Shared governance demonstration voices student frustration

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Shared governance demonstration voices student frustration

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By Vesna Brajkovic

Oct. 28, 2015

 

“I’ll light up, let’s march,” senior Rob Emmett told 19 sign-holding demonstrators before leading the students around the University Center water feature at 11 a.m. on Oct. 26. 

The demonstration was meant to show “that shared governance needs to be respected on campus,” according to organizer senior Allison Hetz. Shared governance was said to be violated when Chancellor Beverly Kopper signed a ban prohibiting the use of tobacco products, despite previous opposition from the student voice, according to Emmett.

Shared governance states that students of a campus are subject to the responsibilities and powers of the board, the president, the chancellor, and the faculty shall be active participants in the immediate governance of and policy development for such institutions, according to the Wisconsin State Statue Ch. 36.09(5).

“We’re not taking a stance on the tobacco policy, we are taking a stance on the fact that Chancellor Beverly Kopper didn’t come to students first before she took it to her cabinet and signed, what is almost basically, an implementation for a tobacco policy without going to students first,” Emmett said. “I’ve been in shared governance for four years, in different aspects, and I’ve always been accustomed to everything [coming] to students first.”

A Tobacco Task Force, consisting of representatives from the four governing bodies – Whitewater Student Government, Faculty Senate, Academic Staff Assembly and University Staff Council – as well as other campus community members, recommended that UW-Whitewater adopt a 100 percent tobacco-free campus policy in 2014.

Despite the recommendation, WSG ultimately did not pass the resolution after concerns were found. The other governance groups did not take up the issue after the opposition from the student voice, according to Emmett. The Task Force then updated their report to include concerns brought up by the student government

After reviewing the Task Force’s recommendation, the Chancellor’s Cabinet voted unanimously to support the Task Force’s tobacco-free campus recommendation last month.

“I am not sure where the breakdown in communication occurred since all of the governance groups are fully represented on the Task Force, but to make sure that everyone is in the loop, I have asked the Task Force to circle back to all of the governance groups to share the results of their work and obtain feedback regarding the latest report and recommendations,” Kopper said in an Oct. 7 email.   

A committee tasked with implementing a tobacco-free campus policy and then sharing this policy and plan with the governing bodies and the campus community was started, but recently halted, according to Hetz.

During the demonstration, students carried hand-written posters that read: “Where are my rights?” “student voice matters,” and “I will be heard,” among others. The chants “Where are my rights? – “I’m puffed off” and “Student voice is not a choice” carried through the north mall.

“This is not against Chancellor Kopper,” Hetz said on the demonstration. “This is about how in this instance – and probably others – shared governance has not…been respected.”

Extra signs were made and passing students were welcome to grab one and join in on the chants and march. Many students stopped to ask questions, and others took short videos in passing. One student taking a cigarette break outside the UC joined in soon after being invited.

Many of the demonstrators held pretzel rods in their mouth to mimic smoking and others took to real cigarettes, and one a cigar. 

“I think it’s really important for students to speak up and share their concerns with administration,” University Health and Counseling Services Wellness Coordinator Whitney Henley said on the demonstration. “I want to make sure, in my world, that the shared governance issue stays different from the tobacco-free campus issue.”

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