Op-ed: Anyone know where the colonel is?

Austin Loukas

Beacon op-ed

Last weekend, the streets of Wilkes-Barre turned green as the annual Wilkes-Barre St. Patrick’s Day parade headed through the downtown portion of the city. Many business, media outlets and organizations within the city and surrounding communities marched in the parade, but there was one group missing.  It was Wilkes’ presence in the parade.
For this year’s Wilkes-Barre St. Patrick’s Day parade, they had no float, sign or marchers in the parade. Even the Colonel didn’t show.
The Beacon finds this odd considering the fact that the parade started at the corner of East South and South Main streets and headed down South Main street in front of the University Center on Main street and University Towers.
Many students living in University Towers even had front-row seats to the parade below from the balconies of their apartments.
This is not the only time Wilkes has had a noticeable absence in major city activities. Wilkes didn’t show at last year’s Wilkes-Barre Christmas parade either. The last time we can recall Wilkes taking part any city parade was the Christmas parade two years ago, in which the Colonel, cheerleaders and Student Government made a festive appearance marching in the parade. Wilkes students and the Colonel also marched in the Wilkes-Barre St. Paddy’s Day parade in 2009 but not since.
And the River Commons, which is right across from campus, is barely utilized by the university for functions.
Much of the River Commons park is situated right across from campus, however with the exception of the occasional biking, jogging and sometimes skateboarding Wilkes student, there are no Wilkes activities that take place there.
Now granted, it can be pretty scary to cross the street to the River Commons from campus but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used. Walk around on a typical day there and hardly anyone is at the commons. They have the perfect potential to be used for Wilkes functions and The Beacon believes Wilkes should take advantage of their location and layout.
The Beacon acknowledges that Wilkes has been doing a good job by taking part in some activities with the city of Wilkes-Barre. For instance, student FLEX dollars are accepted at many restaurants in the downtown area, including Subway, Januzzi’s and Rodano’s, among others.
Our bookstore, the downtown Barnes & Noble, is not only used by both Wilkes and King’s students but by city residents. It has become a vital part of both downtown Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes.
Wilkes students, faculty and staff have also done volunteer work for the city and local organizations, and for those students aged 21 and over, bar tours and socials often take place at bars downtown. Students can even purchase movie tickets for the local movie theater, Movies 14, on campus.
And last semester President Patrick Leahy marched across the River Common through Kirby Park to the Mayor’s Cup football game, which had a good turnout.
However, many businesses downtown aren’t doing enough to attract students, and that is in part due to the fact that Wilkes doesn’t have a strong enough presence in the community.
Although it is located in Wilkes-Barre, Pa, Wilkes seems to almost be an entity of its own, separate from the rest of the community surrounding it. The Beacon believes this must be improved.
Wilkes, unlike some colleges in the area like Misericordia University and others across the country, has a unique disposition. It is located within a city, not in a suburban or rural location, meaning students have easy access to city amenities such as restaurants and shops.
Many city offices, such as city hall, and the local movie theater are located within walking distance of campus. Many Wilkes alumni live and work in and around Wilkes-Barre. Wilkes faculty, staff and students are also members of outside organizations affiliated with the city of Wilkes-Barre and neighboring communities. Wilkes students even work and do internships within the city. So it only makes sense, in our opinion, that Wilkes should be more integrated and a part of Wilkes-Barre’s culture.
At the beginning of the year, Leahy announced in his commencement address that he would like to seek a stronger partnership with the city of Wilkes-Barre. We think the first  Mayor’s Cup March he hosted last semester on the River Commons was a great start and we hope this new tradition started by Leahy will continue to grow. But The Beacon thinks Wilkes has the potential to do more within the city of Wilkes-Barre.
We believe Wilkes shouldn’t be an entity unto itself, but a part of the city of Wilkes-Barre’s culture. This includes participating in holiday parades and other festivities in the city. By participating in these events, such as the Wilkes-Barre St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas parades and Easter egg hunt, Wilkes shows the city of Wilkes-Barre that it is very much a part of the city’s culture and is very much a part of life in the city of Wilkes-Barre.