An Honest Reflection on Housing Selection

Last week, I served as a voting member of the Group Living Selection Board and was a part of the decision making.

Even though the process is over, I still feel unsettled by it. After finding out that several other appeals were being filed, I felt that it was my responsibility to put my concerns forward and explain why I personally think the process was flawed and should be reevaluated.

I owe it to the groups who took their time to apply and put their trust in the board, to the board as a whole who may or may not share my concerns, and to the Residence Life Committee—a group that is dedicated to serving the Lawrence community. They have also recently redesigned this process in the hopes of creating a fairer, more efficient system for group living.

My main concern pertains to the voting portion of the selection process. The board took a total of three votes during the process. The first two votes were done simultaneously and intended to decide whether or not two specific groups should get houses. One of these votes was very, very close.

After the results were announced, we decided to go over the discussion points that had led us to this decision. During this short discussion, one member of the board asked if they could change their vote. I recall at least one other member nodding, possibly in agreement. This led us to question whether or not we should be able to do a revote. Some members wanted to, others did not, resulting in the third and final vote taken: whether or not we should revote on the first vote. This decision was off by one, in favor of not re-voting.

In hindsight, I simply do not think it made sense for us to vote on re-voting. In Steering and other committees where I have experience with parliamentarian and voting procedure, if an individual would like to change their vote, it is noted and changed without needing the permission of the rest of the committee.

If many of the selection board members voted against taking a revote because they did not want to change their vote and therefore would not benefit from the extra five minutes taken to revote, this gives those who didn’t want to change their minds an unfair advantage. Their voices are being elevated above those of other members who wanted to change their votes.

The selection process is heavily dependent on the thoughts of the board members, which is best represented through votes. Not permitting an individual to change their vote prevents their opinions from being taken into consideration. Also, putting a member’s right to vote through the democratic process does not make sense and goes against almost every aspect of the procedure, therefore threatening the validity of the final outcome. Considering the initial vote in question resulted in a 5-4 outcome, I think it is clear that allowing at least one member to change their vote would likely affect the outcome and, consequently, the final decision of the selection board.

In the days following the selection, I made the decision to file an appeal stating this concern. I felt it warranted the process being redone to ensure that the final decision matched the feelings of the board members, as intended. Unfortunately, my appeal was not approved by the Residence Life Committee to be brought forward to the rest of the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC).

In the housing legislation, it says that appeals may only be brought forward by applicant groups. Since I was not one of the applicant groups, my appeal was denied credibility and my concerns were not shared during the Executive LUCC Meeting held this past Monday. My voice was being silenced by the Residence Life Committee, which is ironic, because I am a member of that committee.

As someone who is very committed to upholding the values and mission of LUCC, I felt that my account of what happened needed to be shared and that actions should have been taken to rectify what I perceived to be misconduct during the process. I still believe that is it the responsibility of the Residence Life Committee to address this problem and I will continue to push the committee internally to hold themselves accountable for what went wrong in this process.

I would also like to add that I am in a very unique position where I am an appellant, a member of the selection board, a member of the Residence Life Committee and General Secretary of LUCC. By being in each of these positions, I have had the opportunity to see the housing process and its aftermath unfold in multiple dimensions.

I understand why my appeal was denied but I still think it bears merit. I agree that the legislation and process cannot be changed mid-cycle to accommodate my wishes, but I feel that it would be best for the Lawrence community if it were.

It is a very strange predicament to be in and I feel torn in many ways. However, by choosing to file an appeal and write this piece, I feel I am making efforts towards the transparency and accountability of LUCC, which is something I, the rest of cabinet, and several other members of LUCC have been attempting to prioritize for this term and moving forward.

Making this information public does come with some sacrifices, which encourages me to end this piece by clarifying the following points:

1) I do not mean to insinuate one group that was awarded a house is not deserving of a house. Clearly this decision was made for a reason the first and second time around. It cannot be proven that if the selection process were to be done that this group would absolutely not receive a house. Also, the details shared about this vote were purely from my perspective, making it inherently biased and limited.

2) My appeal not having grounds for approval is not the only problem I have with the housing legislation and procedure that was carried out. There are other pieces I, along with other members of LUCC, have encountered and have disliked, such as who reviews the appeals, the way application information was publicized, the lack of an established structure for the selection process, the limited role selection board members play after the selection process, and more.

3) It has become apparent that the housing legislation that was passed last winter is not perfect. It has contributed to many issues with this process and now prevents the Residence Life Committee and LUCC from rectifying a majority of these issues. As someone who helped design this legislation, I did not foresee this coming and I realize that the best thing to do moving forward is to begin reworking the legislation. These amendments cannot be implemented for this year, unfortunately, but taking what we have learned from this experience will hopefully allow us to craft a better set of rules that prevent this from happening again next year.

4) The decisions of the selection board carry a lot of weight and affect all of campus both directly and indirectly. The fact that there were five appeals filed, including my own, demonstrates a number of individuals feeling upset by the decisions made by the board and/or the procedure that was carried out by the board. Despite four of the five appeals being denied on legislative—and perhaps other—grounds, I think it should be emphasized how important it is for student voices to be heard. I believe I have an advantage—and perhaps an unfair one—as appellant by being an active member in LUCC because I have access to more resources that allow my voice to be heard. However, LUCC is imperfect and needs to be checked by more students than just myself. This can be done in the form of appeals when unpopular decisions are made, by reaching out to your representatives to ask questions, bringing community concerns to General Council, attending open meetings or officer open-office hours or making the decision to get involved. It is important to remember that LUCC is composed of students and offers many different positions that cater to specific interests and varying levels of commitment. Joining LUCC was one of the best decisions I have made at Lawrence as a freshman. I truly feel that I have made an impact on this campus by being a part of it and I would highly encourage anyone who is interested to get involved.