Coming to Lawrence

    “Anywhere not in your pocket. Where it'll get mixed in with the others and become just a coin. Which it is.”

                     –––No Country for Old Men, 2007

College is the biggest decision of your life. When you are seventeen years old, on the tail end of puberty, and absurdly naïve, the decision seems ginormous. And to be fair, it is. You are choosing a path that will stick with you for the rest of your life. The experiences you have, the people you meet, the friends you make, all are critical in shaping who you are as a person and setting you up for a successful career.

After months of searching, touring schools, sifting through recruitment materials and interviewing with admissions counselors, I decided to apply to 8 schools all over the United States. The list included places like Ripon college, where my Uncle was President, Lawrence University, Macalester, University of Puget Sound, and of course, UW Madison. Everyone from Bay applies to UW Madison and it seems like just about everyone goes there. I refused to even consider it, but my parents made me apply regardless. From there, the process only got harder. After re-visiting, re-touring, re-sifting through information, and re-interviewing for all kinds of different scholarships, nothing narrowed organically. Instead, my parents cut out all schools on the west coast and Colorado because of “pot” and a desire to have me closer to home[8]. I got in everywhere, but the decision was going to come down to affordability. Ripon, Lawrence, and St. Olaf offered the best deals, in that order. Moreover, I had the opportunity to play soccer at all three. I was hung. I waited until a week before May 1st, the decision deadline for higher education. After several intense sit downs and talking to from my parents, no headway was made.

One week before the deadline, I remember coming home stoned after track practice. Exhausted and cloudy, I slipped into some Adventure time. My mom yelled from the kitchen, saying we needed to have another sit down discussion about my future. I was fed up, so called my parents into the living room and pulled out a coin. Heads I’d go to Lawrence, tails St. Olaf. They were speechless, gathering their thoughts, but I flipped before they could say anything[9].

It came up heads. I actually wasn’t sure about Lawrence at that moment, so I flipped it again. It came up heads again. That was that, I became a Lawrentian at that moment. Signed the papers and called admissions, then the men’s soccer coach at Lawrence to commit.

SigEp WI Alpha

“Don't judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.”

                                                                           –––“Take the Bagel”, Kabindra Paroosh Dhakal

The second-best decision I ever made did not require any coin flip. I came to Lawrence and quickly realized that the organization that I had to join was SigEp. I had little interest in going greek, but then went to SigEp, the unofficial house of the Lawrence Men’s Soccer team. Lawrence University’s SigEp chapter is the most diverse SigEp chapter in the nation, perhaps the most diverse fraternity chapter in the country regardless of letters.

Lawrence has been a transformative experience for me, but I owe so much of that growth to the unique family that is SigEp. Brothers from all over the world, all walks of life, and a beautiful mosaic of perspectives has made my experience at Lawrence all the more enriching. I met some of my greatest lifelong friends through SigEp, people who helped me grow and always supported me as I entered new challenges.

The first leadership opportunity I had at Lawrence came through the chapter. I was elected VP of Philanthropy just as a freshman in a time of turbulence. The position was perfect for me. I had the pleasure of educating the chapter on service while expanding our outreach into the community. We organized events with local non-profits to feed homeless, mentor youth at local elementary schools, and raise funds for victims of the earthquake in Nepal. The event that attracted the most attention was “Walk A Mile in Her Shoes”. The event involved literally having members of the fraternity walk a mile in ruby red high heels to raise funds and awareness for victims of gender based violence. I personally am extremely passionate about making our campus a safer place, especially for survivors of sexual assault and rape, but we still faced all kinds of criticism for the event. I joined SigEp because of the phenomenal group of friends I saw, but like any other Greek organization, there is a spotted history. In the past, the chapter had dealt with sexual misconduct and problematic presences on campus. However, I don’t think that a mixed past should impact our future. As a Greek organization, you have a responsibility to program events like Walk a Mile in her shoes, you have a responsibility to educate members, you have a responsibility to recognize errors of the past and correct them for the future. Some people at Lawrence and across the US would like to see fraternities just disappear, thinking that they do more harm than good. This can’t be the case at Lawrence University. SigEp is a haven for talented young men, a place where they can challenge each other and grow.

When you picture a fraternity, you picture a group of hyper-masculine, waspy, white guys. SigEp WI Alpha is miles from this. We have brothers from over a dozen countries, dotting the globe. Moreover, this bond brings us together as global citizens. No matter where in the world I go, it seems there is a SigEp there with an open door. For instance, Andy Wang[17] travels to Nepal to start a branch of Andy Reading Fund there. Of course, he will meet Kabindra, a Lawrence alum, proud SigEp, and my big. And in just a few months I’ll go see my big get married in Kathmandu[18].

LUCC elections and accomplishments

“One of the most basic factors in sports is that winning becomes a habit, and losing is the same way. When failure starts to feel normal in your life or your work or even your darkest vices, you won’t have to go looking for trouble, because trouble will find you. Count on it”                                                                                                        –––– Hunter S. Thompson

Lawrence University does not have a student government per se. Instead, we have a community council that practices shared governance between faculty, staff, and students. This is known as the Lawrence University Community Council. I decided to run for president of LUCC not of my own volition, but after so many of my friends and peers approached me telling me that I should run for the office.  Amidst some intense anxieties at the end of fall term of my junior year, I still wasn’t ready to commit.

My junior year at Lawrence was marred by extreme institutional turbulence. During the opening trimester, Appleton residents dressed up in KKK like costumes and attended a Halloween party at the Black Student Union house. Events like this and racist or sexist comments from professors eventually led to protests. Students of color published a list of demands that they wanted met. However, with the demands, they also listed professors that they deemed as purporting racism and bias on campus. The Army McCarthy like decision to list names led to an uproar throughout the community. Although it came from a place of intense pain and need, libel and slander of the faculty was not a justifiable tactic. In backlash, students that published the list started receiving death threats over social media. These events transpired over finals week, for which many students felt too unsafe to return to their rooms. Students of Color started sleeping in the diversity center and were being guarded by campus security. In the wake of these events, I was apprehensive, but ultimately decided to try to be a part of the solution and submitted my application for the presidency.

Many people, according to Andy, are curious about how one goes about running for student body president. Look no further, I have the answers[19]. You have to take care of yourself first. This is not selfishness, this is practicing self-care in order to make sure you are your happiest, healthies, most productive self. Stay in touch and make great friends along the way. As I described, I didn’t plan to be LUCC president when I first got to Lawrence, I came, had fun, met lots of people, and made so many valuable friends that pushed me to run for office. But of course, you can’t meet everyone, so I spent the bulk of my campaign talking to other students I had never met before and learning. How can you ever expect to represent other people if you don’t know their stories? Although I was elected in a decisive victory, it was still a surreal experience. Having hundreds of students cast a vote in faith of you means a lot. I had gone through an intense metamorphosis at Lawrence that ultimately prepared me for this position.

After taking office, I was immediately hit with a humongous hurtle. A known sexual assailant who had slipped back onto campus through failures of past Sexual Misconduct and Title IX practices was charged with possession of child pornography. The student newspaper, The Lawrentian, then ran an extremely graphic article describing in detail the photographs that were allegedly on the student’s computer. We immediately organized listening sessions to hear student concerns. I spent hours addressing protestors and making sure their concerns were heard. Ultimately, in my meetings with the President of Lawrence, Mark Burstein and other leaders of SHARE, the Sexual Harassment, and Assault Resource Education Team, I advocated with others for the hiring of a title IX coordinator and a revitalization of the SHARE Team. So, there was a silver lining to the intense turmoil we experienced as a campus.

Diversity and Inclusion are major concerns at Lawrence, especially in the wake of the protests that had occurred just a term before. I worked to make sure ALL students were included in these diversity and inclusion initiatives. I worked with the GLOW, Gay Lesbian or Whatever, students when they submitted their list of demands and were met with threats. My main focus was ensuring that international students could be included in the conversations that were taking place around campus. With my Committee on Diversity Affairs and Lawrence International we rolled out a series of workshops for international students to learn more about LUCC, identity politics, and activism on campus. Furthermore, we mandated diversity and inclusion training for all student representatives on LUCC.

LUCC was an incredible experience because I got to work with a variety of students with diverse and unique perspectives. I was generally surrounded by a solid team and had the pleasure of working with students that were passionate about making Lawrence a better place. However, there are some regrets of who I chose to hire and work with. Not naming names, but if my General Secretary got stuck in Oklahoma City, I would not complain[20]. Another valuable lesson to learn, is that not everyone on your team will want to be successful. I hired a good friend of mine to be treasurer. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Despite my hardest attempts to help the curly haired kid, he dug in his heels and refused to develop. I learned an important lesson from this, not everyone can grow with you and you need to put your energy towards valuable ventures. I tried my hardest, but some elected for a downward spiral of regression towards the old habits I had kicked through high school and my early college years. The greatest tragedy is seeing someone who could be so successful, but consciously chooses not to be.

I recently ended my time in office, passed the gavel to a good friend and can melancholically move on knowing full well that the unique organization will continue to grow and serve students. I had an unbelievable time helping so many people and am thankful to have made Lawrence a better place in the midst of chaos. After so many sleepless nights, I felt relief to have the weight lifted off my shoulders, but at the same time morose to know I would no longer have such intimate relationships with so many students. Now, I look to the future to that next adventure along the horizon.  

[1] Add me at mloebl and please teach me Chinese

[2] Probably one of the worst trade deals in the history of trade deals, ever.

[3] “I’m American!” At the time, this was basically me utilizing 100% of my Mandarin vocabulary

[4] Wholly undeserved

[5] I don’t know where this footage is or why this was done

[6] This means egg in Chinese and is apparently a hysterical joke

[7] She tried

[8] They also did not let me join boy scouts. Something about it being a tad too “fascist”, but that’s another story.

[9] I love my parents, they have supported me unconditionally throughout my life. In retrospect, I really put them through the mill raising me and am eternally grateful.

[10] Relax, my little village of Whitefish Bay took a dozen kids riding razor scooters with makeshift fireworks a bit too seriously at first. Everything was dropped and I repented intensely. 

[11] I promise I’m not an idiot anymore. Andy very much wanted this included saying, “Lol. I am absolutely sure Chinese readers will love this part”. I hope he’s right.

[12] And I’ve never stolen a sign since. Instead, I travel from classroom to classroom warning children about the dangers of sign theft.

[13] Still does… it’s a bit out of hand

[14] Apparently, the cheese combined with a broken radiator became a difficult clean up project.

[15] He hadn’t been there. Someone stole his ID earlier that week and it was thrown during the frenzy. In fact, I think he was studying in the library that fateful lunch period.

[16] “Kid eats six hard boiled eggs and does cinnamon challenge” Youtube it.

[17] You know Andy, right? He is the awesome guy who asked me to write all this.

[18] Saw the wedding. It took 4 days. Weddings in Nepal apparently take 4 days.

[19] I don’t, but stay tuned.

[20] She came back. Damn.

[21] In Ukraine this is called Кораблик (Korablik). It involves packing a boat with students, a dj rig, and lots and lots of vodka. Everyone wanted to talk to me about three things to gain an American’s perspective: Trump, Brexit, and Kendrick Lamar’s new album.

 [AW(1]That’s a very novel point I found quite interesting, you could elaborate more about this part.

 [AW(2]lol

 [AW(3]I am absolutely sure Chinese readers would love this part

© 2016 by Andy Reading Fund.