Community liaison faces worried student-tenants

by Stephanie Kudrle

Kendre Turonie has a lot to deal with during her first month as the University’s coordinator for student and community relations.

A few issues coming to the front of Turonie’s to-do list include noisy parties, student-tenant education and housing inspections.

“I want to be the central person that everyone can communicate with,” Turonie said.

The University created the new position as a result of the April 12 hockey riot, said June Nobbe, director of the Office of Student Affairs leadership programs.

Nobbe said University President Bob Bruininks decided during regents meetings last spring that the University needed an administrator working directly with neighborhoods and students. The Office of Student Affairs modeled Turonie’s position after a similar position at the University of St. Thomas.

The Marcy-Holmes and Southeast Como neighborhoods are home to many students. Renters – most of whom are students – comprise approximately 65 percent of Southeast Como, Southeast Como Improvement Association neighborhood coordinator Greg Simbeck said.

Turonie’s job will be financed through a fund in place for new programs designed to benefit the University.

“We do not see this position as a type of enforcement,” Nobbe said. “(Turonie) will look at the broader issues. Ö Student-tenant rights are at the forefront right now.”

Some student-tenants are skeptical whether Turonie’s position will help them and doubted Turonie would be able to adequately contact students.

Junior Kelly Nielson lives in Southeast Como and said even neighborhood associations have a hard time reaching students.

Nielson said the upcoming housing inspections might add extra problems.

“This is a sensitive issue,” she said. “They need to do it without stepping on any toes so it doesn’t feel intrusive.”

The housing inspections, which are scheduled to begin this month, have raised concern among students who worry about code violations and over-occupancy evictions.

Turonie said she understands students’ fears about evictions but thinks the inspections will be positive.

Turonie and University community relations director Jan Morlock said the University will work with evicted students to help them finding new housing, if necessary.

“The inspection sweeps are oriented towards safety; that is our chief concern,” Morlock said. “We do not expect to see widespread evictions.”

Turonie also said she is working to introduce herself to student government leaders, neighborhood

associations and police, but some students said this would not help them use Turonie’s position.

“They could advertise more to us,” Nielson said. “But who takes the time to actually read that stuff?”

Nielson said although she has no problems with her neighborhood, it was unlikely Turonie would change student-neighborhood relations.

While Turonie said her job is not to mediate individual situations, she will work with large patterns and trends in student behavior.

“I want to talk with students and homeowners if they have issues,” she said. “There is room for education on both sides.”

Morlock said students and long-term residents need to understand each other’s lifestyles.

She said students should take time to meet their neighbors and exchange phone numbers with them.

While Morlock said this practice does not solve every problem, she said students should make an effort to be the first contacted about complaints.

Simbeck said long-term residents sometimes find calling the police more effective than talking with the students.

“Sometimes there’s a party and it is 3 a.m. and that’s the course of action (long-term residents) have to take,” Simbeck said.

But he also said that while party houses are a problem, a majority of student-renters get along peacefully with their neighbors.

“I don’t want to say there aren’t any problems … but there are only a small handful of chronic problem properties,” he said.

Turonie said she hopes to be a conduit for communication among students, neighborhoods and the University.

Simbeck said he thinks Turonie’s position will help solidify the bonds between neighborhoods and students.

“We welcome students to come to us with problems,” he said. “We would love to see more students out in the neighborhood and at our meetings.”