Student Association discusses the possibility of a mental health day at UWL


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

Julia Wille, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, March 31, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) met to discuss mental health concerns for students and the addition of a fire station close to campus.  

At the beginning of the meeting, the SA went through a brief Allyship training that was presented by Camoya Evans. This training went over the basics of what it means to be an ally, along with some ideas of what to do and what not to do as an ally.  

Evans defined allyship and said, “to unite or form a connection in support of members of another group with a willingness to act with others in pursuit of ending oppression and creating equity.” 

Evans discussed that being an ally means that people need to hold themselves accountable, know their place, and constantly educate themselves. She said, “Allyship means making a million mistakes but when you screw up be prepared to listen, apologize, and grow.” 

The SA also introduced a resolution to support a possible mental health day for students. Over the past week, the SA sent out an email with a survey to see how student’s mental health has been this semester and to see how individuals are doing without having a spring break. Based on the responses President of Student Association Cate Wiza said, “Students are really struggling academically, mentally, and socially. This is a really hard time for students right now.” 

Built into each academic calendar there needs to be a certain amount of course hours that need to be maintained to sustain UWLs academic standing. This is why the decision was made to add an extra week to winter break when spring break was removed from the calendar. SA said that this lack of spring break has led to a semester that has a constant academic workload.   

The Mental health testimony survey sent out to the student body this week received 1250 responses within 24 hoursStudent senator Andrew Ericson said, “The responses were clear that this is the hardest semester for college students in their entire career.”  

In response to this, the SA is working to find a way to help student’s mental health. Student senator Sophie Byrne said, “having constant academic exertion and also having a pandemic, creates such a disconnect between students and faculty makes it feel as if there is no safety net, we need to show the students that we are doing our best to support them.” 

Having a mental health day, a day off of classes, may not be an easy accomplishment so SA is also looking into other options. Director of University Centers Kyle Burke said, “The faculty were asked to be as flexible as they could.” In response to this, many senators came forward with stories from the semester. Some said that many professors have been fantastic and understanding all year, but others had different stories. Students came forward with stories of professors being unwilling to give a one-day extension on projects or midterms. It was also discussed that some professors would give an extension but then place guilt on students for being unable to get the work done on time.  

Byrne ended this discussion and said, “I feel like there is a culture of not being able to talk about how much we (students) are struggling for some reason, specifically amongst students and faculty. So please do your best to start conversations with your friends to make sure everyone knows it is fine to talk about mental health.” 

The meeting’s final discussion revolved around the plans to build a new fire station in a space close to Coate hall. There have been some concerns brought forward by the university about noise, safety, and traffic.  It would be in the park space that is to the west of Coate hall, a city property. UWL has been trying to acquire this land for some time, but until now has been unsuccessful. The city is now ready to give the land to the fire department to allow them to build a fire station on that property.  If this plan is approved by the new mayor, this could start as soon as August 2021.  

The main concern with this being built is for students who live in Coate hall. It could cause more noise for students residing in that hall. It also presents the possibility of an increase in vandalism by students if built so close to campus. UWL is hoping to be included in the discussion of the plans and is looking for student opinions as it moves forward.