Many University of Wisconsin students and other members of the community participated in an open forum to voice support for an amendment for the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund, encouraging ASM to establish the Mask Ambassador Committee in spite of opposition from UW administration.
UW students Kaitlin Kons and Angela Maloney said they were frustrated they had to take the time to argue in multiple meetings for legislation to be passed. Kons and Maloney also said UW should be providing funds for students in the first place.
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Students Alex Hagan and Taylor Scofield said UW needed more radical change in order to support its students amidst COVID-19.
“I think it’s important that we all continue to recognize that these truly are unprecedented times, and that these unprecedented times require unprecedented measures of action,” Scofield said.
UW student nurse Kayla Van Boxtel said she also felt frustrated by the university’s pandemic response, especially considering her own endeavors in fighting the virus. Van Boxtel also fully supported the legislation and said vulnerable student populations, such as BIPOC or students in poverty, should not be “victims of administrative technicalities.”
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UW blocked the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund last week, citing its violation of UW System policy 820, which prohibits students from receiving direct financial aid from segregated fee funds. ASM Chair Matthew Mitnick said creating new student government positions — the mask ambassadors —would resolve the issue, as policy 820 states an exception for direct aid to student government leaders.
At the special meeting, ASM board members asked UW Dean of Students Christina Olstad if she would support the establishment of the Mask Ambassador Committee. Olstad said she supports ASM and is willing to work with them to find a solution, but she can’t support the legislation.
“I’m concerned about this amendment and its ability to be compliant with reaching that shared goal. I have the same goal as you do, to make sure our students are supported and provided financial support,” Olstad said. “However, the way this is drafted, I have major concerns … the leap from this amendment to the funding over here at the [third-party Tenant Resource Center] is where I have still struggled.”
Olstad said she would be willing to talk more at the student council meeting next week to specifically cite the concerns within the legislation regarding policy 820.
The Mask Ambassador Committee’s amendment passed by unanimous consent. Chair Mitnick said ASM will begin implementing the fund, with potential challenges from university administration still to come.