Faculty, community seek Boone overcrowding solutions

Hollie Moore, Associate News Editor

Two App State faculty organized a town hall meeting Oct. 27, inviting the community to discuss the overcrowding Boone has recently experienced due to increased university admission and town expansion. 

Clark Maddux, an interdisciplinary studies professor, and Brian Burke, an assistant professor of sustainable development, organized the event to give the community a chance to express their opinions on Boone’s overpopulation. 

In a press release, App State’s growth and its impact on Boone was mentioned as the focal point of the meeting and was sponsored by community members, ClimACT, and the App State chapter of the American Association of University Professors

Maddux began the meeting with a conversation of App State’s history, the university’s intentions and current setbacks, then leaving the floor open for community members.

“What Appalachian was at the beginning, an institution designed specifically for the people of this area, it no longer is,” Maddux said. “Students themselves suffer from extortionary rents and substandard housing.”

Michael Behrent, an associate history professor at App State, brought up the “lack of response” from the administration that he noticed, asking the participants in the room if they had ever had “meaningful interactions” with Chancellor Sheri Everts. 

“They have an agenda. They don’t want to talk to community members,” Behrent said. “They don’t want to talk to students despite the patronizing and propagandistic way in which they talk to them and take their fees and tuition.”

Maddux mentioned the “delightfully original” bumper sticker trend of “Boone Sucks, Tell Your Friends,” bringing attention to what Boone residents and university students are doing to express their struggle with the population growth.

People in the audience mentioned their concerns about traffic, how the population increase will affect the climate and persistence to request App State put a cap on their enrollment.

“Edward Abbey once said growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell,” said Mary Moretz, a community member participating through Zoom. “Let’s concentrate on quality not quantity.”

Caleb Owen, a senior at App State, addressed his concern about student population growth “degrading the quality of an App State education.”

When citizens questioned how the town hall meeting would make a difference, Burke assured them of his commitment to pass the recording to the App State administration.

“They will read about it in the press. And I think at this point this may be a first meeting not a last meeting,” Burke said. “This may be the beginning of unity. This may be the beginning of people coming together to be heard and to make changes and to stand up for folks who have a right to be here and to live well.”

University communications did not provide a comment before the time of publication.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated Clark Maddux is the director of the Watauga Residental College. Maddux left that position at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester.