Neighborhood groups lack local students’ participation

Emily Johns

Loud parties, litter, lazy landlords and graffiti are common concerns of neighborhood associations near campus.

But these neighborhood groups, representing areas where more than 50 percent of residents are students, often do not have any student members even though many of the groups’ decisions impact students.

Concern about noisy parties last year prompted the Southeast Como Improvement Association to hire additional Minneapolis police to patrol the neighborhood on busy party weekends.

Approximately one half of the neighborhood’s residents are students, but no students are active in the neighborhood association.

“We could use more student input, that’s for sure,” said Jeff Haberer, Southeast Como Improvement Association president.

“When we started (the police program) we were accused of being the neighborhood Nazis and trying to stop all the parties, which is certainly not the case. Just the noisy parties,” Haberer said.

Some attribute the lack of student interest in neighborhood groups to the harried pace of college life or the failure of the groups to actively recruit students.

“Students figure they’re kind of passing through,” said Chris Wilson, Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association president. Wilson said the Marcy Holmes area is made up of 70 percent to 80 percent students.

“They’re not as interested in volunteering their time, they have other stuff to do with their lives – they’re generally not as invested,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he believes more student input would be welcomed by the neighborhood group because both students and long-term residents of the area are striving for the same thing.

“We’re all really after the same goals – we’re all interested in a decent place to live and buildings that are well taken care of,” Wilson said.

Tara Beard, a Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association board member and an urban and regional planning graduate student, said she does not think students and the neighborhood association have the same vision for their neighborhood.

“It would be great if more students get involved. I think that it would be awesome if they did. I don’t necessarily think it would be great for the neighborhood association – there would be a lot of conflict,” Beard said.

Beard said the group has discussed putting on social events geared more toward students rather than traditional church socials.

As a student, Beard became involved with the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association because of her studies. In the urban and regional planning program, she is focusing on housing and community development issues.

“It’s kind of been my studies that have made me realize how important community involvement is. I definitely think of myself as an anomaly,” Beard said.

Beard said the divide in the focus of the neighborhood groups and the demographics of the population would cause some problems if the neighborhood associations had more active student members.

“If 75 percent of the neighborhood associations were students,” Beard said, “it would probably really stink for a lot of the homeowners, but at the same time it would be more reflective of what the actual population wanted.

“Ultimately the neighborhood associations should reflect the neighborhood,” she said.

Emily Johns welcomes comments at [email protected]