Letter to the Editor

How is it that The Bucknellian has so much time and energy to dedicate to the Bucknell Program for American Leadership and Citizenship (BPALC) when we bring speakers to campus who are situated on the political right, but then it is utterly silent when we bring speakers on the other side of the ideological spectrum?    

Anyone who suspects we are exaggerating should check the comparative amount of Bucknellian attention given to Heather Mac Donald and Jennifer Silva. The former — a conservative New York Times best-selling author on crime, politics in the university and other topics — was the subject last fall of several full-length news stories and seemingly endless opinion pieces. Nearly every article pilloried her in inflammatory, unedifying terms, though it was pretty clear there was a large student audience interested in hearing her (she easily filled Bucknell Hall).  The latter — a liberal sociologist and former Bucknell professor who has written a lot about youth and the American poor — was completely ignored by The Bucknellian, which couldn’t be bothered to dedicate one drop of ink to noting her participation in two events on Jan. 22-23 that also drew large numbers of Bucknell students — probably more in total even than Mac Donald drew.

One of the events Silva participated in was a dialogue/debate with one of the signatories to this letter that illustrated how scholarly discussions across ideological lines can be productive when the participants commit to collegiality and agree to forego the kind of name-calling that so characterized The Bucknellian’s coverage of Mac Donald’s visit. Given that much of that coverage also involved attacking BPALC in scurrilous terms for its supposed commitment to denying space for any but conservative voices, you’d think an event in which the falsity of The Bucknellian’s claims was made manifest would have been something of interest to a campus newspaper.  

Yet Silva got no attention at all in the pages of The Bucknellian, even though, during the two weeks following her visit, the news cycle on campus was so slow that the paper had space to feature the following breaking stories, among others of similar gravity: “Student lectureship series to host Rainn Wilson” (Jan. 24) and “The importance of therapy dogs on college campuses” (Jan. 31).  Are we seriously to believe that The Bucknellian thinks that such stories are more newsworthy than a visit by a scholar (and former Bucknellian) who just published a book, “We’re Still Here,” on poverty and political identity in central Pennsylvania that is receiving national attention and who brought somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred enthusiastic Bucknell students out for two well-attended events?

Why was Silva’s visit to campus so carefully ignored by The Bucknellian, despite the evidence that many Bucknell students clearly found it noteworthy?  We think we know the answer:  The Bucknellian ignored her visit because of who invited her.  If only she had been invited by an organization other than BPALC, we’d doubtless have seen a different attitude from The Bucknellian, as the paper rarely misses an opportunity to enthusiastically report on the steady stream of leftist speakers to campus.  At least some on The Bucknellian staff evidently do not care for the idea of viewpoint diversity — one need only read the sneering way they refer to it to see that.  And they really do not care for the fact that BPALC advocates strenuously for viewpoint diversity and argues that a university fit to be called a university requires it.  The reason The Bucknellian prefers not to cover BPALC events when they involve speakers on the left (it’s not just Silva – the exact same thing happened last year when we invited Todd Gitlin and June Carbone, too) is because it knows such events pose a threat to its wild, hostile caricaturing of our group and its mission.

The truth is that BPALC is committed to hearing from all reasonable sides on serious issues.  The Bucknellian’s actions might well make its readers suspect that it has quite different commitments.


BPALC Faculty Affiliates:

Richard Crago

William R. Gruver

Alexander Riley

Alfred K. Siewers

Janice Traflet

Rivka Ulmer


BPALC Student Associates:

Isabella Carrega

Joseph D’Angelo

Andrew Marinaccio

Manning Martus


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