Legislation prompts consideration of student relationships with university and community

Prompts include two resolutions: one backing an open forum hosted by University Senate, the other seeking student support for local businesses

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Photo by Amanda Thao

In addition to discussing various pieces of legislation, Senate appointed Senator Scott Small as Mascot Coordinator. There are two on-campus and five off-campus senator vacancies as well, which they are looking to fill in the coming weeks.

In the first meeting of the semester, Student Senate discussed several pieces of legislation that prompted conversation about student involvement both on- and off-campus.

Student Body President Ashley Sukhu introduced a resolution supporting the University Senate holding an open forum called “The Role of EDI in Faculty and Staff Performance Evaluation” where students, faculty and community members can come together to discuss the Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity (EDI) initiatives being put forth by the university.

“This gives an opportunity for students to share and voice their opinions,” Sukhu said; the discussion will be divided by faculty, staff and students so each group may share their perspectives and experiences.

Objectives include looking at EDI efforts in the past 18 months and looking at what issues students and faculty have experienced on campus. The legislation aimed to form a resolution to show support for the event and give Senate more power to spread the word of the forum in a timely fashion, Sukhu said.

Senator Maria Delgado Gomez spoke in support of the resolution, saying, “There are never too many student voices at the table.”

The legislation passed, as did a bill introduced at the previous Senate meeting. The bill, re-introduced by Finance Director Jorge Herrero Berengue, allocated $750 to the Eau Claire Gamers Guild. A group of students will attend a gaming convention, No Brand Con, held in Wisconsin Dells. The money will be used to cover travel and lodging expenses. The bill passed with a vote of 20-0-2. Another resolution, put forth by Campus Affairs Director Lars Nelson and Senator Bobbi Freagon, prompted conversation on the relationship between students and the Eau Claire community.

The legislation was written to support local businesses, specifically Mike’s Cheese Shack on Water Street.

According to the resolution, “Mike Whiteside, owner of Mike’s Cheese Shack, has expressed concern about the future of the Shack due to financial constraints.” It was these concerns that prompted the resolution, which stated Senate was in support of Mike’s Cheese Shack and local businesses in general.

Some dissent was raised; concerns such as favoritism and the seriousness of the legislation were discussed by the body. Senator Scott Small questioned why other businesses in Eau Claire have not received attention from Senate. He brought up that passing such legislation could negatively impact Senate’s legitimacy as a governing body.

“If it’s not a serious resolution, it’s favoritism,” Small said. “If it isn’t, we’re clowning ourselves.”

However, other members voiced support of passing the resolution as a step toward building a closer student-community relationship. Many said they saw both sides of the issue and were uncertain of how to vote.

Vice President Colton Ashley moved to table the resolution indefinitely, which essentially pauses the process and enables a Senate member to bring the legislation back to the body in the future. This prompted further discussion on whether it was worth tabling or if a decisive vote would be most effective.

Chief of Staff Katy McGarry said she felt lucky she could not vote because she was could see legitimacies to both sides. However, she did highlight potential large-scale effects the resolution could initiate.

“I see something that can be bigger and better,” she said. “This is something we didn’t imagine could come from it (writing the resolution) and I think it could impact the community as a whole … I think this is a way us as students can reach out to the community and say thank you.”

Ultimately, the resolution was tabled and therefore can be brought back before the body in future discussion if someone so chooses.

Senate also filled the position of Mascot Coordinator, appointing Small to the vacancy.

Small said his main focus would be to get the funds necessary so performers may be paid, which would then hopefully incentivize more people to be performers and enable Blu to attend more events and extend mascot involvement at the university and community.

“Blu can be a type of mascot that not only the students at the university can get behind but the community can get behind,” Small said. “He can become an identifying figure for the people of Eau Claire.”

More appointments will be coming up as Senate looks to fill seven vacant seats.