Student Association meets to discuss funding updates, counseling during COVID-19, and concerns over returning to campus after Thanksgiving break

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Image obtained from the UWL Student Association Facebook Page.

Morgan Hose, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) met virtually to discuss budget planning and funding updates with Vice Chancellor Bob Hetzel, how the counseling & testing center is operating during COVID-19, and concerns over returning to campus after Thanksgiving break.  

 The first guest speaker of the night was Vice Chancellor Bob HetzelHe met with SA to discuss Fall 2020 enrollment, tuition & segregated fee’s, COVID19 Pandemic, and faculty planning.  

 “Despite the pandemic, we have strong enrollment. Our total enrollment is currently 10,400 whereas last year it was 10,600 which tells us that you as students have decided to stay with UWL despite the changes that have been made,” said Hetzel. “We have over 1,000 students of color on campus. 5-10 years ago, it was not that strong, there’s a lot of great work that’s happening across the institution to make sure that we enroll more students of color, and more importantly that they stay here and graduate,” said Hetzel. 

COVID-19 has created a lot of financial challenges. UWL, along with the rest of the UW universities, have been in a tuition freeze since 2013. “If I can’t increase tuition, I can’t give our faculty and our staff a pay increase, promotions, and then I’ll have to reduce positions that will impact the quality of your experience,” said Hetzel. He worries about the tenth year once the tuition freeze is over. “The tuition freeze is a good thing for you and your pockets, but it’s not a good thing for the quality of the institution,” said Hetzel.  

UWL has been renovating buildings all over campus and plans to continue these renovations. The Wittich Hall College of Business and Administration renovation cost about $28.9 million, Prairie Springs Science Center Phase II: Planning & Design with Cowley will be around $93 million, the Fieldhouse will be around $43 million, and plans for a new parking ramp across Center for the Arts will be around $20 million.  

Director of Sustainability and Green Fund Committee Jake Myers asked, “With all of these large projects coming in the next few years, how is sustainability being included in the plans for these buildings, especially considering the looming environmental crisis?” 

Hetzel said, “We take sustainability very seriously, the architects we utilize are very current in all the latest technology that goes into the mechanical system so that we’re mindful of efficiency, pollutants, and building materials.” 

Director of Counseling & Testing, Gretchen Reinders, came on to discuss how her department is managing outreach during COVID-19. “We have implemented a new platform called Silver Cloud. When our office isn’t open at 3:00 a.m. and you can’t sleep, you can look at this resource to develop some coping skills,” said Reinders. The link to Silver Cloud can be found here.  

Local Affairs Director Amy Schweiger said, “I was looking at the website and I see that appointments have to be called in and I know that is a problem with people with anxiety. How do you go about that?” Reinders said, “We do use myHealth as that is our method of communicating with students, it has definitely been a struggle because of COVID-19.” 

Reinders asked SA, “We are doing the things that we should do, but how can we reach more peers? The power of word is huge.” The counseling and testing do not have Instagram due to concerns over animosity, confidentiality, and crisis reporting. The department is currently using the main UWL Instagram page to spread the word.  

Many senators expressed concerns over mental health stigma, access to resources, getting their constituents and friends to take that extra step, especially with seasonal depression, and COVID-19 adding on stress.  

 A large portion of the night was spent discussing the concerns over returning back to campus after Thanksgiving break, considering that Spring Break was mainly canceled to discourage travel. Pride Senator K.C. Cayo created a resolution to bring to faculty senate asking them to consider alternate solutions, such as moving classes entirely online after Thanksgiving break. Cayo said, “We want to implore them to be flexible with students who don’t feel comfortable coming back after the break.”  

Senator Yer Xiong asked, “Didn’t the faculty not want us to go on Spring Break to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by going home and endangering students and their families? I don’t think any movement is good right now.” 

College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities Senator Sophie Byrne said, “I think both students and faculty are concerned about this. This doesn’t only put students at risk, but also the faculty that needs to be there teaching or working.”  

The discussion continued with an open discussion surrounding alternatives to spring break being canceled.  

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