With Bon Iver's Vernon, UWEC students rally, register before confluence vote

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis (WEAU) - Hundreds of University of Wisconsin Eau Claire students joined a prominent musician to register to vote for the Apr. 1 election.

Students there said the their turnout for spring elections have been low in the past, but this year, a controversial project that could change where they live and learn, is getting attention.

“We encountered a lot of people that didn't know there was an election Apr 1. So we've been able to not only inform them about the fact that they can vote, but about some of the issues in the campaign,” UWEC Student Senate intergovernmental affairs director Jake Wrasse said.

The election is one that students said won't be ignored because of a plan for a new arts and student housing on Barstow Street in down town Eau Claire. It would then have some of its funding questions answered.

Students heard from Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, city council member Catherine Emmanuelle and State Representative Dana Wachs (D) on the confluence project at Monday’s rally.

“The potential for students to live, study, learn and be involved in a collaborative nature with community members is exceptional and I think will add a lot to the university experience,” UWEC Student Body President Bryan Larson said.

Not everyone at the university is sure the project is what's best for students.

“How much would we use that building downtown? I don't know. I suspect many concerts would remain here at Gantner Concert Hall,” professor of music Gary Schwartzhoff said.

He said the location, away from where students currently live and study could present challenges.

“How do we get the students back and forth that quickly for classes and things? So that would be a concern,” he said.

“The transportation, the shuttle, how we make sure that it really is a part of our campus is something that can be solved,” Larson said.

“We hope that this historic opportunity for Eau Claire will start changing that tide on that civic engagement to hear more students' votes,” Emmanuelle said.

A county vote will decide if it will contribute three and a half million dollars and the city vote will ask whether there should be another referendum for major arts projects in the future.

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