Editorial: Campus Climate

The recent release of the Campus Climate Task Force Report by President Bravman has many students up in arms about the suggested changes to the University’s current academic and social conditions.

At The Bucknellian, we have been in communication with students, faculty and the administration throughout the past year about issues concerning campus climate. Last fall we dedicated the majority of an edition to the sexual assaults reported on campus. While we understand where the administration is coming from, and we can agree with the task force in some areas, we believe that some of the results may have been skewed out of proportion to highlight the negative aspects of our campus community.

One of the concerns we have with the report is lack of diversity from the pool from which the administration pulled statistics. According to the report, the task force used data majorly collected from members of the 2007, 2009 and 2010 graduating classes on a voluntary response basis. A large amount of the students polled in these surveys were also incoming first-years. Why wasn’t there a fairer representation of the student body in the task force data? How many sophomores, juniors and current seniors were polled during this time period? Obviously first-year students and outgoing seniors will have radically different perceptions of their time at the University. It only seems necessary to fill that gap to get a clear picture. Although data collection is hard, especially when a very limited amount of students participate, it is important to get a broad spectrum of statistics. That means encouraging students to answer these surveys truthfully or else no one can really take the statistics seriously.

In addition, the Sexual Experiences Survey was administered to an overwhelmingly female majority. Only 114 students out of the 1,023 surveyed were men. This doesn’t leave a large response bias. It would have been more accurate to include more male students. What was the non-response rate of these surveys? The fact that the task force only polled those students who were willing to go out of their way to submit their responses creates a response bias that cannot be overlooked.

We also think the task force has skewed the statistics towards a more negative angle. The task force places a heavy emphasis on the negatives of drinking, but it should be noted more clearly that drug use at the University is lower than comparable institutions. In addition, first-year students were over-represented in these samples. College freshmen tend to experiment with drinking a lot more than sophomores, juniors and seniors. We would have appreciated a more diverse statistic.

Through the climate report, President Bravman and the task force have expressed their severe dissatisfaction with Greek life and the way it impacts campus. Yes, Greek life can split the campus and create social divisions. However, an overwhelming amount of the philanthropic activities conducted on and around campus are done by Greek members. Although members of the Greek life here at the University are required to complete a certain number of ‘hours’ for philanthropy, the fact of the matter is, this is how it gets done. If it were not for the Greek system, philanthropy at the University would almost cease to exist. Although the Office of Civic Engagement offers many opportunities to students, many people aren’t aware of how to utilize it to its fullest.

We agree with the task force in that the University should be advertising more student-based activities, like Bingo, karaoke and other events at Uptown and in the ELC. However, it’s often the case that students don’t find going to Bingo as appealing as going to a fraternity party. While we know that there are students on campus that don’t participate in Greek life, the majority of them do, and the majority of them drink. This is not surprising in the least considering students drink when in college and there is a certain party atmosphere on campus. We don’t think the administration can change this. Even if the administration decides to eliminate Greek life all together, students who want to have fun by partying will find ways to do so. What’s more is that a large amount of alumni donators were members in Greek organizations on campus. If the administration gets rid of Greek life, alumni will stop donating to the University and the University’s College Rankings will lower.

We also have to disagree with the idea that Greek life is unsafe for men and women on campus. When fraternities decide to host parties on or off campus, they are legally responsible for all those attending. It is their best interest to keep things safe. The same goes for sororities and events that they host. It is in both organizations’ best interest so they can stay clean in the eyes of the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils. And closing Greek Life parties to first-years? Doesn’t that counteract Bucknell’s mission state of community? How are first-years supposed to feel a part of campus when they are forbidden from attending certain parties or events?

We understand the task force has good intentions and that there are issues on campus that need to be addressed. That being said, the skewed statistics and goals the University is proposing are extreme. Punish members of the community who need to be punished. The administration did that with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Kappa Delta Rho fraternities. All others, those Greek organizations and students who are following the rules, should not be penalized.

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