Speeches on Main Hall Green

Right now we are not allowed to view the faculty and trustee handbooks, bylaws, minutes from their meetings or voting records. Right now we are not allowed to see how the trustees are spending the endowment or their conflict of interest statements, among other things.
Last term, student concerns about transparency led to the trustees committing to hold more Trustee Committee on Student Affairs meetings and to release their committee structure and membership lists.
Only until the editorial “Transparency at Lawrence” came out in The Lawrentian last week did they seem to make a strong effort to follow up on these promises. This makes me feel like increased transparency will only come with ongoing pressure from students.
When former LUCC president Pete Snyder asked some of the trustees when they were going to make their actions more transparent, they just asked him why he wanted to know. Many students show interest in the release of information about the trustees and they respond by putting us on the defensive. “Why do you want to know?”
Well, here’s an answer for them: If releasing documents is just a matter of linking them to a website, the only reason the trustees should need is the existence of one interested and concerned person.
If there is just one LUCC representative who feels like he would be able to do a better job if he knew how faculty meetings operated and could look at their minutes, that information should be available. If there is just one Lawrence student who wants to see how the faculty has voted on issues she cares about, she should not be left in the dark.
If there is just one donating Lawrence alum who is interested in seeing trustee conflict of interest documents because apparently the chairman of the construction company that received no-bid contracts amounting to $88 million over the past 10 years and seems likely to receive another $30 million for the new student center was a voting member of the Trustee Finance Committee, this information should be available.
When it comes to simply publicizing information, the question is not “why do we want to know?”; it’s “why do they want to keep it from us?”
So far, the most potent argument I’ve heard against the release of information is that there is no reason for students to see it. I think that such a simple retort can be disarming unless students have a sense of entitlement to information about what goes on at this school.
We should not feel like it is not our place to ask. We do not owe Lawrence anything for admitting us. We do not owe Lawrence anything for giving us financial aid. We are still paying for our education.
But then, maybe there is something we owe this institution. Maybe we owe Lawrence University the pride of creating inquisitive, free-thinking adults. We definitely owe it to ourselves. When you’re paying up to $30,000 a year, it’s fair to ask if you’re getting your money’s worth. When you care about a school, it’s fair to want it to be the best it can be.
For these reasons I am reluctant to donate as an alumnus until the faculty and trustees release all of the requested information. I encourage all of you to sign the currently circulating petition saying that you feel the same way I do and that you are interested in pursuing this issue in the future.
I feel like the release of the trustee committee structure list is a positive first step and we should continue our efforts with the faculty and trustees to bring more transparency to Lawrence.