Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

University rebukes R-Town coalition

The R-Town Downtown Coalition, a group of volunteers with a shared goal of keeping downtown storefronts free of homeless people, is trying to recruit student volunteers to join their cause.

They want students to join the Chico Ambassadors, a volunteer organization under both the R-Town Downtown Coalition and the Chico Stewardship Network, that is working to change the culture downtown by picking up trash, working as a liaison for businesses and calming problematic situations involving drunk people and the homeless.

One proposal has students working with an on-campus volunteer organization, said Jovanni Tricerri, the executive director of the Chico Stewardship Network.

“We would love students to do it now, and we are working on getting mechanisms in place to do it through CAVE,” she said.

Students and  other volunteers from the community would receive training in non-aggressive confrontation from Andy Duch of the Butte County Sheriff’s Department. The would volunteer three hours a week for a ten-week period to fulfill volunteer requirements.

At this time, there are no plans for CAVE to be a part of the Chico Ambassadors program, said CAVE program manager and city councilmember Ann Schwab.

In 2009, CAVE started the Chico Homeless Ambassadors program, where students were going to walk the streets, welcoming visitors and helping those in need. Butte County Behavioral Health, the Jesus Center and the Chico Police Department were brought in to train the students, Schwab said.

“It was pretty clear that a tremendous amount of classroom and on-the-job training was needed for the students to be successful and safe that we couldn’t invest for volunteers who would only be with us for three hours a week for one semester,” Schwab said. “To be effective, someone would need a minimum of 30 hours of training. During the first semester, it was evident that we could not continue that aspect of the program.”

While Chico State is not a part of the coalition, it still has groups that the  R-Town Downtown Coalition would like to see get involved.

Chico State has no plans to join the coalition, said Chico State President Paul Zingg.

“The University supports the goal of making Chico safer and cleaner,” Zingg said. “But we are not a signatory to the R-Town statement because it calls upon a commitment of university police to a role that is not within their jurisdiction or mission. And it seeks to engage our students in a capacity as ‘ambassadors’ that is not well-defined and which lacks clarity on how they would be engaged and trained.”

Chief Robyn Hearne of the University Police Department agreed that joining the coalition is not in the department’s jurisdiction. Its priority is to keep students and the rest of campus safe with the small number of officers available.

It is not within the university’s purview to commit students to the coalition, said Drew Calandrella, the vice president for student affairs.

“We cannot and will not support using students in this way as there are many liability issues associated with placing students in a potentially dangerous situation absent significant training that would be necessary,” he said.

Taylor Herren, the president of Associated Students and Malcolm McLemore, the program coordinator of fraternity and sorority affairs, have both said that their respective organizations will not be involved with the R-Town Downtown Coalition.

While volunteering with Chico Ambassadors will not be conducted through Chico State or any of its programs, students can still volunteer on their own time.


Jessie Severin can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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