Despite what administration and town officials say, Fairfield University’s recent ranking by the Princeton Review as having the worst town-gown relations in the country is troubling.

Yes, the rankings are based on anecdotal surveys. Yes, there are wonderful, strong bonds between the town and the university. But that does not negate the fact that there is a hostile environment between year-round residents and students at the beach.

In a recent letter to the Connecticut Post, Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. and First Selectman Ken Flatto stressed that university and town officials are doing everything in their power to improve relations. However, in saying this, they exclude the students, undoubtedly the most important key group to improving town-gown relations.

The administration is asking students to act in a more respectful and mature manner, which is a reasonable expectation. But when officials in power refuse to acknowledge that students actually have a say in the matter, what do they expect in return?

How difficult would it have been for Kelley and Flatto to incorporate in their letter contributions from FUSA, or SBRA, or the member of our student body who is a member of Fairfield’s RTM? Sadly, none of this was done.

Kelley and Flatto go on to brag that “others on the Review list rated poorly include some of the most respected institutions of higher learning in the country, including Lehigh University, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, and Northwestern University.”

This point, if it is a point at all, is completely absurd. Wesleyan University, a highly respected institution of higher learning, ranked high in the Review’s rankings for acceptance of gay community, students who ignore God, students who are most nostalgic for Bill Clinton, and “Birkentsock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians.” Fairfield University probably wouldn’t jump at the chance to rank highly in these categories, even if it meant such esteemed company.

At the end of the day, both students and townspeople have to work for compromise to improve relations at the beach. But compromise is not helped when officials on both sides of the dispute ignore the people at the heart of the conflict, or refuse to acknowledge that such a conflict even exists.

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