Lawrence is a university that prides itself on a small, tight-knit community. One key selling point by the admissions team is the small class sizes that allow students to build more meaningful relationships with each other and their professors. Outside the classroom, events like the annual President’s Ball, Greek Week and LUaroo bring large groups of students together to destress from classwork and have fun. However, in spite of these occasional events, the feelings of community at Lawrence have been lacking in recent years. Whether a part of our campus culture or a lack of social events, students struggle to make friends or branch out from their immediate circles.
One issue is that campus events are often restricted to residence halls or certain groups of students. Campus life events have a tendency to focus on first-year students, who may need help finding friends and a sense of belonging. These events exclude the vast majority of the student body, and don’t acknowledge that these struggles can affect students in any class. They also force first-years to only make friends with other freshmen, and discourage them from getting to know people in other halls.
Problems with class specific events also affect seniors. Many events, like 200 Days celebration, are in the Viking Room (VR). This can be problematic for plenty of reasons. First of all, some seniors are not yet 21, which excludes them from milestone events they may feel are rites of passage. This was not always an issue. When the VR was founded, the drinking age in Wisconsin was 18, and almost all Lawrence students could take part. Now, the VR serves no more than a quarter of the student body. Aside from legal constraints, there are plenty of students who do not drink, or require sober spaces for other reasons such as religion. This issue also sheds light on the reliance of the campus community on alcohol culture.
As an Editorial Board of mostly upperclassmen, we noted that because of the limitations of these types of events, it is nearly impossible to build relationships with anyone outside of clubs, sports or classes. We need to see more events that welcome all students to interact with each other. Events that are held in the Warch Campus Center, like the President’s Ball or special comedy shows, can be a draw for all, and allow the space for hundreds of students to get involved and have fun. There are also opportunities to use our graduating classes and class colors to excite people into participating in events. One idea would be something like a Class Olympics. Each class could compete against one another in fun events and possibly raise money for a charity or for more student events. This would be an awesome way to bring the campus together and do something helpful for the community around us.
The disconnect in campus community that only seems to get worse as the years go on. If Lawrence is to keep basing its draw on its small size, events need to be structured as to avoid the paradoxical effect of social isolation. Faces on campus are more unfamiliar than ever, and in the dark winter hours we all could use more friends to keep us warm.