Nearly 40 Knox students and faculty gathered in Ferris Lounge Wednesday evening, April 18, as a panel of community leaders discussed ways to improve Galesburg.
The event was sponsored by Alliance for Peaceful Action (APA), a campus group whose goals include creating a “tolerant and respectful world community” and valuing every human life, according to the Knox website. In the past, APA has sponsored events such as the Fair Trade Fair and trips to human rights protests in Chicago and Washington D.C.
Representatives from ten groups were present: Jim Stanley of the Galesburg Farmer’s Market, Joel Ward ‘99 of Knox Prairie Community Kitchen, Peter Schwartzman of Mound Farm, Hope Pendleton of the Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center, Laura Lytle of Verde, Terry Haywood, Knox County Children’s Advocacy Center Director Becky Rossman, Galesburg Labor Temple President Randy Bryan, two biking advocates from Cyclists of Galesburg and a representative from the Center for Midwestern Initiatives.
Each panelist explained the purpose and goals of their respective cause. Groups ranged from local gardens (Verde and Mound Farm) to family advocacy groups and community kitchens. Members from at least two groups (Verde and the Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center) referred to either past or present student-volunteers from Knox College.
“When you have a more prosperous community, the need for these groups is less apparent,” Ward said. “Today, they’re more important than ever.”
Members of the panel agreed that Wednesday evening was the first symposium of its kind held by Knox College.
“This is a blue-collar town and there’s very little understanding between the groups,” Harper said, citing a misunderstanding within the community about the meaning of “liberal arts,” adding that some see it as an endorsement of left-leaning political ideology. Harper also noted that many townspeople see Knox students as “weird.”
Ward concurred with Harper’s take on relations between Knox and Galesburg.
“There is a real [disconnect]. Galesburg tends to be more conservative politically and the disconnection almost becomes tradition,” Ward, who graduated from the college as a non-traditional student, said. “There hasn’t been enough going on, but these [events] definitely help.”
“Knox is like an enclave. Breaking down these barriers isn’t going to happen passively,” Interim Audio-Visual Services Coordinator Todd Smith said.
Bryan said tensions between students and townspeople became more pronounced after the Galesburg Maytag factory closed in 2004.
Attendees and panelists agreed that the best solution is active and mutual community involvement between Knox students and Galesburg residents.
“How many of you think about going home,” Stanley asked attendees, to which nearly everyone raised their hand. “Once you consider [Galesburg] home — poof — the walls go down.”