Student Senate deliberates over supporting UW-La Crosse legislation

Resolution addressing Hmong language courses prompts extended discussion

More stories from Hillary Smith


Photo by Amanda Thao

Senator Justin Vue submitted the resolution, which was co-authored by Marketing Coordinator Amanda Thao.

In an extended and divided discussion, Student Senate deliberated over supporting a resolution backing legislation drafted by the UW-La Crosse Student Association.

Marketing Coordinator Amanda Thao and Senator Justin Vue co-authored the resolution, which supported the La Crosse Student Association’s (their version of Senate) resolution advocating for Hmong learning opportunities on campus. Vue said a student involved in the Association reached out to him seeking the Eau Claire Senate’s support for the resolution.

Vue said to his understanding, La Crosse offered no Hmong language courses during the 2016 fall semester due to lack of interest.  For 2017 spring semester, a Hmong language course will be offered via distance learning.

However, according to La Crosse’s resolution, distance learning hinders educational experience and excluding in-class courses does not promote inclusive excellence on La Crosse’s campus.

Multiple Senate members attested that based on personal experiences in language classes, having a class conducted over a computer makes learning the language more difficult and the course less educationally fulfilling.

Vue added language is vital in retaining and growing cultural identity.  

“The unique situation for language courses is that for students native to that language, that is a safe space for you to talk about your experiences,” Vue said. “In order for students learning their own language to truly learn their language and embrace the culture, they need to be doing it in person face-to-face.”

While nearly every member present voiced support of the general idea of the resolution, many members also expressed concern about implications surrounding the resolution.

Some of the concerns voiced included the fact the resolution was a concern for La Crosse, not Eau Claire, and voicing opinion on the matter could cause animosity with the La Crosse administration.

Additionally, members expressed concern over a lack of general knowledge of the resolution and La Crosse Student Association and whether precedents would be set on getting involved with other student governments in the UW System.

Senator Scott Small said he did not support the resolution; voting this resolution up could lead to future problems for Senate. Furthermore, logistical academic decisions made by the La Crosse administration is not the concern of the Eau Claire Senate, so they should not push to have a voice in that area.

“We can’t do that; we don’t have that power,” Small said, “and to say that we have that power to influence the administration at another university is just pretty asinine.”

Small also pointed out passing this resolution could result in the Eau Claire Senate getting caught up in student government legislation across the UW System.

However, many members disagreed, saying the resolution would not necessarily establish such a precedent. Rather, it would support the values expressed in the La Crosse resolution and stand in solidarity with students.

“I think this is an important time to send a message to our student body and the University of La Crosse that this is what we think is important,” said Academic Affairs Director Nathan Altmann. “I think this is bold action we need to take to show our administration and the administrations across UW colleges and universities that we are listening, this is important to us and we are a partnership.”

Senator Maria Delgado Gomez did not support the resolution and instead urged her fellow Senate members to vote it down in favor of future work.

“This is an opportunity for us to do better and not pass on something we have qualms about,” Gomez said. “Just because we say no doesn’t mean we won’t say yes at a later point.”

In a final vote of 16-9-0, the resolution supporting La Crosse’s legislation passed.

Editor’s note: Amanda Thao is part of The Spectator.