Student Co-op president, VP speak on recent events

After UMPD responded to four separate events at 1721 University Ave., the student cooperative board tells their side of the story.

The+University+Avenue+Student+Cooperative+House%2C+captured+on+Tuesday%2C+July+26.+UMPD+recently+responded+to+four+calls+to+the+co-op.

Shalom Berhane

The University Avenue Student Cooperative House, captured on Tuesday, July 26. UMPD recently responded to four calls to the co-op.

by Madison Roth

Editor’s Note: This story is a continuing point of discussion, and The Minnesota Daily will continue to cover this topic in the fall after our August publishing break. 

The University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) responded to four separate calls in late May and early June on the 1700 block of University Avenue.

The site of these calls was the Students Cooperative house, a community living space that is not currently owned by, or affiliated with, the University.

The University has taken action to “gain control” over the Student Co-op, according to emails sent to University students, but the president and vice president of the house are fighting back to prove that the people in the house can live equally among the residents beside them.

“We know it is hard for people who were not aware of the co-op in the past,” Laura Goetsch, vice president of the Student Co-op Board, said. “This space is new to people and all they’re hearing are these really awful, traumatic things that are happening.”

On May 21, UMPD responded to a call at the co-op house where a large house party was taking place. According to the SAFE-U alert, police were responding to three assaults that had taken place at the party.

The next day, according to a SAFE-U alert, there was a robbery outside of the house and the Student Co-op Board released a statement stating they shared concern for the recent events and had filed evictions for all residents.

Within the next two weeks – on May 29 and June 4 – there were two reports of gunshots at the address. During the later incident, a 15-year-old boy was shot in the leg, FOX 9 News reported.

According to FOX 9 News, “numerous gunshots were heard in the area as officers were arriving on the scene, which MPD says quickly turned chaotic with people running from the crowd in all directions.”

June 4 was also the day the Students Co-op Board finalized the eviction and regained control of the property, according to a June 7 statement published on the co-op’s website.

The Student Cooperative’s response

In the Students Co-op Board’s June 7 statement, the board wrote that those who were responsible for the recent crime in and around the house were not co-op members, but squatters, who moved into the building quickly following the onset of the pandemic.

“We learned last fall that the house’s cooperative governance collapsed during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued to deteriorate as member residents moved out of the Co-op,” the statement said.

President of the Board Ellery Wealot, said once the board learned about the squatters, they started the eviction process in early April.

“Unfortunately, the eviction process took us two months, but during that time we requested more police presence and did everything in our power to try to make the situation as safe as we could,” Wealot said. “For our own safety, though, we also did not try to access the property.”

Wealot said the board is unsure as to how the squatters got into the house and how long they have been there. He said the squatters in the co-op house were “hostile” toward the board during the eviction process, which led these individuals to remain in the house for the entire duration of the eviction process.

“There is just so much we don’t know about what happened in 2020,” Wealot said. “At some point, someone invited them into the space, and we can say for sure that they did not pay rent or dues.”

Goetsch said the board learned about the events from the SAFE-U alerts and the police responding to calls. They said the board is working with UMPD and those who live around the area to ensure safety.

After the shootings, Wealot and Goetsch worked with the Minneapolis Police Department to get everyone out and start cleaning up the house so it could start getting on the right track, Goetsch said. They both expressed the mental strain the eviction process and the past couple of months has placed on them since the criminal activity did not start until after the eviction process did.

“It’s unfortunate because in most eviction cases, when we reach the point we did, most people leave voluntarily, but in this case, they chose not only to stay out the two month court process but chose to throw these huge parties as well,” Wealot said.

Despite the exhaustion from the entire process, Goetsch said it has also been motivating.

“Having people come together in the community and having people from the ‘70s who have lived in the co-op reach out to us, the support has been neat,” Goetsch said. “It has reminded me of the things that are important to me as people are stepping up and showing up for us.”

Wealot and Goetsch said they are looking forward to repairing the damage done to the house as well as the relationships that have been broken because of the events that have taken place over the past couple of months.

“We want to rebuild trust that we can exist in this space like we have over the last 80 years in a way that is community oriented,” Goetsch said.

The University’s response

Myron Frans, senior vice president for finance and operations at the University, released a statement on June 13 stating the University is taking steps to address the issues at the student co-op.

In addition to hoping the owner of the house would work with the University to find a new buyer for the property, according to the statement, the next steps for the University are “urging the City of Minneapolis to initiate inspections and, based on anticipated damage to the building, to condemn the property” and “opposing any attempt by the property owner to continue to hold a lodging license.”

A week later, Frans released a new statement stating UMPD was working overtime to patrol the property, more lighting and cameras were around the property and the University is evaluating hiring additional “non-sworn security personnel” to look over the property.

In the July Board of Regents meeting, Frans said the people who own the property got their lodging and boarding license suspended by the city and UMPD was continuing routine checks on the property.

“We will continue to explore options to influence the safe operation of property into the future, and we will keep you [the Board of Regents] and all stakeholders advised of our progress,” Frans said at the meeting.