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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

Student Association discusses future of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at UWL
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On Wednesday, Feb. 21, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) heard from the Interim Title IX Coordinator and Director of Compliance Mike Durnin and Interim Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Stacy Narcotta-Welp regarding Title IX updates and the future of DEI initiatives on campus. SA also discussed a resolution that would inform the general student body of Wellness Weekend being cut from the 2024-2025 academic calendar. 

Mike Durnin, a UWL alumnus, previously worked at UWL as a teacher education professor, an assistant football coach and the director of athletic facilities. Durnin has also worked as the dean of student formations at the University of Dubuque where he worked with residence life, student conduct, Title IX and behavioral intervention. 

When approached about the interim Title IX role at UWL, Durnin said, “My love of La Crosse, my love of this campus and my love of students convinced me to say ‘yes’.” 

Durnin said, “When I look at what I am doing now, I have three charges. The first charge is to provide care and compassion as we work through each and every case that comes across the Title IX desk.” 

Durnin said his other charges are to increase visibility and knowledge of Title IX and to prepare for a permanent Title IX coordinator.

Citing UWL’s Title IX section of its website, Durnin said, “If you see something, say something, do something.” Durnin explained that keeping this phrase front of mind and encouraging others to do the same is the best way to spread awareness and create a safe environment on campus. 

In addition to the prioritization of safety on campus, Title IX also provides resources for students with children and students who are pregnant. These resources include special accommodations in classrooms, excused absences, make-up work and more. These resources can be found in the “pregnant and expecting parentssection under the Title IX portion of the UWL website. 

Interim Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Stacy Narcotta-Welp was next to speak to SA. Referencing the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court decision that ruled affirmative action unconstitutional, Narcotta-Welp said, “We’re not going to abandon addressing that inequity, we have to figure out how we’re going to go about addressing that in a different way.” 

Narcotta-Welp assured SA that UWL is still committed to a diverse population. ”While we can’t consider race in someone’s application, that doesn’t change where we go and recruit, that doesn’t change the students that we reach out to and that doesn’t change the programs that we have on our campus.” 

After the Wisconsin Legislature cut $32 million directed toward DEI funding, Narcotta-Welp stated that concerns about DEI effectiveness and program cuts have increased. To address these concerns, Narcotta-Welp referenced the compromise deal made between the Universities of Wisconsin (UW) System and the Wisconsin Legislature.

“The board of regents, in the agreement, wants us to focus on student success. Which means, access, retention, graduation, inclusion, and belonging. Well, guess what, we’ve always been attempting to work towards those things. So that plan doesn’t change” 

She continued, “There are still things that we can do and that we are doing that don’t run afoul with the law and also help us stay true to our mission to make our campus population look like the population of the state of Wisconsin.” 

Spark Lim, a psychology student slated to graduate this semester, asked what the UWL DEI office and programming are doing to educate white students and prepare them for the diversity they will face once they graduate from UWL. 

Similarly, Lim asked how DEI is supporting professors and faculty members of color so that they maintain a higher retention rate. “Throughout my studies here as an international student, I have managed to make some good connections, but unfortunately I have a lot of good professors and mentors who are leaving, who are faculty or professors of color.” 

In response, Narcotta-Welp explained that finding belonging in the community is a key factor in professors and faculty deciding to stay at UWL. “This is a very predominantly white community, so when we have folks move here, they may be having a great time with students in the classrooms and on campus, but if they don’t find their sense of belonging in the community when they leave campus, that may be difficult.” 

Once the speakers made their final remarks, SA moved to discuss a new resolution that was introduced by Vice President Siri Flores.

The purpose of SA2324-019: Resolution to Approve UWL Student Association’s Stance on Wellness Weekend and Related Statement is to inform the general student body and express displeasure with how Wellness Weekend is being handled.

Vice President Siri Flores said, “Decisions are being made behind closed doors and we need to do our due diligence and bring this to light so that all students are made aware of what is occurring if they are not already.” 

SA voted to continue discussing the resolution throughout the next two meetings and will meet to continue their discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 28th. More information about Wellness Weekend being cut from the 2024-2025 academic calendar can be found here

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About the Contributor
Jackson Skarp
Jackson Skarp, Student Government Reporter
  • Year at UWL: Sophomore
  • PGPs: He/Him/His
  • Hometown: Cottage Grove, MN
  • Major: Communication Studies
  • Minor: Legal Studies and Philosophy
  • Other Campus Involvement: Pre-Law Society Member
  • Future Plans after Graduation: I plan on attending law school after graduation
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Finding new coffee shops to study at.
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