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Diversity takes center stage at meeting

March 29, 2007

Though the meeting was under an hour long, Student Senate covered a lot of information. Directors shared reports about their committees and the motions brought to the table were passed with little discussion.

Diversity Issues Director Ashley Olson presented three motions to the group.

The UW-River Falls Diversity Issues Committee is consistently working to improve diversity and unity on campus. One of the latest ventures was a survey to help “foster a culture of inclusiveness,” Special Assistant to the Chancellor, Blake Fry said.

Multicultural Awareness Project for Institutional Transformation (MAP IT) is a survey being used as the first step in creating a diverse culture on campus.

“The purpose of the MAP IT survey is to help us understand how members of our campus community are experiencing the campus environment,” Fry said. “The information will be used to evaluate the multicultural climate at UWRF and to make continuous improvements that will help us meet our goal of fostering a culture of inclusiveness.”

The survey will consist of approximately 70 questions. It is voluntary and confidential. Though there will be a record of who has taken the survey, names will not be linked to answers of questions.

Senate approved a motion to allocate $500 to the Diversity Issues Committee to use for prizes.

“Prizes will be raffled off to students who complete the MAP IT survey,” according to the agenda from the meeting.

“The survey’s really long, like 65 questions or so, so having an incentive to do the survey is really important,” Vice President Derek Brandt said during the meeting.

“Although you do not have to complete the survey ... the University really wants to know your opinion,” Fry said.

The motion passed by unanimous oral vote.

Olson spent several minutes talking on behalf of her motion about partner benefits.

Thousands of private employers nationwide offer domestic partner benefits, meaning benefits to those in relationships, but not married. Nearly 300 colleges and universities, as well as 13 state governments offer the same benefits to their employees.

Currently, UWRF and the Wisconsin government do not offer benefits to partners of employees.

According to the motion listed on the agenda, “inclusiveness has been identified as a core value of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls ... [they] value the contributions of all its employees, and the progressive tradition of the state.”

“It was important for Senate to pass the motion so that Student Senate officially took a stance in support of domestic partner benefits from unmarried UW System employees that qualify for those benefits,” Olson said.

Olson said that Senate passes motions like this so the group can take a stance as a whole in order to lobby on behalf of the issue.

The motion passed unanimously.

Other Senate news

  • Shared Governance Director Tory Schaaf announced that a table is being reserved for Student Senate’s use in the main entryway of the University Center. “The table is supposed to be informational,” Shaaf said in an e-mail. “Say a student has a question on their tuition and why it is going to be increased for next year, the person can take these questions up with senators.” Schaaf added that with senator elections coming up in April, it is likely that candidates will be able to use the table to campaign. The table will be located on the right side of the main doors of the University Center when exiting the building. It will be set up on Tuesdays during April.
  • Leadership, Development and Programming Board (LDPB) Chair Natalie Hagberg presented a motion that was passed to approve the segregated university fee allocations. During discussion of this motion, Adam Koski, finance director, attempted to add a friendly amendment stating that the finance committee would give LDPB $12,000 to fund the film series. This would allow LDPB to use the previously allocated $12,000 for other student organizations that already cut their budgets. The friendly amendment was not approved, but instead created into a new motion on next week’s agenda. “Senate has to approve all the allocations that LDPB has,” Hagberg said. “So, that money would need to have been accounted for before the motion could have passed.” LDPB is going to discuss where the $12,000 should be allocated and present the reallocations to Senate at next week’s meeting along with Koski’s motion.

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