On Thursday, Apr. 4, Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) and the Student Welfare committee hosted a town hall event where students could share their struggles of living at Lawrence. The prompting of the event goes back to earlier this year when a task force was crafted to address many of the problems that plague Lawrence students from depression to work and relationships.
The task force looked at a survey of college students across America called the National College Health Assessment, and then ran their own survey of Lawrence students and compared the results.
Lawrence scored over five percent higher than the national average in several of the categories, notably depression and extracurricular activities having an adverse effect on schoolwork. However, the most striking was that 38.7 percent of students had social relationships that consisted of trauma or were very difficult to handle in the last 12 months. This is almost 15 percent higher than the national average. Thus, with this in mind, the town hall set out to try and understand what makes this a reality for Lawrence.
Over the course of the meeting, students shared many of their stories, some of which were quite heartfelt and very personal. They included many different ideas, some as simple as the fact that Winter Term causes Seasonal Affective Disorder to a very poignant comment that someone brought up: Lawrence is a small school and is extremely cliquey in nature. Friend groups are very tight-knit and an issue that affects just one person can cause upsets with everyone. This can then bleed over dramatically into academic life.
Jumping off from that, several students talked about an even darker aspect of this clique culture: the need to be seen and belong to a clique. Several students said this meant they actually feared being seen at dinner without somebody with them. This then creates an unhealthy culture of forcing yourself to find one of those cliques, meaning that they may inadvertently create more stress for everybody involved. This may seem strange upon first hearing it, but it is something very real to many at the Lawrence community and something that the two professors leading the event had no real grasp of.
Topics besides this included how social media affects students’ lives, the cycle of depression that many Lawrence students slip into and how the trimester system forces campus into a never-ending whirlwind, causing even more stress which feeds into the aforementioned factors. Finally, solutions to these ongoing problems were briefly proposed and included more advertising on Wellness Center services as well as highly encouraging or even making certain classes mandatory. One class in question is UNIC 117: Investigating Academic Success, which was raved about by almost every student at the event.
It was questions and ideas like these along with the brave students that were willing to share them that made the town hall an eye-opening and important event, one that will hopefully continue in the future. The Student Welfare Committee said they hope to have another one this term and host them every other week starting next year. It truly was an eye-opening event and one that every student should go to, even if just to listen to the stories their fellow students have to share. Students should watch for additional emails from the Committee and LUCC about future town halls. Those who shared their stories can help bring about much needed change to the Lawrence community.