Letter to the Editor

Story by Bryan Larson, Student Body President

I am writing in response to an editorial in last week’s Spectator regarding the Student Senate’s involvement in the Confluence Project. Any student concern regarding the conduct of our student government is very important to me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to respond.

Each semester Student Senate passes a Legislative Priorities Summary which outlines Student Senate’s stance on a number of nonpartisan projects, bills, and initiatives that have an impact on UWEC students. For the past two years, Student Senate has unanimously supported the Confluence Project with the passage of four separate pieces of legislation (Resolutions 56-R-14, 56-R-17, 57-R-18, and 57-R-30).

Student Senate is registered with the state as the official recognized lobbying entity of the student body of UWEC. When we vote to support initiatives, we take that message to the regents, the capitol, and City Council when applicable. The Confluence Project presented us with a tremendous opportunity to have the outcome of two referendums in the hands of the voters, and in turn, the UWEC students.

With the decision firmly in the hands of voters, we found it necessary to educate the students about the Confluence Project, and why (after thorough deliberation), we believe it is of significant benefit to the student experience at UWEC. While we took a “Pro-Confluence” stance during the election season, we made countless efforts to ensure that all information we were distributing was informative and factual.

Our education campaign began far before we had any idea that the project would be put up to referendum this past fall.

Through tabling, graphics, social media, listening sessions, voter registration rallies, public hearings, classroom visits, and office hours, Student Senate has offered multiple opportunities for students to become knowledgeable of the project. As a registered lobbying organization we took a stance on the project, but we registered and promoted the election to all students, not just those who supported the project. At no point was any student’s ability to rationally consider and research the project taken away by the position we took.

Additionally, Student Senate hosted a lunch presentation by the “Anti-Confluence” group, Voters with Facts, that was open and promoted to the entire campus. While we disagreed with the stance that this group took, we felt it was important to make sure that students had an opportunity to hear both sides of this issue.

The Confluence Project is a pragmatic, nonpartisan opportunity that provides a solution to many upcoming challenges facing both the University and community, including housing shortages and the need for upgraded performing arts facilities for both the campus and community. I am incredibly proud of all the work that our Student Senate put in to inform students on this issue and also the record number of students who came out to vote.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Student Senate about our involvement with the Confluence Project in the future, we look forward to taking our message to the greater Wisconsin community and continue to move this project forward.

— Bryan Larson, Student Body President