Student Association meets to discuss academic flexibility and using student funds to pay for new solar panels


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

Julia Wille, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, April 7, the Student Association (SA) met to continue a conversation about student mental health and find ways to help students through the rest of the semester. SA also discussed the idea of utilizing GreenFund money for advances to an academic building.   

Director of UWL’s counseling and testing center on campus Gretchen Reinders came to talk with the SA to get student leader’s opinions and insights into student mental health on campus. She said she came into the meeting in hopes of listening to the students instead of talking at them about mental health. She said, there is a pretty clear message being sent that students don’t feel heard so I’m hoping to engage you by listening first.” 

Reinders talked with SA about possibilities to reach more students and ways to better support them, especially in the short term as the campus approaches finals. One change that the counseling center is working on making is the possible addition of having online scheduling instead of having to call. This was brought up in response to questions about how to have easier access to counseling, to make it easier for students to reach out.  

 Reinders finished her portion of the meeting and said, “it’s amazing having students be not just interested, but motivated to have more of a voice.” She is looking forward to continuing to collaborate with students to make a positive impact on student’s mental health on campus.  

 The SA then reintroduced the resolution to give students a possible break or mental health day. This resolution was created and brought up in the previous meeting in response to a survey sent out that revealed that many students were struggling with their mental health this semester. In the meeting, SA voted to restructure the resolution to get the best possible outcome for students. The resolution was renamed the “Resolution in support of academic flexibility for students.” 

In this resolution, the SA urged the faculty senate to be flexible with academics and offer support to the best of their ability for the remainder of the semester. It also states that the SA recognizes that faculty have been trying to work with students already, but this is an unprecedented semester with no break and that is why they are asking for flexibility. President of Student Association Cate Wiza said, “SA heard students and heard their concerns, and we are trying to do something about it.” 

 At the end of the meeting, student senator Andrew Ericson introduced a discussion about the possibility of the GreenFund funding solar panels on top of the second phase of the prairie springs science center.  

The GreenFund is an organization on campus that promotes sustainability. They give out mini and large grants each year that promote sustainability on campus. The funds for these grants come from a small fee on students’ tuition. Since the GreenFund is funded by students, the grants go to buildings such as the Union, buildings that are not academic. Most academic buildings are funded by general-purpose revenue funding (GPR) and therefore don’t receive student funding because those costs typically fall on the administration or state.  

Ericson brought up this discussion in response to an email he received from the Vice-Chancellor of administration and finance Bob Hetzel. Hetzel had suggested the idea of the GreenFund funding the addition of solar arrays on the science center if it is approved. This is a GPR-funded building and therefore not typically allowed to be funded by the GreenFund, however, there is a way around this by getting approval from the chancellor.  

In response to this many senators spoke up in opposition to this possibility. Student senator Jake Meyers talked about how it is a state-funded building and if the state wants to include solar panels, then they should fund it and not rely on student’s money. He said, “We cant keep bailing out administration and have everything fall on the students, they didn’t actually do anything to help and yet they use it (sustainability efforts) as a promotion when they try to get students to come to UWL.”  

Student senator K.C. Cayo also said, “this isn’t the kind of projects that the GreenFund was created for, the university should be paying for those things.” The GreenFund, along with SA, is going to continue to look into this possibility and see what options they have moving forward. They also talked about the possibility of holding the administration accountable if they decide to move forward with this project because in the future the responsibility should fall on the state and the administration if they want projects like this done.