(I realize this letter is longer than 350 words. However, because of the relevance of the issue to student life and the lack of a Lawrention reporter at the LUCC meeting, I feel that the issue deserves extra space.) For years, the democratic process of the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) has been a defining feature of Lawrence life. At it simplest, LUCC gives students control over student issues, the non- academic aspects of life on campus. Few other schools in the United States have an as autonomous, democratic, and meaningful student government as Lawrence does. It is no exaggeration to say that LUCC is a major part of the “Lawrence Difference” that is lauded about in the mail admissions sends to prospective students each year. On Tuesday, October 21, those democratic ideals were rendered meaningless by the Lawrence administration. During the 2002-2003 academic year, LUCC debated the issue of whether or not Plantz Hall should be declared smoke free. After hours of debate and considering that more smoke free housing would be available with the addition of Hiett Hall, the council decided that housing should be provided for students who wanted to smoke in their rooms. However, on October 21st of this year, the administration, through representative Dean Truesdale, informed LUCC that beginning July 2004, all University owned, rented, and leased facilities would become smoke-free. Although the policy was explained as protecting Lawrence University staff, under scrutiny that justification proves hallow. Because custodial staff, the only staff that works in student residences, is not allowed to enter individual rooms, their exposure to smoke is minimal at worst. Regardless, whether or not one agrees with the ends achieved by the administration’s actions, they are necessarily tainted by the undemocratic means by which they were achieved; the administration ignored the will of the students and faculty as expressed by LUCC’s decision of continuing to allow smoking in Plantz Hall. The administration’s course of action is not repugnant only because it undermined the democratic ideals of the University, but more importantly because of the prescient that it sets. If the administration can swat aside the will of LUCC, the sole democratic voice of the students and faculty on campus, whenever it dislikes the results, then LUCC is effectively reduced to nothing more than a glorified debating society for 14 students and 4 faculty members. This should not be dismissed as an isolated event. At the same October 21st LUCC meeting, the administration proposed legislation that would remove 24-hour student parking from student control. (However, after much debate and a lengthy student led amendment process, the students were able to maintain control over their own parking situation.) Similarly, last academic year, former LUCC president Cole Delaney wrote a three part editorial concerning the administration’s creation of “formal group housing” outside of LUCC jurisdiction, effectivly eroding student say over student housing. If students want their voice to have any relevance to life on campus, they should be appalled at the administration’s attempts to diminish their say over student issues. I encourage anyone who shares my anger and frustration with this turn of events to contact President Warch and demand that he respect the democratic process embodied in LUCC by repealing the new smoking policy and to instead submit it to LUCC for student and faculty approval. Anything less is anathema to the democratic ideals that Lawrence University claims to embody.
President Warch’s contact information (from find.lawrence.edu):
Public Email:email@example.com Campus Address:President’s Office Sampson House Campus Phone: x6525