University Senate Tuesday approved the new Service-Learning proposal as amended at its previous meeting, finalizing its decision to retain the ban on projects involving religious proselytization, while eliminating restrictions on partisan political activity.
By a vote of 24-8, Senate approved the new mission statement, table of goals and objectives and list of guidelines for Service-Learning projects.
In addition to allowing partisan political activity to count for credit while still banning religious proselytization, the new guidelines stipulate projects must involve willing recipients and also include a policy on discrimination in accordance with “accepted interpretation of affirmative action policies” of UW-Eau Claire.
The only thoughts offered on the proposal itself before Senate voted were from Senator Bobby Pitts, who said restricting projects promoting religious doctrine was only justified if the university was in danger of a lawsuit involving the separation of church and state.
He referred to a statement by Service-Learning Ad-hoc Committee member Tom Hilton at the previous meeting, in which Hilton said a System Legal lawyer insisted there was no legal basis for restricting religious projects because students are not paid agents of the state.
“It seems to me that this debate started … because (the university may have been) in danger of a lawsuit,” he said.
Because System Legal has dispelled those concerns, he said, restricting religious proselytization is no longer needed.
Soon after Pitts’ remarks, Senator Selika Ducksworth-Lawton curbed any further deliberation by calling for a vote, saying Senate had already debated the issue thoroughly.
“I think we’ve heard enough, and it’s getting circular now,” she said.
University Senate’s decision paralleled a resolution by Student Senate that advised striking political restrictions from Service-Learning guidelines.
Sophomore Jon Radcliffe, a student senator and the official liaison between the two governing bodies, said regardless of one’s personal beliefs on the issue of Service-Learning, the decision was a victory for students.
“(University Senate’s decision) is very similar to the resolutions Student Senate passed,” he said. “It’s kind of exciting.”
Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson must still sign-off on University Senate’s decision for the new policies to be implemented – a task she said she will consider carefully.
“Everyone has taken a great deal of time,” she said. “So I want to make sure I take the proper amount of time.”
While she plans on reviewing the decision carefully, Larson said the fairly strong consensus demonstrated in University Senate’s vote encourages her to concur.
“I’m inclined, given the vote, to support them,” she said.
The only other intercession before Senate made its final decision was a proposed substitution by Senator Harry Jol, which called for the elimination of Service-Learning from UW-Eau Claire graduation requirements.
The Service-Learning requirement, he said, forces students to engage society, using resources that could be better utilized in other pursuits. Few students actually experience substantial growth through Service-Learning, he said.
“We are not a center of excellence of Service-Learning,” he said.
Senator Mitch Freymiller, a member of the ad-hoc committee, refuted Jol’s logic, saying that students feel “forced” to fulfill many of their graduation requirements.
Senator Karl Markgraf also countered Jol’s argument, saying he has interacted with students who experienced considerable growth through Service-Learning.
Senate rejected the motion by a vote of 25 to 5, refusing to openly debate the elimination of Service-Learning from university graduation requirements.