Student Association meets to continue the COVID-19 discussion and Title IX regulation changes


Student Association logo. Image obtained from the UWL Student Association Facebook Page.

Morgan Hose, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) met virtually to discuss the ongoing challenges faced by students on-campus, changes in terminology for Title IX, and potentially changing the dates for the 2021 spring semester. 

Jenni Brundage, the director of residence life, started the meeting by discussing the publicity that UWL has been getting lately of the high number of COVID-19 cases being reported. The administration has been trying to figure out ways to gain access to more isolation spaces as they’ve started to fill up to full capacity. They are also planning what return to campus on Sept. 28 will look like if they decide that is the best course of action.

A large amount of floor time was spent on evaluating the impacts of consolidating mail to Eagle Hall. One common stressor has been the added potential risk it has been to have students coming from various dorms to stand in long lines to gain access to their mail. Another complaint has been the worry over absentee ballots being sent in the mail and delivered to Eagle Hall, rather than to each individual dorm. The thought of timeliness and confidentiality seemed to be a common worry amongst students. 

Brundage talked about the impact students have on being responsible for flattening the curve, and how they can do their part by washing their hands, wearing a mask, and physical distancing from others. She mentioned the behavioral concerns that come with that expectation which makes the reopening date of Sept. 28 an ideal situation, but not necessarily a realistic one. 

Potential future changes consist of implementing checkpoints in the dorm halls or around campus, or possibly a curfew to ensure students are abiding by the shelter-in-place order. There were still concerns brought up about the safety concerning student staff and resident assistants [RAs]. A specific request for more personal protective equipment [PPE] was requested. Brundage then explained that students were given the opportunity to cancel their housing contracts and meal plans, as well as resident assistants being able to cancel their contracts. Complaints from senators were students not social distancing or self-isolating in their dorm rooms, as students are still leaving their dorms to go out at night or to visit other friends in other dorm rooms. 

The director of Title IX on campus, Kara Ostlund, also met with Student Association to discuss the new regulations being put into place. The new regulations that are changing are terminology and definitions, jurisdictional changes of what Title IX covers, the requirement of a live hearing, and transparency of training.

The jurisdictional changes being made are that a school’s obligations under Title IX are triggered when the school has actual knowledge of alleged sexual harassment that occurred within its education program or activity against a person in the United States. If sexual misconduct does not meet all requirements, a school is not obligated to pursue the report as “Title IX”.

Reporting terminology has also changed. Rather than “victim” or “survivor,” reports filed for misconduct are now required to use the word “complainant”. The subject receiving federal assistance will now be referred to as “recipient,” and “perpetrator” has been changed to “respondent” in all Title IX situations. 

If there is an investigation following a sexual assault report, those involved are now required to attend a live hearing. There were concerns being vocalized about how that can be traumatic on a victim. More information on these regulation changes can be found here. 

Following Kara Ostlund, Student Association opened up the meeting to the general body forum. Kevin Hundt, an alumnus from 2018, spoke saying “The UWL administration’s response to this crisis has been catastrophic,” and “People are going to die because of the incompetence of the university administrators.”

Hundt said, “these are not people who should be continuing to make decisions, for the crisis nor for anything else.” He was the only person to speak at the general body forum, however, many students agreed with the statements he made in the comments. He finished his discussion by directing a quote to UWL students, “rage against your own murder.”

An internal issue taken care of at the meeting was concerning the requirement for Fall 2020 Student Senators to require signatures to get elected. In the past, a student would need at least 25 signatures to be able to run for a student senate position, however, this is no longer a requirement because of COVID-19 and the campus shelter-in-place.  

The final topic of the night that was discussed was the possibility of canceling spring break and starting the spring semester a week later than usual. The objective of this potential initiative is to contain students and prevent students from traveling around the country or back to their hometowns which would spread COVID-19 to at-risk areas. The option of adding in a four-day weekend instead was discussed. The issue of the mental health of students if they have to go through a whole semester of class with no breaks was brought up. Nothing has been decided yet, however, UW Madison has officially cancelled their spring break