Local neighborhood councils seek student representatives to improve communication

TBy Jens Manuel Krogstad The Minnesota Student Association is looking to include student representatives on University neighborhood councils.

MSA President Eric Dyer said the hope is to increase communication and understanding between students and residents.

“We want a program that ties in the neighborhood, the ‘U’ and the city all together,” Dyer said.

The student representative idea, which was raised in discussions about the April 12 riot in Dinkytown, will be implemented next fall, Dyer said.

Stephen Banks, president of Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association, said the reasons for wanting student involvement are not any different from wanting resident involvement: their voice is needed.

“To me, neighborhood associations are where democracy actually works,” Banks said. “The people that show up get the voice.”

Dyer said the student representatives would help increase communication between students and a neighborhood’s permanent residents.

He said a lack of communication sometimes makes problems seem bigger than they really are.

“I hear horror stories like ‘there were 20 kegs and 400 people at a house last weekend,’ ” Dyer said. “When in fact there were maybe 20 people at that party.”

Banks said a student perspective on the board would have alleviated fears of some residents in his neighborhood after the April 12 riot.

“If a student is there and can tell us that, on campus, the riot is viewed as a really negative thing and that many of the people involved were not University students, it would go a long ways,” Banks said.

The Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods already have positions on their councils reserved for students, though they are vacant, Dyer said.

“I understand that college students are very busy,” Banks said. “I know I didn’t have time to serve on some board when I was a student.”

Interim Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs June Nobbe said the program will serve a different function than the peer-resident program, which came under criticism last week as part of the University’s riot policy.

“(Serving on neighborhood boards) is participating in a community organization in a formalized way,” Nobbe said.

She said while students serving on boards would focus on broader policy issues, students who are part of the peer-resident program would serve a smaller community and focus on student issues such as renters’ rights and responsibilities.

While the positions are not formally part of the MSA constitution, neighborhood representatives would be expected to attend MSA meetings and perform other duties, MSA Vice President Gina Nelson said.

Dyer said he believes there are students who could benefit academically from serving on a neighborhood board.

“I can see (political science) students wanting to get a start being interested in something like this,” Dyer said.

Jens Manuel Krogstad covers student life and welcomes comments at [email protected]