Student Association hears claims about the inability to exercise free speech on campus


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

Julia Wille, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, Sept. 29, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) invited guest speakers from the Counseling and Testing Center and heard from students about free speech claims.  

In the general student body open forum, student Aaron Hinz came to talk to the SA. He came to speak in response to the event on campus last week in which the College Republicans chalked the sidewalks of campus in protest of the mask mandate at UWL.

Hinz stated that he is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and said, “I passionately advocated for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities however I was devastated to hear the next morning that my Jewish voice was silenced by students and university staff. I feel the trauma and pain of my ancestors as my voice was silenced just as their voices were silenced.” 

He informed the senate that he has filed an incident report with the Anti Defamation League (ADL) that will include UWL’s name, the names of campus police that were involved, the names of the resident assistants who were heard bragging about erasing chalk, and the members of the SA. Hinz said, “I am sorry it had to come to this, but the community feels it has no other option as this university blatantly allows intellectual genocide and suppresses its most vulnerable population.” 

Next, the SA was joined by guest speakers from the UWL counseling and testing center, director Gretchen Reinders and assistant director Crys Champion. They went over the new website set up for the testing center to try and make it more accessible for students. They also now have many options for online counseling. Reinders said, “If you are or know a student that is struggling, don’t hesitate and send them to our office right away and we will get someone who can talk to them.” 

In the officer reports SA President Jared Zwettler announced that Higher education emergency relief funding (HEERF) is going to be made available for students in the near future. He said that all Pell Grant-eligible students will receive $2,000 from federal funding and students that are not eligible for the Pell Grant will be able to apply for $1500 each. This will be available beginning Monday and an email will be sent out with information on how to apply. Zwettler said, “They are estimating that about 4,200 students will get funding from this which is really really exciting.” 

SA also discussed the wellness weekend that is coming up. It will be Oct. 16, through the 18, and there will be therapy dogs and music performances on the union lawn on Saturday. There will also be a wellness fair from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the Recreational Eagle Center (REC) on Monday Oct, 18. 

The SA also passed a resolution that formally Recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day in La Crosse. As of 2019, the city of La Crosse made the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This was formally recognized as Columbus Day. This resolution will now honor it as indigenous peoples’ day instead.