Wells Fargo ATMs voted off campus by Student Senate

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Olivia Volkman-Johnson / Winonan

Wells Fargo & Company has caused controversy in national news outlets for their investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)—a project that will be constructed through land owned by the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and covers land stretching from North Dakota to central Illinois and has been highly protested because of its location on the reservation. The bank has also been accused of creating fraudulent credit card accounts.

Winona State University houses Wells Fargo ATMs in several campus buildings, which, according to Winona State University’s Turtle Island Student Organization (TISO) President Aaron Camacho, indirectly supports the controversial actions of the company.

Camacho, a non-traditional senior majoring in legal studies, said the use of the ATMs and subsequent association with Wells Fargo contradicts the Winona State mission statement.

“I think what’s important to consider when we have a mission statement like that is not only are we a community of learners, but we’re a community of consumers and we have to be conscious about what we consume, where we consume and why,” Camacho said.

Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Life Denise McDowell said tensions surrounding this topic have been high since late February.

TISO club members and other Winona State students have protested the partnership between Winona State and Wells Fargo and requested the ATMs be replaced in letters addressed to university President Scott Olson.

TISO is a relatively new club on campus, Camacho said, but has been active in educating students about Native American history by working with the university’s Inclusion and Diversity Office and the Winona Dakota Unity Alliance.

“If we stayed at home or in our dorms and just Facebooked [sic] all the time, we wouldn’t be making an impact on our campus,” Camacho said.

Camacho brought her concerns to the Winona State Student Senate, who then recommended the ATMs be replaced this summer, which marks the end of Wells Fargo’s contract with Winona State.

“It looked like an opportunity to try not to influence but encourage our leadership at [Winona State] to choose a more socially responsible financial institution to partner with,” Camacho said.

Student Senator Lindsey Bernier, junior, supported the recommendation to replace the ATMs in order to maintain inclusivity.

“One of our main goals is [to be] a community of learners, and we really strive on being inclusive of everybody,” Bernier, a College of Education representative, said. “We really try to advocate for every group of students that we have on campus and hearing their concerns and trying to see what we can do to answer them.”

Though Student Senator Max Gonzalez, a junior public administration, Spanish and psychology student, shared Bernier’s sentiment, his concern lies with removing the university of the Wells Fargo services that the current ATMs offer, such as the ability to deposit checks.

“If we’re going to be getting something that doesn’t live up to whatever we have currently, that’s where I would take issue,” Gonzalez said.

McDowell, who serves on Olson’s cabinet, said a proposal is set to be discussed late this summer or early fall and will take Student Senate’s suggestions into account.

Gonzalez said he had hoped to have heard more student opinions regarding this topic, though Student Senate plans to further engage students in the future by promoting a social media application called Involvio.

“We’re hoping that with that new [application], students will be able to get more information about what’s actually going on in [Student] Senate and that way we can really build a bridge between student government and the students,” Gonzalez said.

“Doing the [application] will hopefully help, but we always encourage people to come talk to us if they have any questions or they want to state their opinion,” Bernier said.

Camacho said she has appreciated Student Senate’s support of TISO and consideration of students’ opinions.

“This semester, I have been supported, as well as other marginalized populations, by our Student Senate more so than in the past,” Camacho said. “So that is incredibly encouraging because it just means that people are more willing to listen or starting to wake up with us.”

By Olivia Volkman-Johnson

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