Voter rally featuring Confluence supporters

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, city council members and Student Body President will speak



Story by Martha Landry and Courtney Roszak

On March 10, UW-Eau Claire will host to a voter registration rally to raise awareness and support for the Confluence Project, which will feature speakers like Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

Student Body President Bryan Larson said having an on-campus rally will hopefully generate interest and educate students on the upcoming referendum, which asks voters whether the city should spend $3.5 million on the Confluence Project. The rally also asks if the city should hold a future referendum before spending $1 million or more to build an arts center.

The Confluence Project, a proposed $77.2 million mixed-use building in downtown Eau Claire, would include three performance spaces, classrooms, fine arts studios, gallery space, dance studios, offices, community/retail space and student housing.

Student Senator Jacob Wrasse said the Student Senate has been encouraging students to vote and understand the importance of the upcoming election.

“We want to register voters and educate the students on the project for April 1,” Wrasse said.

Campus viewpoints

But some students have mixed feelings on the Confluence Project. A common complaint about the  project is the university would no longer be located in a single location. Larson said although some students wouldn’t enjoy the cross-town travel, the positives would outweigh the negatives.

“I think that to a certain extent, we are blessed and cursed by having such an isolated campus,” Larson said. “On one end it’s great because it only takes a few minutes to walk to class. On the other end it limits us and almost ends in an exaggeration on how far things are apart from each other.”

Senior Jillian Cram said she does not think the project is needed for students, even though it would eliminate some overflow.

“I don’t know if the housing part is necessary,” Cram said. “It would be better to have it closer to campus.”

Larson said Senate sees campus expansion as a key reason for students to be supportive of the Confluence Project. Larson said there is typically a high demand to be housed in apartment-style housing that is controlled by the university, like Chancellors Hall.

According to the university, beginning plans estimate 100 apartment-style rooms. About 300 to 375 residents would live in the downtown area, but no first year students would be allowed.

“The one issue we run into all the time is right now we are operating at over-capacity, somewhere around 108 percent capacity,” Larson said.

Freshman Jessica Onsager said she thinks the idea is good but is still unsure if the project should move forward.

“I think it’s cool that they are putting student housing in it, but I do think that people should get the opportunity to vote on it,” Onsager said.

In fall 2012, the majority of City Council members were in favor of the project. However, the members who serve now are different from those who served in fall 2012. City Council President Kerry Kincaid is one of the members in favor.

“I think the Confluence Project is a burst of pride for the city,” Kincaid said. “The City Council looks forward to hearing from the citizens on the referendum.”

The rally

In addition to Vernon at the rally, City Council member Catherine Emmanuelle, Homecoming King and Singing Statesmen President Dane Jaskowiak and Larson will be speaking.

Larson said Senate is hoping prominent members in the community will draw more students to the rally.

“The point of the rally is to bring students together,” Larson said. “Obviously a lot of people are familiar with Justin Vernon.”

Senior Tori Prager said she recently became familiar with issues surrounding the Confluence Project. Prager said she will be attending the rally and plans on voting in the upcoming referendum.

“I think it’s just a cool thing to vote,” Prager said.

Prager is a supporter of the Confluence Project and the idea of extending the university into the downtown area.

“Since being a student here over the past four years, just going downtown even in the summer when there isn’t something necessarily going on, the downtown area could be better. It could be so much better than it is,” Prager said.

Also a Bon Iver fan, Prager said she is excited to have the musician on campus. She said she is assuming that a prestigious Blugold alumnus on campus will encourage students to come and educate themselves at least.

“I think that a lot of people will go,” Prager said. “I hope.”