By Leslie Thomas
“We live around people wanting to bridge the gap between student and the Muncie community. People in the Riverside-Normal City neighborhood want to see the connection.”
Zane Bishop, interviewed October 20, 2016
Imagine students—dressed in casual wear, loungewear, and decorous clothing— eating outside on the chairs and tables at Scotty’s Brewhouse. Adjacent to Scotty’s is a cookie shop called Insomnia Cookies, a place where students grab freshly-baked cookies and receive a free one on Halloween if they dress up in a costume. Loud music and loud voices are often coming from Be Here Now, while its ledge and steps leading up to it are crammed with people. Not too far from Insomnia Cookies is the White Rabbit, a used bookshop crowded high with books and antiques. Next to White Rabbit is Greek’s Pizzeria, a gourmet pizza shop with a menu chart place exteriorly with protruding signboards. Smoking was prevalent while walking near Brother’s, the Cup and Scotty’s, along with the smell of hot bread near Jimmy Johns and Scotty’s. The atmosphere is comprised of chatting, laughing, shouting, honking, wheels running on road surface, followed by loud bikes with music that give the community its unique charm. Wandering down The Village, while taking notes, a man approached me and asked me what I was doing. Originally, from Chicago, the man came to Muncie for a vacation with his husband. Near Rex Street and Neely Street, there are residential properties with lawns, Muncie Sanitary District trash containers, couches on the porch or yard, and “For Rent” signs in front of the property. The street filled multiple split homes into several units, followed by a split of older and newer cars outside of the property.
Next, visualize walking between Abbott Street, Neely Avenue, and Riverside, and noticing that the nature of the neighborhood fluctuates depending on the time of the day and the time of year. On an average weekday, the streets are filled with students crossing Neely Avenue and New York Avenue onto campus ground. Traffic is flowing and moving at a steady pace as students and faculty rush to their locations. Neely Avenue has become a paradise for cyclists in the neighborhood with newly renovated streets and plenty of space to accommodate both the cyclists and the drivers. Entering the intersection of New York Avenue onto Riverside, student traffic increases. From there, the Riverside-Normal City neighborhood, also known as RNC, becomes a mixer of on-campus and off-campus students, going to and from classes or to their place of residence. With the campus being so close to the neighborhood, students are constantly in motion. In addition, the neighborhood and Ball State University collaborates on activities to create a focal point for students and members within the community to come together. Homecoming Weekend is an exciting time for residents as it is for students. The parade, one of Homecoming’s final events, travels through parts of the RNC Neighborhood onto Ball State University’s section of McKinley Avenue. There is wide variety of people in attendance to see the parade, ranging from Ball State students, instructors from Ball State and Muncie local schools, and families within the community. In the evening, students are seen grouped together, laughing, dancing, and searching for where the parties are for that evening. Greek Life is the life of the party on weekends, encouraging college students to walk down fraternity row. Liveliness in the neighborhood is created through the occasional blasting of music and students shouting. With events such as ChirpFest, a music concert created by a Ball State student, some parts the neighborhood never sleeps, causing a student frenzy and, sometimes, late-night police calls.
The reality is, when students move-off campus, they become residents of Muncie in addition to being students. There are responsibilities and unwritten codes of conduct with being a resident in an actual neighborhood. We’ve interviewed several residents who’ve expressed feelings about the change in the neighborhood and the impact the students have in it. Based on interviews, residents feel that students are not treating the neighborhood as an actual neighborhood. Eleanor Johnson and Michael Doyle have lived in the neighborhood since 1996. While interviewing them, Michael stated that students “have a lack of sensitivity for living in a house in the neighborhood” and that that “they don’t have anyone to pick up after them.” On weekends, the sidewalks, parking lots, and grassy areas surrounding the student-filled space is often times packed with trash and debris. Marsh, Linden, Locust, Neely, and surrounding streets are, what resident Whitney Stumps, refers to as the “student ghetto. There, students tend to be rowdy, and the use of alcohol has created an epidemic of students littering and not picking up after themselves. Aside from the predominantly student section of the neighborhood, residents and some students have been reluctant to travel to certain parts of the neighborhood due to crime. The incident regarding the Village Pantry shootout has created a stir to students and residents, making them more cautious when walking around the area. Morgan Fuller, a student at Ball State University and current resident in the neighborhood, noticed that her apartment door had been kicked in before she moved in, and her landlord did a poor job fixing it. Due to the lack of landlords’ involvement with some students in the neighborhood, students don’t have rules in place to keep the home and community tidy and neat. In short, RNC would be a different community with fewer absentee landlords.
Although some residents believe that students’ actions can be a disadvantage to the neighborhood, many residents believe that students are contributing to the neighborhood to revitalize the neighborhood’s identity. Neighborhood projects has grown exponentially over the years, aiding in the process of giving the neighborhood its identity. Over 11,000 students contributed over 350,000 hours to about 350 agencies/groups in the local community. Residents in the community would like to see more collaboration between businesses, students, and parents, hoping that these projects would create less animosity between the groups within the neighborhood. Jeff Eads is a longtime resident and current president of the RNC Neighborhood Association. Jeff and his wife, Andrea Eads, loves when students get involved in the neighborhood. Jeff mentions that residents get energy from seeing student antics around campus and that the neighborhood is full of intelligent faculty members and community members. Immersive learning projects is the pinnacle of Ball State’s uniqueness as it attracts students from all backgrounds into a collaborative space within the neighborhood. From the 50+people that we’ve interviewed, many residents have expressed interest in bridging the gap between students and residents and would like to see students treat the neighborhood positively. Katie and David are homeowners in the neighborhood and have been for quite some time. Katie mentions that more student projects should happen in the neighborhood, such as the architecture and urban planning classes creating an action plan for the neighborhood.
The Crosswalk Project, an artistic urban development created by the RNC Neighborhood Association, gave the community a fresh and welcoming look between the intersection of Dill Street and West University Avenue. Students worked alongside members of the Neighborhood Association and residents to make this project a reality. The result: a beautifully painted crossing using the colors turquoise blue, dark blue, white and purple. The colors symbolize the neighborhood’s message, with its slogan being, “The New Normal” and features the draws of the neighborhood: nature, culture, and community. With plans to repaint the crosswalk in the spring, students from different disciplines work on projects designed to benefit the neighborhood. In spring 2015, third-year urban planning students created an action plan for RNC. The projects provided students an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage and lead public meetings, as well as creating specific goal groups through public participation. Heather Williams, program manager of Building Better Neighborhoods at Ball State University, understands how important students are to the neighborhood and would like to incorporate them by having clean-ups and other student projects.
In the neighborhood, 74% of the neighborhood is comprised of 20-24 year-olds, and 87% of homes in the neighborhood are rentals. Full of youth, the neighborhood has formed into an increasingly diverse neighborhood, with students coming from all over the world. Derek Tulowitzki, a former resident of RNC and a board member of the Muncie Historical Society, states that the culture that the students bring is important, because otherwise the city is like 90% white. Many African-American residents live in the Whitely Neighborhood, and many of the people of color that come to Muncie are students. Derek loves the ethnic and cultural diversity that students bring into the community. Students travel citywide, nationwide, and worldwide to attend Ball State University. With a diverse student body, the community can culturally immerse themselves without having to get on a plane.
Similarly, students bring a diversity of opinions into their community, working with administrators and community leaders to increase the community’s effectiveness and get their voices heard. Organizations such as the Student Government Association and the Campus Community Coalition gives students an outlet to provide input to what they think should change in the neighborhood. The Campus Community Coalition is an organization that is committed to continually improving the relationship between Ball State University, neighborhoods, businesses and the city to improve the community. Students and community members distribute thousands of bags full of information, promoting good neighbor behavior between Ball State University students living off campus and Muncie residents as a way to improve student-neighbor relations.
With the neighborhood’s identity shifting over time into a student-focused hub from what was originally a family-oriented community, students have molded RNC into an area where they can enjoy themselves while being away from campus life. Although living off-campus can be exciting, students have the responsibility of not only being a student, but being a resident within a community. Therefore, it’s important for students to understand the significance of what it means to be living in a real neighborhood. Likewise, current residents would like to see students impact the community instead of damaging it, creating a unity between both groups. With the use of immersive learning projects and diversified opinions, students have the resources to make an impact in RNC, living up to its new and catchy slogan, “the New Normal.”
 Doyle, Michael W., Johnson, Eleanor, interviewed by Alexis Smith, Leslie Thomas, and Abby Clark, Oct. 29, 2016
 Stump, Whitney, interviewed by Amber Janzen at Be Here Now
 Wyman, Elizabeth. “Village pantry employee, residents frustrated over commotion in area,” Ball State Daily News (Muncie, IN), May 12, 2016
 Fuller, Morgan, interviewed by Mia Nickelson, Oct. 31, 2016 at
 Tulowitzky, Derek, interviewed by Katie at the Cup, Nov. 3, 2016
 “The impact of a university,” Ball Bearings Magazine (Muncie, IN), Feb. 29, 2016.
 Bishop. Zane and Courtney, interviewed by Iesha Alspaugh and Abby Clark, Oct. 20, 2016
 Eads, Jeff and Andrea, interviewed by Iesha Alspaugh and Leslie Thomas, Oct. 27, 2016
 Heilman, Katie and David, interviewed by Iesha Alspaugh and Abby Clark, Oct. 20, 2016
 Dunway, Lisa. Riverside-Normal City Urban Planning Project Website, accessed Dec. 3, 2016
 Williams, Heather, interviewed by Chelce Carter, Mia Nickelson, Iesha Alspaugh, Nov. 16, 2016
 Slabaugh, Seth. “BSU coalition targets off-campus behavior” Muncie Star Press (Muncie, IN), Aug. 17, 2014
Header image, “Ball State University students walking on campus near Riverside Ave,” 1967, courtesy of the Ball State Digital Media Repository