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"We have at our disposal one of the greatest vehicles for...community-building known to humankind—the one called education." —from the foreword by Parker Palmer
"Connecting authentically and deeply with others across all dimensions of life enriches the human spirit. The sense of community resulting from such connections is a hallmark of a supportive campus environment, which we know is an important factor in enhancing student learning. The contributions to this book offer a vision we can work toward and provide instructive examples from different types of institutions to point the way." —George D. Kuh, chancellor's professor and director, National Survey of Student Engagement, Indiana University
"Ernie Boyer was a giant in higher education. This book, a resource guide, focuses on one of his great loves—campus community. The book examines his contributions and offers a compelling agenda for action." —Arthur Levine, president, Teachers College, Columbia University
"This well-written and timely book draws on the lessons learned from five very different institutions as they attempted to address a major challenge to higher education-building effective campus communities. Practitioners will find this to be an invaluable resource and guide as they attempt to bring Ernie Boyer's vision to life on their campuses. A great tribute to one of America's leading educators!" —Charles C. Schroeder, professor of higher education, University of Missouri-Columbia
"There is no topic more important in higher education today than creating campus community. McDonald and his associates have indeed lived up to Ernest Boyer's legacy by presenting us with a remarkable set of campus models for us to admire. . . and emulate." —Yolanda T. Moses, president, American Association for Higher Education
"This book comes at an auspicious time of educational transformation. Like the Boyer Center, this book's fundamental priority in meeting today's challenging new realities is the discovery and creation of new forms of community." —Glen R. Bucher, executive director, the Boyer Center
E. Grady Bogue
In the closing years of the twentieth century, a concern for "community" enjoyed a renewed visibility in public conversation and literature, as reflected in Habits of the Heart (Bellah and others, 1985) and The Spirit of Community (Etzioni, 1993). A similar theme entered the literature of higher education with the often-cited special report titled Campus Life: In Search of Community (The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990). The theme of "community" was also engaged in journal pieces (Kuh, 1991; Miller, 1994; Tompkins, 1992).
An important hope is carried in this opening chapter. It is the hope that those holding our colleges and universities in trust-students, faculty, staff, trustees-will understand that colleges and universities are complex, essential, and precious communities in our national life. Marketplace pressures are being increasingly felt in American higher education. We are invited to view students as customers and colleges as businesses, but there are important limitations in applying profit-sector principles in higher education. If we desire community in higher education, we need to understand the nature of the enterprise.
How are colleges distinguished from other organizations? What exactly does the termcommunity signify, and why is it important to our colleges and universities? What is the nature of the community we wish to nurture in colleges and universities, and what may we, as well as our students, learn from our efforts to fashion community? What are the challenges-the impediments to the cultivation of community in higher education? These are the questions I intend to engage in this chapter.
Spaces in Our Togetherness: The Meaning of Community
Let me probe the meaning of community, especially the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, with a quick personal story. While on the administrative staff of the University of Memphis in the 1970s, I enjoyed an avocation that I found renewing: playing second French horn with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. In the 1973-74 concert season, one of our programs concluded with Brahms's "Symphony No. 1 in C Minor." There is a lovely moment in the third movement when the second horn answers a short melodic passage carried by the first horn, and I can still remember a frisson of inner pleasure as the first horn and I exchanged melodic expressions. The closing and brisk pace of the third movement transitions into a majestic and fortissimo fourth movement.
As we moved into the symphony's finale, every member of the orchestra could sense that we were performing on a plane of musical excellence beyond our ordinary reach. The talent of the Memphis symphony would not match that of a major orchestra such as the New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or Chicago orchestras, nor perhaps other orchestras closely following, such as those in Cincinnati or Dallas. But on this evening, we were performing at a level of musical excitement that the patrons recognized, and the closing notes were followed by a ten-minute standing ovation. Members of the orchestra knew that we had enjoyed a magical moment, an emotional high, in which the combined performance of the eighty musicians clearly was something more than the sum of individual talents. There was common purpose in that moment, disciplined and responsible talent at work before and during the concert, and a common love of music. And there was a lovely experience of common pleasure that could not have flowed from solo music making.
There is a thought jewel in the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, which is as follows: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, they have heat; but how can one be warm alone?" (verses 9-11). There are works to be done, benefits to be derived, and pleasures to be enjoyed that are impossible in our oneness.
Shared purpose, shared commitment, shared relationships, shared responsibility-the need for community is a primal yearning and a practical necessity in our lives and in our society. A healthy community is one in which essential but often competing values are maintained in tensioned balance. In a healthy democracy, for example, there is a need to balance those competing ideas and impulses that are philosophic anchors for a democracy-the balance between access and excellence in education, rights and responsibility, justice and mercy, diversity and community, opportunity and disciplined effort, cooperation and competition, service and profit, self-interest and self-sacrifice, tradition and innovation.
What happens without the balance? Community degenerates. For example, cooperation taken to its negative extreme may lead us to seek the lowest common denominator of performance, in which mediocrity is not just tolerated but embraced. Competition taken to its negative extreme may lead to a dog-eat-dog mentality in which our ambition causes us to sacrifice integrity for personal profit-a moment when arrogance is ascendant. In their best expressions, however, cooperation multiplies the power of intelligence, and competition makes us stand on our performance tiptoes. It's the balancing of these and other impulses that is essential in the construction of community.
Here's another illustration of the need for balance. In The Spirit of Community, Etzioni (1993) notes our inclination to focus on individual rights but to neglect individual responsibilities: "To take and not to give is an amoral, self-centered predisposition that ultimately no society can tolerate. To revisit the finding that many try to evade serving on a jury, which, they claim, they have a right to be served by, is egotistical, indecent, and in the long run impractical" (p. 10).
In a word, there can be no rights in any community, whether societal or organizational, unless those living there also discharge their responsibilities. Duty is an essential but often neglected motivator in any community. It is no less so in colleges and universities, as Donald Kennedy affirms in his book Academic Duty (1997).
Orchestrating the tension between individual interests and community interests, between the good of self and the good of the community, is a major engagement and theme of great literature. Might we find a more potent expression of individualism than in the writings of Russian-born, America-nurtured novelist Ayn Rand? Toward the end of her novel The Fountainhead (1943), the multiple-page soliloquy of fictional hero and architect Howard Roark is an eloquent testimony to the power of the individual: "The mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise of an average drawn upon many individual thoughts ... all the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred" (p. 725).
According to Miss Rand's testimony, it took her two years to compose this soliloquy, and when she consulted in the filming of the movie based on the book and starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, she would not consent to the omission of a single word, though the courtroom soliloquy scene occupies some six minutes of film time, and the director of the movie wanted to reduce that scene by half.
Perhaps Ayn Rand's philosophic devotion to individualism was in some sense a reaction to the worst expressions of the collectivism she experienced while living in Russia. Neither she nor her fictional hero Roark, however, lived without relationship. And relationship is central to community.
Although the theme of community celebrates our relationships and interactions with others, it is important to acknowledge the contribution of solitude, which is certainly appropriate for a college or university. Anthony Storr has written a work titled Solitude (1988), advancing the idea that health and happiness flow from the ability to live in peace with oneself. The capacity to be alone, according to Storr, is as much an element of emotional maturity as our ability to cultivate relationships. The capacity to rejoice in our aloneness may thus be a mark of emotional security and maturity. Storr points to the creative achievements that writers, musicians, artists, and religious leaders have derived from their solitude.
Gibran (1973) speaks also to the contributions of solitude: "Solitude is a silent storm that breaks down all our dead branches; yet it sends our living roots deeper into the living heart of the living earth" (p. 51). However, loneliness and separation from others is one of the more difficult human experiences. Why labor to discover and create if there is no one to benefit or to share? Is the experience of beauty diminished when there is no other to join in appreciation? The human experience sings to our need for both solitude and relationship.
Although learning and creativity can take seed and flower from moments of solitude, they can also flow from our experience of community. Consider, for example, this illustration and exploration of community that is found in a true story of two thousand men and women-prisoners of the Japanese during World War II-who were forced into constructing a community in China. The story is told by Langdon Gilkey in Shantung Compound (1966). There were missionaries and prostitutes and a host of other diverse personalities and occupations herded into the prison compound. The prisoners were not physically abused by the Japanese but had to create community and social order without benefit of law or regulation. Such mundane but incendiary questions as who peels the potatoes for meals and how much living space is allotted for each person had to be resolved without courts or police force. They were souls without sanction, these men and women of Shantung Compound.
Aren't we more likely to share in the face of common difficulty and danger such as these men and women faced in this prison camp? Will goodness not emerge in times of crisis? Gilkey's theologically trained heart was seriously stressed to learn that the answers to these questions were not always yes. If folks in a community cared less about justice and equity than their own comfort and self-interest, what does this suggest about the patina of civilization? As did Victor Frankl in his German concentration camp experience (Man's Search for Meaning, 1959), Gilkey kept a diary and transformed this unwanted experience into a learning experience. He concluded that "without moral health, a community is as helpless and lost as it is without material supplies and services" (p. 76). Gilkey says, "One of the strangest lessons that our unstable life-passage teaches us is that the unwanted is often creative rather than destructive ... this is a common mystery of life, an aspect, if you will, of common grace: out of apparent evil new creativity can arise if the meanings and possibilities latent within the new situation are grasped with courage and with faith" (p. 242).
The Shantung Compound was given to me by a friend serving as academic dean of a private college, an act of friendship and relationship. Can I be sure that my mind, in its oneness and in its solitude, would have been exposed to and enriched by Gilkey's experience and thought? Not necessarily. Our minds are immersed in great oceans of thought that flow from community. Solitude and community are thus complementary, and both are essential conditions of the human experience.
What is community? Community is a laboratory of discovery in which we come to value the possibilities found in mistake and error and serendipitous moments. Community is a venture in human learning and association, where moral meaning-concepts of justice and fairness, of human goodness and depravity, of rights and responsibility-may be factored from moments that can be both elevating and wrenching to the human spirit. Community is a dance of paradox, in which personal aspiration and personal sacrifice are found in embrace. These are lessons to be learned by faculty, staff, and students as they work to fashion community in our colleges and universities.
A sense of community in any setting signifies the presence of what I call an agenda of common caring and grace. This agenda of common caring embraces a love for soul, for standard, and for system. There is a caring for the individuals in the community, for those whose welfare is held in trust. There is a caring for a standard of excellence and integrity. And there is a caring for the policy and physical systems in which men and women relate in both work and play. Central to the essence of community is the other face of love, which is forgiveness. Readers interested in the political and practical power of forgiveness will find Bishop Desmond Tutu's book No Future Without Forgiveness (1999) a stimulating engagement.
In a community, there is a vision of shared purpose. There are shared values that shape and guide behavior. There is a shared giving and, yes, sacrifice to cause beyond self. Gibran (1969) urges: "But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of heavens dance between you" (p. 15). And so there are spaces in community to respect private interests and public interests. There is a space for intimacy and a space for solitude. There is a space for laughter and a space for lament, for shared moments of joy and pain. There is a space for the harmony of our togetherness and the conflict of our differences. There is a space for dark struggles and night journeys and a space for dawn arrivals of imagination and inspiration. There is a space for fellowship of conversation and a space where our silence is honored. These are also lessons to be learned by faculty, staff, and students as they construct communities of learning. But what is the special nature of collegiate community? Let us go there.
The Nature of Collegiate Community
The concept of community is central to our colleges and universities for the lessons that may be gained in the pursuit of community, some of which are cited in our previous discussion. Colleges and universities exist for purposes beyond developing knowledge and skill in our students. They are also sanctuaries of our personal and civic values, incubators of intellect and integrity. And so the values that mark the community of higher learning are the values that are most likely to be caught by our students.
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Foreword (Parker J. Palmer).
The Boyer Center.
1. An Agenda of Common Caring: The Call for Community in Higher Education (E. Grady Bogue).
2. Creating Community in a Complex Research University Environment (Betty L. Moore and Arthur W. Carter).
3. Beyond Rhetoric: Composing a Common Community Experience (Cynthia A. Wells).
4. Modeling Community Through Campus Leadership (Larry D. Roper and Susan D. Longerbeam).
5. A Lab Without Walls: A Team Approach to Creating Community (Cathy Eidson Brown, J. Mark Brown, and Robert A. Littleton).
6. Promoting Community Through Citizenship and Service (Jean L. Bacon).
7. Absent Voices: Assessing Students' Perceptions of Campus Community (William M. McDonald).
8. Conclusion: Final Reflections and Suggestions for Creating Campus Community (William M. McDonald and Associates).
Afterword: The Quest for Community in Higher Education (Parker J. Palmer).