For years, the democratic process of the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) has been a defining feature of Lawrence life. At its simplest, LUCC gives students control over student issues, the non-academic aspects of life on campus.
Few other schools in the United States have as autonomous, democratic, and meaningful student government as Lawrence does.
It is no exaggeration to say that LUCC is a major part of the “Lawrence Difference” that is lauded in the mail the admissions office sends to prospective students each year.
On Tuesday, Oct. 21, these democratic ideals were rendered meaningless by the Lawrence administration.
During the 2002-2003 academic year, LUCC debated the issue of whether or not Plantz Hall should be declared smoke-free.
After hours of debate and considering that more smoke-free housing would be available with the addition of Hiett Hall, the council decided that housing should be provided for students who wanted to smoke in their rooms.
However, on Oct. 21 of this year, the administration, through representative Dean Truesdale, informed LUCC that beginning July 2004 all University owned, rented, and leased facilities would become smoke-free.
Although it is claimed that the policy is protecting Lawrence University staff, under scrutiny, this justification proves hollow. Custodial staff, the only staff that works in student residences, is not allowed to enter individual rooms. Their exposure to smoke is minimal at worst.
Regardless, whether or not one agrees with the ends achieved by the administration’s actions, they are necessarily tainted by the undemocratic means by which they were achieved; the administration ignored the will of the students and faculty as expressed by LUCC’s decision to continue to allow smoking in Plantz Hall.
The administration’s course of action is repugnant, not only because it undermined the democratic ideals of the university, but more importantly because of the precedent that it sets.
If the administration can swat aside the will of LUCC, the sole democratic voice of the students and faculty on campus, whenever it dislikes the results, then LUCC is effectively reduced to nothing more than a glorified debating society for 14 students and four faculty members.
This should not be dismissed as an isolated event. At the same Oct. 21 LUCC meeting, the administration proposed legislation that would remove 24-hour student parking from student control. (However, after much debate and a lengthy student-led amendment process, the students were able to maintain control over their own parking situation.)
Similarly, last academic year, former LUCC president Cole Delaney wrote a three-part editorial concerning the administration’s creation of “Formal Group Housing” outside of LUCC jurisdiction, effectivly eroding student say over student housing.
If students want their voice to have any relevance concerning life on campus, they should be appalled at the administration’s attempts to diminish their say over student issues.
I encourage anyone who shares my anger and frustration with this turn of events to contact President Warch and demand that he respect the democratic process embodied in LUCC by repealing the new smoking policy and to, instead, submit it to LUCC for student and faculty approval.
Anything less undermines and betrays the democratic ideals that Lawrence University claims to embody.
President Warch’s contact information (from find.lawrence.edu):
Public e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Campus Address: President’s Office, Sampson House
Campus Phone: x6525