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Do we have control of the ‘bubble’? April 10, 2007

Posted by Abby in Business-Society Issues, humor, Organizational Culture.
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Bucknell is often praised to be a liberal institution.  Our professors are from mixed backgrounds, with mixed opinions, orientations and beliefs.  Why then, are our students so often said to be homogenous?

One sarcastic student wrote in the Bucknellian: “Take a look around, diversity is everywhere. Some people prefer J. Crew, while others are all about Abercrombie. Certain fraternities choose to serve Natural Light, and others enjoy Schaefer. Some kids drive BMWs, while some sport Audis. Clearly, it’s your eyes that need to be opened, not mine. ”

The Plan for Bucknell has 5 main aims, one being diversity.  Diversity is not limited to an increase in the international or culturally diverse students, but those from varying backgrounds too.  Even with all these measures, the University’s control of the student-body makeup alone will not change the attitudes immediately – right?

Would you agree that we are a liberal institution (professors, deans, administrators), with a conservative audience/customer base (the students, or student’s families) ?

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1. Jordi - April 11, 2007

Abby, I think there is a big difference between the use of the label “liberal” in politics and “liberal arts” as in Bucknell is a “liberal” institution. I happen to know that many of my faculty colleagues, who would disagree with me over politics and policy, are completely in accord with me that bucknell is a liberal institution.

In education, a liberal institution, to me, means one committed to the development of the individual intellect, of the “liberation” of the intellect from the inevitable limits of habit, background, experience, and ability. It stands in contrast to to training or other putatively lower forms of education in which the intellect is not engaged, and, ultimately, they are not as liberating (hence liberal arts). This gets messier in ways that are hard to expand on here. Briefly, I would say one complication is that the liberal arts’ power often lies in a conservatism of method and cannon. In other words, quality of knowledge matters to achieve liberal education. This produces a kind of conservatism in regards to novelty. Second, liberal education gets justified in terms of the braod skills it imaprts. So, the distance between education and traiing may be more one of definition than real distance.

Now, I think it is an easily established fact that, on average, on the simplistic measures of left-right political ideology, the faculty and staff are more politically liberal than the student body.

Does that matter for the plan? For Diversity? Sure.
Does it matter for achieving liberal education (Plan’s strengthening the core). Maybe. I haven’t thought of this.

Now, you have a great set up to discuss power in terms of varying measures of performance. How will BU measure diversity? How will different measures be adopted by various coalitions within BU (Trustees, Administration, Students)?


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