Dear Lawrentians, 

In this unprecedented time, our goal of protecting the health and safety of our community is more important than ever. Each week—and often every day—brings news that is deeply troubling, whether it is our nation surpassing more than 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 or the presence of a potential hate crime in a neighborhood near our campus. I write today both as your president and as a Lawrentian to address the critical issues of the health and safety of our community.  

Health
The spread of COVID-19 in the Fox Cities has reached alarming levels. According to data from the Appleton Health Department, we have moved from community spread to widespread community transmission. The Federal Government has designated the Fox Cities and most of Wisconsin a “red zone” the highest designation for community transmission of the virus. Please take seriously this frightening increase in the presence of COVID-19 in our surrounding community.  Limit all nonessential interactions off campus. For those living on campus, the safest place for you right now is the Lawrence campus. For those commuting to campus for work or learning, please exercise great care in your life at Lawrence and beyond. 

In the midst of such a fast-moving outbreak, we at Lawrence have done a truly amazing job mitigating the spread of the virus. As of September 27, we have administered 2,878 tests on our campus and have only 7 total active cases among those living, learning, or working on campus. This is a rate of positivity of less than one half of one percent:  a testament to your diligence in adhering to health and safety guidance.  

On this Giving Day when we thank our community for their support of Lawrence, I cannot fully express how thankful I am for the actions all of us are taking to mitigate the spread of the virus. We have all worked to Honor the Pledge—wearing masks, physically distancing, limiting your exposure to the virus. We have become a model for members of our surrounding community. Please continue with your practices. It is only by working together that we will mitigate the spread of the virus and keep each other healthy. 

Safety
As was communicated earlier this week, the unrest, violence, and vitriolic, blatantly racist actions associated with our current political moment have again touched our campus. The police are actively investigating this weekend’s incident, targeting a private home in a neighboring community, as a potential hate crime. Sharing more details on this ongoing investigation may impede the investigation. We also want to ensure the privacy and safety of those individuals directly affected by the weekend’s event. The goal for us and for the city is to find the perpetrator(s) as quickly as possible.  

Although we cannot offer further details, we can say this: 

Lawrence University does not tolerate hate speech or actions of intolerance, including racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.  We believe that Black Lives Matter.  

I know these recent events have generated stress, anxiety, even fear and anger in our community. I am struggling with these feelings myself. I know that many of you are experiencing them in your own lives. But I am strengthened when I remember the University’s core values of respect for justice and the dignity of all human life.  These values inform our current work to become an antiracist institution, work that is wholeheartedly supported by the Board of Trustees. In addition to this effort, practicing empathy towards our fellow Lawrentians is one of the most important actions we can take. Remember that our own daily struggles and those of our peers and colleagues may not always be visible.  

Being a Lawrentian is one of the true honors and privileges of my life. I will continue to Honor the Pledge and do all that I can to become antiracist. I ask each of you to join me in this work. Please support and protect each other, stand up to racism and intolerance, take advantage of the services the university offers, and work to make a positive difference—to be the light—in our community. 

Be well and make choices that keep others well. 

Sincerely, 

Mark 

Mark Burstein
President, Lawrence University
Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699 | Office 920.832.6525