U of M donor advises parents on how to pressure school leaders to act on campus crime

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A major donor to the University of Minnesota is joining parents in a call to action amid a rise in violent crime near campus.

Seven years ago, Robert Eddy donated $6 million to expand the U of M’s athletic facilities. Now, with parents of students unable to convince administrators to meet in person, Eddy is stepping in.

Eddy met virtually with a group of parents and students Wednesday to lay the groundwork for action items they could pursue with the university.

“I absolutely love the U, but right now it’s all overshadowed because I am a terrified parent of three kids who attend the U and just graduated from the U,” parent Julie Holmstrom said in Wednesday’s virtual meeting.

Holmstrom said she’s frustrated by a lack of response from university administrators to parents’ concerns. Those calls for campus leaders to act on crime have been ramping up for the past month.

RELATED: Coalition of parents, Dinkytown businesses push for answers from U of M leaders on public safety

On June 3, police responded to a shooting outside a problem property on Fraternity Row that ended with 50 rounds fired and a 15-year-old shot in the leg.

The next week, U of M Police Chief Matt Clark told the university’s Board of Regents that crime near campus had increased 45% since 2019 and that he was worried about retaining officers.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the state of crime around the U is a state of crisis,” Holmstrom said. “My outgoing senior was 30 feet from a gunfight in August of 2021, in Dinkytown. She ran for her life into Frank and Andrea’s Pizza cowering behind the counter.”

Parent Marcia Cotter says she’s worried about her son coming to the U of M for his first year on campus.

“I pulled him out of the University of Oklahoma — a beautiful, safe, safe campus — because I wanted him to be here at the U because I hold and support the U in such high regard,” she said. “And now I am regretting that decision.”

While the campus does have a safety committee that advises and consults with U of M President Joan Gabel, Eddy wants the Board of Regents to create its own. He’s also pushing for more U of M police officers and improved security at residence halls.

“Those buildings should be the most secure housing that a student could go to,” he said. “They should be. If they’re not, that should be addressed.”

Eddy says he wants leaders to intervene before “a disaster happens.”

“If you got somebody killed, you know, this would get attention the next morning,” he said. “That’s a non-recommended way of doing this.”

Eddy told parents and students to show up to Board of Regents and demand time to speak on public safety and offer up his call-to-action items. He also told them to start calling lawmakers and pressure them to address campus safety ahead of this year’s midterm elections.