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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Neighborhoods, students confront lack of representation

Many say student involvement benefits the whole community.

During his first year on the University of Minnesota District Alliance board of directors, Phill Kelly listened more than he spoke.

“It’s kind of intimidating,” the global studies senior said about serving on a board of University staff, local business owners and representatives from nearby communities.

“You step into this circle and you’re like, ‘Who am I to speak up against all these things they’re saying?’”

Staff from neighborhood organizations around the University say the disconnect Kelly saw between longtime residents and short-term student renters is a common issue.

University groups and neighborhood organizations are trying to get more students involved, even if it’s just temporary.

The Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association will hire a renter outreach staff member this summer “to solidify the neighborhood’s relationship” with renters, said Lois Willand, PPERRIA’s membership and communication committee member.

PPERRIA currently has no students on its 20-person board.

Other neighborhood organizations around the University struggle with the lack of student involvement as well.

 “We’ve tried sideways, crossways and upside down to get [students],” said Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association President Doug Carlson.

The MHNA board has two spots designated for students, but Carlson said they’ve been vacant for more than a year at a time in the past.

“I would think it would be of interest,” he said. “Students are certainly concerned about things that are happening in the neighborhood.”

Last year, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly launched a community engagement board designed to supply neighborhood projects with student participants.

“We’ve kind of institutionalized that relationship,” said Chet Bodin, GAPSA vice president for public affairs, so neighborhood organizations know where to go when the students they’re used to working with move away.

But students are less likely to get involved in a community they may only live in for a few years, said Southeast Como Improvement Association neighborhood coordinator Ricardo McCurley.

“A smaller percentage of the neighborhood knows about us and is invested,” he said.

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