Under pressure to include more student voices, University of Minnesota neighborhood organizations are taking steps to be more inclusive.
Members of Prospect Park Association and Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association both recently amended bylaws to give students more opportunities to participate.
PPA appointed two new members to its board of directors — a student and a business representative — after it amended its bylaws in June. The bylaw amendments are part of a long-term plan to shrink the board and increase its efficiency, said PPA President Vince Netz.
Netz said the changes were partially inspired by MHNA and Southeast Como Improvement Association’s inclusion of students on their boards.
“We we were really out of step with our neighbors,” he said.
MHNA, which houses a majority of student renters, changed its bylaws last week to give students more access, said Vice President Bob Stableski.
The changes move board elections — previously held in June — to October to allow more students to vote or run.
Stableski said the board’s push for student participation isn’t new, and the board has featured student members for as long as he has served.
“It’s not easy because … students are transient,” he said. “The neighborhood has found ways over the years to ensure a voice through these seats that are dedicated to various groups.”
SECIA Executive Director Cody Olson said his participation with SECIA as a student led him to become more involved after he graduated.
Olson said SECIA tries to give options for students to get involved, such as service learning and board positions.
SECIA will also hire several paid interns in the coming months, he said.
Netz said the two new spots on the PPA board are reserved for a business owner and a student, and terms last one year.
PPA board member Dick Gilyard said the board always meant to get more student involvement.
Gilyard said this involvement is challenging because students are always coming and going, but their voices are important.
“I think the effort is to work with all of that and make sure that the student voice is heard, that their perspective is appreciated,” he said.
Computer science, public health and management senior Viswa Challa joined the PPA board this year as the new student representative from the Minnesota Student Association.
Challa said he wanted to join PPA to help engage more students with the neighborhood and work on sustainability issues.
“There are a lot of students that live over there and don’t really realize they’re part of Prospect Park neighborhood,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out … a good way of showing students that they are part of Prospect Park and engaging them a little bit more so they are aware of their neighborhood.”
Editor’s Note: Viswa Challa is a former Minnesota Daily employee.