On Sept. 6 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Bucknell President John Bravman hosted a dozen other leaders of prestigious private colleges and universities from around the nation and opened the floor to reporters’ questions — and the media didn’t hold back.
From admissions affirmative-action policies, to why there’s a perceived lack of intellectual diversity on campus, to new Title IX guidelines, to why college costs so much, the questions were as sharp and incisive as you’d expect from the likes of The New York Times, NPR and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the answers as wide-ranging and diverse as the participating colleges and universities.
This on-the-record discussion was the centerpiece of The Presidents Dinner, an event sponsored by Bucknell that also included reporters and editors of The Atlantic, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, PBS Newshour, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and several others. The gathering of so many prominent college presidents and leading national media organizations provided opportunities for intelligent debate about the future of higher education and highlighted Bucknell’s role as a key voice in that conversation.
“We’re [college presidents] smart people, but we don’t have all of these answers because society doesn’t have them — and we are absolutely a microcosm [of society],” Bravman said in his closing remarks. “But as I said at the beginning, we keep doing what we’re doing because we believe in our heart and our gut and our soul and our mind that what we’re doing is fundamentally and vitally important.”
The dinner was modeled on an event hosted in New York City by Arizona State University. Bucknell’s goal is to make The Presidents Dinner an annual, must-attend event where higher-ed leaders can engage with the media in ways that help inform the national conversation around college in America.
In addition to Bravman, participating presidents and chancellors included:
- Farnam Jahanian, Carnegie Mellon University
- Brian Casey, Colgate University
- Philip Hanlon, Dartmouth College
- Margee Ensign, Dickinson College
- Sean Decatur, Kenyon College
- Rick Miller, Olin College of Engineering
- G. Gabrielle Starr, Pomona College
- Kathy McCartney, Smith College
- Mary Schmidt Campbell, Spelman College
- Michael Fitts, Tulane University
- Rebecca Chopp, University of Denver
- Will Dudley, Washington & Lee University