Student liaison works to improve relationship with city
Jan. 23, 2003
Amy Boyes
Staff Writer

He spends late nights at College Park City Council meetings, and attends civic association meetings.

He picks up trash in the community on Sunday mornings, and on Tuesday Eric Swalwell will begin his final semester as a University of Maryland undergraduate.

In the eight months Swalwell has served as the student liaison to the College Park City Council, he has helped bridge the relationship between residents and students.

Following College Park's 2001 municipal election, Swalwell, 22, lobbied the city to create the liaison position. "I knew I was going to be climbing a mountain that most people hadn't attempted before," Swalwell said.

The council voted 7 to 1 to create the position in April 2002.

A month later, Swalwell was appointed to the position following the work of a search committee comprised of council members, the mayor and students.

Councilman Mark Shroder (Dist. 1), who voted against the proposal, said he would be surprised if the next student liaison is as dedicated as Swalwell.

Mayor Stephen Brayman agreed. "I think he's created huge shoes for the next person to fill," he said.

The liaison serves a year term, can speak on any topic but is not allowed to vote.

"I am ... the voice of the students and also the voice of the council back to the students," Swalwell said.

Before the council voted on an ordinance requiring sorority and fraternity house owners to install automatic fire sprinklers, Swalwell briefed the Greek organizations on it, causing representatives to testify before the council.

As a result, the council directed staff to prepare a draft ordinance to include other dormitory-style housing and extended the ordinance compliance date by a year.

Also in his student liaison capacity, Swalwell organized an effort called Communiversity, in which students and residents work together to clean up the city.

He got more Greek organizations involved in the annual Terrapin Trot, a campus race benefiting the University of Maryland College Park's Sept. 11 memorial scholarship fund, and brought the race from campus into the city.

Swalwell, a member of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, said he works to involve Greek students with residents to limit stereotypes. "I think the Greeks have been pegged with the worst stereotypes by residents," he said, adding that Greek organizations are often associated with parties.

Swalwell said he believes the relationship between students and residents has improved.

"It's a very raw relationship," he said. "There's still a lot room for development."

After he ended his soccer career at Campbell University in North Carolina due to an injury, Swalwell transferred to Maryland as a junior.

He is majoring in government and politics and applying to law school.

Swalwell plans to study public interest law.

While the Student Government Association (SGA) Committee of Government Affairs chairman, Swalwell worked with state legislators to establish a fund for students who lost their parents during the Sept. 11 tragedies. As a result, the Maryland Scholarship was created.

In addition to his student liaison position, Swalwell also serves as the SGA vice president and the city's student redistricting commission member.

Councilman Eric Olson (Dist. 3) credits Swalwell with enhancing relations between students, the city and university.

"He's brought a voice to the city that reflects ... the student population's concerns," he said. "I think students are more aware of what we do."

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