Category Archives: News

Minnesota artist’s exhibit about family violence sparks controversy at Winona State University

By Kayla Langmaid

A Minnesota multi-award winning visual artist’s exhibit has brought controversy to Winona.

Shirl Chouinard of Cambridge, Minnesota, designed “Unspeakable,” an exhibit to promote awareness of family violence and sexual assault.

The exhibit featuring 10 life-sized fabric dolls was placed in the lobby of Winona State University’s Maxwell Hall from March 23 to April 10.

The dolls represented abused women and families, according to Chouinard.

Chouinard’s dolls in the exhibit had black patches of fabric, which represented bruises.

Emily Meskan, Winona State junior, said she overheard students who said the exhibit was creepy.

She said it took her “away” that the exhibit was placed in Maxwell’s lobby.

During a university tour, a family was brought through the lobby, according to Meskan.

Meskan said she saw a look of sheer terror on a little girl’s face while she passed by the dolls.

“That doesn’t seem fair to have people who are unsuspecting of it,” Meskan said.

Ruth Charles, a WSU social work professor, said she saw Chouinards’s artwork exhibited at a conference last June.

Charles said Chouinard was the only art exhibit at the conference and it stood out.

“I wanted to bring her here,” Charles said.

Charles explained the 10 pieces could represent one day in a social worker’s life.

“In life experiences you might not have experienced this or seen this,” Charles said.

“Other majors, they might not know what actually happens behind closed doors and this is the chance to open those doors to know what happens,” she said.

Charles said she tried to have the exhibit featured in Winona State’s Watkins Art Gallery but there wasn’t space for it.

Abigail Eucker, a freshman at Winona State, sat in the lobby to study. Eucker said she thought the dolls were creepy at first.

She saw why the exhibit might upset people.

When Eucker read the information about the exhibit, she didn’t think it was so bad.

Chouinard spoke at Winona State on Wednesday, April 8, about why she made the dolls.

As a part of the lecture series, Consortium of Liberal Arts and Science Promotion, Chouinard explained she was abused as a child.

Shirl Chouinard an artist from Cambridge, Minnesota spoke at Winona State on April 8 about her exhibit “Unspeakable.” The exhibit was displayed in the lobby of Maxwell from March 23 to April 10.
Shirl Chouinard an artist from Cambridge, Minnesota spoke at Winona State on April 8 about her exhibit “Unspeakable.” The exhibit was displayed in the lobby of Maxwell from March 23 to April 10.

“Many – many years horribly abused as a little girl,” Chouinard explained. “I was raped three times before I was 13.” Chouinard said.

Chouinard said the doll named “Monica” was made in honor of one of her sisters.

“I earned the right to make this work,” Chouinard said.

Chouinard said she knew there was controversy because of her exhibit.

She said she knew there was a post on a

WSU Confession Facebook page from an anonymous student.

A part of the confession said, “As a rape and assault survivor, it really haunts me to walk in there. It makes me feel sick. The way to end rape culture isn’t to put up traumatic art exhibits, it’s to educate our young men. I can’t even walk into Maxwell right now.”

For Chouinard, if at least one person talked with her after her lectures, then it would make a difference.

“This will reach a person,” she said.

Winona Catholic Worker House makes strides to house overnight guests

By Kayla Langmaid and Kayle Paul

A two-story white house with an eye-catching maroon door with no signs could be the most welcoming house on Broadway Street in Winona.

For over 22 years, the Winona Catholic Worker houses on West Broadway Street have been the only services in Winona County for those in need.

In Winona County in 2013 there was about a 15 percent poverty rate, according to the United States Census Bureau.

The Bethany House has provided a safe space to go for free meals, warm showers and a washer and dryer.

There is an initiative within the Winona Catholic Worker movement to promote action within the Winona community to help those in need, Rachel Stoll, a current live-in volunteer said.

The house relies solely on volunteers to maintain open hospitality.

Stoll said 5 to 10 volunteers hang out during open hospitality hours to make people feel welcome.

Most meals are provided by families and churches in the community.

“There are so many families who are willing to do that and that makes it easy to be a live-in volunteer,” Stoll said.

The meal was served at 5:30 p.m., in the bright yellow kitchen just as it is every Wednesday.

As eight men entered the house for open hospitality, a cat purred nearby, and volunteers carried on conversations with them as though they had just arrived home to their family from a busy day.
After the meal, two men played chess.

It was routine and relationships were being built.

“What we try to do here is make it as non institutional as possible,” Stoll said.

A vital helping hand for homelessness in Winona

Winona Volunteer Services is the main hub of communication for individuals seeking information about where to go to deal with homelessness issues.

Kay Peterson who has worked for Winona Volunteer Services as a client services coordinator for 10 years connects with people who battle homelessness and poverty on a daily basis.

These people contact Winona Volunteer Services looking for information about where to stay or where to go to receive free services.

“I talk to three to five people or families a week about services in the Winona area,” Peterson said.

As of right now, there are no places to stay overnight in the Winona area.

Volunteer services provide bus passes for to shelters in Rochester or La Crosse due to this lack of overnight beds.

“I don’t like sending family to shelters because then they have to pull their kids out of school, that’s why it’s so important to provide places to stay in Winona,” said Peterson.

From Peterson’s perspective, there is homelessness in Winona due to a lack of affordable housing or a place for people in transition who just need a few weeks to get back on their feet.

Overnight housing underway

The Dan Corcoran House – a few houses down from the Bethany House – is currently closed due to renovations.

In October there was only one live-in volunteer and providing overnight housing wasn’t an option.

Stoll and five other live-in volunteers moved into the Bethany House this month, which divided the workload.

Stoll said once the Dan Corcoran House reopens, women and children could stay as overnight guests.

There are at least ten unused beds available at the houses, Kay Peterson, service coordinator at Winona Volunteer Services said.

“Once we get our overnight houses up to snuff, we are very excited to be open again for overnight guests,” she said.

Homelessness – it can happen to anyone

Dale Hadler of Minneapolis said he has regularly attended open hospitality almost every day.

Hadler said he had been unemployed for quite awhile and was briefly homeless in Minneapolis.

He temporary worked in Kentucky before he moved to Winona.

Hadler previously attended the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse where he received two master degrees.

For Hadler, he said it’s not that hard to be in the position to need assistance.

Hadler recalled having coffee with the vice president of the United States in 1996 in Minneapolis.

“That’s where I was at one point,” Hadler said.

People believe if they save money, plan and do the right thing then they won’t become homeless, according to Hadler.

“Due to the wrong set of circumstances, homelessness could happen to anyone,” he said.

With white hair and weary eyes, Hadler said, “People who come here have no place to stay – literally begging for a place to stay and it’s not here.”

Hadler said he enjoys going to open hospitality because he likes to be around other people.

“It’s socialization and it’s a good place to be around and I’m a sociable person,” Hadler said.

Hadler expressed his concernment about people not understanding why homelessness occurs.

“You have to say ‘this could be me’ and I think that’s what everyone has to understand,” he said.

Kay Peterson, a client services coordinator at Winona Volunteer Services, talks about why she thinks there is homelessness in the Winona area.


MN DNR Makes Changes to Aquatic Invasive Species Law

Boaters on Minnesota waters are supposed to take measures to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. A new law might have boaters staying off Minnesota water and roadways altogether.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Statute 86B.13 will require boaters to take an educational training course about aquatic invasive species and pass an online test to legalize the transportation of watercrafts to and from different bodies of water.

Common aquatic invasive species include the zebra mussel. Image created by Jordan Gerard.
Common aquatic invasive species include the zebra mussel. Image created by Jordan Gerard.

April Rust, an invasive species training coordinator for the DNR, said a lot of aquatic invasive species laws were changed in 2011 and 2012. In the legislation package, one of them was a required boat sticker, four inches wide and eight inches tall, which stated the aquatic invasive species laws.

“What the law stated was anyone that was using any watercraft in Minnesota would have to put the sticker somewhere on their boat, just so they would have the laws with them,” Rust said. “People did not like it and it was less than a year in the next legislative session, that thing was repealed. We had printed some and already had gotten them out and so there was a lot of confusion about it and there was no training or education requirement. All it said was that you need one of these stickers that are free at a DNR office. Call or stop by and get one and put it on your boat.”

Rust said it was very unpopular and the legislature repealed it, but there was “incredible pressure” by groups, lake associations and citizen groups who wanted make sure people knew and followed aquatic invasive species laws.

The new 2015 program, originally set to launch in January and officially required on July 1, 2015, would have boaters take an online course for $5 to learn about aquatic invasive species and then to pass a ten-point quiz at the end, which can be taken as many times as people need. They would receive a decal to be display on their trailers and renew it once every three years, Rust said. If owners have more than one watercraft, they can receive extra stickers.

There was also a paper version ready to be printed for those who do not have Internet, which would cost $11. The $5 online fee would cover the vendor’s costs to manage and host the online content, Rust said.

“Anyone transporting water related equipment in Minnesota would need to take the short course,” Rust said. “And the course in the statute says that the course will instruct people about aquatic invasive species and aquatic invasive species laws in Minnesota.”

Rust said she isn’t sure where the idea came from, be it legislation, citizen groups or staff, but the DNR did not start it.

“This wasn’t ours necessarily, other than we got pulled into it because of our jurisdiction,” Rust said. “So the purpose was to just to make sure that people knew aquatic invasive species laws and to follow it to lower the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species.”

Aquatic invasive species are not native to specific bodies of water and cause environmental or human harm. Zebra mussels, specific types of carp, and weeds are the most invasive species, which can suffocate native plants and disrupt natural habitats, according to the DNR. A full list is available at

The DNR said aquatic invasive species are spread by not washing off aquatic plants from trailers and watercraft, not draining live wells or water tanks before leaving boat landings, not removing drain plugs and releasing live bait into the water.

Rust said there was mixed opposition and support of the law, but most people wanted to comply with the law.

“They got a lot of phone calls and I would say just from talking to them and from the calls I got, the majority of people calling just wanted to ask questions or get registered to take the course,” Rust said.

Rust said she teaches aquatic invasive species training for businesses that require permits, such as lake associations, boat haulers and irrigators, which take a three-hour training, every three years, and pay $50 for a permit.

“At least 20 percent of them were gung-ho about it, and then a bunch in the middle who just had logistical questions or just wanted to get it and didn’t express an opinion either way,” Rust said.

She estimated about 10 percent of boaters were upset about the law, and those are the ones who have been active and gotten legislators involved. There’s a Facebook group, “Repeal MN Statute 86B.13,” which has 3,450 likes and posts updates about the law’s progress in the legislature. Rust added there is “a lot of misinformation about the program out there.”

“It’s not to dismiss it. They are some of the loudest voices,” Rust said. “I’d say the majority are either supportive or neutral about it.”

Competitive bass angler Cade Laufenberg said he takes the necessary precautions by law to prevent invasive species spreading.

“I do not go through great lengths or above and beyond my call of duty to do such. I do not have time to wash and dry my boat thoroughly after each use when I fish as often as five days per week,” Laufenberg said. “I drain my live wells, remove any weeds from the trailer and boat and wipe down the boat with a water-based solution.”

On Jan. 28, the DNR said in a news release the training course would be “postponed while legislators consider changes to the program.” They also said there were “concerns with the way the law was written.” One concern was boaters traveling through Minnesota but not launching in Minnesota waters, would still need the required training and sticker.

The decals must be obtained through the training course and once received, “must be displayed on the tongue of the trailer near the hitch and does not interfere with any other sticker regulations,” according to the DNR.

If boaters are found without the decal after July 1, they will be ordered by conservation officers to take the training course before continuing to operate or transport watercraft, according to the DNR.

Laufenberg agrees “we should be doing something to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species” and said “the AIS program has good intentions, but the methods used to try and implement this are a burden on the public who use the waterways and bring so much to Minnesota’s economy.”

“Why should boaters be required to pay additional fees on top of the fees we already pay just to continue using the waterways?” Laufenberg said. “I think the law passing will make virtually no difference whatsoever in the number of invasive species.”

Rust said fewer than five percent of Minnesota’s lakes, numbering 12,000 and about 6,500 rivers and streams, are infected with aquatic invasive species and are listed on the infested waters list.

“It’s not as horrific a picture as I think the public perception is,” Rust said. “Not to dismiss it at all, but it’s not like it’s a done deal where every water body is going to be infested with all of these things.”

Education is the main tool the DNR uses to prevent aquatic invasive species from spreading. The basics of the education programs help boaters know about aquatic invasive species and what they should be doing and the basic laws and how to lower the risk of spreading them, Rust said.

“Prevention is definitely the first priority because if you can keep species out, that’s the most cost-effective easiest way to do it,” Rust said. “There’s a whole bunch of methods, out reach and communication, watercraft inspectors, official DNR ones that have pressure wash stations and will do decontaminations on boats for people for free.”

They also use campaigns, grants and volunteer inspectors trained by DNR staff. The inspectors do not have legal authority, but Rust said the DNR has extended their authority to require inspections and have that force of law.

“We can give that authority to county or city or local unit of government and their employees can be trained and have the equivalent of DNR inspector,” Rust said.

Rust said that a new zebra mussel researcher at the University of Minnesota Research Center said “zebra mussels in Minnesota have spread a decade slower than they have in other Great Lakes states.”

“We don’t know if it’s an effect of geography or our programming or what, but it’s been slower here,” Rust said. “That being said, once a water body is infested, eradication is almost impossible.”

Rust said she thought the new training program would contribute to fewer violations at the check stations and collection points. Compliance rates are compared every year and the rates are going down each year, Rust said.

“Last summer it was 16 or 17 percent at our random check stations of violation rates,” Rust said. “When you’re talking about a few people it would take to spread to a different water body, that’s still too high a percentage.”

Unexpected reassignment for WSU’s Advancement Vice President

Winona State University announced a reassignment to new duties for the Vice President for University Advancement on Thursday, Jan. 22.

Ernie Troy Hughes Profile Photo
Former Vice President for University Advancement Ernie Troy Hughes

According to an email sent to all university accounts, the direction Ernie Hughes introduced did not align with President Scott Olson’s vision for advancing Winona State.

His new duties will focus on “enrollment strategies that will benefit the university,” the email read.

Previous Vice President Gary Evans will return and serve as an interim until a new vice president can be found. The university’s search will “begin immediately,” according to the email.

Gary Evans Profile Photo
Gary Evans returns to his former position as Vice President for University Advancement in an interim position.

Hughes was an “at-will” employee of the university, which means an employee can be fired without a just cause for termination.

Olson hired Hughes in June 2014 and his term started Aug. 11, 2014 with a salary of $155,000.

The job description included planning, coordinating, managing and implementing all fundraisers for Winona State and the WSU Foundation, which provides scholarships for students and funding for university programs.

Hughes was also a senior member on the president’s Council of Administrators and served on the President’s Cabinet.

Other duties included reaching out to business and community leaders as well as supervising advancement, communications, alumni services, creative services, government relations, Foundation finance and communicates with the Foundation Board of Trustees.

Hughes’s resume showed several degrees in leadership and advancement positions. He holds a doctor of philosophy degree in human resource development from Louisiana State University, a master of business administration degree in marketing and a bachelor of business administration degree in finance and logistics from Mississippi State University.

Before his position at Winona State, Hughes held similar positions. From August 2010 to October 2013, he was the vice president for advancement and executive director of the System Foundation at Southern University System in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is a network of five universities in Louisiana.

According to his resume, during his term at Southern University System, he increased donations by 34 percent, increased unrestricted gifts by 37 percent with the creation of a leadership giving society. He was also responsible for soliciting gifts of $5,000 and higher from alumni and non-alumni friends. Notably, he secured a $2.4 million gift for the University system.

Alex Hines, inclusion and diversity director at WSU, was acquainted with Hughes during his time at WSU.

“I think he’s a dynamic African-American male,” Hines said. “He’s genuine, sincere, honest. We enjoyed each other’s company.”

Hughes and Olson were unavailable for comment. Olson was off-campus at the MnSCU Board Meeting and deferred to Cristeen Custer, assistant vice president for marketing and communications, who said in an email that the statement sent on Jan. 22, “is the only information we will be providing on this topic.”


Photos courtesy of Winona State University.

Local tanning salon owner says his business is unaffected after Minnesota tanning prohibition law


Young tanners in Minnesota haven’t found warmth from the use of tanning beds this winter.

Peter Freese, owner of Electric Beach By GQ on Huff Street and GQ Hairstyling Tanning on Gilmore Avenue in Winona, said he hasn’t felt repercussions from a tanning law that prohibited minors from using tanning beds on August 1, 2014.

It was no surprise to Freese the indoor tanning industry was under attack.

He chose to ignore it.

Minors comprised two percent of his tanners and business, according to Freese.

“It hasn’t affected our business at all,” Freese said.

The tanning prohibition was a feel-good law, according to Freese.

“I think most parents if it was put to a question, would agree the law takes away parental rights,” Freese said.

Most teens come in with parents to get pre-tans before trips to warmer areas to prevent sunburn, according to Freese.

GQ Hairstyling Tanning on Gilmore Ave. is owned by Peter Freese.
GQ Hairstyling Tanning on Gilmore Ave. is owned by Peter Freese.

In May 2014, Minnesota legislators and governor Mark Dayton signed a bill to prohibit minors the use of tanning beds.

DeAnn Lazovich, associate professor in the school of public health at the University of Minnesota, Ph.D., M.P.H., conducted a study on indoor tanning and its dangerous effects.

The American Cancer Society organized a lobbying campaign for stronger indoor tanning laws for the state of Minnesota, Lazovich said.

Lazovich educated legislators about the risks of indoor tanning.

“I was available as an expert on the topic,” Lazovich said.

Lazovich’s study found those who used indoor tanning beds have a 74 percent chance of melanoma, which is the most serious type of skin cancer.

“Minors are at a higher risk because adolescents are more likely to try out risky behaviors,” Lazovich said.

The accumulated number of tanning sessions increased the risk of skin cancer.

When a 16-year-old girl starts tanning, it’s likely she will carry it into adulthood, and by age 30, the tanning sessions are built up dramatically, Lazovich explained.

A stand-up tanning bed at GQ Hairstyling Tanning on Gilmore Ave. owned by Peter Freese.
A stand-up tanning bed at GQ Hairstyling Tanning on Gilmore Ave. owned by Peter Freese.

“Melanoma is the second most common type of cancer found in young women and in high school girls,“ Lazovich said.

Michelle Strangis, cancer policy coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Health, explained how the American Cancer Society’s lobbying group gathered legislation authors for the bill and then carried it through the session.

“I’m really hopeful people are going to decrease their tanning. I think they will start thinking of tan skin as damaged skin and not beautiful,” Strangis said.

Strangis provided research information for legislators through two news releases.

The first release in January 2013 stated melanoma has increased in white, 20 to 49 year old women in Minnesota.

“For the last 15 years, melanoma has increased by four percent in these women,” Strangis said.

This is the highest increase rate of any type of cancer Strangis explained.

“That’s a very concerning statistic from a public health perspective,” she said.

In January 2014, a second release focused on the dangers of indoor tanning amongst white female students in 11 grade in Minnesota.

In this group, 34 percent said they tanned once in the last year. Secondly, the majority of this group said they tanned ten or more times in the past year, according to Strangis.

“Those two press releases generated a lot of media and were influential for getting support for the bill to prohibit persons under 18 tanning at salons,” Strangis said.

Through the American Cancer Society and once lobbyists got organized, the bill passed rapidly in the summer of 2014, Lazovich said.

For tanning salon owner, Freese, he saw the legislation as politicians “at their best” and a “small victory.”

By Kayla Langmaid