President Alison Bylerly emailed the following message today:
To the College Community:
I write to update you on decisions taken at last week’s Board of Trustees meeting, as well as to congratulate the entire Lafayette community on a very successful Commencement weekend. As this was my first Lafayette Commencement as President, it was a very special occasion for me, and I could not have been more proud of the College.
From the Honors Thesis Reception on Friday afternoon, to the new Baccalaureate service, to the procession and Commencement ceremony, every occasion went like clockwork, due to the excellent organizational work of many individuals in the offices of the Chaplain, the President, the Registrar, Public Safety, Catering, and Campus Life. I would like to offer special thanks to our colleagues in Plant Operations. Their efficiency and flexibility in setting up multiple events with backup venues over this three-day period allowed us to maximize our use of the beautiful spaces with which our College is blessed.
I also extend thanks to the dedicated faculty, as well as administrators and staff, whose teaching, mentoring, and care are responsible for the success of the 590 young men and women who walked across the platform Saturday. Talking with parents at the President’s Reception after the ceremony, I heard many wonderful stories about specific professors, coaches, and staff members who made a difference in the lives of our students.
Prior to Commencement, on Friday, May 23, the Board of Trustees held its final meeting of the 2013-14 academic year. I am pleased to note that the Board approved moving forward with the final phase of the Williams Arts Campus construction, the construction of facilities located on the east side of the Third Street site. Also approved was funding for the first phase of a multi-year renovation of various dining venues. The Board heard a preliminary presentation on funding objectives for the Capital Campaign, and on plans for the campaign kickoff, to be held in New York City next November in conjunction with the 150th Lafayette-Lehigh football game at Yankee Stadium.
At this meeting, the Board also received and discussed the final Report of the Implementation and Assessment Group on Greek Life (IAGGL). As many of you know, IAGGL was formed in 2011 in response to the trustees’ directive that the administration continue to work with faculty and others in the Lafayette community to develop an implementation plan consistent with the administration’s response to the Report of the Working Group on Greek Life and Campus Community, and to establish appropriate metrics and assessment procedures to ensure that membership, conduct and academic objectives are achieved. Once the IAGGL draft report was issued in March, a number of groups provided feedback on the document, including Student Government, the Faculty Committee on Student Life, current fraternity and sorority Presidents, and the AISB. Additionally, two open meetings were held with students and faculty to solicit feedback before the final report was submitted to the Board.
The Board considered the IAGGL report alongside a broader vision for Lafayette’s residential community that I have been developing this year in conjunction with the work of the Integrated Student Experience Task Force. I am happy to report that the Board endorsed our goal of creating a unified and comprehensive residential program that connects and integrates residential, co-curricular, and academic experiences for students. The new program, called Connected Communities, will build affinity groups among each entering class that will serve as the platform for four years of class-based programs of advising, mentoring, and leadership development. When this program is fully implemented, first-year students will live together in clusters within dedicated first-year residence halls. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors will have a wide range of residential options available to them annually. The communities formed in the first year will provide an opportunity for continued connection with a diverse group of classmates to supplement other residential and interest groups students may join. In this new model, fraternities, sororities and other academic interest-based and social residential groups will become a part of an enhanced vision of a living/learning community. Reaccreditation of existing groups, an annual process implemented successfully this spring, and applications from current students for new groups, including Greek organizations, theme houses, living-learning communities, and social houses, will be considered in the context of whether they are consistent with and advance the overall values and objectives of the College’s integrated residential life vision.
The administration will begin implementation of this new structure for building campus community immediately, and will develop next fall a rigorous application process, involving students, administrators, and relevant committees, for all proposed groups, including Greek organizations. In addition, the upcoming Capital Campaign includes among its fundraising objectives building and renovation projects that will provide improved housing, dining, and social space. Recognizing the need for a diverse range of student groups to have the opportunity to sponsor social gatherings that foster and strengthen friendships, we are creating new spaces that better accommodate a range of social functions. Other initiatives in dining and campus life are underway to support this effort to provide a more integrated experience, and enhanced sense of community, for all students.
In the short time I have been here, I have already seen the cost to the Lafayette community of the continuing debate about the question of the status of Greek organizations, and am very pleased that the Board has provided resolution to this issue. While individual members of the community hold strong and varied opinions on this question, I hope that we can all agree that at a time of great pressure and change in higher education, it is in our best interest to focus our attention on other critical issues facing the College. I am confident that the new approach to residential life that we will implement in the coming years will advance our ability to provide an education that connects all aspects of student experience within a deeper, more holistic, and more integrated education. I look forward to working with the entire Lafayette community to achieve that goal.
With best wishes for a pleasant and productive summer,