Letters to the EditorA first-rate publication
Thank you for the Winter 2005 issue of the Bulletin. It was lively, well-written, and had many articles that went to the heart of why we love Kenyon. The photography and design were excellent, too.
Among others, I especially enjoyed the article about John Finefrock, Kenyon bookseller, and the history of the Sutcliffe bookshop. As an attorney, it was also fun to read the "day-in-the-life" article about attorney Judy Hoffman, who was a respected upperclass student when I was at Kenyon. The biographical articles about the new rector who is descended from Philander Chase, and the professor and student who study birds, were also fresh and engaging.
Congratulations on hitting your stride and publishing a first-rate magazine!
-Elizabeth Lerch Oxley '75
More lavish praise
I'm usually skimpy in my praise for Kenyon, though I loved my four years there (1980-84). As an institution, I always thought it tight-ass, hidebound, and smug without reason enough to be so.
And then two things happened: my twentieth reunion, which was awesome and reminded me, full throttle, of the people and atmosphere I embraced then that made me who I am today.
Then the Winter 2005 Bulletin came. It is so much better than the previous iteration. So much. I work in political communications and I am used to telling clients their stuff sucks. This is great.
-Eric Hauser '84
House of Representatives snafu
I read with interest the cover article concerning the trend toward liberalism in the liberal arts ("Leaning to the Left," Winter 2005). On page 34, I came across an error. The article states, "However, legislation under consideration in the United States House of Representatives could affect Kenyon and other institutions whose students receive federal financial aid. U.S. Senator Jack Kingston, a Republican representing Georgia, introduced language based loosely on Horowitz's bill into the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, which is currently in committee."
As a point of clarification, the members of the House of Representatives are congressmen, not senators. The Honorable Jack Kingston represents the Georgia First Congressional District based in Savannah and covering the southeastern part of the state. The senators from Georgia are both Republicans, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.
-Neil Gluckman '87
The Winter 2005 issue of the Bulletin is magnificent, and I thank you for it. In reading it, I became aware that the political center of our country has moved so far to the right that I can feel comfortable now as a left liberal.
-Donald Lane Miller '40
An incomplete political picture
I would like to commend you for the piece on liberalism at Kenyon and in the nation's universities ("Leaning to the Left," Winter 2005). It reminded me of my time at the College, which is always pleasant.
I don't feel, though, that my experience, and apparently a minority of other conservative students, was captured to a sufficient extent. The problem I had with professors and extremist students of the liberal persuasion during my surreal life at Kenyon stems from two points. First were the idealistic (not realistic) views promoted with zeal about how the world should work; and secondly, the elitism displayed against those who didn't share their world view.
The first point doesn't prepare people for the world they will enter after college. Perhaps the second point is more bothersome, though, because I often recall during my formative years in the fall of 1996 (when I had no real political leanings) many professors suggesting or outright saying liberal statements. This blatantly homogenized thought turned me off. They and other students had no problems listening to your views, as long as you were willing to be chastised or even shouted at by twenty people as soon as your point was finished (if you could get that far). How many of us would dare to be singled out and argue with an overwhelming majority in this sort of situation? This sort of environment stifles free speech and freedom of thought.
I fear that professors showing any sort of political leaning in class do a horrible thing. They indoctrinate students with a view that is solely their own and try to represent it as commonplace. Professors are very highly respected for their wisdom by Kenyon students, and that is how they are able to sway young and unassuming minds so easily. Teaching objectively, not subjectively, should be the standard procedure in the classrooms. Trying to be an outspoken conservative on any campus these days is certainly a "trial by fire."
-Christian Agricola '00
Head and shoulders above the rest
The overt politicization in higher education goes much deeper than the simple fact that a significant majority of college professors are liberals ("Leaning to the Left," Winter 2005). The political issues at hand extend to the abandonment of a core curriculum, the emphasis on multicultural and gender studies over American history and Western civilization, and in swapping a classical education for a relativist one. And while Kenyon is not safe from these problems, it has an ethos of intellectual diversity that is sorely lacking at many other colleges and universities.
Since graduating from Kenyon in 2002, I've worked for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a think tank that deals specifically with combating the politicization of the academy. I have visited more than one hundred college campuses and talked to scores of students, and I can tell you conclusively that Kenyon stands head and shoulders above most schools when it comes to getting a balanced education. The political science department at Kenyon, rife with extraordinary individuals like Pamela Jensen, Fred Baumann, and Pamela Camerra-Rowe, ensures Kenyon students a liberal education properly understood. And in many other departments there are professors who do the same. Yes, at Kenyon it is possible to immerse oneself in classes and departments that simply work to reinforce leftist orthodoxies and world views. It is also possible, however, to experience an education in which all one's comfortable assumptions are challenged, all ideas heard, and a student's ability to think for him- or herself is cultivated. In fact, at Kenyon, it's an experience that is actually difficult to escape.
-Sarah Longwell '02
Turning tables at Kenyon
I read with intense interest and enthusiasm your lengthy and balanced article on contemporary campus political leanings and the need for respectful debate in a tolerant society ("Leaning to the Left," Winter 2005). As a student at Kenyon in the early 1960s, I found myself ostracized and at times a "misfit" because of my then more liberal political views, and can certainly identify with the minority (albeit conservative leaning) cadre depicted in your article.
In the 1960s, it seemed the only students at Kenyon holding more liberal views than I, on such matters as civil and human rights, were one student who, like myself, was of Jewish extraction and the two persons of color in my class. At that time, there were no faculty members of color, and I can't recall if we had any female professors. Sometimes I even mused whether Kenyon was really a "prep school" environment, attracting Republicans and devoted to the training of highly paid practitioners in the medical and legal fields.
Because of my definite sense of being in the minority, and strongly wanting to see a more accepting approach toward differing attitudes and ideas, I founded for a brief time "The Kenyon Student Forum," to encourage open and tolerant public debate on seemingly controversial public issues. Our first guest speaker was a renowned (at least in conservative circles) political science professor from a men's liberal-arts college. I didn't support his views but definitely wanted to support the open-forum concept. Very few people attended, as I recall. When the next controversial issue on campus fell to the level of concerns regarding the noise of early morning garbage collection behind the dorms, this effort quickly withered.
I salute the hope for a "spirit of civility" at the forum planned by the disenfranchised conservatives; I can identify with how you feel. It's never fun to be treated like an outcast or as if you lack some form of social intelligence or practical understanding because of your very convictions. Maybe the tables have finally turned at Kenyon. But tolerance, wisdom, kindness, civility, and respect for others (and their right to express their opinions without ostracism, censorship, or sanction) should certainly prevail.
-Richard Kochmann '66
Political fears allayed
I read the Winter 2005 issue of the Bulletin cover to cover, and I thought it was one of the best issues ever. Of particular interest to me was the cover story, "Leaning to the Left." It allayed my fears that Kenyon is another one of America's liberal-arts colleges tipping so far to the left that it has ceased to give a balanced education to its students. I'm encouraged to hear that students and faculty at Kenyon promote discussions from both liberal and conservative viewpoints, and that people really listen to each other. The Bulletin has done an excellent job in conveying the nuances of the College.
-George Hallock '56
A call to action
The left-liberal bias among faculties at most colleges, especially liberal-arts colleges like Kenyon, is not in dispute ("Leaning to the Left," Winter 2005). The question of what should be done about it remains in dispute.
The same faculties and administrations that zealously prize diversity in areas such as ethnicity, sexual preference, and secularism do not seem to support genuine political and intellectual diversity within their own ranks. Why not a comparable level of zeal in pursuit of intellectually diverse thinking, values, and political persuasion?
Professor Baumann sounds a convincing note: "I would say that very serious alternatives to the prevailing orthodoxies, which tend to be more on the left, are excluded; and they need to be there if you're going to think intelligently." Conversely, President Nugent sounds less convincing: "At every point and in every way that we can, the College should emphasize balance, and that all viewpoints need to be heard." Words such as "should" (not "will"), "emphasize" (not "assure"), and "need" (not "must") ring hollow without commitment to make it happen.
A faculty dominantly left-liberal in its thinking seems disingenuous asserting that the "other point of view" should be heard and students must "speak up" to express it. Surely this "limits the possibility for genuinely free and open debate on campus," as Reed Browning notes. I would think a truly liberal education is enriched when bona fide differences are represented among the faculty.
David Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights may be extreme. However, he makes many excellent points. His "Bill" may only be a device to draw attention to the issue, since most faculties seem to prefer denying, ignoring, or rationalizing it. If faculties took up the cause of intellectual diversity vigorously on their own, Horowitz's Bill of Rights would become redundant.
I challenge the Kenyon faculty and administration to move from "should" to "will" on this matter, to assure that Kenyon's faculty in the future is intellectually diversified in reality, not just theoretically.
-Peter C. Lathrop '69
Even more love for books
I read with great interest the article "For the Love of Books" in the Winter 2005 Bulletin because during my years at Kenyon, tales of Denham Sutcliffe's brilliance were still very much told by professors who had the pleasure of knowing him and because I, too, don't believe that books should be "tossed out."
I was surprised, however, by the implication that Gambier had not hosted a used-book store since Sutcliffe closed his shop in the late 1950s. I seemed to recall that several students had run a small but successful enterprise while I was a student. In fact, a check of my yearbook confirms my memory. On page 96 of the 1977 Reveille, there is a photo of John Gregg, Chip Burke, Tom Toch, and Don Gregory cheerfully "advertising" their Co-Op Bookstore. The inventory was limited to books gleaned from the College's own students and professors, but the spirit of not abandoning books to the dumpster was the same.
-Shari Miller Sims '77
Editor's note: After the publication of "Foreign Affairs" (Winter 2005), the Bulletin learned that Chris Brose '02 continues in his position as speechwriter to the Secretary of State under the new administration of Condoleezza Rice.
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