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.
Mark Burstein President, Lawrence University Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699 | Office 920.832.6525
Allison, thank you for that unusual and warm introduction and for your leadership of the Public Events Committee this year. I look forward to seeing how you and the Committee reinvent our community gatherings.
Thank you Professors Gomez, Oh Zabrowski, Sieck, Spears and Swan for that beautiful prelude. You made an excellent selection this year with “Show Us How to Love” by Mark Miller. No year calls more strongly for love than this one. Thank you Jessica Hopkins’22 for reading our Land Acknowledgement this morning. And thank you, Linda Morgan Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, for providing closing words for today’s Convocation. Our postlude today will also be a treat, a piece played by Hung Phi Nguyen’21.
I also want to thank the many members of the Lawrence community who helped me with research for this talk. Each year matriculation convocation has provided an opportunity for me to consider a topic with colleagues across the campus. This year, as in years past, I leave the conversation impressed by the breadth, depth, and generosity of our intellectual campus discourse.
Welcome to the academic year. I want to specifically welcome our new first year, transfer and visiting students, and the many faculty and staff who recently joined us. Since we will continue for the foreseeable future to be a community both on campus and dispersed to over 30 countries and close to 50 states, I ask that we all make an extra effort to extend a warm Lawrence welcome to our new members. I look forward to working with all of you in finding new ways to sustain our vibrant learning community during this pandemic.
I began to think about the theme of belonging and home for this matriculation convocation last spring in response to the societal convulsion created by both the pandemic and the deepening recognition of systemic racism in our culture. At that moment, I had no idea how personal this topic would become for me. This summer has been a time for me to reassess my priorities and decide to prioritize family, specifically my mother and my in-laws, over a position I love. Serving as your president has been the central privilege and pleasure of my professional career. David and I want to thank all of you who have allowed us to join, to belong, and to call this university and Appleton our home. Lawrence will always be in our hearts and we will always be proud to call Appleton our home no matter where we reside.
What a year. I expect many of you feel, as I do, the pain, the conflict, and the dislocation in our society. The new presidential election cycle has unleashed overwhelming forces to divide us. Our country’s attempt to reckon with systemic racism brings both hope and conflicting views of an aspirational future. Environmental degradation continues to march on around the globe. And, the pandemic has curtailed ways to process all of this stress, has upended family life, and has created severe economic burdens on many of us and the institutions we serve.
This chaotic environment filled with conflict, inequity, anxiety and anger has forced me to raise basic questions about where I feel safe and accepted. Where are my roots? Where do I belong? Where is home?
Can I truly feel at home in a purple state in a time when political discourse has morphed into verbal hand to hand combat and the middle ground has become suspect? When we moved to Wisconsin eight years ago, I saw the state’s political tradition as a strength, a place to fully explore all sides. Now it feels like an invitation to a daily political war. Many theorists who have explored the concept of belonging find that one of its central aspects is the need to feel that your whole identity is recognized and affirmed. This recognition is seen as an invitation to create a deep connection. If this is true, how can belonging be created in a society in which racism and bias against minority identities continue to exist?
The pandemic has also made it harder to return to places where we once felt at home. The virus threatens every travel plan and has led countries and regions of the world to limit visitation. How can those of us who have deep human connection in multiple locations sustain ties that are integral to our sense of belonging?
These questions and many others consumed me this summer. As Ann Belford Ulanov recognized in an address entitled “Root, Uprooting, and Rootedness” at the CG Jung Institute in Chicago last year, our world has reinforced “internal flux rather than integrating themes.” Privileged to join a sustained dialogue group on race and racism at Lawrence and in the Fox Cities, I realized that these questions are on many of our minds. Countless researchers have studied the human desire for belonging. Some posit belonging as the opposite of isolation: it ensures that we do not feel alone. Others suggest that finding meaning in one’s life is anchored in the sense of belonging. Research has found that the smallest social belonging interventions can yield lasting positive effect on individuals. Many believe that belonging is critical to creating successful learning environments.
In “The Need to Belong,” Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary suggest that “a need to belong is a fundamental human motivation.” They explain that two criteria must be present to create a sense of belonging: frequent and pleasant interactions with a few other people which take place in a stable context, and an enduring framework of affective concern for each other’s welfare.
In “Searching for belonging – an analytical framework,” Marco Antonsich takes this idea one step further. He suggests that “belonging is a personal, intimate, feeling of being ‘at home’ in a place.” For Antonsich ‘home’ “here stands for a symbolic space of familiarity, comfort, security and emotional attachment.” But where does one find such a place? Is home where we spend our childhood? Where we find resonance and safety as adults? Or as Robert Frost said, is home just “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”?
In a book entitled “The Politics of Belonging,” Nira Yuval-Davis analyzes the sense of belonging from the perspective of identity, politics, and intersectionality. She understands that “people can ‘belong’ in many different ways and to many different objects of attachment. These can vary from a particular person to the whole of humanity, in a concrete or abstract way, by self or other identification, in a stable, contested, or transient way.” For Yuval-Davis, “Even in its most stable ‘primordial’ forms, however, belonging is always a dynamic process. . .”
Ulanov also emphasizes process. She describes belonging as the “searching for an environment safe enough to become our own most selves.” By ‘our most selves’ she means an environment where we find, explore and create ourselves. She believes we discover or uncover this root of belonging rather than create it. Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls this Ubuntu, the assertion of being human.
Brene Brown, in her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” also acknowledges the common human need to belong. But she emphasizes the complexity of achieving what we long for: “Belonging,” she writes “is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Natasha Trethewey captures beautifully in her poem “Theories of Time and Space” this challenge that faces us as we seek to belong. She writes:
“You can get there from here, though there’s no going home. Everywhere you go will be somewhere you’ve never been.”
It sounds so simple to create for oneself, right?
Like many of you, I think, my own sense of belonging springs partially from my upbringing. In the Jewish tradition, the biological family provides the core for belonging and those of us who have family are obligated to create it for others. For example, on the central Jewish holiday, Passover, the Bible instructs us to gather in family units to feast and celebrate. Family is so central there are special rules requesting every existing family unit to invite the stranger who is without familial connection. This has been translated into our current tradition of an elaborate ceremony over dinner called a seder which involves roles for each family member and encourages families to invite those without a home to join the celebration.
Kwame Anthony Appiah takes the power of biological family one step further to establish belonging. In the preface to his book “In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture” he describes his sense of belonging as living, “in two extended families divided by several thousand miles and allegedly insuperable cultural distance that never, so far as I can recall, puzzled or perplexed us much. As I grew older . . . I learned that not everybody had family in Africa and in Europe; not everyone had a Lebanese uncle, American and French and Kenyan, and Thai cousins. And … now that my sisters have married a Norwegian and a Nigerian and a Ghanaian, now that I live in America, I am used to seeing the world as a network of points of affinity.” Now that is what I call a home!
For many of us, the people we choose make a family and create belonging. In, “Families we Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship,” Kath Weston explores this phenomenon. She points out that the sign on the stage at the 1987 Gay and Lesbian March on Washington read: “Love makes a family – nothing more, nothing less.” Members of the LGBTQ community and many of the rest of us create family, roots, belonging through connections to spouses and friends.
As Reginald Shepherd, an African American poet wrote in a poem dedicated to his husband entitled “You, Therefore,”
“home is nowhere, therefore you,
a kind of dwell and welcome, song after all,
and free of any eden we can name.”
Clearly, for some of us, confidence persists in the power to create the place where we truly belong.
Antonsich suggests that other “modes of belonging” exist outside of family, both biological and created. bell hooks in her book, “Belonging: A Culture of Place” offers a compelling meditation on how location itself can create this sense of rootedness. hooks’ view of her native Kentucky is not sentimentalized. She chronicles the racism and the culture of white supremacy of her childhood in complicated and painful ways. But still her heart returns to the landscape and people of her early years. At the end of a chapter entitled “Kentucky Is My Fate,” she writes: “During my time away, I would return to Kentucky and feel again a sense of belonging that I never felt elsewhere, experiencing unbroken ties to the land, to homefolk, to our vernacular speech.”
Place, as well as people, becomes the sustainer of belonging.
Many other traditions also connect belonging to a place or location. From the Native American perspective, for example, Paula Gunn Allen, a well-known poet from Laguna Pueblo, made this connection very clear: “We are the land. To the best of my understanding that is the fundamental idea that permeates American Indian life.” This view of belonging certainly makes sense here in the land of Neenah, Menasha, and Winnebago, all names that originate in Native American language and tradition. But the idea exists as well in Victorian England. As George Eloit stated in Daniel Deronda, “A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of native land, where it may get the love and tender kinship for the face of the earth.”
A strong link to an ancestral home is not central to or at the core of everyone’s sense of belonging. Pico Iyer, a British born essayist of Indian descent who splits his life between Japan and California put it this way in a Ted Talk entitled “What is home?” “Home . . . is really a work in progress. It’s like a project on which they’re constantly adding upgrades and improvements and corrections. And for more and more of us, home has really less to do with a piece of soil than you could say, with a piece of soul.”
Later in the talk he mentions something that speaks directly to our mission here: “home, we know, is not just the place where you happen to be born, it’s the place where you become yourself.”
Not all of us have had the privilege of finding a sense of belonging during our lifetime. Prejudice, racism, and bias have prevented many of us from finding spaces safe and supportive enough for us to develop a sense of belonging. Candice Pipes chronicles the lives of Black service men returning to the United States in an article called “The Impossibility of Home.” She offers many examples of young men and women who enlisted, thrived in the military, and fought for our country. But when they returned they encountered the same prejudice and racism that marked their lives before their military service.
From a different perspective, Steve Striffler, in “Neither Here nor There: Mexican Immigrant Workers and the Search for Home,” provides insight into the lives of people who have become an essential workforce in the United States as farm laborers, meat packers, and menial factory staff. As the title suggests, their work here may lead to higher income but also to a persistent sense of dislocation and alienation. Tragically, these experiences are repeated in many situations. Others point to societal alienation and dislocation as forces working against our sense of belonging. In “Home” Toni Morrison states, “What do we mean when we say ‘home’ is a vital question because the destiny of the twenty-first century will be shaped by the possibility or the collapse of a shareable world?” Antonsich also believes that increasing cultural and ethnic diversification of contemporary societies could inhibit the formation of communities of belonging.
Given what these sources tell us of the complexity, the challenge belonging presents now, here, can we possibly believe in our own capacity to create “home” for ourselves and others?
Popular culture, especially recent television programs, try to point a way forward. Multiple programs by Shonda Rhimes like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Station 19” and “Scandal” use work settings to create diverse, inclusive ‘families’ where straight and gay, black, brown and white characters all belong to each other and to a place. Ryan Murphy’s many programs like “Glee,” “911,” and “Pose” follow the same path by creating connectedness and belonging among diverse groups of people who support each other like traditional families. These become families in which we can all see ourselves. Of course, I have recently wanted to be Travis Montgomery on “Station 19.” As a gay fireman with a black firewoman best friend he is beyond cool. Yes, his husband, a fellow fireman, died in the first season, but I digress. Although Rhimes stated once “I am not changing the world, I am pretending to change the world on TV” the sense of belonging she creates illustrates for all of us the potential of redefining what “belonging” and “home” mean in this new century.
The stories Rhimes, Murphy and many others tell help us imagine the sense of home that Congressman John Lewis described in his Lawrence commencement speech in 2015. He said, “So it doesn’t matter if we are black or white, Latino, Asian-American or Native American. It doesn’t matter whether we are straight or gay. We are one people, one family. We are one house. We are brothers and sisters.” His voice, his words, can still give us the courage to believe.
It is now critical for us as a community to revisit these themes and to make sure that all members of the university feel that they belong here. This beloved learning community can and should become “home” for us all. I look forward to hearing your ideas, reactions, and disagreements as we make Lawrence the “home” we all need it to be: one that spans geography, race and all identities. One that helps us all to becomes ourselves.
Whether you join us from afar or on campus, good luck in this new academic year. Thank you for recreating this learning community we call Lawrence, especially within the constraints of the pandemic. It is a pleasure to have you all back and engaged in fall term.
I write to inform you that this academic year will be my last at the University. Serving as president of Lawrence for the past seven years has been the greatest honor and pleasure of my professional life. We have accomplished so much together: launching new curriculum and teaching methods; renewing campus infrastructure; and deepening our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity. I have had the privilege of participating in the lives of smart and caring students. Our endowment has grown more than 70% which has helped us make Lawrence more affordable and decreased the average debt of our graduates. Many talented faculty and staff have joined us with their energy, insights, and new ideas. You have welcomed David, Homer, and me into this beloved learning community with open arms. We have established friendships that will endure for the rest of our lives.
With the end of our strategic plan in sight and the completion of the Be The Light! Campaign this December, it seems like an appropriate juncture in the arc of the University to prepare for new leadership. The pandemic has also made it difficult for David and me to keep connected to our parents during an important period in their lives. I plan to serve as your president for this academic year with all of my focus and energy. After June 30th we expect to move our center of gravity to New York City and Washington, DC to be closer to family. We also hope to frequently return to Appleton to cheer on Lawrence and do what we can for its future.
There will be plenty of time to celebrate what we have accomplished together for Lawrence and the many students and alumni we serve. But I do want to take a moment to thank you. Your advice, counsel, and friendship have made me a better leader and for that I will be eternally grateful.
I look forward to seeing each of you on campus or via Zoom very soon.
Mark Burstein President Lawrence University
To the Lawrence Community,
After more than seven years of leadership, President Burstein informed the Board of Trustees today that this will be his last academic year at Lawrence. I am deeply grateful to Mark for all that has been accomplished during his tenure. The depth and breadth of his experience, paired with deft and compassionate leadership, made him the right leader for Lawrence at the right time in our history. He has led the university through unprecedented challenges and remarkable opportunities. During Mark’s tenure, our curricular offerings became deeper and broader, applications and the endowment increased dramatically, and our community became more diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded. Thanks to his dedication and service, Lawrence is well positioned for the future.
Throughout the year, the Lawrence community will celebrate our collective success and Mark’s impact on the university’s trajectory. In the meantime, I want to provide a sense of how we will proceed with the selection of the university’s 17th President. We plan to mount a national search supported by a national search firm. We are in the process of forming a Presidential Search Committee, which will be made up of trustees, alumni, faculty, students, and staff. I have asked trustees Cory Nettles ’92 and Sarah Schott ’97 to lead the Search Committee as chair and vice chair, respectively. We have also asked Christyn Abaray, secretary to the board, to support the selection process from an administrative standpoint. We expect to select a search firm shortly and have every expectation that we will select a new president during the Winter Term.
The Search Committee will soon launch a webpage to share its progress with the Lawrence community. We look forward to hearing from you about what characteristics you believe we should seek as we consider candidates for the position. In addition, we will set up processes to gather these views and suggestions of candidates as well.
In these moments of transition, it is important to find time to celebrate our progress and imagine our future. I hope the entire university community will join us in both activities. Thank you for your patience and contributions as we proceed with this important work.
I would be remiss at the start of this unusual Fall Term if I did not use this opportunity, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, to thank all members of the Lawrence community who have worked so hard to sustain the university during this pandemic. I know many faculty, staff, and students have provided leadership and extra time and effort to ensure that the learning environment we cherish continues to prosper.
From the entire Board of Trustees, we express our thanks and warmest regards.
Be well, and stay well,
David C. Blowers ’82 Chair of the Board of Trustees Lawrence University
After two months of thoughtful collaboration across campus, we announce today that the university will offer all Lawrentians the opportunity to live and learn on campus this fall. We will also provide a distance learning option for the fall term for those who decide not to return to campus, whether it is because of health concerns; an inability to observe all the essential safety protocols described in this letter and accompanying information; limits on traveling; or any other challenges.
To reach this decision, the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team (LPPT) researched ways to approach our learning, living, and working environments for the coming academic year. The team consulted with health experts, both within Wisconsin and around the country, and with various faculty, students, staff, and trustees through the shared governance process. Our goal was to ensure that every Lawrentian will have the opportunity to learn, teach, and work as fully and safely as possible. The President’s Cabinet, informed by the LPPT’s recommendations, made this decision grounded in three guiding priorities: protecting the health and safety of our community; sustaining our academic mission; and supporting faculty, staff, and students. When we paired these priorities with our core Lawrentian values of community, equity, and student empowerment, the path forward for fall was clear.
This fall term will not look like any other in Lawrence history. But we can assure you that this academic year will adhere to the best public health guidance available to us, offer a robust academic program and co-curricular experience, and gather us together once again as a community—in new ways.
What You Need to Know about Fall 2020
Following are highlights about fall term 2020 to help you make your decisions. More details and an extensive FAQ can be found on the Planning for Fall 2020 website. I encourage every member of the Lawrence community to review the site and explore the FAQ.
Student Choice: Students will choose whether they will come to campus. We will offer a mix of in-person and online courses to ensure continuity of experience throughout the term. We will also offer remote learning opportunities for those who will not be on campus due to personal circumstances, challenges preventing them from traveling to campus, or a decision not to adhere to our safety protocols. Students living on campus should expect an experience that includes online instruction. Technology and student support services will be available to students both on- and off-campus to help with access to resources and the learning experience.
Academic Calendar: Classes for this academic year will begin on September 14, and exams will end before November 25 and the Thanksgiving holiday. December Term will not be held this year.
Living on Campus: Our regular housing practice of assigning students to the capacity indicated by the type of room (for example, two students to a double room or four students to a four-person suite) will continue. Students can apply for a single room if they prefer that choice. Final housing assignments and move-in details will be available in early August.
Working on Campus: Faculty will choose whether they will continue to teach and work remotely. Staff will continue to work remotely unless their duties or other needs require them to work on campus or unless they would prefer to return to campus. Students will be offered both in person and telecommuting work opportunities.
Testing: Students will be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive. Faculty and staff will be tested as they return to campus. Students, faculty, and staff will take part in frequent testing and daily symptom monitoring throughout the term.
Health Partners: The University has contracted with Bellin Health to be our healthcare partner as we adapt as a community to living with COVID-19. They will provide on-campus testing for all community members. We are also fortunate to have long-term existing relationships with Ascension and ThedaCare health systems in the Fox Valley, who will continue to supply essential local support. For contact tracing we have developed a partnership with the Appleton Health Department to ensure the process will be thorough and quick.
Safety Protocols: We ask all students to take preventative steps for 14 days before coming to campus to ensure a safe and healthy arrival on campus (e.g., practice physical distancing, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, consider taking a COVID-19 test). All members of the community will be required to wear masks in classrooms and other indoor public spaces as well as outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible. We will promote physical distancing and reduce contact through adjustments to classroom occupancy; new plexiglass and signage to highly trafficked areas; dining services modifications; and density control in housing assignments. We are currently upgrading our building ventilation systems to minimize recirculation of contaminants. Faculty, students, and staff will also be expected to receive an influenza vaccine, which will be made available by the university.
International Students: We are working to ensure that students with F1 visas will remain in compliance with federal guidelines if they choose to join us on campus.
Protecting Ourselves & Others: Protecting the health and safety of our campus community will require participation by all members of our community. We ask everyone who joins us on campus to sign the Lawrence Campus Community Pledge, which commits each of us to follow our public health and safety protocols. Violation of these protocols will lead to disciplinary action.
Preparing for the fall has been, and will continue to be, a community effort. While we have made many decisions, we are still sorting through more details as we approach the start of the academic year. Please visit the Planning for Fall 2020 website for the most up-to-date information. I would like to thank everyone engaged in this process and offer my ongoing gratitude to our entire community for your patience and efforts to successfully launch an academic year in this challenging environment.
We will continue to adjust our protocols to follow guidance from local and state health departments as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure community health and safety. When a policy change is needed, the LPPT will discuss options with the proper shared governance committee. In addition, we have developed contingency plans in case of a virus surge on campus.
I know that this email includes a great deal of information. To help you fully understand our plans and answer questions you may have, we are hosting two Q & A sessions—one for faculty and staff and one for students and families—later this week:
We will also host other Q & A sessions for Conservatory students, international students, and student athletes and their families. We will send further details about these sessions soon to all students in these communities. All sessions will be recorded and made available for future viewing. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please visit the Planning for Fall 2020 website or email email@example.com. You can also call the university directly at 920-832-6576 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central time on Wednesday, July 15 and Thursday, July 16, and between 8 a.m. and noon on Friday, July 17. Staff will be available to answer your questions or direct you to the right office.
Next week, we will contact all incoming and returning students, to ask you to share with us your plans for fall term, along with other important questions. Your thoughtful and prompt response will help us make plans for on-campus accommodations and other necessary coordination.
Moving Forward, Together
I have appreciated hearing from many of you through email, phone calls, and virtual town halls over the last few months. Your questions and concerns have helped tremendously as we completed our plans. I understand that the announcement of this framework of both on-campus and distance learning options is only part of the complex assortment of questions and considerations we all confront now. I hope the information offered here will help as you consider the personal circumstances that will shape your decision about how to engage this fall with the Lawrence living, learning, and working experience.
I am mindful that preparing a safe environment for every Lawrentian also extends to our efforts to dismantle systemic racism, whether it is here at Lawrence or beyond. I am eager to continue this work, which will ensure a healthy, rich, and supportive learning environment for all. I know that together, we as Lawrentians will meet these challenges with ingenuity, creativity, and compassion.
My Cabinet colleagues and I are committed to doing everything within our power to keep the Lawrence experience strong, supportive, and safe. I look forward to seeing you on campus this fall or connect with you through technology. As always, be well and make choices that keep others well.
President, Lawrence University
Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699| Office 920.832.6525
Last week, the Board of Trustees took time out of its annual spring meetings to discuss the current civil unrest in our country. As a result of these discussions, the Board chose this moment to share the following statement with the Lawrence community affirming the University’s values and the necessary work ahead to fulfill Lawrence’s commitment to antiracism.
The most recent killings of Black people in the United States compel us to recognize that the horrific violence of racism persists today in America and fundamental work for racial justice remains to be done.
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.
Black lives matter.
We acknowledge the work that remains for Lawrence to be a university in which all members of our community are welcomed, valued, and supported in reaching their potential.
The Lawrence University Board of Trustees affirms the university’s commitment to antiracism, and we will hold ourselves accountable for real progress.
Thank you for sharing your hopes and frustrations with us individually or in larger community discussions over this past week. We too are experiencing anger and frustration and are at a time in our history when systemic oppression, racial injustice, and police violence are not just on the minds of our Black and other community members of color, but on the minds of all of us.
As we wrap up final projects and complete the academic year, we will work to make Lawrence University a better place for all to thrive, especially for community members of color. Lawrence has a history checkered with racism and oppression. As our values have evolved, we have arrived at a moment to declare where we stand.
We stand against racism. We stand against systemic oppression of people of color. We stand against police violence.
To ensure that these values are realized, the President’s Cabinet has started to assemble institutional actions that will continue to foster an antiracist campus culture. We have much work to do—some of it builds on continuing initiatives; some of it is planned but not yet in action; and some of it still needs development. All of it is vital to our institution.
Our next steps are outlined below.
Resources, Reading & Workshops
Recognizing that our community needs time to process all that has happened and prepare for concerted action in the fall, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion has provided resources to help you, your families, and communities put this in context at your own pace over the summer. The resources, which can be accessed on the Lawrence website, include short articles, videos and books.
We also invite all faculty, staff, and students to participate in a summer Community Read of How to Be an Antiracist by National Book Award winner Ibram X. Kendi. The University will provide books to all members of the community who would like to participate. Lawrence’s Antiracist White Affinity Group (ARWAG) will offer workshops over the summer as well. Details about how to get the book, as well as dates and times of book discussions and workshops, are forthcoming.
Lawrence will focus on integrating works of Black and Brown scholars and artists into what we teach as well as teaching in ways that are antiracist. This will begin prior to fall term during the Freshman Studies Symposium and continue throughout the year with professional development provided for faculty by the Inclusive Pedagogy Committee. In addition, the Curriculum Committee will pursue strengthening the diversity-related general education requirements (GER) and centering anti-racist work in our curriculum more broadly.
Student Support & Dialogue
Student Life staff will work to enhance their ability to support student activists by engaging and learning from experts in peaceful protests. Staff will also increase the efforts to hear directly from students about their experiences on campus as we seek to develop more effective strategies to support a campus culture where antiracist work is central. Starting this summer, we, members of the President’s Cabinet as well as other campus leaders, will participate in structured Sustained Dialogue with student leaders to develop a shared sense of the work needed on these vital issues.
Community-Wide Training & Response
We will impact campus climate by expanding mandatory training for employees to include specific workshops related to racism in higher education and society. We will also provide additional training for students on antiracism throughout the academic year. Alumni will also be engaged in dialogues and trainings over the summer via virtual townhall meetings and other gatherings. In addition, the Bias Response Team will lead a task force this fall on preventing and responding to hate speech on campus. We will also add to efforts already underway to increase the number of staff and faculty of color on campus.
We must take this moment, as a community and as an institution, to make real change in the battle against racism. Continuing to build on our ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts will help to bring us closer to creating lasting, structural change. Please stay tuned as we update you while the work progresses.
Mark Burstein President
Christyn Abaray Assistant to the President Secretary to the Board
Ken Anselment Vice President for Enrollment & Communication
Kimberly Barrett Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion Associate Dean of the Faculty
Christopher Card Vice President for Student Life
Jeffrey Clark Special Assistant to the President
Associate Professor of Geosciences
Calvin Husmann Vice President for Alumni & Development
Catherine Kodat Provost & Dean of the Faculty
Brian Pertl Dean of the Conservatory of Music
Megan Scott Associate Vice President of Communication Jenna Stone Associate Vice President of Finance
Events of the last week have reminded us that as we prepare campus and general society for a new normal in the midst of a global pandemic, other threats to safety exist for members of our community. Like many of you, George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis left me angry and in pain. The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia earlier in February and the many other deaths of black people over the years underlines that Mr. Floyd’s death is not an isolated incident. It belongs to a social pattern we must change if we are to create a society that is safe for all of us.
It has been hard enough to watch the pandemic’s unequal impact on people in this country. But when we continue to witness systemic racism in our communities, it is evident that we have more work to do than responding to a public health crisis. The rapper Killer Mike, the son of an Atlanta police officer, said at a press conference Saturday in that city, “It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization.” As we make plans to welcome you back to Appleton this fall we must also take Killer Mike’s charge and look for ways to fortify our own house, our campus community, to ensure we are a force for anti-racism, equity, and safety for all.
We will schedule time over the next few weeks for the Lawrence community to gather via Zoom, to discuss these events, and determine how we should move forward together. We also need to remember we are not alone in this work. I was heartened Saturday to join more than a thousand people in downtown Appleton, including many students, faculty and staff, at a Black Lives Matter rally. I know Lawrentians around the world participated in similar rallies and protests.
As we complete spring term and look to summer break please reach out to university services if we can be of help. Assistant Dean Bell, Vice President Card, Vice President Barrett and I are available at any time if you need us. I look forward to seeing you all very soon.
I hope that you and your loved ones are well in your homes, on campus, across the nation, and around the world. Things are going well on campus. But I miss the energy that Spring Term brings when you are all here: ensembles and theater performances, senior recitals, athletic competitions, research and art presentations, LUaroo and other community gatherings to attend. Most importantly, I miss the impromptu interactions I had with students, faculty and staff each day. I know I am not alone in a feeling of loss of these truly Lawrentian moments.
With midterms almost complete, we now turn our thoughts to fall and our hopes for gathering again as a community enriched by collaborations and supportive relationships among students, faculty, and staff, and by a campus culture wonderfully alive. We hope to welcome students back to Appleton this fall, if federal and state policies allow, even though we also need to develop contingency plans … just in case. If we are allowed to gather again in September, we will have rules in place that will foster a safer environment in response to the pandemic. We plan to make a final decision about the fall term before the end of July.
Until then we will continue to make preparations for a reimagined re-union on campus, and a fall experience that embraces both community and physical distance. It is likely that fall term will begin two to three weeks later than our scheduled start date of September 7. This potential change to our academic calendar gives us more time to develop—in association with some of the state’s leading health care researchers and advisors—appropriate protocols to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, as well as the greater Appleton community.
Lawrence’s leadership team, including the President’s Cabinet and COVID-19 Management Team, are currently working with the University’s shared governance to develop a spectrum of scenarios for fall term. The range of scenarios includes on-campus learning as noted above, a second term of distance learning, and a mixed model featuring both on-campus and home-based instruction. Each scenario will aim to provide our students with the best educational experience possible, no matter the circumstances. Last week we announced our plans for summer. You can find that information here. If you have questions about this or any other matter, please reach out to the appropriate office, faculty advisor, or supervisor. Communication is essential as we determine the changes ahead.
COVID-19 is not the first pandemic that Lawrence has had to endure and overcome. The 1918 influenza outbreak also brought with it public health concerns and operational challenges that reached us here in Appleton. While the circumstances 100 years ago might have been different, the impact on teaching and learning for our student body is in many ways the same. We must strive to keep our campus community safe, while also preserving the University’s mission and rich, inclusive learning environment.
Thanks to aggressive state-wide actions, the influenza outbreak took less of a toll in Wisconsin than in other areas of the country. We are also grateful that, just as in 1918, our own current efforts are making a difference in preventing the spread of COVID-19. This success, along with the ingenuity of our students, faculty, and staff, brings me hope. I promise you that the University’s leadership will continue to work to ensure that we keep our community safe and that Lawrence continues to share its light with the world.
Be well and make choices that keep others well.
President, Lawrence University
Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699 | Office 920.832.6525
These have been turbulent times for all of us. I would like to thank all members of the Lawrence community—your patience, ingenuity, and suggestions are helping us transition to distance learning and helping us do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. These have been challenging times for all of us. Guidance on how to address the spread of COVID-19 changes daily, sometimes hourly. This morning, at the direction of Governor Tony Evers, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Designee Andrea Palm issued a safer at home order.
I write today to share with you information on how the University will continue with this new order in effect.
The safer at home order urges Wisconsinites to limit travel to essentials only—trips to stores and pharmacies for necessary supplies, and for medical care. It also limits business activity to essential services. Because of the nature of Lawrence, especially since we are still responsible for a residential community, much of our work remains in the essential category by definition. We have already taken steps to ensure that our University is doing its best to mitigate the spread of the virus. Many faculty and staff who are able to do so are already working from home. We are using digital tools to limit in-person meetings. And custodial services have been redeployed to high-traffic areas of the campus. To free custodial colleagues for this important work we have closed offices and buildings wherever possible.
The Governor asks that we remain in our homes or dorm rooms as much as possible. Faculty and staff who have not fully migrated to home for their campus office should make plans to do so now. Staff should check in with supervisors to make sure we provide appropriate accommodations to ensure work can continue without being physically present on campus. Essential employees who will continue to work on campus are to follow all precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. If special identification of essential employees becomes necessary, Human Resources will issue such identification. At this time, there is no local requirement of special identification.
We are focused on ensuring continuity of Lawrence’s operations and functions so that we may continue to deliver on our educational mission. Shared Governance continues to operate, with faculty committees actively addressing policy issues from instruction to curriculum. Many departments continue the work of hiring, tenure, and promotion. LUCC leadership is working to adjust its meeting processes and will continue to represent students. Core functions in all operational divisions continue and a COVID-19 management team meets daily to handle Lawrence’s ongoing response to this situation.
As we work to adhere to our new statewide guidance and prepare for Spring Term, I want to take a moment to remind us all that our bonds as Lawrentians will endure. Community is a hallmark of the Lawrence experience. I mourn the loss of the vibrancy of the Spring Term. While it will be different, we must find ways of sustaining our social connection in these difficult times, including connections via social media, electronic gatherings, or other virtual means.
In this spirit of social solidarity, I took a moment yesterday to record a short video to share my thoughts with the Lawrence community as we adjust to the many changes in our lives. As I say in the video, we promise to update our social media accounts frequently to give you a sense of what’s happening on campus. We hope that you share your experiences with us as well. Please also feel free to contact me via email or telephone to share your suggestions and ideas or just to hang out. These connections will make us stronger as a community and as individuals.
As the virus progresses, more operational changes will be necessary. The COVID-19 blog will be updated as soon as any change is made. The LU Insider will now come out twice a week to summarize those changes as well as provide other information about our community. And, of course, continue to check email.
I have faith we will weather this crisis together as we have before. Homer, David, and I look forward to having you all back on campus soon.
Be well and make choices that keep others well,
President, Lawrence University
Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699 | Office 920.832.6525
of you, I have been carefully following the global outbreak of coronavirus or
COVID-19. This past week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
changed this country’s strategy from one of outbreak containment to
acknowledgement that this goal is no longer possible. We must now work to
mitigate eventual spread of the virus throughout the United States. Yesterday,
the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the virus had reached
pandemic status, and last night President Trump suspended all travel from
Europe, excluding Great Britain, for a 30-day period.
as a university are first to protect the health and safety of the campus
community, including those members who are at high risk for severe
complications from the virus, and to sustain the teaching and learning that are
a hallmark of all that we do at Lawrence. Our
community prides itself on the enduring relationship between faculty and
students, and frequent personal interaction is core to this relationship. But
this is difficult to sustain in an environment that asks for limiting in-person
today to share with you updates on how the University plans to address these
priorities and ensure that we remain true to our core community values
of compassion and respect. While there are currently no known cases of COVID-19
on the Lawrence campus, we recognize that we can no longer continue as usual
and still protect all members of our community, especially those most at
risk. As a result, and in consultation with faculty, students, and
staff, we have determined that the best course of action for Lawrence is to
move to distance learning starting Spring Term. This was an
extraordinarily difficult decision to make.
what this decision means for our campus:
Break will begin on March 19, as planned, and will be extended until April 5 to
provide faculty and staff additional time to prepare for distance learning. All
University-sponsored spring break trips, both domestic and international, are
canceled. Students are welcome to stay on campus for spring break, but they
cannot travel outside of the immediate vicinity.
Term (or third term) classes will begin on April 6. Spring Term will end as-scheduled
on June 10. Classes will be taught via distance learning. What we mean by
distance learning is the delivery of instruction and participation in courses
through the use of technology. We recognize that some courses, such
as research laboratories, studios, or ensembles, will not easily
translate to this format, and we are working closely with faculty to resolve
these issues prior to the start of the term. The Provost or individual faculty will be in touch with their students before
classes resume. No study abroad programs will run during Spring Term.
can apply to the Dean of Students through this webformto remain on
campus for Spring Termif returning home is impossible for various
reasons. All other students will be expected to leave campus for the remainder
of the academic year by April 5 and will need to plan accordingly. More
information regarding move-out is available on the website.
goal is to ensure individual finances do not impact the important choices that
lie ahead for each student and their family. For students who leave
campus and complete Spring Term from home, we will remove all on-campus related
fees from your bill for the third
term such as the final remaining room,
board, as well as the student activity fee. Third term tuition still applies.
Your financial aid will be adjusted proportionately to reflect the remaining
amount due. For students who remain on campus, there will be no change to your
third term bill or the financial aid you have already been allotted. We
encourage all students to contact Financial Aid if they have any questions regarding
their financial need, including their ability to travel home.
University will remain open to provide our students with needed support,
including academic and career assistance. Staff will continue to work scheduled
hours and will receive regular pay. We will issue guidance for University
employees no later than March 19. If staff have any questions in the meantime about
remote working options, leave, pay, or other issues, please contact your direct supervisor or Human Resources.
international travel on behalf of the university is canceled. Domestic travel
is allowed only for essential purposes as approved by a member
of the President’s Cabinet. Any individual who recently returned from a
2 or Level 3 country as defined by the CDC is required to self-isolate at an
off-campus location for 14 days upon your return.
Please note that the CDC recently designated continental Europe as a Level 3
area. Information on self-isolation and monitoring is available on the CDC
events, such as lectures, theatre productions, musical performances, art
exhibits, or other large public gatherings, are canceled for Spring Term.
Information regarding Admission visit programs can be found on the website.
realize the decision to move to distance learning impacts the senior class in a
unique way. The last term provides time to celebrate a glorious set of
cumulative accomplishments. We are committed to helping each senior to complete
their Lawrence requirements in time for graduation as well as ensure all students progress towards their degree of choice.
Commencement and its surrounding events may need to be modified. We are working
to finalize these decisions as quickly as possible and will share our final plans
with the senior class and their families by April 15. I promise you that we
will do our best to recognize your achievements and celebrate your graduation,
even if we cannot all be together on the Main Hall Green.
to the rapidly changing nature of this global pandemic, I recognize these
changes may elicit many questions. If you have any questions regarding our path
forward, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will do our
best to answer them in a timely fashion.
Also, starting Friday, March
13, through Thursday, March 19, a call center will be dedicated to answering
your questions. Please call 920-832-6576 weekdays between 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CDT. In addition, please visit the COVID-19
News blog for all recent updates and resources.
recognize this decision presents many challenges to our students, faculty, and
staff. We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and
ingenuity. I know, as we have in the past, we will rise to this challenge and
ensure that Lawrence continues to create a learning environment second to
none. Thank you all for your patience, dedication, and, most importantly, your
tireless work to support our institution.
take care of yourselves, and each other.
President, Lawrence University
Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699 |