Student Association meets with students from the School of Education to discuss educational equity for teacher candidates


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

Andrew Bates, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, Feb. 23, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) met with several UWL student speakers from the School of Education (SOE).   

The SOE students shared some of their experiences in their program and cited concerns with some of the practices and policies they’ve been required to adhere to. The students advocated for SA to pass a resolution that they hoped would amend some of their issues and prevent future students in the program from facing those same problems.  

SOE students need to go through the Secondary Teacher Education Preparation (STEP) program before they can get into the field and receive their license to teach at the middle and high school levels.  

One student took the floor and told SA that this was the semester he was supposed to apply for STEP in order to maintain his current path to graduate. He said that he received an email “the night before classes started” for the spring semester stating that he would not be allowed to apply for STEP, and he said this left him with no time to consider his options.  

The proposed resolution included a section that stated the following: “Issues relating to School of Education have put many students in positions which may hinder their ability to graduate in a four to four-and-a-half-year timeframe, generating thousands of dollars in avertible expenses for students who may be unable to afford this without suffering serious financial consequences.” 

The resolution included other “equity-related” concerns for SOE students as well. One issue that the guest students spoke about and included in the resolution was that teacher candidates are required to provide their own means for transportation. The students said that they must pay these expenses on their own.  

The SOE students said that teacher candidates must travel to whichever school they’re placed in for their field experience, and the commutes to these schools can be expensive. Some candidates are placed as far as Tomah, which is about 40 miles from La Crosse, and multiple guest students from the SOE said that not every student has or can afford reliable means for transportation. They also discussed the expenses of gas prices and the wear down of vehicles caused by longer commutes which can lead to more considerable expenses down the line. 

Another issue the students brought up in the meeting and the resolution was the SOE requirement for teacher candidates to purchase an iPad from the university bookstore. The proposed resolution stated that this requirement can “adversely impact students of lower socioeconomic status and those who hold marginalized identities.” 

SA voted to table this resolution indefinitely after discussion. “The intent of this resolution is very good, and I agree with it wholeheartedly,” said SA President Jared Zwettler.  

President Zwettler went on to say the resolution “needs to be redone from scratch” in order to approach this issue in the most effective way possible. He hopes a new resolution will be drafted that can better serve the needs and concerns of SOE students. 

SA hosted guest speakers Tara Nelson and Veronica Pettigrew from UWL’s Center for Transformative Justice, and they discussed their mission to advance intersectional social justice and equity. The Center for Transformative Justice offers a program called Students Educating and Embracing Diversity (SEED), and it’s a peer education workshop designed to help educate people on social justice issues. 

The Center for Transformative Justice also manages hate/bias responses at UWL, and students may report any incidents here. They also run the Campus Thread, a closet that accepts donations of any clothing items for students in need. 

 Director Kyle Burke later gave his report to SA and discussed a change to campus policy that will make masks “recommended” indoors beginning on March 12 with the exception of the following buildings: the Student Health Center, Campus Child Center, Counseling & Testing Center, and the Cartwright vaccination and testing clinics.  

Director Burke also told SA that the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) system approved refunds on spring textbooks rentals, so students can expect to see those refunds in their accounts in the near future. 

SA passed a resolution appointing Carter Drost to one of the teacher candidate seats in the student senate, and he was sworn in at the meeting. 

SA concluded their meeting with a discussion about UWL’s U-PASS program, which allows students to purchase yearly bus passes. For Safe Ride and Municipal Transit Utility (MTU) busses, students who buy the pass can use their student IDs to receive unlimited daily bus rides free of charge.