Earth Day lecture addresses inclusivity needs of student organizations via The Lawrentian

On Earth Day, several clubs came together to sponsor a lecture and micro-workshop by A. “Breeze” Harper, Ph.D., entitled “Uprooting White Fragility: Intersectional Anti-Racism within the Ethical Foodscape.” This came in response to recent racial tensions on campus that caused several predominantly white clubs, namely Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG) and Greenfire, to consider how they could promote inclusivity.

Harper, the social scientist and author behind the anthology and blog Sistah Vegan Project, identifies herself as a critical race feminist concerned primarily with the ethical foodscape. By ethical foodscape, Harper means the cultural and physical spaces in which people interact with and discuss food. Harper’s lecture emphasized how privileged social positions may have a negative impact on how society envisions what it means to promote food justice in these spaces.

Harper also focused on how white fragility plays a role in maintaining this status quo by framing discussions of racial oppression around white people’s feelings about anti-racist confrontation. “A lot of people display white fragility because they think they’re being accused of being bad white people,” said Harper, “when in fact, we’re saying this is probably unintentional.”

However, Harper frequently stressed that despite good intentions, “If you are raised in a system with multiple levels of oppression and you uphold privileged social locations, the impact of your ignorance will be negative by default.”

As a cis-gendered woman, Harper admits she has framed her own work in a cis-sexist way. When gathering the stories of black vegan women when editing her anthology, “Sistah Vegan: Food, Identity, Health and Society—Black Female Vegans Speak,” Harper unintentionally excluded black trans women from the project.

“I’m not critiquing individuals […] I’m not saying anyone is bad,” said Harper, “I’m trying to get you to think about how being socialized a certain way […] affects what you think is objective or is universal ethics.”

Harper “incorporates feminism and racial inequality into critiques of mainstream veganism,” explained senior and president of Greenfire Liz Landes. “Tying them all together puts emphasis on each in a way you wouldn’t have thought,” she said.

After the lecture was an hour-long workshop in which there were small and large group discussions and exercises. Throughout the workshop, Harper pushed participants to think of how their social locations affect their own perception and framing of food ethics.

Harper’s Earth Day lecture reflects efforts of Greenfire and SLUG to consider the role diversity plays in student organizations. “Since the racial tension on campus this fall, we started thinking a lot about SLUG as a white space, a non-inclusive space,” explained senior and garden manager of SLUG Abigail Hindson.

Landes agreed that Greenfire is also a predominately white club. “We are not sure how to expand our goals of sustainable living to other people or how to have a more diverse group,” she explains.

The idea of bringin Harper to Lawrence was sparked during SLUG’s annual trip to Björklunden this past Winter Term. “We ended up having a three-hour discussion about SLUG as a historically white space, why that could be, and how we can be more inclusive,” explained Hindson. “We decided that this was a first step we could take to keep the conversation going.”

The event was only made possible with the support of multiple clubs and student organizations, including Greenfire, Downer Feminist Council (DFC), Sankofa and the Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA), each of which helped to fund Harper’s lecture.

According to Landes, Harper’s lecture did indeed help further the conversation. “I think it was very striking,” she noted, “I think people were left with a lot to think about.”

LEDS sheds light on intersectionality via The Lawrentian

On Sunday, April 24, Lawrence Enhancing Diversity in Science (LEDS) held a summit discussion focusing on intersectionality. The event took place in the Esch Hurvis Room of the Warch Campus Center from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

LEDS is a group formed by students and faculty in the natural sciences. Raymond H. Herzog Professor of Science and Professor of Biology Beth De Stasio, a founding member of LEDS, said, “We want faculty and students to learn about and explore together the issues facing marginalized groups, particularly in the sciences.” Junior and LEDS member Deepankar Tripurana said, “We also want to make people realize that these [topics] are not just […] accessory concepts […] They are actual and real issues that afflict the sciences that serve the same amount of seriousness as, say, a disease or public health initiative.”

He went on to say, “We hope LEDS helps other similar organizations to sprout and take charge in reforming their respective departments and student body in mindsight.” The summit on intersectionality was the third summit that LEDS has hosted this year. Previously, the group had hosted summits on diversity in the sciences and allyship. The group chose the topic of intersectionality based on feedback from the previous summits.

LEDS worked with Lawrence Women in Science (LUWIS) and the Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA) to organize the summit. De Stasio remarked, “LUWIS members had great ideas and stories to share and CODA provided facilitators for the event.”

Before the event, attendees sat down at several round tables set up in the room. A table held an assortment of information on LEDS and LEDS stickers. Around the room, posters with notes from previous LEDS summits were displayed. A board near the entrance was set up for event coordinators to write notes from the event. Attendees included students and faculty from various departments on campus.

Intersectionality, as defined by sheets at the event, is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class and gender as they apply to a given individual or group regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”

At the beginning of the event, Tripurana read a short introduction on the definition and history of intersectionality. He explained that while people experience different forms of oppression due to differing identities, all forms are “valid” forms of oppression. He went on to explain that some individuals face multiple forms of oppression at once which puts them in a more disadvantaged position in society.

Next, facilitators wrote safe space guidelines on a board near the entrance of the room. Attendees worked through an icebreaker activity sheet about identity. Then each table began small group discussions on an article in The Washington Post titled “Why intersectionality can’t wait” by Kimberlé Crenshaw written on Sep. 24, 2015.

Crenshaw defined intersectionality as “an analytic sensibility, a way of thinking about identity and its relationship to power.” Crenshaw gave examples of intersectionality such as “people of color within LGBTQ movements, trans women within feminist movements and people with disabilities fighting police abuse.” Crenshaw declared, “All face vulnerabilities that reflect the intersections of racism, sexism, class oppression, transphobia, able-ism and more.”

Next, each table read and discussed short stories. Students and faculty submitted the stories anonymously to LEDS before the event. Each table shared highlights of their discussion with the whole room. Discussion topics included family and work accommodations, mental health and work expectations, gender stereotypes in the workplace, diversity in science and addressing gender and diversity in academic advisor meetings.

Associate Professor of Physics Doug Martin said, “This summit compels me to continue reading and working to improve my actions in the classroom and outside the classroom here at Lawrence.” He went on to say, “Events like this help me plan the structure of my courses and the shape of my classroom, the literal shape this term, to be more inclusive. Events like this help me be more aware of the impact of my language and, I hope, help me better explain ideas in a way that students understand what I mean in the classroom and in individual meetings.”

Tripurana stated, “The issues we are finally addressing in the sciences are not isolated to only the sciences. Diversity, allyship and intersectionality are just as applicable to other departments on campus as they are in the sciences, like the social sciences and humanities.”

De Stasio hopes “that understanding will lead us all to reach out and support one another, that we become even more willing to engage with, and support, people who are different from ourselves in some way, and that we will better understand the negative impact stereotyping, gender norms, hidden assumptions, and stigmatizing can have on student learning and student health and well-being.”

Alumni group crowdfunding for new diversity center via The Lawrentian

A group of young alumni called the Viking Gift Committee (VGC) have recently decided to campaign to fund changes at Lawrence, specifically focused on inclusivity, anti-oppression and diversity issues. So far, the campaign has raised $1,500 in less than 48 hours. The VGC is headed by alumni Erin Watson ’08 and Gayatri Malhotra ’14, who are looking to support students of color and push for further education for non-minority students. The group formerly focused on raising money solely for the Lawrence Fund as part of their dedication to communicate the importance of donor participation and financial support from fellow young alumni. They currently have 35 volunteers, each of whom choose 10 to 15 of their classmates to contact throughout the year.

Their final goal is to raise $10,000, all of which would go to the Diversity Center. The staff will have access to these funds in order to enhance campus life through inclusivity. The Diversity Center provides a home for students; it is a unique, welcoming place that is open to all, is fun and builds community. It has 18 student workers and two full-time staff, despite the fact that the budget has decreased in the past six years.

With the VGC funds, the Diversity Center plans to make a new space that would be a true sanctuary for students—to take a nap, to eat food—and in general, a place where students could feel at home. Senior and current Chair of the Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA) Jaime Gonzalez said that “the most important part of the Diversity Center is to create an atmosphere where all students can see themselves in.” The Diversity Center also plans to have professional development for student workers, organize more educational programming on campus and meet the emergency needs of the student body.

“The idea of crowdfunding for the Diversity Center came from wanting to show students that young alumni care about their concerns regarding diversity, inclusion and safety on campus and want to help,” said Assistant Director of Annual Giving Kari Swanson. As the main coordinator, Watson echoed these statements by saying that the “VGC wanted to find a meaningful way to make a statement in support of current students, in response to recent events at Lawrence.”

Watson also said that they chose to raise money for the Diversity Center not only as a demonstration of solidarity with current students, but also “as a way of showing the administration that [they] pay attention to campus events, and that [they], too, value a more inclusive and diverse campus climate where all students feel safe and comfortable.”
In Watson’s recent letter to the editor published in The Lawrentian, she wrote that “it is our hope that our efforts are seen not only as a show of support for current students and their fight to make Lawrence a more inclusive, accepting campus, but also an indication of the kind of campus environment we value.”

Although young alumni are often not able to make large contributions to causes other than student loans and living expenses, Watson hopes these donations are seen for what they are—“a significant portion of [their] budgets, allocated toward a cause about which [they] still deeply care—ensuring that every student at Lawrence will be given the opportunity to enjoy their Lawrence experience, regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation. Using crowdfunding as a method for this campaign has been an opportunity for small contributions to take a more meaningful position and show current students that this group of alumni is thinking of and valuing them.”

Staff Editorial: The privilege no one talks about: class via The Lawrentian

For all of Lawrence’s problems regarding social justice, one great thing about the university is all of the activists and student leaders who spread awareness and advocate for change.

Even though the campus is more aware than ever about various kinds of privilege and how they build inequality and unsafe environments for students, one massive form of privilege is often ignored: economic privilege.

Lawrence students come from all different kinds of economic backgrounds, but this is not always acknowledged. Many Lawrentians identify as “middle class,” but, frankly, many are not. Since Lawrence offers so much to students for no additional cost—like swiping in at the Commons or the Wellness Center—students are able to keep their economic situations private.

These differences manifest in a number of potentially harmful ways. For one, more financially-comfortable students might invite their friends to go to bars or restaurants on College Avenue without considering that while it is not an issue for them, it may be a hardship for those friends of a lower economic class.

Another area we can see this kind of privilege is in the way students talk about Appletonians or “townies.” While not explicitly or universally related to class, sometimes talk of “townies” is related to a perceived class difference between Lawrentians and community members.

The best way for our campus to become more inclusive when it comes to class is to be more aware of how we talk about our own and others’ money. Additionally, Sociology of Education, a course offered by the Education Studies department, discusses the effects social class has in education. With only three percent of the student body paying full tuition, it just is not safe to assume everyone is of the same class. Next time you invite friends downtown or ask your club members for money, make room for people’s differences. Your classmates will appreciate it.

“Diversity, Privilege and Leadership” via The Lawrentian

Eddie Moore, Jr. delivers his presentation in Stansbury Theatre. Photo by Hitkarsh Chanana

On Thursday, April 21, in the Stansbury Theatre Director and founder of The Privilege Institute and The National White Privilege Conference, Eddie Moore Jr. delivered a presentation on diversity, privilege, oppression and leadership. The presentation, titled “Diversity, Privilege and Leadership: Are We Making Any Progress?” was an “interactive, informational and challenging keynote that [examined] and [explored] issues of diversity, privilege, oppression and leadership across America,” and was open to all students, faculty and staff.

Moore received his Ph.D. in Social Foundations of Education from the University of Iowa. He then went on to pursue a career in academia and business, whilst always focusing on diversity and community service. His presentation was co-sponsored by the Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA) and the President’s Committee on Diversity Affairs (PCDA) “as part of [their] shared mission to promote and enhance diversity and inclusion at Lawrence,” as Chair of PCDA and Associate Professor of English and Diversity Enhancement Faculty Director Karen Hoffman expressed in an email sent out to the student body.

When introducing Moore, Hoffman highlighted the fact that the speaker is a Cornell College graduate. “He earned his bachelor’s from Cornell College, a selective liberal arts college in Iowa. So, when it comes to liberal arts, he gets our intellectual environment, and our academic community,” said Hoffman characteristically. After providing the audience with a brief expositional overview of his presentation’s subject matter, Moore clearly stated that no audio or video recordings can be made of the event.

The first part of Moore’s presentation focused on discrimination as a product of the ideological environment that an individual is brought up in. He alluded to his own background as an individual who grew up in Florida in a community comprised mostly of African Americans. “It is hard work,” Moore would say when talking about the responsibilities of each and every individual in reshaping their mindset and readapting their worldview to best suit the current social landscape. As Moore expanded on this idea, it became apparent that diversity’s effect is of telescopic nature; it starts with the individual, who then introduces this new mindset to their family, their workspace and their social circles.

In the second part of his presentation, Moore drew a timeline, starting with the formation of the U.S. on one side of the spectrum and ending in the present condition of this nation. Then, in collaboration with numerous members of the audience, Moore identified the core ideologies on which the U.S.’s society was originally founded and then attempted to identify the dominant social concepts in today’s world. He then asked the audience whether or not any social progress could be observed in this timeline, and if so, how far has American society gotten. The conclusion of this short exercise was that, even though today’s society has deviated largely from several harmful concepts of the past, there is still much room for improvement in trying to abolish harmful ideologies that have managed to survive.

At the end of the presentation, when asked what her thoughts were on the various messages that Moore wanted to convey, freshman Samantha Sowell stated that, “I think the message [Moore] was trying to convey was that, yes as a nation we have become a little more diverse, but we definitely have more work to do if we are going to become a truly diverse society.” She then went on to praise Moore’s arguments as “excellent.” “I think that his presentation was amazing and more people should have been made aware of his being on campus if we are really trying to work towards inclusion,” she said as she explained her disappointment at the small turnout by Lawrentians at the event.

History of the Black Panther Party


Date: Sat, 1966-10-15

On this date in 1966, the Black Panther Party (BPP) was founded. It was a Black political organization; originally known as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

The BPP originated in Oakland, California, by founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The Original six members of the Black Panthers included Elbert “Big Man” Howard, Sherman Forte, Reggie Forte, Little Bobby Hutton, and Newton and Seale. They adopted the Black Panther symbol from an independent political party established the previous year by Black residents of Lowndes County, Alabama. The Panthers also supported the Black Power movement, which stressed racial dignity and self-reliance.

The Party established patrols in Black communities to monitor police activities and protect the residents from police brutality. The BPP combined elements of socialism and Black Nationalism. , it promoted the development of strong Black-controlled institutions, calling for Blacks to work together to protect their rights and to improve their economic and social conditions. The Panthers also emphasized class unity, criticizing the Black middle class for acting against the interests of other, less fortunate Blacks.

They welcomed alliances with White activists, such as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and later the Weathermen, because they believed that all revolutionaries who wanted to change U. S. society should unite across racial lines. The BPP grew throughout the late 1960s, and eventually had chapters all around the country. As racial tension increased around the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) blamed the Black Panthers for riots and other incidents of violence.

The bureau launched a program called COINTELPRO (short for counterintelligence program) designed to disrupt efforts to unify Black militant groups such as SNCC and the Panthers. In December 1969, two Chicago leaders of the party, Fred Hampton, and Mark Clark, were killed in a police raid. By the end of the decade, according to the party's attorney, 28 Panthers had been killed and many other members either were in jail or had been forced to leave the United States to avoid arrest. After Newton's conviction was reversed, he called for developing survival programs in Black communities to build support for the BPP. These programs provided free breakfasts for children, established free medical clinics, helped the homeless find housing, and gave away free clothing and food.

This attempt to shift the direction of the party did not prevent further external attacks and internal conflicts, and the party continued to decline as a political force. After the departure of Newton and Seale, the party's new leader, Elaine Brown, continued to emphasize community service programs. These programs were frequently organized and run by Black women, who were a majority in the party by the mid-1970s. By the end of the 1970s, weakened by external attacks, legal problems, and internal divisions, the Panthers were no longer a political force.

Throughout their decline, several women sustained the organizations community programs until 1981, when the Oakland-based program closed. In 1997. The Black Panther Party Research Project (BPPRP) was created to locate sources and develop finding aids to assist researchers and the general public with uncovering information about the BPP, one of the twentieth century's most controversial, yet least researched organizations.

Reference:
The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.
ISBN 0-85229-633-0

The World Book Encyclopedia.
Copyright 1996, World Book, Inc.
ISBN 0-7166-0096-X
 

Source: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/black-panther-party-founded

Black Lives Matter Movement Background

The Creation of a Movement by Alicia Garza

I created #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, two of my sisters, as a call to action for Black people after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was post-humously placed on trial for his own murder and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for the crime he committed. It was a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.  It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

We were humbled when cultural workers, artists, designers and techies offered their labor and love to expand #BlackLivesMatter beyond a social media hashtag. Opal, Patrisse, and I created the infrastructure for this movement project—moving the hashtag from social media to the streets. Our team grew through a very successful Black Lives Matter ride, led and designed by Patrisse Cullors and Darnell L. Moore, organized to support the movement that is growing in St. Louis, MO, after 18-year old Mike Brown was killed at the hands of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. We’ve hosted national conference calls focused on issues of critical importance to Black people working hard for the liberation of our people.  We’ve connected people across the country working to end the various forms of injustice impacting our people.  We’ve created space for the celebration and humanization of Black lives.
 

 

Framework for a More Inclusive Lawrence via President Burstein

Dear Lawrence Community,

 

Welcome back from winter break.  I hope you all had a relaxing few weeks, and an opportunity to spend time with family and friends.  We ended fall term together with a greater awareness, led by our students, that we must become a more inclusive community and thereby strengthen Lawrence and the education we offer.  The tone of the campus conversation as well as the hurtful graffiti in the university's annual report reminded us of how much work we still have to do to reach this goal, and to create a community where all of its members feel safe.

 

I want to start with an apology.  A defining goal for Lawrence and certainly for me is to create a learning environment in which all students, as well as faculty and staff, can thrive.  This fall’s events indicate that we have not moved quickly enough towards this goal; for that I am deeply sorry.  We have been too reliant on Lawrentians of color to educate our community on the central issues of race and identity.  This additional burden, plus a lack of resources, has prevented many from establishing an intellectual home in Appleton. 

 

As a community, we often lack the skills to discuss difference in a consistently civil manner, without personal affront or insult.  At its core, I believe, Lawrence should create the impetus toward an equitable society in which all of us acquire the tools to succeed in diverse workplaces, to be engaged citizens in pluralistic communities.  As an educational institution, we are committed to learning, discussion, listening, and collaboration, to help all of us understand our world and ourselves.  In courses, we strive to present important information, engage in careful analysis, and initiate thoughtful discussions.  Our goal is to help everyone develop, grow and achieve full human potential.  We can, we must do better to reach this goal.

 

During the break, faculty, staff and students worked together in various shared governance committees to consider how to accelerate and enhance our effort to become a more inclusive community.  Many of the student demands presented this fall paralleled projects that these and other committees have been working on for some time.  The goal of these meetings during break was to launch essential next steps that will provide a framework for larger conversations and subsequent action, which will involve students as well as faculty and staff who were not present on campus in December.  This framework includes five principal areas:  learning, resources, safety, enhanced diversity, and dialogue across difference.  Below is a summary of the initial work we have undertaken.

 

LEARNING

 

The cornerstone of our effort to strengthen a Lawrence education and to become a more inclusive institution is the creation of more opportunities to learn about and to understand race and identity within our campus community, within American society, and around the world.  Last spring and summer, faculty members of the Ethnic Studies program completed a self-study and external review, which suggested a blueprint for a way to enhance our curricular offerings in this area.  This work, funded by a presidential Mellon Grant, proposed that we add a tenure line position in Ethnic Studies with an emphasis on the contemporary African American experience, and that we create resources to free existing colleagues to teach additional courses in Native culture and American Latino/Latina literature.  The Curriculum Committee has approved the proposed new tenure line position; Provost Burrows and I will find the resources to proceed with this search.  The Provost is also in conversations that will create the additional courses.  Once completed, these additions to our curriculum could lead to the approval of an Ethnic Studies major and a possible reconceptualization of the University's diversity requirement.  

 

Students have asked for Spanish courses tailored to the learning needs of heritage speakers and for the qualification of additional languages to comply with the University's language requirement.  The Spanish Department and the Foreign Language Coalition will consider these suggestions this winter.  The Provost has also begun to work with the incoming and outgoing directors of Freshman Studies to ensure that we continue to teach a diverse set of works in this important introduction to the Lawrence intellectual experience. We are also undertaking efforts to ensure that we have effective and sensitive discussions of race and identity in course seminars.

 

Students, faculty, and staff have requested ongoing diversity and inclusion training.  Over the past two years, the President's Committee on Diversity Affairs (PCDA), as well as colleagues who lead our Title III effort, launched pilot programs along these lines for faculty advisors and Freshman Studies instructors.  The PCDA plans to offer more comprehensive cultural competency workshops this winter for all employees.  These offerings will become frequent opportunities for all of our professional development.  The Office of Multicultural Affairs, in consultation with the PCDA, will also offer educational and programmatic opportunities for students to develop cultural competency skills beginning in Welcome Week and continuing throughout their years at Lawrence.

 

A liberal education also requires that we have unfettered access to information.  The student demands included a statement that the University blocked an external website.  An investigation indicated that the only sites blocked are those that pose a digital threat to our network, including individual user accounts.  Such sites are blocked automatically, not through direct human intervention.  Nonetheless, our investigation continues to ensure that we provide open access to information. 

 

RESOURCES

 

Student demands included a request for increased Diversity Center resources and relocation of the center itself.  These coincide with recommendations made in the University’s 2010 Strategic Plan.  During the break, I authorized the hiring of a permanent new staff person to work with Assistant Dean Moua.  Assistant Dean Moua, Dean Lauderdale, and Associate Dean Wicker have begun to research new locations for the Center with colleagues from Facility Services.  They will include students in this effort this winter with a goal of identifying a new location by the end of the academic year. 

 

After extensive conversations with the PCDA and others, I have authorized the hiring of an Associate Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion.  In early November, the President's Cabinet decided to create this role in response to recommendation of the PCDA; shortly thereafter, student demands further supported the urgency to create such a position.  This new position will fulfill a May 2013 request by the Faculty Governance Committee.  The new administrator will serve both in the Provost’s office and in the President’s Cabinet.  This person will:  lead efforts to ensure that we attract a talented and diverse faculty and staff; provide an additional student resource; chair the PCDA; and lead our cultural competency professional development efforts.  We will begin a national search for this position immediately.

 

Student demands also echoed the request by last spring’s Faculty Working Group for Study Abroad that we increase need-based financial aid support for study abroad.  The Board of Trustees has discussed this request, which has full support from the administration.  We plan to announce changes later this month that will increase funding for next academic year.

 

SAFETY

 

We cannot reach our educational goals as an institution unless all members of our community feel safe.  In our continued commitment to safety, we are adding a bias-incident reporting capability to the safety app that was launched this fall.  This capability will provide a bias reporting process for any member of the Lawrence community, whether the event takes place in the Fox Cities or on campus.  This app already allows users to immediately connect to Campus Safety or local emergency services if the situation is urgent.  Until the new Associate Dean of the Faculty is hired, bias reports will be directed to Provost Burrows, who will review all submissions and address or refer the issues as appropriate.  We have coordinated our efforts with the City of Appleton to ensure that reports are investigated to the extent possible by law.  I urge every member of our community to use this reporting process if they encounter a bias incident of any kind.  Change can only happen when troubling events are made visible.  

 

The Provost's office has also started an effort to streamline the University's Grievance Procedures into an integrated and clearer policy.  Associate Dean of the Faculty Williams will present a draft of this new policy to LUCC, the Faculty, and the Human Resources Department for consideration before the end of Winter Term.

 

It is clear that the ability to post threats to social media has at times created an unsafe campus environment.  The University will continue to report for investigation any threatening statements to law enforcement authorities, including those posted on social media, even to supposedly anonymous sites such as Yik Yak.  The Faculty Governance Committee will convene a committee of faculty, students, and staff to consider other social media guidelines for our community.

 

ENHANCED DIVERSITY

 

The student demands included the hiring of a more diverse faculty and staff at Lawrence.  For us to be a truly inclusive community, we need to attract the most talented and accomplished faculty and staff possible.  Two grants from the Mellon Foundation we received in the past two years, one directly to the University and one through the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, provide funds to increase the diversity of Lawrence faculty.  These resources, plus leadership from the PCDA and the President's Cabinet, have begun to show progress over the past year.  Open positions attracted a more diverse set of candidates, and have led to an increase in the hiring of people of color.  In 2013 and 2014, 8% of our new hires were employees of color.  In 2015, 28% of new hires were employees of color.  We have also made progress with gender diversity.  Every candidate hired was the first choice in her or his respective search.  Our new Associate Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion will work closely with the PCDA and the Cabinet to accelerate this success at all levels of the university and create programs to ensure that these new members of our community will thrive here. 

 

We also need to continue our efforts to assemble a Board of Trustees and an Alumni Association Board that represent our entire community.  Thanks to leadership from many, we have made progress in reaching this goal. But we need to stay focused on this effort.

 

The recruitment and retention of a diverse student population remains a high priority for the university as we prepare students to succeed in an increasingly diverse world. The past ten years have seen the most significant sustained growth in recruitment of students of color in our history.  Still, there is more work to do.  Dean Anselment is working with the Faculty Governance Committee to provide a clear statement of our ideal class composition.  Dean Anselment will also work with a subcommittee of the PCDA to ensure that our recruitment and retention practices put us in the best position to be successful.

 

Students have asked that we rely on student evaluations to determine tenure decisions.  Instead, the Committee on Tenure gathers views from all past and present students of a tenure candidate through the Survey of Student Opinion.  These data form the core information of a tenure case.  However, Provost Burrows and I do agree that the University can organize end of the term course evaluations in a way that would increase student participation.  We will ask the Instruction Committee to consider options and make a recommendation to the full faculty. 

 

DIALOGUE ACROSS DIFFERENCE

 

Over the past two years students, faculty and staff have approached Vice President Truesdell, Dean Lauderdale and me with concerns about our community's inability to discuss constructively, different and passionately held opinions.  As I have discussed in past Matriculation Convocations we, like much of the rest of society, may be losing the skills that such conversations require. Too frequently we avoid conflicting viewpoints or direct confrontation, and we silence the views of others.  Often we move these conversations to social media, a far less productive forum.

 

Our ability to constructively engage each other is of critical importance if we are to prepare students to succeed.  We must, therefore, ensure that freedom of inquiry and expression can thrive here at Lawrence.  A group of students has been meeting with Dean Lauderdale about the need to create an ongoing structure that could foster this type of dialogue.  From these conversations it has become clear that outside expertise could help us develop the skills we need, and create an environment where conflict, an inherent part of any successful community, can be explored and successfully managed.  One possible partner is The Sustained Dialogue Institute, an organization that has partnered with over forty college campuses including Denison and Beloit.  More information about this organization can be found at sustaineddialogue.org.  We will begin our collaboration in Spring Term, if not sooner.

 

Finally, we have scheduled a community conversation for January 7th from 4 to 7 pm in the Warch Center:  students, faculty, and staff will have the opportunity to ask questions about each of these initiatives, to provide feedback, to test the bias incident reporting app, and to have the opportunity to offer additional suggestions.  More information about this conversation will be provided early next week.  We will also establish a web page on Diversity and Inclusion in the next two weeks, which will provide information on these and other initiatives.  This website, plus updates from me and other cabinet officers, will provide periodic progress reports to the campus community.  I want to thank the many members of our community who gave their time during the break for dozens of meetings to consider these initiatives and to provide essential components of this framework.

 

Over this past year, many members of our community have advocated substantive changes in an effort to improve the university.  Their leadership has not always been easy, but it has led us to a moment in which we can engage with this momentum and enhance Lawrence, the education we offer, and the campus community in which we study, work, and live.  This set of initiatives is meant to serve as a framework for efforts that will require participation from all of us.

 

To build the learning environment and community we desire, we have to engage in hard work and difficult conversations and to integrate conflicting views of the present and future.  This process will help us to develop the skills we need to be successful Lawrentians in this pluralistic and rapidly changing world.  Without this process, we cannot move forward.  This will mean change.  I know we will rise to this challenge as a community, and I look forward to working with each of you on this goal.

 

Yours,

Mark

Mark Burstein

President, Lawrence University
 

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