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UW-La Crosse student employees demand safer working conditions ahead of fall semester

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Student employees at UW-La Crosse held a public demonstration on Friday afternoon demanding safer working conditions due to COVID-19.

They believe the university has dragged its feet in providing personal protective equipment and more information on what to do when it comes to COVID-19 procedures.

Six residents assistants or RA's created a petition, stating their demands. That petition ha already gathered over 1,400 signatures as of Friday.

A student worker told News 19 that they were uninformed that campus would return to almost full capacity, and they believe they weren't given enough time to decide if it was safe enough.

Student-workers also said they feel like they are being asked to take on more in-person contact responsibility when comes to their role which puts their health and the health of others in jeopardy.

"I'm scared," said Sadie Szabelski, a student desk coordinator and mail center coordinator at the University. "I'm so scared, and I'm scared that we have to have this rally. I'm scared that when we did try to talk to administration, we were like, "Let's have this conversation right now." People are discontent and their reaction has been to silence us and it furthers the oppression."

Organizers of the rally voiced their concern over the lack of information and dialogue between the administration and student employees.

A student worker tells News 19 that four professional employees in the office of residence life had quit due to the school's response to COVID-19 in dorms.

Szabelski said they stated that they need more PPE's and the university still lacks employees to help with cleaning.

"Our housekeepers are being overworked. I'm being overworked. So moving into the school year, knowing that some of these things that should have been already planned and done and set and ready, they are still in that process," said Szabelski, "That terrifies me."

The University of Wisconsin La Crosse responded with a statement and plan of action to try and address some of the demands by the student employees.

"As a university, two of our most important responsibilities are promoting free speech and protecting the wellbeing of our students and employees. With this in mind, we have spent months developing a robust health and safety plan that serves not just our campus as a whole, but our Residence Life staff, specifically..."

Read the full statement below.

The student workers would like to see an open forum between the administration and students next. Most students said they love their job but felt it was important.

Classes begin on Tuesday.

Mike Beiermeister

WXOW Weekend Anchor and Reporter

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