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Lawrentians in Contention: Bring your dog to Kohler

Hi, and welcome to a brand new column on Lawrence University issues with a twist. For this inaugural article, I have chosen something near and dear to the hearts of many a Lawrentian: Pets.

Many of us left our beloved furballs at home when we came to Lawrence. For some, it was an easy decision; who wants to take care of a dog on campus? In some cases it was for the best (parents can let go of the kid, but taking the dog is probably way too much), and some of us read Section III. D. of the Student Handbook and walked away with more questions than we started with. That’s a problem.

I’ma be honest y’all. The handbook’s rules for pets are all over the place and wildly inconsistent. For those of you who don’t want to pull out your cherished copy of the handbook I’ll provide a quick synopsis of the four categories pets fall into:

First is the “unrestricted” pet category, which require no floor vote for the student to own and ostensibly applies to animals that can be maintained in a tank of 10 gallons or less. The handbook says it applies to fish, lizards and turtles.

The second category of pets is “partially restricted,” which is “limited to” birds, snakes and mammals that are all considered “small”. They must be maintained in 10 cubic feet of cage or aquarium and require the unanimous consent of the floor or house. Furthermore, dogs, cats and rabbits are not allowed in residence halls or theme houses.

The third category, “restricted,” applies only to 712 E. Boldt Way, 726 E. Boldt Way, and 218 S. Lawe Street (Read: Swing House, Beta and Sig Ep), and permits a single dog or cat in the residence provided unanimous approval of the house.

This brings us to the final category, “forbidden,” which makes the most sense. Any animal not mentioned in the first three sections is forbidden. I respect that convenient catch-all. No one wants their roommate trapping squirrels and raising them in their room.

Still, the rules are ambiguous. The first category provides pets as examples that apply to the category, while the second section uses the term “limited” in its language. These separate qualifications don’t make any sense for this type of legislation, especially since the fourth section then forbids anything not mentioned. For example, the language prohibits amphibians and spiders, while Campus Life has approved these pets before. The language needs to be made consistent.

The main problem with the pet policy is how arbitrary it is. What the hell is up with cats, dogs and bunnies? If I want a dog mascot for my formal—and unanimously supportive –group house it shouldn’t be a problem, but with the current rules that’s impossible. These rules are historical artifacts that the University needs to re-examine.

Clearly the privilege to own cats isn’t tied to the character of the groups who live in houses because the rules haven’t changed to reflect group movement. And it’s not the location either; there are no distinguishing architectural traits in any of the quad houses that make them better habitats than other residences.

Finally there is the rabbit problem. Some past rule-maker obviously hated them but failed to amend the rules to fully eliminate rabbits. Under the current rules, any member of a formal group house can own a rabbit, while rabbits in theme or normal housing are forbidden.

This is really, really arbitrary, especially when considering that Lawrence requires its students to live on campus all four years. A few simple changes to the handbook would allow such autonomy and would serve the student body’s interests.

Lawrentians must make compromises with one another in the name of civility, since we’re all stuck within the same 1-mile radius for four years. Besides, if everyone on the Internet can agree so whole-heartedly that they love cats, I’m sure our small community can fix this pet thing. Don’t we all deserve a chance to have canine therapy all year round?

Author’s note:

When I’ve written on campus policies in the past, I would hear about an issue, get frustrated, talk it out with people and then write an article. Understandably this created some interesting self-selection biases and as a writer it’s easy enough to get caught up in one’s own perspective. So for this column, I’ve flipped this procedure on the head: Each topic I will discuss will have brought to my attention because students or faculty on campus thought a change was needed on campus.

To that end the title will reflect that. In its eight issues this column will attempt one thing: To bring to light ideas or conditions on campus that people disagree with or would like changed and talk about them in an explorative fashion.  Some of the issues I will discuss were brought to my attention by persuasive others who brought me around to their way of thinking. Sometimes they just convinced me to the point that I hoped to do the same to the university at large.