Student Association passes a resolution to support transgender women athletes and hosts Representative Jill Billings and La Crosse mayoral candidate Vicki Markussen as guest speakers


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

Julia Wille, Student Government Reporter

On March 10, the Student Association (SA) met virtually with two guest speakers and passed a new resolution. The guest speakers were Representative Jill Billings and mayoral candidate Vicki Markussen. SA also discussed the use of the Respondus Lockdown browser and passed a resolution to help support transgender women and girl athletes in Wisconsin.  

State Assembly Representative Jill Billings came to the SA meeting as a guest speaker to give updates on state legislation. She also talked about the higher education funding budget and how it will impact the University of Wisconsin-La CrosseShe said that the budget includes the “largest investment in the UW system that we have seen in two decades.” The budget includes a continuation of the tuition freeze but will provide 50 million dollars to offset the revenue lost from this freeze.  

Governor Evers also included relief for low-income and minority students. The budget expands on Bucky’s tuition promise which is a program that originated at UWMadison to make college more accessible to low-income students. Within the program, students can receive up to 100 percent tuition coverage dependent on the student’s qualification. This program is now being expanded to other UW schools in the proposed budget.  

Billings also discussed the capital budget and the funds that could be going to the UW system projects. She said in the capital budget there is a little over one billion dollars that would be going to UW system projects. Billings said that “We [UWL] have done quite well in the budget as it is now and has been granted a large amount for our projects.” 

The proposal includes the following projects on UWL’s campus. The addition of a residence hall elevator tower for the four low-level halls would cost about 9.6 million dollars. The HVAC system in Mitchell Hall is also included which would cost 26 million dollars. The biggest project that is included in the proposal is the completion of phase two for the Prairie Springs Science Center which UWL has been anticipating for many years. This would cost about 92.8 million dollars. 

Billings said that we have been gifted a generous number of projects but she said she is concerned that they will not all pass through the budget. She said, “the Republican side of the aisle is worried about borrowing and is looking for projects to defer.” 

Prairie Springs Science Center has already been deferred once but is still at risk of being deferred again. Billings said that the state may see phase one as enough for now and push off the remodel again. However, she also said that “our campus has merit because of enrollment and a large number of science majors which is a nice generator of our future workforce.” 

This budget will continue to work its way through the legislature and will most likely be finalized this summer.  

The second guest speaker that came to the SA meeting was mayoral candidate Vicki Markussen. She grew up in FranklinWisand went to UWMadison for journalism and eventually moved to La Crosse. Markussen attended the SA meeting to advocate for her platform.  

She said that her main goal as mayor would be to help pull La Crosse out of the pandemic and counteract the negative economic impacts it has had on the city. She also said she is an advocate for local businesses. She said La Crosse thrives on “small local businesses that employ students and vulnerable individuals.”  

Markussen said she will work to keep UWL students in the area after graduation. She said that students have a big impact on the community and the economy, and the impact is always felt when students leave or come to campus. She wants to work with students and local businesses to find internships and jobs so that students can stay in the area after graduation.  

The SA also rushed a resolution in opposition to the legislature being proposed by Wisconsin State Representative Barb Dittrich. The legislature is attempting to ban transgender athletes from participating in girls and womens sports in Wisconsin. If the legislation were to pass, the trans and gender diverse community at UWL would no longer be allowed to participate in club sports or athletics on this campus or any other. The Wisconsin-specific legislation would prevent trans women from being involved in any sports, kindergarten through college. 

Pride Center Senator K.C. Cayo introduced this resolution to bring this issue to UWL’s attentionI hope that Rep. Dittrich will rescind this legislation from the table completely. Additionally, I want state representatives to publicly state their opposition of the bills and affirmation of gender-diverse people, and I want undecided representatives to vote no on it. This bill has no business reaching Gov. Evers’ desk,” said Cayo. 

SA also discussed the use of the Respondus Lockdown browser. Student Association President Cate Wiza gave an update on her meeting with Provost Betsy MorganWiza learned that the contract with Respondus expires in June and there is a group of people that includes other UW schools that will decide if they will rebid for the software.  

Regarding students privacy concerns, Wiza said, “there is a lot of misinformation in regards to Respondus.” Many students had thought that Respondus could access personal data and ran in the background while it is in use. However, Wiza informed the SA that this is not true. Respondus is not a widget, which means it will not run in the background while students take a quiz or exam. The software also does not have access to any personal data.  The only concern that Morgan was not able to address was the issue of being able to see student’s private backgroundsRespondus currently does not have an option to blur backgrounds. A solution to this is still being discussed. 

Given this information regarding Respondus, SA voted to table the resolution that suggested professors stop using the program, until more information is available.