Friday, October 12, 2012

Breaking down ‘the Lutedome’

ASPLU plans a community dialogue day but students question the cost of words

By Jack Sorensen, Editor-in-Chief

The ‘Lutedome’ — a pillar of pride to some and a symbol of seclusion to others. A well-known term regardless, and a term that has been the focus of many diversity and community outreach efforts at Pacific Lutheran University.

For members of last Tuesday’s ASPLU senate meeting, it seemed the term carried a universally pejorative and exclusive weight for ASPLU senators, executives and directors.

Or at least it carried enough weight that ASPLU is prepared to set aside $1,000 in programming funds to stockpile some useful diversity dynamite in an attempt to raze the Lutedome image.

The bill

ASPLU Senate Bill 2 will set aside money and planning efforts to host the first PLU “Community Dialogue Day,” a panel dialogue focused on the Lutedome, PLU’s place in the Parkland community and, most notably, the use of the phrase ‘Parkland youth’ — more commonly known by the acronym ‘PY.’

The bill was initially proposed by PLU senior Chelsea Paulsen as part of her senior project for conflict resolution, ASPLU Public Relations Director Hillary Powell said. Since the bill’s inception, ASPLU has assumed responsibility for the event, utilizing Paulsen as a resource.

The event, slated for mid- to late-November, will bring together PLU staff and students, associated student body members from Washington High School as well as the Washington H.S. principal to discuss PLU’s relationship with the Parkland community and how PLU can be a more welcoming environment for Parkland community members, Ian Metz, ASPLU president, said.

And at the forefront of ASPLU’s Community Dialogue Day is the dissolution of the term ‘PY.’

The battle

While the majority of PLU community members who have voiced opinions on Senate Bill 2 have expressed support for the measure, some students have expressed disapproval over ASPLU’s plan, specifically the $1,000 set aside to host it.

“It [$1,000] seems really big to me,” junior Jessica Welch said.

Senior Jeff Tolman echoed Welch’s opinion, saying that $1,000 “is quite a bit of money” to bring community members to the university for an event, especially when the event will be most beneficial to those community members. Tolman said he thought the essence of ASPLU’s Community Dialogue Day was “a good idea,” but he did not think the event “will be helpful” for the PLU community.

“PLU can improve our outreach programs,” Tolman said. “But PLU needs internal improvements … the main priority right now should be PLU focusing on itself.”

Metz argued the event is mutually beneficial for both the PLU and Parkland communities — PLU will become a stronger part of Parkland and Parkland residents will feel more welcomed by PLU, he said. Additionally, Metz said the “majority of the student body doesn’t think it [the term Lutedome] is a good thing.”

Still, there are students like Tolman who hold a contrary view.

“There is a little bit of justification with ‘Lutedome,’” Tolman said, citing the price of PLU tuition as a valid reason for PLU students to feel they are a part of a private community. Tolman did not say, however, that he supported any social boundary between PLU and the community.

“I just don’t think we should be spending money to host something like this,” he said.

But Metz stood by the use of student programming funds, affirming “this is a chance to spend money on something meaningful.” Metz said he and his colleagues in ASPLU were concerned with PLU’s appearance to the Parkland community, particularly that community members “don’t necessarily feel welcome” on the PLU campus.

Opposition to the bill came as a surprise to Metz, who said he encourages opposed students “to look at the privilege they enjoy” as students of a private university.

“I don’t think it’s fair to limit that to people who don’t have the privilege to attend here,” Metz said.

As for the funding, the $1,000 is set aside to provide meals for the invited community members as Metz, a certified dialogue facilitator, said comfort is paramount to open dialogue. He also stressed the $1,000 in ASPLU funds is simply a budget cap for the project, and that he does not believe the event will cost anywhere near that cap.

Senate Bill 2 was tabled last Tuesday, but Metz said he expects the bill to pass in senate next Tuesday, Oct. 16 “with unanimous support.” He invited any students with questions or concerns to contact ASPLU online or in person.