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UWRF Student Senate to focus this year on student safety, inclusivity

Falcon News Service

September 21, 2016

With the new school year, the UW-River Falls Student Senate is ready to pick up where it left off last spring.

Senate members recently laid out a list of nine objectives and priorities they hope to accomplish throughout the school year, including a greater focus on policies that improve the safety and well-being of students and becoming a stronger advocate for inclusivity on campus.

Last year, the senate started the pilot program, Safe Ride Home, providing a free taxi ride from downtown River Falls back to campus for students and the community on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The program was used more frequently by community members than UWRF students, according to Gregg Heinselman, associate vice chancellor for student affairs. From December 2015 through March 2016, a total of 280 students and 337 community members used the service.

The senate has now teamed up with the River Falls City Council to make the program accessible throughout the school year for students and community members.

In addition to providing a safe way for students to return to campus, the senate is also doing work to raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses through the It’s On Us campaign. Launched by President Barack Obama in 2014, It’s On Us is a national initiative to stop sexual violence on college campuses.

Student Body President Christopher Morgan is coordinating with the It’s On Us field office in Washington, D.C., as well as the UW System Student Representatives organization to bring a national summit to campus in February. The summit will bring together UW student body presidents and vice presidents, White House officials and sexual violence experts to talk about sexual assault and endorse state-wide preventative policies and initiatives.

“To have it here, with students who are so diverse and so unique, as well as having the student body president and vice president of all 26 UW campuses coming here at the same time to devote themselves to this issue, that’s really important,” Morgan said.

Student Senate has also been involved with the creation of a new Inclusive Campus Engagement Office, a move by campus officials to refocus inclusion efforts. The new office separates the once combined Multicultural Student Services and Student Support Services (SSS), which serve different purposes for a wide range of students.

“SSS is a program that hosts a lot of multicultural students but it’s a separate program, it has federal requirements and they have 200 students they’re working with. Dealing with that and everything and all of the things multicultural students on campus needed — all the sorts of outreach and diversity programming we want to do, it’s just a lot to handle at once,” Michael Graziano, UWRF’s multicultural outreach specialist, said.

Originally in the basement of the campus library, the Multicultural Student Services lounge has now been moved into the Involvement Center of the University Center in order to better include those students with the rest of the campus. All aspects of the office are planned to be moved into Rodli Hall, once the building is finished being renovated. UWRF’s administration is currently interviewing potential directors for the new office.

The new office has created a new gender and sexuality outreach coordinator position to help engage the UW-River Falls’ LGBTQ community.