Fall semester 2020 preparations; UWL in the context of the UW system


Photo retrieved from Wisconsin State Journal.

Morgan Hose, Student Government Reporter

While there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding academics amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, the University of Wisconsin schools are working to find a solution concerning whether or not students will return to campus in the fall, and if so, what that will look like.

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association has been working with the administration to advocate for the student voice to the Chancellor’s cabinet and the COVID-19 response team. Since leaving campus in March, students have had to adjust to finishing classes in an online format, and the anticipated discourse has been about what the fall semester will look like.

UWL Student Association elected Cate Wiza as President for the 2020-2021 academic year. Wiza is currently on the COVID-19 Fall Instruction Work Committee where they are working on a solution to address the fall academic instruction, and what it will entail.

“Students need to know if there is going to be a change to the calendar, they need to know what to expect in the fall,” said Wiza. Whether this means maintaining classes online, adjusting to hybrid courses, or staying in person at 25 percent capacity, there will still be COVID-19 regulations and safety measures put into place; safety measures, such as wearing masks, setting up hand sanitizer stations, and maintaining social distancing.

“Take this seriously, it’s [COVID-19] not just going to go away by Sept. 6. This is constantly evolving,” said Wiza. “I want students to know that I am here to support them and support their needs. Any feedback is so important to us, we need to know the thoughts and feelings of students to accurately represent their voice and make decisions.” Currently, no decisions have been made yet about the fall semester at UWL, but the administration hopes to reach a decision by July 1.

Many UW schools, UWL included, look to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to see what decisions they’re making, as far as fall instruction goes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UW Student Body President Laura Downer says as far as the instruction for this fall goes. “It’s really hard to know what the best option is. This is something that everybody is going through together, it’s your peers, your friends, your faculty, and they’re all there to support you, their job descriptions haven’t changed and they’re also working through the transition,” said Downer. While administration at UW-Madison are remaining hopeful, the COVID-19 situation causes uncertainty.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank released a statement on May 18, saying that, “UW-Madison will be open this fall.” However, the decision on whether it’ll be a mix of in-person classes or online instruction is still unclear. Downer wants to remind students that, “shared governance is critical to the UW system, it’s critical to every decision that’s made.”

The COVID-19 response team is still actively working with the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, along with student government representatives to coordinate with the COVID-19 Fall Instruction Work Committee on what solutions they are considering.

There have been reports of the UW System’s President, Ray Cross, asking Gov. Tony Evers to consider temporary changes for UW campuses, such as potentially starting the fall semester early. While there is a state law in place stating that UW campuses cannot begin classes until after Sept. 1, there would need to be a special legislative session to approve a one-time exemption to the law.

As of  June 5, UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire, and UW-Stout announced they will welcome students back to campus for the fall semester. All three campuses plan on implementing health and safety measures to ensure a safe return to campus.

Although UWL hasn’t found a definitive solution yet, there will be a live webinar being held at 3:30 pm on Tuesday, June 9 at uwlax.edu/go/covid19-campus-update.