Staff Editorial

Theme house selection this year, as in years past, left a group of students disappointed. The student-run Theme House Selection Board decided to give the two available houses to the Computer Science Club and SoundBoard, denying students the opportunity for a French House for the second year in a row. The staff of The Lawrentian supports unbiased decisions made by Theme House Selection Board, but we are not convinced that the process was completely fair this year. Soon after the theme house decision was made, it was discovered that a member of the board was on the roster to live in the SoundBoard house. This member’s vote was thrown out, and the rest of the board agreed that their decision was not especially influenced by this particular member. LUCC finalized the board’s decision the next afternoon.
We are ashamed that our student government would support such a decision. Groups applying for theme houses are guaranteed to be reviewed by a group of nine unbiased students, and we believe that a decision made otherwise should not be finalized by LUCC. Throwing out the offending student’s vote was only a step towards making an unbiased decision.
What does it say about our student government if board members do not realize the serious problems associated with conflicts of interest? As an institution that values high standards of education, should we support ignorance as an excuse? We say no. The Lawrence University Student Handbook, in section 4.02b iii under “Housing Policies and Procedures,” clearly states, “No member of the Theme House Selection Board may apply for a theme house.” Furthermore, as stated on page 2, all students are supposed to know and understand the rules in the Handbook. No matter how much or how little the offending board member influenced her fellow board members, simply throwing out her vote was not the appropriate action.
An easy solution to this problem would have been to conduct the selection process over again from the beginning, with a full nine-student board. To make the decision completely fair, every group should have been re-interviewed by this new board, with the deliberations and final decision following. What makes this solution not so easy is the timeline regulating these decisions. The Theme House Selection Board announced their decision the evening of Mon., May 14, and LUCC finalized it the following afternoon. Any students opposed to their decision – particularly those applying for a French House – were given less than 24 hours to dispute it. And with regular housing selection scheduled for that Wednesday, the board did not have time to conduct the entire process over again.
We recognize two major problems with this year’s theme house selection: first, board members should be aware of basic guidelines regarding conflicts of interest, especially if these guidelines are clearly expressed in the Student Handbook. We feel it is not too much to ask for our representatives to be informed and unbiased, whether or not they intend to unfairly influence the group’s final decision. Second, the strict timeline for housing selection does not allow for revision of the board’s decisions. If a problem comes up in the process, there should be time available to correct the board’s mistakes. In this case, it was the groups applying for theme houses that suffered from this flaw in the system. We, the staff of The Lawrentian, wish to express our disappointment in this decision made by LUCC and the Theme House Selection Board.

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