuesday’s event, when students know their neighbors, it contributes to keeping their communities clean and safe, said Aaron Bachenheimer, UNC’s director of community involvement.

“We know from talking to students that when they are conscious of who their neighbors are and they recognize that's my neighbor Jane or Kathy, they’re far more likely to treat the neighborhood not like a place they have to live but their community,” he said.

While longtime residents like Deloris Bailey say the area still has its problems, it has come a long way within the past 20 years. Bailey welcomes the influx of students – as long as the area’s quality of life continues to improve.

“They live in a neighborhood now and they have some responsibility to those long-term residents so that we understand that they're safe,” she said.