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February 27, 2007

Today's MN Daily includees Spring 2007 Housing Guide

If your student is interested in living off campus next year, encourage him or her to pick up today's Minnesota Daily. Daily writers researched and toured local apartment complexes to compare prices and amenities, and published their findings in the guide.

Around this same time last year, Kristi Pell, a first-year student living in a residence hall, didn't know where she would live the following year and began scrambling to find a place.

"I didn't want to live in the dorms again," Pell said. "I started looking at apartments around the area."

Pell, now a journalism sophomore, said she decided to live in the Melrose, a nearby apartment complex and a good transition from the dorms.

"It was really stressful," she said. "If you don't start looking right away, everything fills up fast."

As crunch time approaches for students to pick housing for next year, The Minnesota Daily researched and toured some of the large apartment complexes to compare prices and amenities - just as any student would.

The apartments featured are four-person units because most students search with friends.

The Daily also analyzed Minneapolis 2005-2006 police crime statistics to help determine which neighborhood may be safer to live in.

The examination of average home values in different neighborhoods may also provide a sense of the cheapest neighborhood to rent a house.

Apartments vs. houses

Big parking lot or big backyard, security guard at the door or the police, proximity to campus or cheap rent: these are just a few considerations to take into account when choosing between living in an apartment or a house.

But this decision is a bit more complicated.

Most housing experts said each has its advantages and disadvantages, but one isn't better than the other.

Bill Dane, Student Legal Services staff attorney, said apartments and houses support different lifestyles.

Dane, who works with students on legal housing issues, said apartments might have more restrictions to a student's lifestyle. These include rules on visitor limits or how much space is available. But a house comes with "a great deal more responsibility," he said.

Dane said students have to be careful with house leases because they could end up responsible for the entire rent.

"If one of the roommates misses rent, you could be responsible for their rent," he said.

In an apartment lease, students generally don't have to worry about such problems, he said.

Students living in a house have more freedoms, but need to be considerate of their neighbors, he said.

"Not everyone living in the neighborhood is a University student," Dane said. "If your neighbors know who you are, they will treat you differently."

The advantage to an apartment, however, is that they are usually managed better when it comes to maintenance issues.

Kris Nelson, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs neighborhood program director, said houses usually aren't managed as well because landlords have scattered properties.

"If they are professionally managed, they are not the kind students can afford," Nelson said.

However, house tenants get more room and yard area, he said.

One of the biggest differences between renting a house or apartment is the cost.

Architecture sophomore Willy Mattson, who lives in University Commons, said he wants to find a house for next year because the rent is cheaper.

Not only is the price a huge factor, Mattson said, but the number of rooms in the unit is important.

"It's hard to find a five-bedroom apartment," he said.

He said he and his roommates want a house in the Dinkytown area or within reasonable distance to campus. Parking spots would be a plus as well, he said.

"We don't really care about how nice it is, as long as we don't get broken into every other day," he said.

Kristi Pell, a journalism sophomore who lives in Melrose Student Suites, said she wants to live in a house next year because "you get more freedom."

Pell said she doesn't like Melrose's 12-vistor rule.

"It's kind of like a dorm sometimes," she said. "In a house, you set your own rules."

If a tenant is loud in an apartment, the security guard comes, but in a neighborhood the "real" cops visit, she said.

Carol Oosterhuis, Minneapolis's 2nd precinct crime prevention specialist, said home safety depends on several variables and each house and apartment is different.

Oosterhuis said living in an apartment where people prop the door open could cause security problems.

She said tenants in a house have more control of their safety, but living on the first floor creates easier access for an unwanted guest in comparison to living in a fifth-floor apartment.

Safest neighborhood

Southeast Como is the safest neighborhood to live in near campus, according to last year's Minneapolis Police crime statistics.

The Minnesota Daily analyzed reported crime data from 2005-2006 and broke it down into five surrounding neighborhoods: Cedar-Riverside, Como, Marcy-Holmes, Prospect Park and University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus.

Population numbers from the 2000 Census were used to determine the number of crimes per 1,000 residents.

The University neighborhood had the most crimes last year when population numbers were calculated into the analysis, but theft made up about 83 percent of the total.

The University neighborhood had the second least number of violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery and assault) in 2006. Cedar-Riverside had the most with 166, more than three times as many as the University neighborhood.

University Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson said although population is a way to determine the safest neighborhood, the number of people using the area is also important.

Johnson said the University has the highest crimes per capita, but the numbers don't take into account the more than 50,000 students on campus who are potential victims of crime.

The neighborhoods have the same problem because students come for parties, even though they don't actually live there, he said.

Carol Oosterhuis, 2nd precinct crime prevention specialist, said there are other things to consider besides the population of the neighborhoods.

"If you live on a very busy street where there is a lot of activity, it can contribute to the crime stats of the neighborhood," she said, but "you're going to be affected more by who lives next door to you."

Before students sign a lease, Oosterhuis said they should go to the location at night and inspect the surroundings.

"Is the location secluded, are there big bushes someone could hide behind or is it a place with good lighting?" she said.

Cheapest neighborhoods

Cedar-Riverside may be the cheapest neighborhood near campus for students to live in, according to estimated market values for single family homes in Minneapolis in 2005.

The rent price should reflect the estimated market value, but many other variables could affect rent rates in each neighborhood.

The average estimated market value of the four neighborhoods (Como, Cedar-Riverside, Marcy Holmes and Prospect Park) was $217,693. The highest was Prospect Park at $308,294, double that of Cedar-Riverside.

Kris Nelson, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs neighborhood program director, said landlords could easily charge students more than the property mortgage.

If a landlord pays $1,600 a month for a monthly mortgage and they rent the house to six students for $400, which is a reasonable price, they receive $2,400 - a greater return than if they sold it, Nelson said.

"You can make pretty good money by renting to students," he said.

In an ideal market, estimated market value of a house would reflect on how much the landlord charges for rent, but it depends on the landlord, he said.

Average rent numbers were not available, but students and neighborhood leaders said areas where estimated home value is higher, such as Prospect Park, tend to have higher rent prices.

Also, check out our Housing Workshop for Parents.

November 9, 2006

Daily round-up, Part II

Students are taking advantage of a buyer's market in real estate near the U, says the Daily:

High rent near the University drove finance and entrepreneurial management junior Alex Ablamunets to take out loans and make a joint purchase of a Riverview Tower condominium on the West Bank in September 2005.

Ablamunets and his roommate were able to get low financing, making his $450 monthly payments comparable to average rent.

A high number of homes for sale on the market and near 40-year-low mortgage rates are attracting buyers who may have previously rented.

That means for some young, first-time buyers with money in the bank - or with parents who have some - now looks to be the time to buy property.

The shift toward a buyer's market comes after a five-year housing boom in which buyers were attracted by low interest rates and sellers and developers could demand higher prices.

Tom Blomberg, a broker for Prudential Sundial Realty Incorporated, said from a practical standpoint, the real estate market turn-down is fairly minor.

"It's made pricing for buyers better. It's made competition better," he said. "So, I think in the end, it helps to give the market some strength from which to start going back up again."

Another housing option for students is serving as a Community Advisor in one of the University's residence halls:

Housing and Residential Life now offers a spring, summer and fall opportunity to submit applications to be a community adviser - a live-in student whose job is to create a sense of community and to be a role model for residents.

Previously, the application process occurred in the spring. Summer and fall deadlines are in May and October, respectively. Accepted students receive a room, a meal plan and a stipend.

The application process is quite in-depth. Applicants

must complete a five-week, eight-session leadership workshop as part of the application process, which Anderson said lets housing officials learn more about the candidates than in the one or two interviews they had before.

He said though the workshop is time-consuming, the applicants who participate seem more serious about getting the job.

It also shows candidates more about the job than they could learn on paper, he said.

"To be sitting in a job you don't like two weeks after starting is a horrible place to be, especially when your housing is tied to the job," Anderson said.

Before the workshop, Anderson said there were more applicants, but they seemed less prepared for the job, and more community advisers would leave in the fall because the job wasn't a good fit for them.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart offers some sobering advice about personal safety for students living near campus:

Large house parties not only attract students from high schools and other college campuses, but also attract people to the area who have more sinister motives. For these folks, alcohol-impaired students wandering in the dark represent opportunities - opportunities for robbery, assault and other crimes, which are more difficult to get away with in the sober light of day. Alcohol is all too often a factor in assaults on students. Alcohol impairs judgment so students might pay less attention to their surroundings or decide to walk home alone - actions that can make students targets for criminal opportunists.

We ask students to keep personal safety in mind as they go about their daily lives. Students can review safety tips at the UMPD Web site at http://www1.umn.edu/police/prevention.html.

Not everyone who becomes drug- or alcohol-impaired is going to end up in the hospital. Our research shows that the likelihood of injury, assault, or sexual violence is much higher for students who report binge drinking than for those who abstain or drink in moderation. As one of the Boynton Health Service posters says: Alcohol is the most common date-rape drug. Of course, for students under 21, there can be additional consequences related to having a criminal record. This isn't rocket science - getting drunk and getting into trouble go hand-in-hand.

We are pleased that thousands of students are choosing to participate in Gophers After Dark and other fun, safe and healthy activities. And we want students living in our communities to be able to enjoy their freedom and privacy without having to worry about "getting busted." Our expectation is that students will use common sense, respect one another and their neighbors, and act responsibly. We are sure that these expectations can be met while having fun and having lively social gatherings. It is simply a matter of maintaining some balance between the exercise of personal freedom and individual responsibility

Timely advice; there was recently another late night assault near campus:

Two University alumni returning to campus for homecoming festivities were brutally attacked early Sunday.

George Miserendino, 26, said he and a friend called it a night at about 1:20 a.m. and started walking home when they noticed three men following them in the 1700 block of University Avenue Southeast.

A verbal confrontation ensued, which quickly came to blows, he said.

Miserendino said the attackers knocked him unconscious while hitting his friend several times. The friend managed to tackle one attacker and held him down until police arrived, he said.

"These guys were looking to hurt somebody," Miserendino said. "There're sick people out there."

Miserendino suffered multiple injuries, including a broken nose in two places, a fractured skull and eye socket, a concussion and a separated jaw, he said.

An ambulance transported him to Hennepin County Medical Center for treatment, according to the police report.

So far, police have arrested one suspect - the man Miserendino's friend held down - for felony assault causing significant bodily harm, Minneapolis police Lt. Greg Reinhardt said.

No further arrests have been made, but the investigation is ongoing, he said.


Round-up of articles from the Minnesota Daily--Part I

I haven't done one of these omnibus posts in a while...

Thousands of University students voted on and around campus on Tuesday, although not quite as many voted as in 2002 and 2004, the Daily reports:

On the third floor of Coffman Union, groups of students were getting in line outside the Mississippi Room doorway to vote.

The line at noon was about 20 people long and by 4 p.m., 471 ballots had been cast, according to an election judge.

This election, 788 people voted at Coffman, down from other midterm elections.

In 2002, another midterm election, 1,791 voted at Coffman. In the 2004 election 2,111 voted, but presidential elections traditionally draw more voters.

Voting statewide was down about 80,000 votes from 2002 and 2004, but vote tallies were not yet finalized by the state canvassing board, which meets Nov. 21.

Not all students were able to exercise their right to vote, however. Election judges turned away about 100 students living in off-campus housing complexes near campus, stating that the students had insufficient proof of residency:

By mid-afternoon on Election Day, a Hennepin County judge ruled in favor of the students, but it is unclear how many returned to the polls.

Journalism junior Andrew Cummins, who lives at University Commons, said he went to the polls Tuesday but was turned away because his lease and an addressed letter were not proper identification.

He said he did not return to vote because he was unable to find someone to confirm his residency.

"I don't understand how a lease isn't a proof of residence, but a cell phone bill is," Cummins said.

DFL spokesman Nick Kimball said approximately 25 Melrose residents were turned away at the polls, despite providing a utility bill.

Kimball said the students contacted the DFL Election Protection Program, a service which enables citizens to report polling problems while also providing legal assistance to voters whose rights were suppressed.

Lawyer Alan Weinblatt was contacted about the voting discrepancy Tuesday afternoon. He said students couldn't register because their utility fees were charged to Melrose apartments instead of billed directly to students from the utility company.

The issue was brought to the attention of Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, he said, but Kiffmeyer decided the utility bill was improper verification.

Ms. Kiffmeyer did not win re-election as Minnesota's Secretary of State; perhaps Secretary of State-elect Democrat Mark Ritchie will be able to ensure that college students are not disenfranchised in the next election.

Here's the whole story, and a letter to the editor from one of the students affected, and one of the election judges involved in the controversy.

I will have to finish this entry this afternoon--look for Part Deux.

October 18, 2006

Question from a parent: how to handle a roommate conflict

A parent writes:

What should we do about a roommate issue? Our freshman daughter’s roommate has her boyfriend living in their room. Since they have been in the dorm there have only been 3 days that he didn’t sleep there. This is very stressful for her and we don’t know how we should help her.

I would suggest starting by reading Scott Slattery's article from our current newsletter, which addresses how students can handle conflicts with their roommates.

Dr. Slattery offers advice on evaluating whether a conflict can be resolved through negotiation, setting ground rules for a residence hall room, and drawing up a "roommate contract" with the help of a community adviser that I think might be helpful for you to review and discuss with your student.

If those efforts are not successful, students can seek mediation through their CA or residence hall director.

Parents whose students have had conflicts with their roommates, what has (or hasn't) worked for your sons or daughters?

September 1, 2006

University tightens policies on alcohol in res halls

Drinking in the dorms will be a tougher task this year at the University of Minnesota — even if you're legal.

A new Twin Cities campus policy this fall makes all but one of the traditional dormitories dry. Students at least 21 years old used to be able to bring alcohol into the buildings. The new policy, which took effect this week at the start of the new school year, forbids anyone from taking alcohol into the traditional residences, except for Centennial Hall.

U officials say the change sends the right signal about alcohol and school. Some students say while it won't stop drinking, it may curb some of the problems caused when legal-age students brought alcohol into a building and it got in the hands of underage students. It makes the lives of student-staffers in the halls easier, too, when they can say no beer here, no matter how old.

While it won't end drinking, the new policy sends a "strong message to our students of what our expectations are," said Susan Stubblefield, the U's assistant director of residential life.

Read the entire Pioneer Press story.

August 8, 2006

Personalize a residence hall room on a budget

Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune has a story about students decorating their residence hall rooms on a budget, and shows two design students shopping at some of our local "big box" retailers (Ikea, Target, and Wal-mart) to compare and contrast:

MCAD students Dan Higgs, 21, of Wauwatosa, Wis., and Sarah Kissell, 20, of Bloomington went shopping with me two weeks ago at Ikea, Target and Wal-Mart in Bloomington. Their assignment was to choose three items from each store to furnish a dorm or apartment. The Star Tribune picked up the tab, but Higgs and Kissell could each choose only one major piece of furniture and everything had to fit in my Malibu.

At Target, Kissell, a graphic design student, praised the selection of vases, picture frames and wall hangings. Higgs and Kissell were pleasantly surprised at how masculine most of the furniture was, but Kissell prefers to shop for chairs, sofas or futons at antique shops or secondhand stores.

Higgs, who's pursuing a bachelor of science degree with a business marketing concentration, likes Target's use of designers such as Michael Graves and Isaac Mizrahi. He picked out a tray table to use as an end table, wall frames similar to the rectangles that catalog retailer West Elm made famous and an egg-shaped wall clock.

At Ikea, Higgs was in his element. The merchandise is functional, versatile and inexpensive. He and his roommates furnished an apartment mostly from Ikea. Higgs was assigned the task of assembling an entertainment center, a job he described as "pretty easy." Experienced at Ikea assembly now, Higgs admits that he still gets a piece or two wrong. He installed the bottom shelf on an entertainment center upside down.

Kissell likes Ikea's design for being modern without trying too hard. "It would be my first stop before Target and Wal-Mart," she said, "but the size of the store is overwhelming." Both liked the room settings that help shoppers mix and match the furnishings.

In a sidebar, the students grade each store's decor offerings. Ikea and Target should be pleased with their report cards; Wal-mart, in the opinion of the graders, has a little catching up to do.

August 1, 2006

All the comforts of home

What's your student bringing to campus? The Washington Post interviews college students and administrators to see what students bring with them when they move into the residence halls.

April 28, 2006

Housing makes seasonal transition to cooling system

Housing and Residential Life has advised students that it's transitioning from running its heating to running its cooling system.

Because of the systems' design, they cannot be run concurrently.

The process involveds filling cooling towers with water, and cannot be done until temperatures are consistently above freezing.

Halls may be cooler than usual at night and warmer than usual during the day during this transitional period. To minimize discomfort, Housing is asking students to keep their windows--including storm windows--closed at night.

March 9, 2006

Round-up of Minnesota Daily articles

For those U of M students lucky enough to be spending next week in warm, sunny climes, today's Minnesota Daily offers advice from University health experts on dealing with three risky behaviors associated with spring break:

drinking:

High-risk drinking during spring break can lead to negative consequences.

One of the biggest concerns about partying is that students underestimate how intoxicated they are, said Dana Farley, director of health promotion at Boynton Health Service.

“As their (blood alcohol) level increases to over .12 … about 90 percent underestimate their level of intoxication,? he said.

At this level of impairment, students tend to make bad decisions and are more vulnerable to crime, he said.

having sex:

Spring break parties can lead to unintended promiscuity. Students risk contracting sexually transmitted infections for the thrill of a one-night stand.

Dave Golden, director of public health and marketing for Boynton Health Service, said students often count on the odds that they won’t catch an infection.

“But eventually their luck is going to run out,? he said. “That we clearly, clearly see.?

Golden said Boynton gets more students coming in with sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, after spring break.

and tanning:

One of the fastest growing groups of skin cancer patients are women 35 and younger. This might be why dermatologists don’t support tanning.

“We’re anti-tanning,? said Matthew McClelland, a resident of dermatology. “Tanning is a sign of sun damage.?

He warns that long sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.

“People who are young don’t think about skin cancer down the road, but melanoma can be fatal,? McClelland said.

Daily columnist John Hoff weighs in on making productive use of spring break:

If your spring break plans include earning a paycheck, catching up on homework or other admirable plans to be productive instead of drinking and sunbathing on South Padre Island, Texas, you aren’t alone. In fact, despite a persistent stereotype of boozy collegiate debauchery in sunny climates, more students at the University will spend mid-March visiting family, completing their taxes and filling out forms to apply for financial aid than drinking a margarita the size of a goldfish bowl while sunbathing in Cancún, Mexico.

A U of M CA mourns his 16 year-old cousin, who recently died of a drug overdose, and urges University community members to intervene if they see a friend or neighbor becoming dependent on alcohol or other substances:

As a community adviser, I witness a lot of the same attitude with respect to other things like alcohol and pot. At the beginning of the year, I see people start off well, build a social circle and enjoy themselves. As the year wears on, however, I often see the same people regress into a shell of who they were. More than seeing their grades suffer (which they often do), I witness a destruction of what made them who they were. I gradually see less and less of them in their sober state, as they forget about the dreams they had but have now given up on. Gradually, I lose the ability to connect with them as I am left with little to talk about — the relationship becoming nothing more than a hello and goodbye.

I really do not want to appear prudish or naïve with regards to alcohol on campus. Drinking can be fun, and I like going to the bars as much as the next person, but then again, drinking is not the default activity for me when I’m bored. I also think I appreciate how alcohol can change a person’s life even before it becomes an addiction. In any case, I wish people might be conscious of how addiction — to anything — can originate in the most innocuous of circumstances, but then consume what was once a life full of potential.

I cling to the belief that no matter the background of a person, they possess the ability to rise above the gloom that dependency casts on them. If you have a friend who seems to hit the bottle a bit too frequently, talk to them. If it is a matter of the social pressure to partake, hey, I didn’t drink until I was 21, simply because people expected the opposite.

With Christopher’s death, I suppose I have thought about alcohol and its effects on people because examples of its risks abound all over the place. I could talk of addiction and how it makes people I know — and knew — hollow remnants of the past. I could talk about the abuse that has happened as a result of alcohol in the homes of friends of mine. I could talk about the slow, almost imperceptible erosion of goals due to the increasing importance of alcohol in the lives of people I know. I could talk about the real reason CAs write people up for alcohol — and it is not from a desire to do more paperwork or to be a “policeman.?

And finally, students criticize Housing and Residential Life's policy for moving students between residence halls without the students' consent. Housing and Res Life explains that students can be reassigned for any reason, but usually it is for behavior, health or safety reasons:

Coordinator of Residential Life Wachen Anderson said the University has the right to move students when necessary.

The University Housing and Residential Life signs a contract with students guaranteeing them a bed, Anderson said. That contract also indicates that students can be reassigned for any reason, she said.

Anderson did not comment on any specific issues, but said students could be reassigned because of something as drastic as flooding, but is more commonly done for behavior, health or safety issues.

Anderson said student reassignment is common and said about 50 students dealt with reassignments last academic year.

“There is typically something precipitating it,? she said. “It’s not just, I don’t like my roommate anymore.?

Anderson said having students moved takes a lot of consideration but typically is done for a good reason.

“We have a pretty good cause to move someone,? she said.


February 23, 2006

Unanticipated expenses of living off campus

Today's Minnesota Daily has a couple of editorials of interest to students living off campus, and to their parents. The first takes issue with the recently enacted Minneapolis ordinance addressing unruly parties:

Under the ordinance anyone visiting, participating or hosting a noisy party could be fined $150. To be clear, this means any individual at a party can be fined even if he or she is not drinking or being noisy.

and
It is true that students need to be more respectful of the neighborhoods they live in, but part of this requires that students are treated as neighbors as well. Rather than be excluded from neighborhood association meetings, students and nonstudents alike should be able to work together to find common ground within their neighborhoods. Far from empowering students, this ordinance will cause more confusion and facilitate less cooperation — especially between students and University police.

The second encourages students living on their own to purchase renters insurance:

Years of accumulating electronics, jewelry and clothes give students a substantial inventory and a strong case to invest in renters’ insurance. Students often underestimate the value of what they own while they overestimate the cost of renters insurance. The policy could cost some students no extra money.

You or your student can check with your insurance agent to see if he or she is or can be covered under your homeowner's policy. If your student is going to purchase his or her own renter's insurance, some things to consider include:

1. What situations are included and/or excluded from the policy? Does it cover damage from fires or floods?
2. Does the policy cover replacement or the actual value of the property? Electronics like computers, televisions, cameras, etc., depreciate significantly over time. A policy that only covers the actual value of a stolen or damaged item may not provide your student with enough money to replace it.
3. Does the policy cover liability claims?

I don't know whether any of the students whose rental housing was badly damaged by a fire last weekend (see yesterday's post) had renter's insurance. The student who was home at the time of the fire has a letter to the editor published in today's Daily, thanking the paper for its coverage and complaining about some of the TV coverage the fire (and he) received.

February 17, 2006

Where will your student live next year?

Students thinking of moving into the neighborhoods around the U for the 2006-2007 academic year can compare apartments, houses, and duplexes at the 2006 Off-Campus Housing Fair, held on Wednesday, March 8, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Great Hall of Coffman Union.

The event is co-sponsored by Housing and Residential Life, The Minnesota Daily, and Student and Community Relations in the Office for Student Affairs.

Parents can help their students make a successful transition from living in a residence hall or in the family home to living off campus. Check out our online housing workshop for more information.

January 30, 2006

Off-campus Housing Forums for Students

If your student is thinking of living off-campus next year, he or she may want to attend one of the upcoming sessions discussed in this Minnesota Daily article.