President Burstein addresses visiting families at Fall Festival

Burstein spoke to the assembled parents and friends of students in the Somerset Room.
Photo by Marieke de Koker

On Saturday, Oct. 14 at 9 a.m., President Mark Burstein hosted a Q&A session for families and presented a few themes on campus this year: progression of faculty, freedom of expression and academic freedom and affordability of tuition. The session was set up for families visiting campus for Fall Festival weekend.

“We have had an extraordinary progression of faculty on campus,” said President Burstein, “in the past four years, we have hired about 20% of our full-time, tenured faculty.” This has a great impact on curriculum and teaching on campus. By bringing in new faculty with specialties in their fields, students are exposed to a variety of different viewpoints and approaches to various areas of study.

On freedom of expression and academics, President Burstein said that Lawrence is always trying to “create an environment in which all students can thrive.” Faculty and staff in collaboration with the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) are always looking for ways to continue making Lawrence a safer environment for students to think creatively and express themselves freely. The school has joined an organization called “Sustained Dialogue,” a group that provides a training program for discussing issues with many different views and facilitating dialogue between the viewpoints.

The last theme that President Burstein discussed was the goal of making a Lawrence education more affordable for all families. In the past several years, the focus has been on cutting the operating budget, as President Burstein said, “in a way that does not, in any way, impact the education we offer.” Lawrence is also hoping to become a full-need institution so they can provide more aid to students with financial need. In order to become a full-need institution, a total of $85 million needs to be raised. Already, $72 million has been raised toward the goal, and there will be continued effort to find additional ways to make Lawrence more affordable for everyone.

President Burstein followed up his discussion of campus themes with a brief Q&A session with parents. One of the questions asked was, “Given the changes to the faculty, what is the goal of pedagogy on campus?”

In response, President Burstein explained the idea of a “flipped classroom” goal, in which students would learn class information online through modules at home and then apply the newly learned skills in the classroom with a professor to assist if necessary. This is opposite of the current traditional classroom in which skills are presented in the classroom and practical application happens at home in the form of homework.

Another attendee asked “What is the attention between free speech and hate speech on campus?”

“[The goal is to] limit the ability for someone to attack someone else on campus,” Burstein replied. This is made much more difficult with social media and the ability for people to harass each other anonymously online. The Judicial Board deals with most incidents when it is student on student harassment, but faculty is continuing to “rethink policy infrastructure and make sure it is working for today.”

One question asked how Lawrence is thinking about career development. Burstein answered, saying that there is a strong focus on “Life after Lawrence,” and students are encouraged to regularly meet with the Career Services staff to better prepare themselves for careers after college. “We are encouraging every Lawrentian to use summers for internships and research projects to prepare themselves for a life after Lawrence,” Burstein said.