Lawrence’s decision to open up the fraternity houses for formal group housing and the decision to potentially use space currently occupied by two of the houses for a campus center have been controversial ones among some members of the Lawrence community. Recently, a group purporting to represent the interests of the fraternities filed a lawsuit against Lawrence. As this legal action indicates, the fraternity housing issue is of concern to alumni as well. Jan Quinlan, director of alumni relations, explained how the department of alumni relations is responding to the situation.
Quinlan remarked that the opinions held by alumni on this issue are wide-ranging. Of the alumni who are associated with fraternities, she said, “Some are very concerned and upset, but at the same time some fraternity alumni are very supportive.” Most of the comments from non-fraternity alumni have approved of the plans.
The department of alumni relations has made a concerned effort to respond to alumni who have expressed their disapproval. Said Quinlan, “We’ve kept track of all alums who’ve expressed concern … The associate director and I have been interviewing these people in a one-on-one effort.”
Some of these alumni eventually changed their minds about the plans, whereas others are still angered by the decision. Quinlan feels “very sad that there are alums who feel so strongly,” and that she tries to “educate [alumni] to how the trustees feel about it.”
Lawrence made an effort to get the opinions of alumni before the plans for the fraternity quad were finalized. A presentation titled “Envisioning the Campus of the Future” was presented 14 times at locations around the country, including Washington D.C., New York City, Boston, Denver, Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Arizona, and Florida.
Quinlan attended most of these presentations, and President Warch attended all of them. Last year similar presentations were given in various locations on the West Coast. On average, about 40 people attended each meeting.
At a recent Lawrence class reunion, Nancy Truesdell and Amy Uecke gave a similar presentation to about 1,100 alumni and received what Quinlan described as “very positive feedback.”
In addition, on Oct. 31 of last year a letter was sent out to all alumni about the decision on how to proceed and how a task force hired by Lawrence came to the conclusions they did.
This issue remains controversial, with opinions of every degree of intensity on both sides being voiced.
Quinlan noted that there was “no monolith of reaction,” but gave her support to how President Warch has been responding to the controversy. Quinlan declared, “President Warch has done a fantastic job showing reasons for the decisions made by the task force.”
Quinlan ended by expressing her hope that this issue could be resolved, and noted that the opinions of alumni are always welcome.