The Colgate Scene
July 2005

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I attended the Alumni of Color dinner dance in New York City in March. Members of the administration, students, alumni of color, and members of the AOC Executive Board were there. Scintillating conversation, delectable food, inspirational speeches, and good music made this a great event. A disappointing aspect of the night was the conspicuous absence of Asian-American alumni.

As a member of the AOC Executive Board, I was involved in planning and publicity, and I had the pleasure of contacting New York City-based Asian-American alumni. It was rewarding to catch up with old friends, but disappointing to hear from some that they would be unable to join me because they were busy. Others admitted that they had no interest because none of their friends were going.

Where do Asian alumni go after graduation? How can we explain the lack of interest in attending Colgate-sponsored events or participating in Colgate alumni affairs?

As Asian-American alumni, we need to recognize that the privilege of attending Colgate is not without responsibility. We must participate to have our voices heard and to make a difference in the trajectory of Colgate's development and in the lives of undergraduates, regardless of their ethnic or racial background. We can do this in small ways: attend Colgate Club events and reunions, volunteer for the Alumni Admissions Program and career panels, mentor undergraduate students, donate to the Annual Fund, and write to the Scene. We must realize that we have much to contribute -- and learn -- from engagement with the wider Colgate community.

Concomitantly, the Colgate administration and its alumni and student groups must recognize that Asian-American students face challenges that may be unique to those who are of Asian descent. They must realize that discrimination and privilege are not mutually exclusive, but that sometimes they coexist and mutate beyond the scope of any sociological and anthropological explanation.

I believe that as Asian Americans, and as Colgate alumni, we can all contribute to a world where "diversity" will no longer be a political catch-phrase or an "initiative," but a lived reality.

. . . The snippy, thoughtless letter from Holly E. Nye '82 (May 2005) demands response.

Were it not for the students, now alumni (note: all male then) of the "old glory days . . . of the 1940s and 1950s," Nye might not even exist, nor might Colgate. Those alums, of which I am one, sacrificed and contributed human and financial resources then and through current times to place Colgate in its present educational and campus condition.

That generation has done more to perpetuate Colgate as a viable institution than any generation since.

Her immaturity, ignorance, and strident apathy about the "(segregated, male-dominated, Cold-War driven) world of 1950" is appalling. Just what was Colgate teaching in 1982, yea . . . these days?

Appropriate that Ms. Nye show some maturity and gratitude for those with considerably more experience, time in grade, and character than she has shown.

Her attitude is unacceptable.

. . . More than a few letters to the editor disparage elder alumni for their nostalgic yearnings that the campus be transformed to what it was in their undergraduate days. Not infrequently the great classes of the 1940s are belittled because they were all-male or fraternity-oriented.

So be it. The 1942 Salamagundi reported that ". . . 92 percent of freshmen are pledged by fraternities." Moreover, Prexie George Barton Cutten, Deans Kallgren, et al. were fraternity members, as were 49 of the faculty.

Alma Mater has been changing ever since 1819. Established to educate young men solely for Baptist ministry, its ever-enlarging facilities were rededicated to provide for an educated laity as well. That the changes have been constructive cannot be denied. However, we undergraduates of the 1940s era did not disparage Colgate's earlier days when for many years its educational pursuits were directed for religious purposes.

In my undergraduate days attendance records at the Chapel were taken, although a generous allotment of cuts was granted. Even by today's standards the services were minimally pietistical, but we shared fellowship and were tacitly inspired by an excerpt from Psalm 86 (Teach me thy way, O Lord) which was boldly displayed above the Chapel platform.

Although we elder Colgate alumni acknowledge we cannot impose our remembrances of what was right for Alma Mater in earlier decades, we will always cherish the unity we knew as well as the mutual respect that abounded within the Colgate community of undergraduates, the administration, the faculty, and the village residents.

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