May 15, 1999

Before the academic year draws to a close, I want to take a moment to update you on the work of the Task Force on Residential Life and our plans for the coming months. As the trustees' liaison to the Task Force and a Lawrence alumnus, Class of 1970, I am pleased to report to you on how the review is proceeding.

Last October, the Board of Trustees called for the creation of a task force to review residential life at Lawrence and to make suggestions to the trustees about future directions and priorities. The Task Force on Residential Life was then established, consisting of 17 members drawn from the student body, faculty, administration, and alumni of the college.

Throughout the winter and early spring, the Task Force, with the assistance of the Trustee Committee on Student Affairs, worked to identify topics and concerns to be examined in greater detail over the next year and to organize itself for the work ahead, including setting a timetable for its operations. To facilitate its work, the Task Force has divided itself into three working subcommittees, which will focus, respectively, on housing, food services, and community life. A fourth group of Task Force members is preparing a written statement articulating the underlying principles on which the college's residential philosophy is based.

The Task Force has been engaged in a number of preliminary information-gathering activities, such as reviewing past studies and reports on residential life and observing the housing lottery. This initial phase of its work is expected to be completed by the end of the summer. Once this information-gathering is complete, the Task Force will move to a more formal and structured solicitation of input from students, staff, faculty, and alumni, most likely in early fall. A preliminary summary of findings will be presented to the Board of Trustees in late 1999 or early 2000, and the Task Force expects to submit its final report, with recommendations for trustee actions, at the board's October 2000 meeting.

In setting more specific directions for its work, the Task Force has decided that it will focus primarily on the student experience of residential life. While other topics (admissions, retention, athletics, the role of alcohol, etc.) might be considered to have an impact on residential life, the Task Force has concluded that its work will best serve the trustees' purposes if the focus is confined primarily to issues, unmet needs, and aspirations in the three areas mentioned above (housing, food services, and community life).

In the course of refining the Task Force's charge, the Task Force and the Trustee Committee on Student Affairs also agreed on some things that will not fall within the scope of the current effort. While the Task Force will examine the Lawrence University Community Council's role in the selection of student rooms and related input into housing activities, it has determined that a broader review of LUCC is beyond the scope of its work. Similarly, the Task Force will not conduct a wholesale review of the structure and efficacy of administrative support for residential life.

Issues such as parking and alcohol and drug policies will likely be considered, but not with an eye to forming comprehensive recommendations on those subjects or rewriting current policies. And, while the Task Force will certainly be focusing on how a new student union or student center would enhance community life at Lawrence, that effort will be limited to examining potential contributions to student-life programs and will not take up the actual design of the facility.

I want to stress once again that it is the Board of Trustees' intention that the work of the Task Force serve as an opportunity to consider and plan for ways to improve residential life at Lawrence. No conclusions regarding residential life nor recommendations have been formed in advance and the board truly desires an open process of inquiry, with full input from the Lawrence community. As the work of the Task Force gains momentum, I do hope that your voice will be shared.

Should you have any questions regarding the Task Force and its work, I will be available to address them at the upcoming LUCC meeting on May 25th.

On behalf of the Task Force on Residential Life,

Jeffrey Riester
Trustee Liaison to the Task Force