Last week the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) voted to ban smoking in the union next year with the exception of the Viking Room. This vote came despite concerns raised by members of the council that representatives hadn’t consulted with their constituents about the issue. In light of this recent decision, it is evident that LUCC is not a group that accurately represents Lawrence University’s students.It seems to us that at the center of this problem is that the lines of communication between LUCC and the community are not open. Elections are supposed to allow students to elect council members who will accurately and truthfully represent their opinions. However, in order for the council members to accurately represent their constituents, they must be in contact with them. In the case of the smoking in the union vote, this was clearly not the case. Several members of the council readily admitted that they hadn’t spoken to their residents about the issue and that they would have to guess at what their residents would want. In fact, when asked where the issue had originated it came to light that Paul Shrode, the LUCC advisor and Associate Dean of Student Activities, had initiated the concerns about smoking. The council has approved a ban on smoking that was not discussed with their constituents and not even a student concern. Is this good representation? Clearly not.
At the May 15 meeting, students who weren’t asked their opinions by their representatives waited patiently for their chance to address the council. However, when students where given the opportunity to speak, many of them didn’t even know that the chance had come. Apparently it was not clear to the students that they were allowed to speak. Where the individual representatives had failed by not speaking to their constituents, the heads of the council failed in not ensuring the students had voiced their opinions.
When a representative asked about making the VR a place for students to smoke during the day, Shrode said that conversion of the bar would cost about $20,000, which effectively ended the debate. Does the sponsor of the legislation to ban smoking from the union also get the final say on amending the legislation? Why didn’t the committee look into this issue itself? Why didn’t it represent student interests and explore the issue further? Instead of advising LUCC on how to represent the students—as one imagines an advisor should—Shrode took an active part in forming legislation. We cannot help but wonder how Shrode can possibly advise LUCC on the best way to represent students while at the same time advancing a legislative agenda. What’s more, how can LUCC know whether Shrode is an impartial advisor or an advocate of legislation? This is not to say that Shrode has any inappropriate intentions, simply that it is not possible to fill both roles simultaneously.
LUCC has ignored its duty as a body that represents students and often does what a vocal minority pleases. Students get the distinct impression that their opinion makes no difference to the council, and why shouldn’t they? When the council doesn’t open the floor for discussion on such issues and admits that they haven’t talked to their constituents, no other conclusion can be drawn. LUCC needs to remember why they are here and start accurately representing the campus.