Student Association meets with Representative Ron Kind and Violence Prevention Specialist Blythe McConaughey


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

Julia Wille, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, March 4, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) met with the district’s representative Ron Kind and UWL’s Violence Prevention Specialist Blythe McConaughey.   

Representative Kind came to speak to SA as a guest speaker to relay some updates on what his office has been doing regarding the state budget, COVID-19, and climate change. He began by discussing the vaccine progress and the new COVID-19 package that was passed through the house of representatives. “The COVID-19 relief package was recently passed out of the house and all eyes are on the senate. They are hoping to get it done a little later this week, maybe even by Friday. President Biden stands by ready to sign” said Kind.  

Also, regarding the COVID-19 package, Kind mentioned that he had met with all the chancellors in his district to talk about what each campus needs to start to reopen and get back to functioning normally. There will be about 40 billion dollars going to higher education and about half of that will go to student assistance programs. The money will go back to students, but some will also go towards schools and their efforts to fully reopen and fund cleaning protocols. Kind said, “In the relief package there will be more support for higher education.”  

Kind also talked about the effort to keep getting vaccines out as quickly as possible so that herd immunity can start to occur, and the state can return to a sense of normalcy. “My goal is to defeat the virus and get the economy going again,” said Kind.  

In addition to the COVID-19 response, Kind also discussed his goals for climate change and its progress in legislation. He talked about the introduction of the Green Act which is a tax incentive to develop alternative, renewable, sustainable, and clean energy sources. Kind said, “climate change is one of the great exotestal threats that we face as a nation and throughout the globe.”   

Kind also discussed the farm bill that will be coming up for reauthorization which includes sustainable farming. Kind mentioned that he has many ideas regarding carbon capture in production agriculture. His idea is to incentivize or reward farmers to keep carbon in the ground instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. In Wisconsin, there is a large amount of cow and dairy production, and Kind plans to advocate for both. There is research being done to find dietary supplements to help reduce the amount of methane released by livestock. He plans to keep introducing a legislature that includes more biogas facilities on farms. Bio-gas facilities allow farmers to capture methane and manure and turn it into energy.   

The second guest speaker at the SA meeting was Violence Prevention Specialist Blythe McConaughey. She took over for Ingrid Peterson and is the new specialist on campus. She came to talk about her position and to spread awareness of the help that is offered to students, faculty, and staff. She is now back in person on campus in Graff Main Hall.   

McConaughey is there to support anyone that is a survivor of violence. Whether it be physical, sexual, mental, or anything else, her job is to be there to support and help everyone. She is a free, 100% confidential resource on campus and is always open to talk to anyone who may need it.   

McConaughey said, “I am not a therapist or a social worker, I am someone who is a really good listener and it’s my job to help people find the resources that they need and help people develop coping skills.”  

She does a lot of different advocacy for anyone that comes to her for help. Each individual is different and needs specific help or advocacy. She can help with the legal process and answer questions. She can also help with medical advocacy if someone needs questions answered or support in going to a doctor. McConaughey said, “I partner frequently with Mayo and Gunderson and have colleagues in both.”  

McConaughey is always available to students, staff, or faculty. She mentioned that her door is always literally open, or individuals can contact her via email.   

SA also discussed a formal resolution to recommend that UWL faculty stop using the respondus lockdown browser. This resolution was due to student concerns regarding the privacy and efficiency of the browser. Respondus uses significant memory on laptops and students often run into issues with connection. The browser also can access a student’s laptop and data memory which some students fear is an invasion of privacy. SA discussed that other systems could pose less of a privacy issue.   

Student Association President Cate Wiza will be meeting with Provost Betsy Morgan to discuss options moving forward. The resolution will be voted on next week after more research and language configuration has been done.