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When Lawnies select Lawnies ...

OF ALL the honors the University bestows upon its students, being selected to live on the Lawn quite possibly is the greatest. But the process that the University, and we as students, use each year to select these stand-outs is anything but that. As a member of the committee that chose the 47 students to live in the non-endowed Lawn rooms next year, I was skeptical of the secretive process in the beginning, and unfortunately my reservations were not put to rest wholly upon completion of our task.

The Lawn selection process is flawed, although not terminally. The University Housing Division, the administrative department that oversees the process, must make the formation of the Lawn selection committee a totally random process to ensure that only the most deserving students are recognized and to preserve the integrity of the award.

The problems with the Lawn selection process begin well before applications even are reviewed. A body of administrators and certain student leaders, such as the Student Council president and Honor Committee chairman, make up the Lawn Selection Committee Steering Committee. The Steering Committee is responsible for selecting from the pool of applicants those fourth-year students who will serve on the Lawn selection committee. This year, the Steering Committee chose 34 fourth-year students to select Lawn residents.

The problem lies in the fact that those student leaders who serve on the Steering Committee have the option of putting themselves on the selection committee. They can choose to select another individual from their organization to be on the committee, but most of them did not do that this year.

It is not fair to fourth-year students who apply for the selection committee that those persons on the steering committee can choose themselves without even so much as an application. How is the University Judiciary Commmittee chairman any better qualified to read Lawn applications than the average University student? The truth is that he isn't better qualified, he just happened to hold a high office in one of the select group of organizations represented on the Steering Committee.

These students also may create bias because they can select themselves. They have an unfair advantage in that they can choose certain applicants to be on the selection committee and then add themselves to it as well, possibly creating a monopoly for one or more certain organizations.

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  • 100 Years of Life on the Lawn
  • In an attempt to change the process, the way the Steering Committee chose the selection committee this year was different than in the past. The Steering Committee reviewed applications, kept the ones they felt should be part of the Committee, threw out those applications they felt did not qualify, and then made up the remaining spots by randomly selecting from the applications that fell in the middle.

    This new method may have the appearance of being somewhat random but it too is just not fair. It allows Steering Committee members to choose their friends or members of certain groups or possibly even throw out people based on personal reasons.

    Each fourth-year student should have an equal chance at picking the incoming Lawn residents to ensure that a truly representative sample of gifted students is honored. The selection committee, then, should be as close to a true cross section of the University as possible.

    This can be achieved through random selection of applicants by the Housing Division. Less bias would come into play here and each fourth-year student who applied would have an equal chance of making it onto the selection committee.

    The lopsided makeup of this year's selection committee showed that allowing Steering Committee members to choose the selection committee does not ensure diversity on the selection committee. For example, no black students were a part of this year's Lawn selection process.

    University student leaders deserve many honors and privileges while in office, but an automatic place on the Lawn Steering Committee and then selection committee should not necessarily be one of them. The Lawn, while inhabited by phenomenal young men and women, should attempt to be a true representation of what the students at the University have to offer. By placing students from the same organizations on the selection committee each year and creating an unrepresentative group, we diminish the integrity of the place that showcases our best to the University, the surrounding community and even the world.

    (Erin Perucci's column appears Tuesdays in The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at eperucci@cavalierdaily.com.)

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