Free speech boards will return in an effort to foster conversation on campus

Student Senate is taking steps in response to student feedback regarding inclusivity on campus

More stories from Hillary Smith


Photo by Amanda Thao

Senator Jacob Mussell and Parliamentarian Alec Putnam talk before the meeting.

Free speech boards will be set back up in UW-Eau Claire’s campus mall in response to controversy that arose when the remark “UWEC is racist” was painted on one of the boards, prompting their swift removal and an outcry from students.

After holding a town hall meeting to hear student perspectives regarding campus inclusivity, Student Senate drafted a resolution proposing the boards be set back up in the campus mall. This is part of the Senate’s work to “educate and promote the meaning of free speech and institutional racism,” as stated in the resolution.

“This is a prime opportunity for us to engage in more dialogue with students on this topic of free speech,” said Student Body President Ashley Sukhu.

The resolution was passed with a voice vote. Though there was a clear majority in favor of the resolution, a handful of Senate members opposed the boards being set back up.

Senator Jacob Mussell was among those who voted against the resolution. He said he is concerned that reinstating the boards to campus would be sending the wrong message to the student body.

“People on the Student Senate will know we are trying to change something,” he said, “but it might not appear that way to the students. They might think this is our way of answering the questions raised at the forum.”

Mussell said most of the action will be happening behind the scenes with Academic Affairs Director Nathan Altmann.

In his report, Altmann said the Academic Affairs commission intends to work both with President Sukhu and with the outreach and inclusivity director to make improvements on campus. The commission will meet with select professors this week, he said, to discuss professor diversity training and whether or not courses are meeting cultural diversity criteria.

While these actions occur “behind the scenes,” Mussell said he does not want the student body to underestimate what steps the Senate is taking in response to the issues raised.

“They may take it as, ‘Is this all they’re doing?’” Mussell said of the free speech boards.

Senator Alex Stout pointed out the boards allow a component of anonymity that some students may appreciate when sharing their opinions.

President Sukhu said the date the boards will return is undetermined due to logistics, such as when and how they can obtain the boards, but the boards will stay in the campus mall until Oct. 31.

In other news

Four senators were appointed to positions on the Internal Affairs commission. This commission has not been used in quite some time, Sukhu said. Its purpose is to provide feedback on the functioning of Senate.  

After the secret ballot vote, Senator Justin Vue was appointed to the on-campus senator position; Senator Ryan Ring was chosen for off-campus senator; and Senators Bobbi Freagon and Maria Delgado Gomez were selected for the at-large senator positions on the commission.

In addition, voter registration will be in full swing until Oct. 12, said Intergovernmental Affairs Director Nick Webber. He said the commission will be conducting voting drives in residence halls in order to get as many students as possible registered before the deadline.