May 30, 2006

On the limits of reunions

Since my previous entry on Bryn Mawr's reunion drew a few responses, I should note that the entry wasn't about the broader reunion (of which I saw little) but more about folk cultures on residential campuses. I didn't see who showed up at every event, but I think that those alumnae who came back were disproportionately white compared to the graduating class as a whole—if my impression is correct, it is something that should worry a college in terms of having alumnae feeling connected with a college. That doesn't have to be the case—I know of several majority-white colleges where minority alumni networks are active. And I know that Haverford has an active gay/lesbian alumni network.

Then there is the other limitation of my observations, about the class makeup of a residential liberal-arts college. Bryn Mawr and Haverford have students disproportionately from wealthy families, which is both an inevitable dynamic and also a problem. Private colleges need money and thus have legacy admissions. They also need diverse student populations to work well. I know this from my own teaching—a class of reasonably well-off 20-year-olds learning about the history and organization of schools does not work nearly as well as a class where at least 4-5 students are over 30, where at least another 4-5 students are from the first generation in their family to go to college, etc.)

What happens to a campus culture as the population shifts is an interesting question. I don't know if anyone has studied that, but it would make for a great dissertation or book.

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Posted in Random comments on May 30, 2006 9:28 AM |