Editorial: Not just transparency, but candor

On Nov. 5, President Bravman and Bucknell Student Government (BSG) President Amanda Battle co-sponsored an event called “A Night with the Presidents,” an open conversation with the student body about the University and current campus climate. An overall theme of the event was transparency, in which both Bravman and Battle aimed to give voice to the student perspective and provide answers to difficult questions.

We asked our editorial board to react to the discussion: Are open forums like this effective? How, in general, do you think students should give voice to the things they care about? Given how the University has handled controversy in the past, is the University successful in trying to confront student life issues head on?

We must first acknowledge and appreciate how unique of an opportunity it is to be able to ask questions directly to our University president. Bravman has said publicly many times that he wants to create more transparency between students and administration. Through this partnership with BSG, he again made it clear that the administration wants students to engage with them so that conversations can be anticipated with accurate information, not misinformation.

As previously addressed in our Oct. 6 editorial, many students resort to making assumptions about University affairs and/or blaming the administration when it seems like there is no one else to blame. The most important thing we can do is reach out directly to the appropriate people to ask such questions and challenge our perceptions.

“A Night With the Presidents,” following in the footsteps of events like “One Too Many, What Will It Take?” and the student-led Solidarity Ceremony after the WVBU Radio incident, is an important step for improving the relationship between the student community and the administration. By providing a forum for students to ask questions, the administration is demonstrating their willingness for transparency.

We stress that while transparency might be one aim of “A Night With the Presidents,’ candor is equally important. There is a difference between agreeing to answer students’ questions and answering students’ questions honestly. In practice, this means not dancing around a reply, but admitting that you might not have the answers, and truthfully responding that you are unable to be as open as you might like to be. While it is frustrating  when questions are neither completely resolved nor answered in a setting like this forum, it is appreciated how Bravman was honest when he either couldn’t disclose confidential information, when he didn’t know the answer, or when he thought the answer could be better answered by someone else.

One criticism of the “A Night With the Presidents” was that because such a wide range of topics were addressed, each individual response could not be covered completely in depth. However, as interested as some individual members of the student community may be to hear specific topics, like Greek life, addressed, it is productive for those who may be ambivalent or uninformed on an issue to hear what had to be said.

The best forms of policy are only made if those who shape them are guided by empathetic viewpoints. We see parallels with BSG’s event. Although this forum was not explicitly about policy, we think that empathy is integral to events’ success. The hybrid of student and administrative discourse is one of the richest aspects of University life. High attendance should correlate to motivation of the student body to engage with issues that they care about. As long as forums are well-received and well-attended, efforts like “A Night With the Presidents,” should continue.

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