Letter to the Editor

As an African American, non-heterosexual female student from a large urban community, I am concerned about a recent decision made by the president’s cabinet to eliminate the position of assistant dean of students for multicultural affairs. This decision comes after this same cabinet has declared that it is making an effort to increase the diversity of the student body and the faculty. I am concerned because the loss of this position means that there will be no one person in the administration to take any problems or questions concerning diversity on this campus, and in this city, to. I am concerned because this means that we have lost a link between the student body and the faculty and staff to form a support system for the diverse population that already exists on this campus.
But mostly I am concerned that at the end of this year there will be no one in the upper levels of the administration who looks like me. How can I say to students who visit from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other urban diverse areas that Lawrence will do everything possible to make them feel comfortable in a cultural climate so different from the ones that they are used to when there is no representative who is advocating for them in Diversity Affairs?
From where I am standing, Lawrence is taking two steps backward, right after they have taken a step forward by partnering with organizations like Admission Possible and Posse. I feel as if I am being told, “See? Look! We have made some improvement! We can stop trying now.” That is not the case.
We may think we do not have to address diversity on this campus, but that has not been, and still is not, a reality. The elimination of this position says to me that Lawrence University does not feel that we need a person to handle Diversity Affairs. Are there no hate crimes that happen here?
Are there no incidents that need to be directly mediated by someone who is trained in this area? Do we not have an entire council dedicated to linking the diversity groups on campus to the faculty, staff and student body that needs to have a faculty advisor?
Lawrence is still a small mostly Caucasian Judeo-Christian heteronormative institution. This can be seen in the student body, the staff and the faculty. Persons who do not fall into that category will no longer have someone who is fighting to have their voice heard in the upper levels of the administration.
I understand that in the current economic climate we need to tighten our belt, but if we start cutting corners, we may see disastrous effects in admission and retention of diverse students and hiring and retention of diverse faculty and staff. I ask the president, her cabinet and the board of trustees to seriously reconsider the need for the position of assistant dean of students for multicultural affairs for the sake of both the present and future members of Lawrence University.Respectfully,
Isake K. Smith ’11