Student Association meets to pass a statement of support for the governor’s mask mandate and discuss their own transparency laws

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Image obtained from the UWL Student Association Facebook Page.

Julia Wille, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, Feb. 10, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) meeting covered the failure of the senate committees to meet state code, discussed the inclusion of environmental sustainability into the strategic plan, and approved the support of the mask mandate.  

In the open student forum, UWL freshman Jake Williams came to speak to the senate about its failure to keep to code with Wisconsin State Statutes regarding open meeting law. Williams said, “Opening meeting law is a set of standards put into place by Wisconsin to ensure and promote democracy, transparency, and trust in government.”  

There are three aspects of this statute that need to be up to code to comply with state government laws. The first is that the meetings have to be reasonably accessible to the public, meaning that anyone needs to be able to observe the meetings. This is currently not happening with most of the sub-committeesThe second aspect is that all committees and meetings have to give notice to the public regarding what will be discussed and voted on in each meeting. These notices have not been made public for the committee meetings. The third aspect that needs to be met is that committees have to produce a record of motions, roll calls, and votes that occur during each meeting. This record has also not been produced to the public for the student government meetings.  

Williams spoke to SA about the legal ramifications this could have for the SA if not immediately addressed. If the SA does not work with its committees and get all aspects up to code, any student or individual could file an open meeting complaint which could result in a court case. Williams said that this is, “a court case that we would lose because we are not up to standard.”  

A court case would result in legal fees that could be upward of six-figure loss. It could also result in any decisions made in meetings that were not up to code being voidedLastly, if a complaint was filed, any member of a student government committee or any senator would be liable for a $25-$300 fine per meeting that they attend knowing that it violates state statute.  

In response to this information, the SA came up with a plan to make sure that all of the student government meetings will be up to code. They trained all members on how to publish meeting links, information, and agendas on the UWL site. The SA also mentioned that all of the needed documentation exists, it is just not always made public, so they are working on system to ensure that this happens for all future meetings.  

Earlier in the meetingUWL student senator Andrew Ericson represented the Joint Committee on Environmental Sustainability (JCES)  and made a presentation about the incorporation of sustainability into The Strategic Plan 2016-2020. This was in response to the previous meeting in which the SA approved the plan and included phrasing about environmental sustainability when renewing the plan.  He covered four goals for how sustainability can be added and interpreted regarding each pillar. 

The first goal includes making UWL a regional leader in environmental education, activism, and responsibility. The second goal was to continue to educate UWL students on the intersectionality between significant world issues and climate change. The next goal covered promoting employee and student development through engagement in sustainable facilities and programs. The final goal discussed was to further environmental literacy that will benefit UWL students, graduates, and the sustainability efforts.

Ericson said, “UWL is behind on the environmental aspect of sustainability and that’s why we made this push to get it into the resolution.” Ericson will also be presenting to the Joint Planning and Budget Committee in the upcoming weeks to further the effort to include sustainability in the renewal of the strategic plan.  

Also discussed in the SA meeting was the move to support the Governor’s current mask mandate. At the state level, the original mask mandate was challenged, and the new mandate is still facing legal challenges. The resolution discussed in the meeting stated UWL’s support for the mandate and a commitment to continue to wear masks. Senator Grant Mathu said, “masks when worn correctly, do work in mitigating that [the spread of COVID-19].”  This resolution of support was passed by the SA.  

Regarding COVID-19, the SA also briefly covered the risk levels in La Crosse County. Director of University Centers Dr. Larry Rinngenberg mentioned that La Crosse county has moved into a medium level of risk. He also mentioned that UWL is working on a plan to allow students to eat in the Student Union with people from the same household instead of by themselves. 

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