Student Association meets with Representative Jill Billings to discuss the future of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse


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

Morgan Hose, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) met virtually with Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly Jill Billings to discuss future budget plans for the UWL campus.  

Jill Billings is a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly and recently won Representative for the 95th Assembly District against Jerome Gundersen and Jonathan Green in the November 3 election. Billings has been in office for nine years. Billings represents the City of La Crosse and small portions of the Towns of Shelby and Campbell.  

The state of Wisconsin has a biannual budget and is reaching the first phase where all the departments hand their budgets to the governor to start discussing where the money should go. UWL has been working towards beginning phase II of the Prairie Springs renovations and this budget will determine whether or not that will move forward. “We’re going to have to advocate hard for Prairie Springs this year,” said Billings. “With the outfall of COVID-19, I’m concerned that there are some people who would like to look at renovations more than new buildings.”  

 On Wednesday, Dec. 16, Governor Tony Evers will be holding a budget listening session for people to weigh in on where the money should be distributed. Billings encourages UWL students to attend this virtual budget listening session to advocate for the Prairie Springs renovation to be passed. The link to the listening session can be found here. 

Billings then opened the floor up to questions. College of Science and Health Senator Jared Zwettler asked “Do you have a sense of how much longer the tuition freeze is going to be in place? Is there any chance of it being repealed within the next two years or if it’s going to expire in 2023?” Billings said, “I can’t because we haven’t heard much on that, I don’t know what the governor plans on doing with that.”  

The discussion continued surrounding whether or not students can fund certain budget projects, such as the new parking ramp by the Center for the Arts.  

A student who wished to remain anonymous expressed concerns over the lack of efforts by UWL and administration to help students with their mental health. There was no discussion following this statement.  

The final topic of the night consisted of passing a resolution to upgrade the exterior walkway lighting between the stadium and the veteran’s memorial monument. The grant was written by the Assistant Director of Facilities Management Scott Brown. A $55,860 Green Fund request will provide the financial support needed to complete this upgrade. The upgrade would change the existing pole lighting system to be converted from high-pressure sodium vapor to LED lighting. These new units will match the acorn style campus fixture used for all campus exterior walkway lighting.  

The project timeline is estimated to begin by April 1, 2021, and finish prior to June 1, 2021. This is a Green Fund grant because LED light bulbs are environmentally friendly, reliable, and the most cost-effective artificial lighting currently available. LED bulbs create less pollution during manufacturing and at end of life. LED also consumes less energy per unit of light output, or lumen. Lower energy consumption results in lowering the emission of hazardous air pollutants and greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming.  

The new exterior lighting fixtures will minimize light pollution by directing light to the ground. The current fixture is not as effective at controlling light pollution. Overall, LED bulbs reduce UWL’s carbon footprint, save energy, save money, are mercury-free, have a longer lifespan, and generate less waste. This project will provide a continued effort for environmental responsibility and the value of increased energy efficiency.  

This upgrade to LED’s will demonstrate to UWL’s entire community that UWL students demonstrate institutional sustainability through environmentally sound facility operations.