I would like to share this very positive development on The Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom fronts from one of my Alma maters, Bucknell University.
Dave Janda M.D.
Dear fellow Bucknellian,
Following the disturbing pattern nationwide, free speech at our university is disappearing and civility is jeopardized by increasingly militant and mean-spirited discourse.
These radical changes contradict the friendly university we revere, and the true sense of diversity, which is not about stirring divisions, but honoring differences.
True diversity is about people from different backgrounds, nations and life experiences bringing a wide range of ideas and points of view that strengthen Bucknell in unique and powerful ways.
When diversity is coupled with inclusion – ensuring that each person feels valued and treated as all want to be treated – we enrich our culture and build a stronger, more united university.
We build a better Bucknell.
In fact, the university’s support for “diverse perspectives” is clearly stated in Bucknell’s Mission Statement.
Diversity, inclusion and free speech have long been hallmarks of America and Bucknell. Far from ignoring its sins and shortcomings, the United States has never stopped trying to get it right: from fighting a civil war that took more than 600,000 lives to amending our Constitution and rewriting laws from top to bottom in response to historical change, and spending our treasure to build what Abraham Lincoln called “a more perfect union.”
Bucknell, too, has strived mightily to be on the right side of history. Beginning in the 1860s, our students volunteered and fought bravely in the great wars for freedom and equality; we stood with slaves and assisted their escape through the Underground Railroad; as early as 1875, we opened our doors to our first African-American student, Edward Brawley; in 1958, Bucknell invited a controversial young pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr. to share his inspiring message; and, in recent years, understanding the need to strengthen our commitment, we partnered with the Posse Foundation to bring large numbers of diverse students to Bucknell.
As Bucknell raised the banner for justice and equality, it promoted many left-leaning platforms, but it also accommodated more conservative, libertarian, and free-market students and studies, including the formation of the Conservatives Club. And, the university welcomed prominent statesmen such as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and leaders for liberty, such as Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, former Congressman Newt Gingrich and Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The Bucknell story is about a great university’s continuing quest to advance free speech and academic excellence, diversify its student body and faculty, and teach students to live with mutual respect and high purpose. Regrettably, in recent times, the Bucknell story is increasingly about attacks, intolerance and intimidation.
· Funding and full recognition for the Bucknell Program for American Leadership and Citizenship (BPALC), dedicated to promoting intellectual diversity on campus, have been rescinded.
· Faculty members have been pressured, bullied and targeted, resulting in some stepping away from BPALC due to the hostile environment.
· The Humanities Center, created to showcase brilliant writing and scholarship, has become a forum for radical speakers, including an Antifa member openly advocating violence.
· Proposals to fund courses on The Great Books have been sidelined while more resources are put into Critical Race Theory.
Sadly, our great university, founded to welcome different people and ideas, now promotes, in too many ways, conformity of ideas and thought.
The Bucknell that believed in uniting people – ALL people – through love of God and neighbor now advocates separating them by skin color and sexual orientation.
The university’s reputation, painstakingly built by great professors teaching bright minds how to think, is at risk by obsessing over what they think.
Intolerance is real and serious damage is being done. Dispiriting as this is, all is not lost. Large numbers of talented, fair-minded students and gifted professors still choose excellence and enlightenment over indoctrination, and Bucknell students instinctively stand together and support each other, regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation; over 100 campus organizations, fraternities and sororities still contribute to the culture of service, friendship and goodwill; and Bison Athletics is still a model for America, led by coaches and scholar athletes committed to winning championships through hard work, sacrifice, selflessness and teamwork.
Bucknell is still an amazing university and still can be saved. However, we cannot duck these issues, they won’t get better on their own, free speech is on life support, and hope is not a strategy.
The university needs our help.
The best way we can help is by supporting the Open Discourse Coalition (ODC), a new 501c3 founded by alumni to support brave faculty trying to reverse the trajectory of a strictly enforced singular ideology at Bucknell. The ODC receives no support from the administration, and its headquarters is off campus.
Please take a few moments to visit the ODC website, learn about its leaders, mission and plans, and how you can make a difference.
I hope you’ll agree, it’s time for Bucknellians like us to rouse ourselves and say – “Enough!”
Alumni, parents and friends of Bucknell need to make it clear that diversity and ideology must not be used to bully, disparage and divide, and Bucknell must not flatten expectations for talent and achievement.
Please join this vital effort to revive our founders’ vision – a great university aspiring to the highest standards of excellence, animated by an innovative and inclusive culture that encourages the freest exchange of ideas, and respects the God-given rights and dignity of every person.
Actions speak louder than the words they are trying to suppress.
The time to act is now!
Susan Crawford ’69
Trustee Emerita and Former Chair of the Board
Ronald Benjamin ’67
William Dearstyne ’62
Bently Elliott ’66
Alan Walker ’66