Dear Lawrentian Editor,On behalf of President Warch and the administrative staff, I am writing in response to the editorial written by Jessie Augustyn, Ray Feller, Jacques Hacquebord, and Steven Tie Shue that appeared in the January 16th issue of The Lawrentian. While it is generally our practice to stay out of student discussions on the editorial page of The Lawrentian, the letter to the administrative staff struck us as particularly well-written and reflective of what we know to be current concerns expressed by students.
There is indeed a Lawrence Difference as you describe it. Student involvement has been and is a larger factor in institutional decision-making at Lawrence than at most other colleges with which we are familiar. Students are given great latitude and responsibility to make decisions that affect their lives on campus, and for more than 30 years LUCC has provided an important and educational opportunity for students to participate in the University’s governance process. That does not mean, however, that LUCC is the sole source of governance regarding student life. Sometimes the University’s administration, in fulfilling its responsibility to ensure the overall welfare of the college, is moved to take action on its own or by instruction from the Board of Trustees. While much (we would, in fact, say most) of the time decision-making is done in consultation and collaboration with students, there are occasions when that may not be possible, or may not involve students to the degree they desire.
For us, the issue of making all University facilities smoke-free was a matter of student and employee health; it had become a workplace issue about which we could not negotiate. On another front, the Board of Trustees directed the administration to implement formal group housing. In the first year of implementation LUCC played a pivotal role in naming students to the Formal Group Housing Selection and Review Board. Last year, however, LUCC declined to exercise its prerogative in a timely manner, leaving President Warch no option but to appoint students so that the housing selection process could continue on schedule. As Jacques is aware, that situation already has been addressed for the current year, and LUCC will play a direct role in appointment of all student members of the Selection and Review Board. As to changes in the senior class dinner, no one seems to argue that change was unnecessary. The event had devolved into an excuse for excessive drinking, and unsafe and inappropriate behavior was far too prevalent. As some students suggested at the recent forum (and as I have confirmed with the senior administrative staff), it is not too late to hear student suggestions for how the event should be modified. As a positive outgrowth of the forum, a group of students selected by the senior class officers has engaged in dialogue with staff on this topic. If we were not interested in hearing student views, we simply would have restated our decision and moved on.
We believe that the relationship between students and the administration is one based on mutual respect and sincere attempts to work together whenever possible. We collect, consider, and respect student opinion each time we interact with individual or groups of students who express a concern or viewpoint, and we take seriously the work of LUCC. We ask for the same respect from students as we do our best to make decisions that fall within our purview and are made with the overall institutional good in mind. As a concrete example of our desire to seek additional ways to continue to listen to your concerns and suggestions, we invite you to join us for lunchtime “listening sessions” that will be held weekly in Downer or Lucinda’s. I will be scheduling “guest” administrators and topics-to be based on student interest-and we hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to share your ideas.
We appreciate the thought and conviction that went into the letter, urge you to join us in keeping the lines of communication open, and pledge to do our best to listen with greater frequency and attentiveness in the future.
Nancy Truesdell, Dean of Students