While student organizations encourage community service and a number of local groups use Fordham facilities, the involvement between Fordham students and local residents is often limited to walks to the D or 4 train. This leads to an unawareness of the reality of life in the local area that undermines Fordham’s commitment to social justice.
One option for expanding the interaction between Fordham students and the community is for students to connect with the local economy. Particularly, students could patronize local businesses, especially restaurants and supermarkets. Furthermore, there are a number of businesses on Fordham Road that students would be interested in patronizing. How often do students go into the city or just wait until their next trip home to get new clothes? Heck, how often do I order things from Amazon I could probably purchase in the local area?
An expansion of the RamBucks program would also be a step toward this goal. For instance, a list of the locations at which RamBucks are accepted is not easily accessible. Furthermore, how many of the current locations are not on Arthur Avenue?
A more diverse list of local businesses could be distributed to incoming freshmen to let them know, for instance, that there are locations where they can purchase school supplies besides the campus bookstore. The restrictions that give Sodexo a monopoly on catering in certain locations on campus also contributes to making Fordham an economically closed entity, causing more need for students and faculty to patronize outside businesses when possible.
While community service is an important way to interact with Fordham’s neighbors, economic interactions between students and local businesses opens up a new dimension of community involvement. Even though service on its own might eventually take a character of condescension, business transactions are mutually beneficial.
Business owners and employees can find fulfillment and self-sufficiency in their work, while customers gain new access to goods and services. This is true in any well-functioning local economy, rural or urban. This is even more true with local business owners, who will want to re-invest in their community, and so will support growth in the community.
To invest one’s time in the local community is a wonderful thing, and something that ought to be encouraged and lauded. To participate in the local economy, even as a private consumer, fills another dimension of involvement that is often neglected.