Bravman declares “this is not who we are”


Cooper Josephs, Assistant News Editor

As a layer of snow veiled the campus, President John Bravman spoke to the campus community, unearthing his disgust for the racist, hateful comments that three former students made on a WVBU radio show broadcast.

Bravman’s speech in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts on March 31 brought out approximately one third of the campus community, nearly filling the Weis Center. Bravman said everyone should seriously consider their humanity and their individual role on community inclusiveness.

“I keep saying how ‘this is not who we are,’ but my faith is shaking. We have to cut out this cancer that exists here and throughout society,” Bravman said.

Bravman frankly admitted he does not know how to end racism and ensure an inclusive environment for everyone, but that the conversation must be started with renewed earnest.

“We must dedicate and engage ourselves in a fundamentally new way … This needs to be a pivotal moment in our history … If you don’t face the problem square in the eye, it will never even begin to get fixed,” Bravman said. “The world is changing faster than ever before, and if we don’t change ourselves and as an institution, the University will become irrelevant.”

“We are behind as humans and as an institution,” Bravman said.

Bravman’s speech is just shy of the one-year anniversary of the University’s Five-Year Diversity Plan. Launched on April 3, 2014, the Five-Year Diversity Plan is an ambitious University endeavor that is geared towards promoting diversity throughout all university levels and campus life. The plan highlights four areas of improvement: institutional practices and policies, the composition of the University community, student learning, and campus culture and climate.

While many of the goals have yet to be met, the most recent tangible evidence is seen through the breadth of the class of 2019 applicant pool. It was the most expansive applicant pool in the University’s history.

Bravman recognized that change does not happen overnight, and his speech alone is not enough to act as the catalyst of change.

“Out of the talking and hearing, it is the synthesis of the next version of Bucknell that we have to build,” Bravman said.

Bravman encouraged the white members of the audience to place themselves in the shoes of the targeted students.

“Like I have done in the past, go to Howard University. See how you feel when you are one of the few and not one of the many,” Bravman said.

The gathering ended by Bravman encouraging everyone to sit in silence for five minutes and ponder the question: “What happened to this precious gem of an institution, why it happened, and what am I going to do about it?”

As audience members began slowly rising from their seats, the silence was shattered by a group of students chanting, “No justice, no peace!”

Students noted the importance of the reflection component at the end of Bravman’s speech.

“I think that was the most important thing … From what goes on from here is up to the campus community,” Fariss Nabih ’16 said.

Peter Puleo ’16 said he thinks the incident is being handled by the administration about as well as it possibly could.

“Moving forward it is important to establish a comfort level where we are not hesitant to question each other’s actions and opinions when it’s necessary,” Puleo said.

About 50 students, along with Bravman, stayed behind out of their own volition to participate in student-led group discussions. The students were working towards generating a proposed list of demands to put forth to the administration.

Ahmed Elnaiem ’16, one of the students who stayed behind for the student-led discussions, believed the discussion component should have been part of the main event.

“You need to make it a community discussion. The talk was almost like a father talking down on his child,” Elnaiem said.

Bravman mentioned at the end of his speech that a large, student-organized solidarity ceremony will be held in the upcoming weeks.

“It was postponed until April 14 because we wanted to be sensitive to the religious holidays occurring in the upcoming weeks,” Bucknell Student Government (BSG) President Alex Rosen ’16 said.

Bravman said in an email earlier this week he has decided to publicly speak out about this event out of “transparency and candor.”

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