St Paul: uncharted territory for some

Student groups are working to make sure that distance is not an issue.

It’s typical to see clipboard-bearing members of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group on the Washington Avenue Bridge each fall. But on the St. Paul campus, they’re less
common.

Though many of their members are active on University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus, MPIRG and other student groups are making concentrated efforts to reach students in St. Paul.

Hollea Boquist, a chemical engineering freshman who lives in Bailey Hall, said she has noticed much less student group activity like chalking on the St. Paul campus.

“There is definitely a lot less going on over here,” she said.

Boquist said she sees plenty of voter registration action when she goes to class on the East Bank.

“It’s not that we don’t get exposed to it,” she said. “If you really want to be involved in something, you can be.”

MPIRG has increased its presence in St. Paul by tabling during Welcome Week and visiting classrooms to discuss the group’s mission, said Brian Dailey-Arndt, MPIRG task force leader for the St. Paul campus. Expanding outreach becomes even more important in an election year, he said.

 “We’ve been particularly conscious about trying to do events over in St. Paul,” Dailey-Arndt said.

Once a week, he said MPIRG members stand near the bus stop outside of the St. Paul Student Center to speak to passing students about the proposed marriage and voter ID amendments.

Leah Enter, another MPIRG task force leader, said St. Paul has been a “very receptive area.”

“It is a harder area of campus to get to but that doesn’t mean that it’s a place that should be ignored,” she said. “They need to be reached out to as well.”

Neither the University College Republicans nor the College Democrats spend much time on campus, said leaders from both groups.

Matthew Novak, vice president of the College Republicans, said the group has considered reaching out to students on the St. Paul campus but doesn’t have definite plans to get them involved.

He said he doesn’t want students living in St. Paul to feel alienated, though.

“It’s kind of unfortunate that a lot of groups are based over here [on East Bank],” Novak said. “Students that are primarily on the St. Paul campus are still students.”

The College Democrats have spent most of the semester coordinating with other Minneapolis campus-based student groups and promoting voter registration in student apartments in Minneapolis, group President Jeremy Reichenberger said.

He said the group will try to focus on voter registration in St. Paul before Election Day, talking to students about recruitment at Bailey Hall and the bus stop outside of the St. Paul Student Center. 

“We’re definitely hoping to be able to get out there with these last couple weeks and reach out to students over there.”

Reaching out

The word “Shalom” greets students walking past 1521 University Avenue, home of Hillel, the Jewish Student Center at the University.

Though its location is most accessible to frequenters of Fraternity Row and the Knoll Area, Hillel also works to involve students on the St. Paul campus.

“It’s a priority of Hillel to reach out to all students, and that includes students who live on the St. Paul campus,” said Shira Olson, a Hillel intern. “It shouldn’t steer anyone away from becoming involved in any organization just because they’re living over in St. Paul.”

As students living in St. Paul become interested in the group, older members volunteer to ride the Campus Connector from St. Paul to Hillel with them to show interested students how to get there.

“It’s something super small,” Olson said, “but can be really helpful in terms of walking in the door and feeling like, ‘I know where I’m going, I know what I’m doing.’”

She said the group also sends holiday care packages to Minneapolis and St. Paul students during Jewish holidays to remind them that they’re always welcome.

Many St. Paul students remain involved in Hillel despite the distance, she said.

“Maybe they’re not coming to the building, maybe they can’t get here all the time, [but] we’re still saying hi and reaching out to all students, whether they are in St. Paul or not in St. Paul.”

Minnesota School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a University student group, is working to ensure every “Harry Potter” fan has the chance to become involved, said group President Nicole Kasinski.

The group has been present at Gophers After Dark events at the St. Paul Student Center, Kasinski said, doing “Harry Potter” face painting and art for anyone interested.

Though the group has a fun focus, Kasinski said it’s serious about reversing “the stereotype of St. Paul students being kind of
secluded.”

“It’s important to get them involved in things so they don’t feel left out of campus.”