The Colgate Scene
May 2001
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Alumni Affairs

Ralph Verni '64, left, and Bruce Morser '76 Ralph Verni '64, task force chair, and Bruce Morser '76, president of the Alumni Corporation Board of Directors, talk about the newly formed Task Force on Campus Culture.

Why was the task force formed?
Ralph Verni '64: As chair of the board's Student Affairs Committee, I have probably seen and heard a little bit more about campus life than some of my fellow trustees. It seemed that the number of incidents on campus involving students abusing alcohol and the number of problems that led to disciplinary action are inconsistent with the goals and objectives of the university. Things are going to happen, but not with the frequency and not with the severity of the past couple of years. The board felt it was time to take a broader look rather than simply talking about alcohol or other issues. We wanted to study the whole campus culture. What is this behavior telling us, and should it influence what we as a board are trying to help the university achieve? This was touched on in the planning effort, but that ended up focusing more on topics relating to academic standing. We felt we couldn't wait any longer and organized an ad hoc task force.

What are the goals of the task force; what do you hope to achieve?
Verni: Basically what we are trying to accomplish is, first of all, to take a broad look at the words "campus culture." What does it mean to live, work and socialize at Colgate as a student? What are people's expectations? What kind of environment fits a school with the objectives and mission that Colgate has today and in the future? What is working well, what do we think maybe isn't and what can we do to enhance Colgate as it goes forward; that is, to make this not only a great educational experience in the narrow sense of education, but really an educational experience in the broader sense -- this Colgate tradition of educating and developing the whole person.

Initially there is going to be research, learning, listening to people relative to their views of what's right and what's wrong, what should be done, what shouldn't be done. Then eventually we will try to digest this research and come forth with conclusions and recommendations -- what might be considered by the full board as to new programs and changes to try to enhance the culture and make it better fit Colgate's objectives.

Bruce, as Alumni Corporation Board president, how do you believe alumni can be helpful in this process?
Bruce Morser '76: I think the strongest point is that, of all Colgate's constituencies, alumni have the longest memory and view of the school. Except for a few faculty members and administrators, alumni have been in touch with the school the longest; not necessarily in the closest relationship, but certainly for the greatest breadth of time. We have found in the Alumni Board of Directors a great variety of thoughts across the different eras. Individual board members have their views of the school and different people relate to the school in different ways; however, throughout all the eras, real set themes and feelings have also emerged concerning how people consider Colgate, what they thought the school's mission was, what the school could do to best help students. Additionally, where they thought the school was strongest and most stable and how it carved out its unique spot amongst all other colleges is important. I think what all alumni can do in a big way is to first reflect on Colgate and what it means to them. What they saw as Colgate's strong points, what it has done for them over the years, not just academically, but in terms of the whole culture. How did their full life experience at the school prepare them for future endeavors? Secondly, where would they like to see Colgate, say, ten years, from now? They can share those thoughts, those reflections, those memories through the special website being used by the task force.

Verni: At the website ( alumni can see upcoming task force agendas. They can see the items being talked about and all the task force members are listed and can be contacted by e-mail or regular mail. Alumni can also contact Kim Waldron or Jim Terhune from the dean's staff. Also included on the website is the formal charge of the task force. We have posted seven questions to get to the heart of the issues and alumni can use them as an aid in organizing their comments for the task force.

Morser: I would hasten to add, Ralph's task force has made it clear that Colgate is interested in what alumni think. Our school includes 27,000 alumni, and keeping them all on board and thinking positively about Colgate and adding their thoughts is important to the university's stability and success. The task force encourages every alumnus and alumna to think hard and respond thoughtfully to these big challenges ahead.

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