In the wake of Tundun Lawani’s death, there’s been a lot of talk about how to make South Street safer, and several meetings have been held on campus to address the issue. There’s one problem with this approach, however: South Street isn’t just on campus. While Knox students are crossing it every day, Galesburg residents use it to get to work, take their children to daycare and generally go about their daily lives. And before moving any further with the South Street discussion, students need to take that into consideration.
We speak a lot about the Knox bubble — the idea that the Knox campus exists somewhat separately from the community in which it is located. Both entities can see each other through the bubble, but an invisible barrier keeps them from interacting directly. Depending on where you live, South Street may be as far north as you go on a regular basis. Others might push the bubble to Tompkins or Simmons, but very few strain it beyond that more than a few times a term.
Yet the notion of the Knox bubble is also extremely dangerous, because the two groups — Knox students and Galesburg residents — are not mutually exclusive. Although we spend most of our time on campus, we are living in the greater town of Galesburg, and pretending our campus is its own isolated entity only does us a disservice. New safety measures on South Street provide an opportunity to collaborate with the rest of the community, and not doing so will ensure these measures fail. Because whatever the student body decides is the proper course of action, it cannot be realized without the goodwill of the City Council.
Changes on South Street, whether they be signs, speed bumps or something more drastic, are infrastructural. We can talk about what we would like to see, but we’re not the only ones who use the street. Moreover, the street is not the property of Knox College; it belongs to the city. Acting like we have full ownership of whatever happens there will only shrink the Knox bubble, not force it to stretch until it pops.
As we move forward with the South Street discussion, we must include non-student members of the Galesburg community in the process rather than simply bringing them our solution and expecting it to be implemented. Future meetings should include plenty of student representatives, certainly, but also aldermen and other community leaders. The City of Galesburg may have failed, in students’ eyes, to provide adequately for safety on South Street up to this point, but excluding them from the discussion is not the answer. Only by working together can we see tangible results on South Street.
It’s the beginning of week nine, so it’s unlikely that anything major will happen before winter break. But let’s be sure that something does happen afterwards. The South Street discussion is too important to allow it to fizzle out in December, and it is too important to not do it right. Non-student Galesburg residents must be included in the process so that we can finally see concrete safety measures on South Street — and, as a result, consider the context in which our actions take place and work to stretch the Knox bubble a bit further.