Letter to the Editor

Michael Lott

For the past year or so, I have been mentally composing a graduation letter to President Beck listing all of my grievances with Lawrence.
First and foremost would be the administration’s silence on the postering of the GLOW house last year. The handling of the intruder into women’s rooms this term also made the cut.
But, thankfully, I have discussed these issues enough with other people on campus — students and my RHD — to realize that a private diatribe would make very little difference for the community.
My next idea was to write an editorial for The Lawrentian that blasted the administration for silence or poor communication with students about issues that faced the student body. For example, why haven’t I received an email about the recent intruder?
Again, though, discussions with fellow students — and my insufferably wise father — persuaded me to reconsider such a polemic. My friends and I came to a general consensus that what was needed most of all was a better space and time to talk with fellow students and administration about various issues.
The recent open forum came at an opportune time in my thought processes. While it was advertised as a forum for discussing the P+H party, public art and sidewalk sperm, it served mainly as a space for discussing administration-student communication. That tangent was telling, as we students have not had that kind of opportunity before.
I am not going to launch into a rabid criticism of how the administration handled notification of the intruder or how much detail we get about situations. Others are taking care of that. What I want to argue for is dialogue.
It is so important for forums like the one last week to happen regularly. Dean Truesdell and others are always available to talk –indeed, this editorial is influenced by an extremely positive talk I had with her recently about ways of improving communication on campus. However, having a regular question-and-answer forum allows students to both respond to each other and to the administration in a public setting would be valuable.
There is another method of opening dialogue on campus which would better address student issues like those the open forum was originally meant to discuss.
Judicial Board, as the myth/truth posters all around campus advertise, is not a public affair. It is by definition confidential. This confidentiality is useful for some conflicts, but does little to nothing for the campus at large. If an issue affects students across the campus community, it should be discussed or dealt with in a public manner. I cannot overemphasize the value of open dialogue over private deliberation in many cases.
We need a new structure, a new forum. Call it Moderation Board, Mediation Board, a Campus Forum, a Town Hall or whatever you will. There needs to be a formal way for campus issues to be discussed in an open manner. Moderators or mediators would be trained students. There should be a formal, voluntary process for bringing groups to the table. Assumedly, community members would be allowed to speak at the meetings. The primary purpose would be to discuss, to promote dialogue and communication, not to sanction or punish.
This isn’t something that will spring forth into existence. Nor will it immediately be accepted as a viable structure in the community. It will take work and dedication on the part of the student body, and the idea requires refinement. But it will catch on, as we desperately need an open alternative to J-Board for public discussion and resolution of public issues. We need dialogue.