A Charge to the Lawrence Community from the Lawrence University Board of Trustees October 16, 1998
To reaffirm the critical importance of the residential nature of liberal education at Lawrence and to help articulate and shape a vision for strengthening that dimension of the college as it enters the new century, the Lawrence Board of Trustees intends to undertake a comprehensive examination of the college's residential life system. This process will involve all members of the Lawrence community--trustees, faculty and staff, students, and alumni--in reviewing residential life at the college as it stands today, determining if current policies and practices in this area are consistent in furthering Lawrence's mission of liberal education, and suggesting specific ways in which the college can ensure that the residential life experience contributes vigorously to the intellectual, personal, and social development of Lawrence students and the overall quality of campus life for all members of the Lawrence community.
As a point of departure for this review, the Board affirms Lawrence's identity as a residential campus and the provision now in place that students be required to live on campus and to participate in the board plan. At the same time, the Board acknowledges that appropriate consideration should be given to the interests of students in having more independent or theme-related living arrangements, substance-free housing, and greater options within the board plan. The larger scope of this review should also address issues relating to the adequacy and allocation of facilities, the role of the Lawrence University Community Council, the efficacy of administrative support, and the engagement of the faculty as these affect residential life.
Several factors contribute to the Board's determination to devote considerable institutional time, attention, and resources to this issue. The Board regularly receives reports on aspects of campus and residential life through its Committee on Student Affairs and so stays informed about student perceptions and observations--both critical and positive--of this component of the college. It is through this process that the Board has become aware within the past year of the interest on the part of some students in sorority housing, an initiative that calls into question the current residential arrangements on campus. In response, the Board has decided to step back and have a task force undertake a longer and larger look at campus and residential life and to make suggestions to the trustees about future directions and priorities. In calling for this review, the trustees intend that all aspects of residential life be examined: housing arrangements and food service options--including how these relate to the fraternities--as well as co- and extra-curricular programs and activities and community life.
The time is apt for this larger review for other reasons as well. First, it is important that we periodically reexamine and reevaluate this defining aspect of our style of undergraduate education. In doing so, we intend both to reaffirm its place as a central component of our educational mission and to understand how best to promote and support this dimension of liberal education for current and future Lawrence students. Second, there are moral reasons that prompt the college to be sure that it is fair and equitable in its treatment of all students in the allocation of resources and the provision of housing, dining options, and co- and extra-curricular opportunities, on the one hand, and responsive to the range of student needs and interests in these matters, on the other. Third, as meeting and sustaining our enrollment objectives is likely to remain the most pressing issue confronting Lawrence in the years ahead, it is important that the college is doing all it can to improve the quality of residential life. The review should help the institution better understand and appreciate the impact of housing policies, food service options, the fraternity and sorority system, extra- and co-curricular programs, and the overall social life of the campus on enrollment and student satisfaction and to determine how best to implement any changes and improvements in our policies and practices that would enhance these attributes for the benefit of all.
This is not the first such review in Lawrence's history. Previous generations of Lawrentians have undertaken comparable studies--in 1970, at the request of President Thomas Smith; in 1976-77, as part of the long-range planning process; and most recently through two 1995 task forces on student life and student development. In calling for the present review, the Board does so mindful of these earlier efforts but also with the conviction that the college will be well served by considering these matters afresh, and perhaps on a more fundamental level, as we approach the new century. At the conclusion of this process, the Board intends to respond as both appropriate and feasible to the recommendations of the task force and to implement policies that will (1) provide enhanced and equitable social and residential opportunities for all students; (2) ensure that the quality of student residential life is a strong and compelling attribute for current and prospective students; and (3) offer all students a diverse and rich variety of oncampus activities, programs, and organizations to bolster and extend student involvement in campus life.
The Board has designated the trustee Committee on Student Affairs to design and oversee this review and to work with the President of the college to convene a task force on residential life comprised of representatives from all segments of the Lawrence community. Chaired by Cynthia Stiehl, '89, the committee consists of Margaret Carroll, '61, James L. Fetterly, '58, Jeffrey D. Riester, '70, Robert J. Schaupp, '51, and Susan Anderson Wise, '70. Among the members of this task force will be individuals suggested by the Lawrence University Alumni Association Board of Directors, the Faculty Committee on University Governance, and the Lawrence University Community Council in concert with the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council.
The Board requests that the Committee on Student Affairs work with the members of the task force to develop the agenda for and identify the topics to be considered in this review. While the review is underway, the task force will report regularly to the trustee Committee on Student Affairs, working with and through Mr. Riester, who will serve as the Committee's liaison to the task force. Understanding the scope and importance of this examination, the Board anticipates that it will take approximately 18 months to complete the process. A final report, complete with recommendations, will be furnished to the Board by April 2000 in order for the Board to take action at the May 2000 meeting. To ensure that all members of the community have an opportunity to participate in this examination and to share freely and candidly their views and perspectives, the Board expects that a process will be established to facilitate open meetings, discussions, surveys, and focus groups, and that regular reports will be issued to the university community on the status of the review.
It is the Board's intention to use this process as an opportunity to consider and plan for the character and quality of student life on campus as we would wish to see them in the new century; the process we initiate here is designed to help us enhance the Lawrence experience for all students in ways that will make campus life an even more central and significant educational feature of our college. We look forward to participating, through the Committee on Student Affairs and in concert with the task force, in a positive and productive review and express thanks in advance to all who will contribute to it.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees,
John A. Luke, Jr.,