Zoning laws dictating living at Lawrence

It has been common knowledge for a while now that group housing at Lawrence is in the process of changing. However, while there was confirmation last year about the fate of the Union Street houses, the future of Greenfire, Sustainable Lawrence University Garden (SLUG) and Outdoor Recreation Club (ORC) was a little less clear, as was the ultimate solution for housing students with these options gone.

The assumption that these three houses will be gone next year is correct. But the reasoning behind it may not be what some students expected. Rather than the university deciding independently to repurpose the buildings for other uses, it comes down to Appleton zoning laws.

Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life Amy Uecke explained that these laws are “the whole reason that we won’t be able to occupy [the houses].” However, she elaborated that the administration understands that these are important options for students. “Those groups will have the ability to apply again, and we have the lofts coming on board being built in Colman … right now we’re focusing on getting those lofts constructed to offer yet another option for students to live together in a different way.” While the lofts are a fix for now, Uecke explained that “longer term … that’s probably at a different level than mine, that’s probably at a cabinet level of the president’s staff to say “how are we going to expand—is it another residence hall that we want to build? Is it more group housing? That kind of thing.”

With the loss of these housing spaces, students might get the sense that Lawrence is in the midst of a major space crisis. “You get some speculation because we’re in lounges for some male students,” Uecke said. But she clarified that this is not a new problem. “We always have more students returning Term II from abroad, so we’ll be in a crunch in that situation… we’ve been in these kinds of situations before, I wouldn’t classify this as a crisis. We’re pressed for space, that’s fair, but I don’t see us setting up huts on the quads” “In terms of space in general, housing stock will be able to accommodate the students we need to accommodate.”

While the administration is doing their best to house students and obey Appleton city ordinance, that does not change the sadness of students living in group houses. “I think group houses achieve a sense of community and coherence among the students that can’t be reached in any other housing option,” said junior Aaron Witter, who lives in ORC. “I think some of the individuality that the houses allow for is going to be removed to a degree. I would qualify myself as a ‘sad boi.’”

Senior Cameron Murdock, a member of the Greenfire Co-op and former resident of the house, agreed. “I think it’s a huge change because it’s part of the community, and you can’t just have Lawrence living in a dorm. These small communities are a big part of what Lawrence is.”

Members of SLUG felt similarly. “I think it will be a change… just speaking from my own experience, SLUG house is the main incubator for the plans for the garden, and it also helps build community within our organization,” said senior Tracy Johnson. But Johnson also expressed an interest to see how this will affect the club going forward. “I think SLUG will definitely survive without a house. I think there’s always been the concern, more so in the past than now, that people are more interested in the house than they are in the actual running of the garden , so that’ll be [interesting].”

Senior Abigail Hindson, another SLUG resident, agreed. “It makes me very sad. I think that a big part of why I came to Lawrence, was the option to have small group housing, and I think it’s a great way to have micro-communities within the Lawrence community, and I think losing that is going to be a shame.” But she added that she appreciated the attempts the Residence Life Committee is making. “I don’t think the school wants us to go at all, and it’s a shame that we have to. I do like the attempts that Lawrence is making to allow group housing. I think it’ll be a different atmosphere for sure.”

Uecke urged students to speak up, saying “the time is now, the res life committee, headed up by Malcolm Lunn-Craft,[is addressing this issue], so students in group housing right now should be hearing from somebody in the res life committee because they were reaching out to those houses, and if all else fails they certainly can drop [comments] off in our office.”