Student Association meets to discuss COVID-19 restrictions on organizations and by-law changes to include diversity

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Image obtained from the UWL Student Association Facebook Page.

Julia Wille, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, March 17, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) discussed the future of meeting in person for campus organizations and the changes to the SA by-laws to mandate and enforce diversity.   

To start the meeting, Chad Spaeth from UWL’s Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity came to discuss the reasoning behind keeping organization meetings virtual. He came to ask if there was a way to make in-person meetings possible, given each organization’s dedication to abiding by social distancing guidelines and mask mandates. In response to this question, Student Association President Cate Wiza responded by saying that it is not the decision of SA to stop in-person meetings and that the decision came from the cove and other administrative personal.  

Also, in response to this question, Director of University Centers and SA Advisor Kyle Burke said that he has been working on a proposal to give to the Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs to allow students to have in-person meetings. He said that he will be proposing this on Thursday, March 18, and if it is to be accepted, it could be in effect sometime in April. However, he said, “I am not sure that it will get approved.”   

Burke is also finding ways to start doing some programs outside and utilize UWL’s outdoor spaces for organization meetings as the weather gets warmer. He said he is “working to start reactivating campus in a safe way.”   

SA also brought forward a resolution that discussed a mandate to include a Diversity and Inclusion statement in student organization bylaws. In addition to this SA proposed a resolution to change the student organization committee’s (SOC) bylaws to be able to enforce these changes. The first resolution was brought forward by Asian Student Organization Senator Kyle Kum who said, “The student organization committee has recognized the fact that there is not a mandated diversity inclusion statement in the bylaws themselves, and this resolution is to change that.”  

This resolution would require all UWL sponsored organizations to include the following statement into each organization’s bylaws:  

“The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse [Organization Name] recognizes and values the diverse identities, backgrounds, and beliefs of our faculty and the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse student body. Our definition of diversity includes, but is not limited to ability, age, class, documentation status, gender identity, language, military status, nationality, race, religion, and sexual orientation. We are committed to providing and promoting an environment free of prejudice by addressing issues of equity and justice in our community, and we support the success of marginalized identities.”  

In response to this College of Science and Health Senator Jared Zwettler said, “I think it is important that student organizations have this message in their bylaws, we need to make sure this gets addressed.”  

To hold organizations responsible, the SA is also working to pass a change in the bylaws to the SOC. This committee is responsible for the organizations on campus and this change would allow them to have power over organizations should they violate this statement. This bylaw change includes the means for the SOC to conduct investigations and impose consequences if necessary. The bylaws allow for organizations that have long-term problems (more than three occurrences within three years) to have their recognition revoked by a vote in the SOC.    

SA also addressed the hate crimes against Asian Americans in the country in light of the attack in the Atlantic area on Tuesday, March 16. The incident involved a single shooter who attacked three separate Asian spas. There were eight deaths, four of which have been confirmed to have Korean descent, investigations are still ongoing. Multicultural Student Organization Senator Alex Jeske brought these facts up to start a conversation about the increase in Asian American hate crimes since the beginning of the pandemic. She said she would “highly recommend doing your own research, especially regarding the model minority concept.”  

College of Science and Health Senator Andrea Julson also said, “Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased over COVID, with some responsibility to political influences, we all remember when Donald Trump said the China Flu and the impact that had.”  

This discussion resulted in the intent to have an event to raise awareness and education for the issue. Jeske received support from the pride center, Asian Student Organization, and SA in putting on this event. More details are to follow regarding the what, when, and where for the event. 

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