Student Senate passes resolution to excuse student absences on Nov. 1

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UW-Eau Claire Student Senate passed a resolution permitting students excused absences due to the rally for then presidential candidate Donald Trump held Nov. 1.

Photo by Amanda Thao

UW-Eau Claire Student Senate passed a resolution permitting students excused absences due to the rally for then presidential candidate Donald Trump held Nov. 1.

After an extensive discussion, the Student Senate passed a resolution allowing students excused absences from class due to the rally for Donald Trump held on Nov. 1 on UW-Eau Claire’s campus.

Last week, Academic Affairs Director Nathan Altmann introduced a bill initiating the move to excuse students from absences due to issues with campus and academic building accessibility, as well as many students reporting feeling unsafe.

This week, Senate passed the motion to table the bill indefinitely. Altmann then introduced the same concept as a resolution.

He explained the switch in legislative format occurred because a bill was legally binding and would take months to get passed while a resolution expressed support for the matter but held no technical authority.

Altmann said the resolution was worded carefully to avoid stepping on toes. Rather, it was intended to be a clearly understood vehicle for beginning conversations between students and professors and reflect the Senate’s opinion that students should be excused.

The resolution was also crafted to be non-partisan, he said. Its sole intention was to benefit students affected by the rally and prompt conversation.

“I’d like to make it very clear this is not a political issue,” Altmann said. “I know some folks are going to be cautious and apprehensive about this … this is representing students, not a political party.”

To kick off talks on the legislation, Senator Scott Small introduced amendments for the resolution which he said would enhance its purpose and make it more action-oriented.

The Senate discussed the amendments and the resolution for over two hours. Many members were in support of the resolution but not the amendments because they were distracting, unnecessary and insensitive.

Senator Nicholas Bursaw said he was against the amendments and planned to vote the resolution up, but he did express displeasure for the resolution on other principles.

“I would like to state that I am unhappy that this is all some people have done to help students on campus who don’t feel safe,” Bursaw said. “Because a lot of students don’t.”

Bursaw said he is an advocate for queer students of Eau Claire and stated many students have reported targeted harassment to him. Not enough meaningful action is occurring on campus, he said. Other members also said they were dissatisfied with the lack of direct action.

At the end of the discussion, only one of the three amendments passed. The approved amendment stated students would be notified of future events similar in impact “via email in an orderly and timely fashion.”

“The amendments originally were intended to show that this resolution is more than just a resolution. It shows our intent of actually changing something,” Small said. “By voting those down, it seems like that is Senate saying we are recognizing something bad that happened but we’re not willing to take the steps to change it in the future.”

Student Body President Ashley Sukhu also said she supported the resolution. She reminded the Senate their duty as a governing body was to represent the best interests of Eau Claire students.

“I believe strongly that if you do not vote this up, that you are very clearly working against the mission of Student Senate,” Sukhu said.

The resolution passed with only one vote in dissent, made by Senator Alex Stout.

During discussion, Stout supported the bill, saying students deserved to be exempt from penalty in order to maintain a sense of security and to practice civic duty in protest or in attending the rally. However, he did not support the resolution when it came time to vote because of Sukhu’s assertion, quoted above.

“I thought it was completely inappropriate of her to say,” Stout said. “I felt like if someone did have an opposing viewpoint they were being threatened to the point that their president is telling them if you don’t vote yes you’re actively going against the university.”

Stout said he voted no to show there may be other people who held a different opinion but did not feel comfortable expressing it because of what Sukhu had previously said.

After the approval of the resolution, the Senate introduced and passed a bill moving to broadcast the weekly Student Senate meetings using the Facebook live feature to make meetings more accessible and initiating better communication with the student body. The live streams will begin on Nov. 28.