Doug Bogan ’13 and the Bucknell Community Conversation Committee sponsored the second Bucknell “Rage Crew” community conversation titled “Do the members of the Bucknell community really know one another: What do we want Bucknell to be?” on April 18. Over the two-hour session, over 200 participants, a group comprised of students, faculty and staff, addressed the divisions that exist between different constituent groups on campus and brainstormed ways to unite the campus and community.
This event differed from last semester’s conversation since it was open to all members of the University community, whereas last semester’s event was “for students, by students” and primarily focused on the student behavior and culture at the University. The goal of the event was to develop “action steps” that would help the community interact with one another.
The Community Conversation project started at the University in Spring 2012, when Bogan approached the school administration with the idea of a student-led, student-attended discussion to build upon aspects of the Campus Climate Report released in Fall 2011. The first of the conversations, held in November 2012 and titled “The Bucknell ‘Rage Crew’: Is This Who We Really Are?” was an open forum where students from all class years gathered to discuss campus culture issues important to our community. These issues ranged from alcohol to the Greek system to housing on campus. How to balance academics and social life was also brought up and discussions surrounding what it means to be a member of the University community were popular.
Over 150 students concluded the evening by presenting their views and proposing potential action steps to address these issues, to Provost Mick Smyer, Dean of Students Susan Lantz and a majority of the school’s administration. Throughout that discussion, students discussed the elitist, Greek and party-focused culture on campus and articulated “action steps” to unify the entire campus body, reconsider Uptown, reassess meaningful extracurricular student engagement and re-emphasize intellectual engagement.
“The experiences gave me different perspectives on how conversation, both formally and informally, can help express ideas and generate new ones,” Julie Uptegraff ’14, a moderator for the event last semester and a participant this semester, said.
This semester, leaders of the event invited all members of the University community, including students, faculty, staff, members of Public Safety and President John Bravman to look at the University in a much broader framework.
“Overall, we had about 17 professors and staff members across campus that took part in our moderator training sessions,” Alaina Eisenhooth ’13, one of the event’s leaders, said.
The University’s administration is already taking action to effect changes identified during the discussion, keeping students and the campus community apprised of developments along the way, Lantz said.
“I can say that the school administration was extremely pleased with how the event went and is very supportive of the action steps that were brainstormed last Thursday,” Bogan said.
Participants came up with numerous “action steps” that will be presented to Lantz by the end of this week. These ideas focus on uniting members of all affinities together to lessen the divide among members of the community. Among the ideas are coordinating more ways for students, faculty, staff and alumni to engage with one another through mentoring programs, social events, volunteer initiatives, intramurals and community-wide events, expanding the First Year Foundation Seminar and including faculty in First Year Orientation. Another idea involves “First Fives,” in which faculty would spend the first five minutes of class time talking with students about a topic of their interest.
Participants also proposed “action steps” focusing on ways for the community to interact over meals by expanding dining options for fraternity members to engage with other students and faculty beyond classroom and party settings, hosting “Dinner With 12 Strangers” and creating Affinity Tables in the cafeteria for students and faculty to come together.
Participants explored ways to change the University’s infrastructure by creating non-Greek social spaces, reworking the Message Center feature of MyBucknell, creating organization charts of academic department staff to make faculty and staff more transparent and accountable to students’ needs and expanding interest housing on campus.
“Action steps” also addressed the Greek and non-Greek divide on campus and proposed moving Greek recruitment to spring of first year, lengthening the Greek rush period and encouraging faculty involvement at Greek-sponsored community service and social events.
“[These items are] very encouraging and I think we can expect that many will be acted on, if they are not already in the planning stages,” Lisa Bogan ’78, Doug Bogan’s mother, said in an email after the event.
Doug Bogan, Lisa Bogan and Eisenhooth plan to oversee the program next year and will particularly focus on ways to increase attendance at the events and transition the leadership to underclassmen.
“I feel that both events were well-received by the Bucknell community, resulting in good attendance and a long list of feasible and creative action steps to improve on the University’s campus climate components,” Eisenhooth said. “Personally, I am a huge supporter of the community conversation model, and I hope that Bucknell faculty and students feel the same way and continue planning these types of events once I graduate.”
“I think Community Conversation is a well-developed, constructive and successful conversation model that we can use to accomplish change,” Jen Lassen ’15, a moderator at the event, said. “Right now, our campus needs to find better ways to connect students and faculty/staff, as well as some issues in terms of Greek Life and drinking culture … I have no doubt that our campus is headed in the right direction.”