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Augsburg University students protest living conditions

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Augsburg University students are calling for the Mortensen and Urness towers to be rebuilt with safer living conditions.

MINNEAPOLIS — Dozens of Augsburg University students, staff and alumni spent Tuesday afternoon protesting against what they call unsanitary living conditions in campus residence halls, particularly the Mortensen and Urness towers.

Students claim they have dealt with issues that include mold, pest infestations, lack of air conditioning and unclean water. Augsburg tells KARE 11 the university is addressing these concerns, but students say the towers should be replaced.

“Our tuition goes up and up every single year, but the quality of our housing goes down,” said senior social work major Madisyn Gowans.

Gowans said she spent two years dealing with multiple roach infestations while living in Mortensen Hall with no support from the university.

“I tried to tell people and it wasn’t getting solved. It didn’t get solved until January of the next year because I didn’t know I had to fill out a work order … it was never communicated to me that that was the procedure,” said Gowans.

During that time, Gowans said she began suffering from emotional and psychological distress once the roaches moved from her kitchen into her living spaces, including her bedroom.

“[Roaches] would be on my sheets and in my clothes. It’s just so horrible to feel that way. I can’t even describe how that feels. Unless you have been there, you don’t know,” said Gowans.

Gowans said it wasn’t until she threatened to call the Minnesota Department of Health that the university moved her to a new building.

“This is disgusting behavior. And the university wonders why we don’t submit more work orders or do more. It’s because they have fostered a horrible relationship between residence life and its students,” Gowans said to the gathered crowd.

Demonstration organizers Ali Olanda Oliva and Manu Kannare are both Augsburg University students, and say the university has turned a blind eye on their concerns. 

“[Students] should not be doing a tug of war just to have our needs met. Augsburg is responsible for meeting our needs however best they can get there,” said Kannare. 

Oliva agreed, citing a lack of communication and accountability.

“My intention with this [protest] is to not point fingers and put the blame on anyone. I just want a clean space and I want students to feel safe and to not have to worry about ‘oh there’s a roach in my dorm,” said Oliva.

The two say although they do not know what will happen next, they are still open to working with Augsburg’s administration to make changes.

“They (administrators) are so important to the students. They are the ones who can create the change we are asking for. Without their help, we can’t get anywhere,” said Kannare. “I am looking forward to hearing from them and seeing how we as a collective can join our ideas and make better solutions possible.”

In a statement to KARE11, Augsburg University officials said efforts are underway to improve the situation. 

“We know that pest concerns can be upsetting to students even if only a small number of residence hall units are directly affected. Campus leaders have met with student government as well as individual students in recent weeks to discuss concerns around the residence halls and solicit feedback to improve processes going forward.

As a proactive measure, a comprehensive assessment of all units in Mortensen Hall was completed on September 7–9 by an external pest control company. Efforts have also been underway for several months to ensure that students are familiar and comfortable with the online facilities work order request system. In prior years we did not have a comprehensive approach to ensuring all students were informed about how and when to use it, so this may be a new process for some students. Residence Life has prioritized communication about facilities requests at floor meetings already this semester, and will continue to do so throughout the year. Our facilities department closely tracks all open pest complaints and prioritizes those work orders.

Going forward, we’re creating a residence life committee to continue to address and solve concerns in the residence halls. This committee will be led by student government members and will include the dean of students, residence life staff, facilities staff, and public safety staff. All interested students are welcome to join.

Augsburg is committed to providing safe and comfortable accommodations for our residential students, and where there are issues, we’ll work diligently to address them.”

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Analyst weighs Walz’s potential as Kamala Harris’ running mate

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Walz is one of a handful of Democrats who are reportedly being vetted by Vice President Kamala Harris’s campaign as a possible running mate.

MINNEAPOLIS — Governor Tim Walz doesn’t want to speculate about his odds of being asked to join Vice President Kamala Harris as her running mate, but plenty of other people are talking about it.

Among them is political analyst Steven Schier, who penned an Op-Ed in Minneapolis Star Tribune Wednesday listing the pros and cons of Walz joining the Harris ticket.

“He’s a small town, Midwestern fellow who can appeal to a lot of those swing voters in smaller towns in the upper Midwest,” said Schier, a retired Carleton College political science professor.

“He offers contrast because he’s quite different from Kamala Harris and her background, but he also matches up well with JD Vance.”

Schier said Walz has a track record of winning elections, winning his Southern Minnesota congressional seat six times and winning two statewide races for governor.

“He’s been electorally successful throughout his career. He will bring some talented staff from Minnesota to the campaign. He will be very loyal to Kamala Harris.”

But Schier also sees the downsides to a Harris-Walz ticket, part of the Walz legacy that will surely invite Republican attacks. The Democratic governor has taken a lot of heat from conservative critics for delays in getting the Minnesota National Guard deployed to the civil unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd.

“His controversial record during the Minneapolis riots, and the fact Minneapolis was burning, that would be the first thing Republicans would bring up when he was introduced to the national audience,” Schier said.

“One problem for Tim Walz is he’s not well-known nationally. And if he were picked, would he have time to define himself before he’s defined by the opposition because people don’t know him? That would be a challenge for the Harris campaign.”

Walz has seen his national profile rise lately as head of the Democratic Governors Association and a surrogate stumping for the Biden Campaign in other states. But he’s still not as well-known as other names reportedly under consideration, including Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

July has already been a month of monumental surprises in politics, including President Biden’s exit from the race and an assassination attempt that wounded former President Donald Trump. So, in the context of the seemingly unpredictable political climate, there may still be an opening for Walz.  

“Don’t rule Tim Walz out because every day has been a surprise in this campaign in the last several weeks. So, this is quite possible,” Schier said.

Walz is not up for reelection this year, so he wouldn’t have to resign just to run for Vice President. If he were to be elected Vice President, he’d have to step down from his Minnesota post before the inauguration in January.

The line of succession in Minnesota law is for the lieutenant governor to become governor if the office becomes vacant, and for the Senate president to become lieutenant governor. At this point, however, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Senate President Bobby Joe Champion are more focused on helping Harris get elected regardless of who her running mate turns out to be.

In 2018, Minnesota Senate President Michelle Fischbach became lieutenant governor when then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith filled Al Franken’s seat in the US Senate. Fischbach decided to keep both of her jobs, which drew legal challenges. The Paynesville Republican eventually resigned from the Senate after the 2018 session ended.





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Dog attack leaves 7-year-old with visual injuries

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A dog attack has left a 7-year-old girl with scrapes on her legs and back and cuts on her lips.

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — A 7-year-old who was hurt in a dog attack Tuesday is still processing what happened.

“I was just walking and then it pushed me and started attacking me,” said Yamah Yekeku.

She went to drop off a package at her neighbor’s home. Then the dog ran toward her.

“It’s is third time chasing somebody,” Yekeku said.

Her mother Mary Innis pointed out the scrapes on her legs and back, and the little cuts on her lips.

The dog who attacked her is a part of 13-year-old Yazmina Warsame’s family.

“She was really sweet, she was very playful,” she said.

Warsame said her dog’s name was Diamond, a 1-year-old Pitbull.

“Diamond didn’t mean to hurt nobody, she just wanted to play and they killed her for it,” she said.

Brooklyn Park Police and shot killed the dog because they said it went after another child.

“The animal actually ran into a playground area, a park area in an apartment complex and there were two young children that were in the park. The dog took off after one of the children and was trying to bite that child,” said Brooklyn Park Police Precinct Inspector and Public Information Officer Elliot Faust.

Faust said a cadet lifted the child up to his shoulder to protect him.

“The dog was jumping up actively trying to bite the child and that’s when one of our officers shot him,” Faust said.

He said the 7-year-old was treated for her injuries at the scene. Innis said she took her daughter to the doctor’s office on Wednesday to get a rabies shot as a precaution.

Tuesday’s incident was the second dog attack to happen within Brooklyn Park. A 3-year-old was attacked by two Pitbulls, last Friday. Faust said the child’s injuries were extensive, and he’s still recovering in the hospital. He said that attack was the worst dog attack he has ever seen.

“These are not common, they don’t happen frequently, so it is kind of strange that we’re talking about two in one week,” Faust said.

Faust want community members to be more aware of their surroundings and to understand their dog. He said they’ve had more dangerous dog designations so far this year than all of last year.

“As a dog owner it is your responsibility to take control of the animal,” Faust said. One mistake that happens can have tragic consequences.”

Warsame said her dog was just hyper. Diamond also had long nails, Warsame said they were planning to cut.

She’s heartbroken her dog is gone and doesn’t understand why police had to kill her. She wants people to know her dog wasn’t mean.

“People take advantage of the way a big dog looks, they don’t know her personality, so people might have called her mean and I don’t people to think Diamond is mean, and I feel like it’s important to share. She wasn’t a mean dog, she was never a mean dog,” Warsame said.



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MN church group stranded for days in New Orleans

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The group was originally supposed to be home this past Saturday.

MINNEAPOLIS — A Twin Cities church group is on its way home tonight, after spending the last few days stranded in New Orleans.

“We are really sick of the airport,” Leisha Tays, supervising the trip, said in a FaceTime call from the airport.

That trip, to the Evangelical Lutherans in America Youth Gathering, was supposed to end this past Saturday.

“Every once in awhile, it would just get bumped back farther and farther and farther,” she said.

That group from Our Saviours’ Lutheran Church in East Bethel consists of 14, mostly made up of kids. Tays says it’s been a challenge to figure out their next steps with a group so big.

“It is frustrating, but I also know it’s nothing I can control,” Tays said. “That’s what I keep telling my kids that I’m here with, is that you can only control yourself.”

“Doing our best, what else do you do, right?” she added.

To keep themselves busy, they’ve spent time exploring New Orleans, a vacation that they were initially alright with extending. They quickly realized there were challenges that came with that, including working through Delta’s vouchers, which covered not nearly enough for a group their size.

“We have been given three $12 meal vouchers per person, which doesn’t really cover much,” Tays said. “Especially in four days.”

They made it through thanks to donations from their church members back home, donating to keep the crew fed.

“A lot of details, and everything went great until it didn’t,” Lisa Rykken Kastler, Director of Congregational Ministries for the church, said.

“There wasn’t even an ask, the situation was such that, ok, you’re gonna need money,” Rykken Kastler added.

At the time of this article’s writing, Tays tells KARE11 that they’re finally taxiing, ready to take off and come home – a vacation they can’t wait to end.

“We’re just exhausted, you know?” she said. “There’s the emotional and the physical exhaustion that’s going on, and we’re ready.”



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