Student Senate request denied by City Council

Student Senate request denied by City Council

Kellen Brandt, Features Reporter

Winona State University’s Student Senate wrote to the Winona City Council with a request to reduce occupancy at bars and restaurants. The council’s vote was unanimous to deny the request.

Despite the denied request, Student Senate is working to find ways to slow the spread of COVID-19, according to President Clara Kuerschner.

“We wanted to get ahead of that spread by writing to City Council to encourage them to either lower occupancy capacities further or continue their patrols throughout the week, not just on weekends,” Kuerschner said.

City Council denied the request because they said it would not be “financially reasonable” for Winona businesses to reduce occupancy any lower than it already is. They stated capacities lower than 50%, which they are currently at, would cause these bars and restaurants to close for good.

“The Police Department and Fire Department are continuing their patrols of these potential hot spots,” Kuerschner said. “The city has also been working with local landlords to ensure students are not gathering in large groups at private residences.”

Student Senate said they were a bit confused at first as to why the city denied their request, but after reading what the city had to say, they said they were all a bit more understanding.

“I remember seeing the headline and feeling a little bit of despair as well but I understand why they made that decision,” Kuerschner said. “I understand that it would have caused our small business owners in Winona a great deal of hardship to reduce capacity and lose that revenue.”

Wesley Elford, a senior seat Student Senate representative states that the main problem with the city denying the request is that bars already are not following the rules.

“There are way too many people in the bars with the current capacity,” Elford said.

Katrina Pfaffenbach, a College of Science and Engineering seat Student Senate representative had similar comments regarding the city’s response.

“I am a little disappointed, but I understand,” Pfaffenbach said. “I hope that bars do a better job enforcing the policies that are already in place.”

Kuerschner has weekly meetings with President Olson and bi-weekly meetings with Vice President McDowell to brainstorm other ways to keep students safe on and off-campus.

“We discuss ways to keep students engaged on campus and how to keep them connected, safely, off campus,” Kuerschner said. “Vice President McDowell, Dean Johnson and President Olson have also had many conversations with our full Senate body at our weekly Senate meetings about how we can encourage students to be safe and healthy when they are on and off campus.”

One of the new ways the university is trying to keep students safe is the Winona State University Face Covering and Social Distancing Non-Compliance Reporting Form.

Pfaffenbach said since not many students know about the form, Student Senate is working to increase awareness of this form.

“The form asks for information from the reporter, the involved parties and what the situation at hand was,” Pfaffenbach said. “Reporters can also add videos or pictures if they have them.”

Student Senate said they have no new concrete plans for addressing COVID-19 issues, but is still encouraging students to be responsible, respectful and to continue to follow the guidelines set forth by the university, the city and the state.

With new plans being set into motion by the city and people doing what they can to wear masks, social distance, and do what they can to keep themselves and others safe, Kuerschner said things are starting to get into a more “normal” rhythm.

“We all have a better idea of what to expect and I just hope that students continue to be cautious and make good choices even though things have seemed to stabilize,” Kuerschner said.

As not only a student but also a Student Senate representative, Elford is doing what he can to do his best, lead by example and promote mask wearing and social distancing.

“Being a student during COVID is hard enough to begin with, so it is great to see students and senators doing their best with what is currently going on,” Elford said.

While this school year is a bit different from years past, Pfaffenbach said she is proud of her fellow students for being positive and doing the best that they can in these challenging times.

“Hang in there and keep doing your best, please wear a mask and social distance to reduce the spread, and take care of yourself and your mental health,” Pfaffenbach said. “You matter.”

The Student Senators representing Winona State University are working hard trying to better campus but also said they want to  remind students to take care of themselves.

“This a weird time to be a human in the world, especially a college student,” Kuerschner said. “This is not the type of college experience that we signed up for, but we have to do our best to make it a great college experience. It can be hard, but don’t focus solely on the negatives of this situation, find the positives too.”