The University District Alliance is taking steps to form its first executive committee, which could include student voices.
The alliance is an umbrella organization for the University of Minnesota and the surrounding neighborhoods including Southeast Como, Marcy-Holmes, Prospect Park and Cedar-Riverside. The group works to improve relationships between the University, homeowners, renters and businesses in the community.
Since students are such a large part of those communities, Minnesota Student Association representative Phil Kelly said a student position within the executive committee is important.
“You need a student voice because they make up a large part of the population,” Kelly said. “Students need to be a key part of the conversation as well.”
The UDA was established in 2007 when the Legislature directed a study “to assess the impact of the University on the surrounding community and the relationship of the community to the University.” The Legislature appropriated $750,000 for the alliance’s work.
Today, the alliance works to ensure that the neighborhoods surrounding the Twin Cities campus are quality places to live, work, learn, visit and conduct business.
It provides services like homebuyer incentives, preservation efforts and inspections. UDA also provides programs like Live Near Your Work, which encourages University employees to live in the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as Student Neighborhood Liaisons, a group of students who organize community activities.
The UDA has always been governed by a steering committee. In an effort to formalize operations, the steering committee has been renamed the Board of Directors.
The board recently put together a nominating committee to elect an executive committee that will handle most tasks starting Jan. 1.
Members of the executive committee are elected to a two-year term and will be responsible for making recommendations to the group’s Board of Directors.
Kelly said he thinks the nominating committee is unlikely to appoint a student due to the temporary nature of most Minnesota Student Association and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly positions. The executive board position is a two-year commitment — a challenge for many students.
Brian Swanson, UDA’s vice president for finance, said the alliance has always wanted students involved.
“It’s just harder to get students because they come and go more than other members of the University,” he said.
Jan Morlock, head of community relations for UDA, said some students continue to live in the surrounding neighborhoods after they leave the University.
However, Morlock said students may not make it onto the nominated slate of candidates presented to the board.
“The objective was to create a slate of potential representatives who are representative of different parts of the alliance,” Morlock said. “Representatives are nominated on the basis of what they bring [to the committee].”
The nominating committee — made up of volunteers from the Board of Directors — will present a slate of recommendations to the entire board later this week. The official election is scheduled for Nov. 21, but nominations will also be taken at the meeting.
The executive committee will have seven spots.
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