In October 1998 the Board of Trustees initiated "a comprehensive examination of the college's residential life system" in order 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 Task Force on Residential Life that was created in response to the Board's charge has now completed its work and submitted to the Board its final report.
Two intertwining sets of principles articulated and endorsed by the Board guided the Task Force's work and are reflected in its final report. One is that the quality of the residential life of Lawrence's students is directly related to the achievement of Lawrence's mission as a liberal arts college. The other is that moral reasons compel the equitable treatment of all students in the course of their residential life at Lawrence.
Principles of residential life
The Board's initial charge to the Task Force characterized residential life as a "defining aspect of our style of undergraduate education" and as "a central component of our educational mission."
Given the centrality of residential life in the achievement of Lawrence's mission, the Task Force developed in an interim report, and the Board endorsed at its January 2000 meeting, the following statement of Principles of Residential Life:
Lawrence University is a residential college by design. Students are required to live on-campus because we believe that a small residential community distinguished by frequent face-to-face interactions between and among its members provides an ideal environment for accomplishing the goals of liberal education. Lawrence's residential nature maintains and expands the opportunities for meaningful interactions outside the classroom and, in so doing, contributes to the fulfillment of Lawrence's mission to promote among students "the development of intellect and talent, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and the cultivation of judgment and values." Furthermore, meaningful relationships between students and faculty, among students, and within the Lawrence community at large preserve and extend the vitality of the institution.
Therefore, residential life at Lawrence should strive to:
- Enhance the academic community by sustaining an environment that
- fosters the exchange and evaluation of ideas and opinions,
- supports vigorous debate, and
- promotes critical examination of the assumptions and values of its members.
- Encourage and facilitate the interaction of students, faculty and staff in order to
- strengthen the intellectual and social environment of the college,
- provide role-models for individual development, and
- support the establishment of meaningful relationships and long-lasting friendships.
- Advance the personal and intellectual growth of individuals.
- Nurture an inclusive environment that
- promotes mature and responsible behavior,
- values diversity and tolerance for differences, and
- encourages mutual respect and understanding.
- Support and encourage student leadership, independence, self-governance and accountability.
- Ensure equitable residential and social opportunities for all students.
- Provide opportunities for students to create and participate in a rich variety of co- and extra-curricular activities.
- Contribute to a safe and healthful campus environment.
Principles of equity
In its initial charge to the community, and in an addendum adopted in January 2000 in response to the Task Force's interim report, the Board of Trustees has consistently and steadfastly articulated the overarching principle of equitable treatment for every student. The Board's initial charge cited "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...." In that charge, the Board pledged to do the following: "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 on-campus activities, programs, and organizations to bolster and extend student involvement in campus life."
In its January 2000 response to the Task Force's interim report, in addition, the Board endorsed "the following working principles on equity":
- Lawrence students may freely associate and form student groups and organizations of their own choosing (including Greek-letter social organizations).
- The allocation of college-owned housing should be based on clear and equitable rules.
- No student group or organization should have a permanent claim to occupancy in any unit of college-owned housing. Existing claims should be resolved equitably.
The Board accepts the Report of the Task Force on Residential Life with gratitude and reaffirms its endorsement of the principles and values that the report embodies. These principles speak to the quality of residential life at Lawrence and underscore the importance of equitable treatment of all students in the course of their life at the university. The Board commends the Task Force for the sensitivity, creativity, thoroughness, fairness, and devotion that it brought to its task. The Board also thanks the Task Force for the successful efforts it made to be inclusive, to communicate with the Lawrence community including the Board, and to return to the Board for guidance as needed, in the course of its deliberations. Further, the Board appreciates the specificity and clarity of the Task Force's statements of principles of residential life, its recommendations, and its projections of their implications.
As recommended by the Task Force, the Board affirms the centrality of the residential nature of the institution. It embraces the Principles of Residential Life that the Task Force created and that the Board endorsed in January 2000. The Board charges the administration to communicate these principles widely and to incorporate them into those publications of the college that reach both current and prospective students. In accordance with these principles, the Board also endorses the Task Force's recommendation to modify the off-campus living policy to clarify and strengthen the expectation that all students live in university-owned housing, and charges the administration to implement this change.
The Board also approves the Task Force's observation that "A positive dining experience supports the[se] principles of residential life...by creating the opportunity for the exchange and evaluation of ideas and opinions in a relaxed setting; encouraging and facilitating interaction of students, faculty, and staff; nurturing an inclusive environment; and contributing to a healthful campus environment." The Board directs the administration to continue to work with food services staff and the food services consultant to institute in a timely manner the campus dining recommendations contained in the report (excepting those that must be deferred until the addition of a new facility; see below under Facilities). The Board encourages the administration to monitor student satisfaction with campus dining and to ensure continued enhancement of the program. Finally, the Board acknowledges that further changes in campus dining arrangements may be desirable and that policies relating to meal plan options, students in formal group housing, and other areas may be modified in the future, based on the consultant's recommendations and the administration's response.
The Board finds compelling the Task Force's assessment of residential facilities needs at Lawrence. Specifically, it concurs with the Task Force on the need to maintain and strengthen the sense of community among different classes of students, the need to renovate and update existing housing, and the need to acquire new residential facilities, largely through new construction but to some extent also through adaptation of small houses already owned by the college--all with the aim of providing more attractive and more diverse housing options (including apartment-style units and buildings of various size and configuration) for students. The Board directs the administration to develop a plan and timeline for improving housing that is consonant with the recommendations of the Task Force and of Sasaki Associates, the consultants contracted to assist with campus planning.
The Board also concurs with the Task Force recommendation to "plan and construct a new campus center to include central dining facilities and to serve as the centerpiece for campus life." It finds compelling the Task Force's finding that "the ability to gather in a centrally located, accessible, and welcoming campus center supports the exchange and evaluation of ideas and opinions; promotes the interaction of students, faculty, and staff; provides an inclusive environment, promoting responsible behavior, diversity, tolerance, mutual respect, and understanding; and contributes to a safe and healthful campus."
Consistent with the recommendations of the Task Force and of Sasaki Associates, the Board directs the administration to launch immediately a planning process for a new campus center and to enlist the services of an architect for that project as well as for the design of a new residence hall. The Board also charges the administration to develop a comprehensive plan for meeting the full extent of residence hall facilities needs, including both the renovation of existing residence halls and new construction. Recognizing the pressing demand for a campus center and at least one new residence hall, the Board asks the administration to present these plans to the Board no later than October 2001. After review of the plans, the Board will determine the sequencing and financing of these projects, with the intention of undertaking a fund-raising effort to address these and perhaps other institutional needs.
The Board embraces the Task Force's belief "that expanding the opportunity for all students to experience the benefits of group living rather than reducing those opportunities for some groups provides the fairest solution to the problem of equity while also increasing the range of housing options available to all students." The Board also reaffirms its own belief, stated in the addendum to its charge, that "No student group or organization should have a permanent claim to occupancy in any unit of college-owned housing. Existing claims should be resolved equitably."
Consistent with its firmly stated conviction that equity in the allocation of resources and the provision of housing is essential; with the Task Force's recognition "that the control and allocation of residential space play a central role in issues of equity"; and with the principle that "Lawrence students may freely associate and form student groups and organizations of their own choosing (including Greek-letter social organizations)," the Board endorses the Task Force's proposal to establish a system of formal group housing for groups of students that have a shared mission and organizational structure and wish to occupy a house on campus.
With the goal of establishing such a system, the Board directs the administration to do the following: (1) to develop, in consultation with the Lawrence University Community Council and by the end of the 2000-2001 academic year, a clear set of procedures and criteria for the equitable and efficient allocation of formal group housing and an appropriate code of conduct for groups occupying such housing; (2) to describe and constitute a Formal Group Housing Review Board, composed of students, faculty, and staff, that would be responsible for carrying out the procedures for allocating group housing; (3) to increase over the next few years the amount of university housing stock available for formal group living, so that, to the greatest extent possible, space will be available for all groups that desire such housing and meet the specified criteria; (4) to effect all changes in the present housing arrangements gradually over a period of years. In carrying out this charge, the administration should be informed by the relevant recommendations of the Task Force, should apply all rules and criteria evenhandedly, and should ensure that no existing or newly constituted group of students is denied access to appropriate housing arbitrarily. In particular, the administration, working in concert with the Board, should continue negotiations with representatives of Greek-letter social organizations, with the goal of ensuring that existing claims are equitably resolved and that students in those organizations share in the benefits of the planned enhancements to residential life.
The Board is convinced, finally, that the Task Force has provided the foundation for enhancements to residential life at Lawrence that will benefit students for years to come. We thank the members again for their efforts and look forward to working with all members of the community as we confront the challenges and opportunities outlined in the paragraphs above.