University Update on Efforts to Create an Antiracist Equity-minded Campus Culture (January 14, 2021)

Dear Lawrence Community,

Like many of you, I am still digesting last week’s assault on the Capitol:  What does it mean for me?  What does it mean for Lawrence and our learning community?  The symbol of Confederate flags paraded through the nation’s capital continues to be in my thoughts and nightmares.  With many of us limiting human contact due to the pandemic and the beginning of the term, it is likely that it is much more difficult to process these events.  To play our part in responding to this attack on this nation’s basic principles of democracy, liberty, and justice for all, I believe that we must rededicate ourselves to our goal of becoming an antiracist, equity-minded institution and community.

In a statement last spring, the Board of Trustees wrote:  “Centuries of discrimination based on race have embedded inequities in every aspect of our lives, including here in Appleton and on the Lawrence University campus.  We affirm our commitment, led by all members of our community—the administration, faculty, students, and staff—to continue to eliminate the impacts of racism at Lawrence as we prepare our students to be leaders in their communities.”

Below is a summary of our current efforts, including initiatives connected to CODA’s recommendations and concerns from last fall.  We know that addressing structural racism is an urgent need, and while some of the initiatives will take some time to review and implement, we are prioritizing this work.  I want to again thank student leaders, as well as the many faculty and staff, whose energy is moving us forward.  Each entry is listed with the name(s) of the leader of the effort and a goal for completion.  While interconnected, the initiatives are grouped into three categories:  Changes in Processes and Policies; Fostering a More Diverse Community; and Creating a Safe Home for All.  These initiatives will provide a strong basis for future endeavors.  If you want to better understand any of these initiatives or potentially get involved, please contact the lead directly.  Our communal aspirations require all of us to engage.

I hope to see you at one of the MLK Day events this Monday.  You can find a full program schedule here.



Mark Burstein

President, Lawrence University


Changes in Processes and Policies

  • Many have suggested ways to improve our Bias Incident Response process.  We will begin an external review of the process immediately with the hope that suggestions from peer institutions will enter into our discussions by the beginning of Spring Term.  In the meantime, we are in the process of adding 2 student representatives to the Bias Incident Response Committee, and we are developing a new way to provide summary data from the process.  Lead:  Kimberly Barrett
  • An interim Anti-Hate Speech policy was instituted in November in consultation with the Faculty Committee on University Governance, LUCC and others.  A group of faculty, students, and staff are developing a more permanent policy which will be reviewed through shared governance committees by the end of the academic year.  Lead:  Kimberly Barrett
  •  The Office of Communications will introduce visual media procedures and policies, including the opportunity for community members to annually opt-out of having their image used for communication, marketing, or publicity purposes.  Communications will also organize its image inventory and work with the Registrar and Human Resources to help enforce this process.  The new visual media procedures and policies will be in place for fall of 2021.  Lead:  Megan Scott
  • Lawrence has created a Preferred Name Policy to enhance transparency and to make it easier for people who want to use a preferred name to access information about the process.  The policy will also be used in training with faculty and staff to help prevent outing and other biased behavior related to gender identity.  We will identify ways to modify Argos reports to allow more specific designation of student preferences regarding names used for various purposes this summer.  Lead:  Kimberly Barrett
  • The Facilities team will consult with the Disability Working Group by the end of Winter Term to ensure that we create a physical campus that is accessible to all.  Lead:  Mary Alma Noonan
  • For the current admissions cycle and beyond, the admissions office has reviewed and reworked application review guidelines to reduce reader bias or self-centering when assessing applicants’ quality of writing and match with Lawrence, as well as to significantly lessen the influence of test scores and high school ratings, both of which are strongly tied to socioeconomic status.  Lead:  Beth Petrie 
  • For the current admissions cycle and beyond, the financial aid office has created a supplemental financial aid application as a student- and family-centered alternative to the CSS Profile, with far fewer questions and no cost to the student, removing significant barriers to completing the financial aid process.  The financial aid office is also investigating digital signature replacements for the cumbersome physical signature requirement for financial aid verification for implementation by the fall of 2021 if not sooner.  Lead:  Ryan Gebler
  • Since the summer of 2020, the admissions and financial aid offices have been auditing communications to ensure inclusive and welcoming descriptions (more student-focused, with less “institutional speak”) around Lawrence’s features, processes and expectations.  Lead:  Ken Anselment
  • A committee of faculty is working on restructuring the Reappointment, Tenure, and Promotion processes to better serve a diverse professoriate.  This effort is supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation and follows an external review of these processes.  Proposed changes to our processes will be discussed in shared governance committees starting this spring.  Lead:  Bob Williams
  • The University has instituted new processes for faculty and staff searches to ensure that Lawrence attracts candidates from all backgrounds.  The number of BIPOC candidates hired since new processes were instituted has increased significantly.  We expect these processes will ensure the University continues to attract diverse and talented candidates on all searches this year and in future years.  Leads:  Katie Kodat, Kimberly Barrett, Tina Harrig

Fostering a More Diverse Community

  • The presidential search committee and its search firm Isaacson, Miller are focused on attracting a diverse set of candidates for the 17th president of Lawrence.  Lead:  Christyn Abaray
  •  A committee of faculty is involved with an effort to implement inclusive pedagogy and curricular transformation in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.  Faculty have been implementing specific curricular and pedagogical changes for the past four academic years and will continue to do so influenced by this effort.  This initiative is supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.  Lead:  Kathy Privatt
  • A committee of faculty is working to engage science students of all backgrounds and identities through an Inclusive Excellence Initiative funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  The initiative will lead to the redesign of all introductory courses in biology, chemistry and physics over the next two academic years.  Lead:  Stefan Debbert
  • Funding for the Diversity and Intercultural Center has been increased in response to the increase in the number of BIPOC students in our community this academic year and will increase as is necessary in future years.  Lead:  Christopher Card
  • The University will discuss with students ways Merit Pages, an online platform that showcases student accomplishments inside and outside the classroom, may be used that work against fostering an inclusive learning community.  Ideas stemming from the review will be implemented before fall of 2021.  Leads:  Katie Kodat and Megan Scott
  • The Career Center is working to establish a summer internship program in Social and Environmental Justice in partnership with nonprofit organizations based in the Fox Cities and Milwaukee.  The program will begin this summer and is funded by a series of gifts through the Campaign.  Lead:  Mike O’Connor
  • Antiracism training is being developed for the student body and will be implemented by fall of 2021.  Lead:  Christopher Card
  • The required diversity training for faculty and staff will be augmented with antiracism and accessibility learning modules effective this spring.  Lead: Kimberly Barrett
  • Students have raised concerns about possible tokenization in our promotional material.  The University will foster conversations this spring with students, faculty, and staff on how to best present itself as a diverse and welcoming community to the larger world that both honestly represents the community demographics and our aspirations.  Lead:  Kimberly Barrett, Brittany Bell, Megan Scott
  • The University is investigating ways to address the basic needs of BIPOC students and access to haircare services, products, and ethnic foods, not readily available in the Fox Cities.  Lead:  Brittany Bell
  • Lawrence will move the food pantry to an ADA accessible location and confirm funding and management by fall of 2021.  Lead:  Mary Alma Noonan
  • This spring the space between Mudd Library and Wriston Art Center will be dedicated as “Kaeyes Mamaceqtawuk Plaza” (pronounced Ki ace Mamah chitawuk) as part of the University’s continuing effort to increase the diversity of campus iconography and acknowledge the presence of Wisconsin’s current Native American tribal communities.  The dedication will include the installation of a contemporary commissioned art sculpture by an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Chris Cornelius, an Associate Professor of Architecture in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning.  The name of the plaza is in recognition that the University currently occupies land original to the Menominee Nation. The name of the new space will be written in the Menominee language, meaning Ancient People – a word the Menominee people historically use to refer to themselves.  Leads:  Beth Zinsli and Brigetta Miller

Creating a Safe Home for All

  • The University has reinstituted the safety escorts and rides for emergencies and essential trips both on and off campus.  We will evaluate additional ideas to extend the safety net of campus to downtown Appleton in partnership with the City of Appleton and local businesses this winter.  Lead:  Christyn Abaray.
  • Campus Safety and Student Life staffs have begun a series of training programs to support their work in the residential spaces.  Staff will continue to participate in diversity and anti-bias trainings to better ensure that engagements with students in the residences are welcoming, professional and consistent with the highest standards of safety.  Lead:  Christopher Card
  • Lawrence introduced the new Rave Guardian App earlier this term.  It allows students, faculty, and staff to connect with Campus Safety and access important campus resources like Wellness Services, LU Safewalkers, Bias Incidents, COVID-19 concerns, and facility work requests.  Lead:  Christopher Card