Strong messages regarding safety practices sent to UW-W students by Student Govt. and Chancellor

BANNER NOTE: This message was sent out on Tuesday, 9/15. See below for additional messages.
Important message from Whitewater Student Government President Wentworth 

Fellow Warhawks,

This school year is not like anything we’ve experienced before. There is no “college experience” during a pandemic. If there is, it is against safety practices set in place for other’s wellness. If there is, it is from choices that put fun before other’s lives and wellbeing.

As the Chancellor stated, our COVID-19 numbers are rising at an alarming rate. As these cases rise, our chances for a full, in-person semester are rapidly breaking apart. Staying distanced and wearing a mask are not only the things that we must do to protect ourselves from the virus, but they are also something we must do to protect our chances of staying at this campus. This university is my home, just like many of you, and no one wants to have to leave it.

For many of you, the prospect of returning home is not that bad. But, this is simply not the case for all students. For some, Whitewater is their only home. A place with reliable internet, a sense of belonging, a safe place. It is the only place that they feel will give them the resources they need to succeed in the rest of their lives. Returning home is not an option for some students. 

Over the summer many students told me that they would do almost anything to have in person classes and be back on campus. That “anything” is to follow the Warhawk Social Covenant. This is why it is so disheartening to see actions that are opposite to these guidelines. How bad do you want to stay in Whitewater? Mask up and remain six feet apart, or you will have to return home.

Starting now, wear your facial covering everywhere outside of your home. Starting now, turn down events that don’t allow for social distancing. Starting now, fill out the COVID-19 reporting form when places and people don’t follow guidelines. Call out behaviors that are not a part of the Warhawk Way as soon as you see them. These are no longer an option to ignore, our actions are absolutely necessary.

The world is watching. Other UW universities are watching, expecting us to fail and go remote. Prove those in the community, who believe we will fail, wrong. As UW System President Tommy Thompson said last week, Warhawks have a tradition of excellence, this year should not be the exception. Prove those who think it will be wrong.

Sincerely,

Johanna D. Wentworth
Student Body President

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Banner note: This message was sent by Dr. Cook on Monday, 9/14. See below for another message.
Important message from Interim Chancellor Greg Cook

Dear Warhawks,

Today, I come to you with a plea that each of us do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We said before the start of the semester that we only had 79 days until we move to remote classes on Nov. 20. Today, that number is 67.

UW-Madison announced that all of their classes will be remote delivery for two weeks. Two of its largest residence halls have been placed on quarantine. UW-Madison made this move not only to try to rescue the remainder of their in-person semester, but more importantly, for the health of their university and the greater community. UW-La Crosse took similar measures over the weekend.

I know students want to be on campus this fall. I want to see our students on campus. Yet, we’d be fooling ourselves to say that what happened at UW-Madison and UW-La Crosse won’t happen here. If we change our behaviors immediately, we may be able to avoid a similar situation.  

What do you need to do?

  • Wear your mask—inside and outdoors, on campus and off campus
  • Maintain 6 feet of social distance, no matter the environment, inside and outdoors
  • Limit your activities to essential ones only
  • Stay home if you are not feeling well
  • Wash your hands often, and for a minimum of 20 seconds
  • Report to the COVID-19 hotline if you have COVID-19 or if you’ve come in contact with someone who is positive
  • Avoid any unnecessary gatherings on or off campus where these simple steps are not being taken.

Understand, this is not just about our students. Everyone – students, faculty and staff – needs to follow these safety measures.

The last point regarding gatherings is critical. The weekend before the start of classes, Whitewater saw a number of large-scale parties. At some parties, those in attendance were not following even the basic safety guidelines. There were very few masks. People were not social distancing. These sorts of events put everyone at risk.  On Friday, Whitewater Student Government released a message asking students to change their behaviors.

In Wisconsin, big parties are just part of the typical college experience. But the Fall of 2020 is not typical. It has been more than 100 years since we’ve seen a pandemic of this nature. We cannot act as if everything is fine and think there will be no consequences. None of us can act as if this is any other start of an academic year.

At a special meeting last Wednesday night, I made an impassioned plea to the Whitewater Common Council regarding an ordinance to limit large scale gatherings. If we don’t change the course of this virus now, we will join other campuses in moving to remote delivery, maybe for two weeks, maybe for the remainder of the semester. This isn’t something any of us wants to do, but it may be required. We’ve said all along your health and safety is our main concern. Nothing has changed in that regard, and we will continue to put your health and safety first.

Therefore, please be aware that the university will invoke state law and UW System policy UWS 17.08(2) which gives the Dean of Students Office the authority to discipline students when their behavior both on and off campus:

  • presents or may present a danger or threat to the health or safety of themselves or others, or
  • seriously impairs the university’s ability to fulfill its teaching, research, or public service missions.

The COVID-19 virus has the immediate potential to impair our ability to fulfill our normal teaching mission. Failure to follow safety precautions impairs our ability to continue. Failure to wear a mask, observe social distancing, or take other suggested precautions will therefore be investigated aggressively and may lead to disciplinary action up to and including suspension and/or expulsion. This applies to student activity on campus, and it also applies off campus at any location when the student is expected to return to campus or participate in university events of any type. My official notice to you about this policy is attached to this email.

What I am asking you to do is simple and at the same time difficult. I am asking you to forego gathering with groups of people and to stay where you live as much as possible. For our students, I am asking you not to have the typical experience. I am asking you to follow the well-established safety guidelines to keep you and others safe.

Let’s all put we before I. The collective, the we, need to change our behaviors immediately. The impulse to act upon what the “I” wants, can have a ripple effect that changes the course of the semester for everyone.

As Warhawks, we take care of each other. Let’s make the necessary changes, and reach Nov. 20 together.

Sincerely,
Dr. Greg Cook
Interim Chancellor

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Banner note: This Youtube by Dr. Cook and WSG President Wentworth was posted on Mon., 9/14.

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Banner note: This message was sent out by WSG leadership on Friday, 9/11.
Fellow Warhawks,

This afternoon, we spoke to Chancellor Cook about the university’s COVID-19 numbers. As you may have seen, they are sharply on the rise. He is deeply concerned, and we are deeply concerned. UW-Madison has moved all of their classes to a remote format, and UW-La Crosse has been forced to quarantine one of their residence halls. If we do not change the rate in which our cases rise, we will soon join them in measures like these.

As we approach another weekend, we ask that you take time to analyze the places and activities you may partake in. Another weekend that results in rising COVID cases will have serious effects on our university’s ability to function and continue in person classes.

The university has just issued a 10-person limit on gatherings. Please make sure you follow these guidelines. If you choose to socialize this weekend, make sure that you have a face covering on at all times and that the space you’re in allows for six feet of social distance. Stay away from large events such as house parties and bars that inevitably force individuals close together and make it hard to keep a facial covering on. Finally, DO NOT share drinks, vapes or anything else that someone else’s bodily fluids could have touched.

Further announcements will come from the Chancellor’s Office early next week, but one thing is clear: this is a critical moment in determining how the rest of our semester will look. If you want to remain on campus — be smart and be safe.

Johanna D. Wentworth                                               Justin D. Wesolek

Student Body President                                              Director of Academic Affairs

Whitewater Student Government                               Whitewater Student Government

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