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Table of Contents

Who Are We?

Pluralism and Unity

Being Greek

A Sense of Belonging

Voice from the Right

An Attitude of Accommodation

Bigger Questions

Chaplain Kathleen Buckley

"Larry Got Gay"

Speed Bumps

The Great Financial Aid Misconception

The Difference that Differnce Makes

Laurentian Reviews

Alumni Accomplishments

Magazine Cover

Who Are We?
By Lisa M. Cania M '82

 When I entered college, I attended an orientation workshop on career planning. Actually, it had more to do with self-exploration than acquiring career skills, which, as an 18-year-old-in-search-of direction, I hoped it would provide. We were asked to list all the labels we could attach to ourselves, with the purpose of illustrating multiple roles we all have. At the time, I wrote "daughter, sister, student, fiance, friend, roommate, cousin, niece, Roman (Rome, NY, that is), Catholic, dancer, writer." This exercise didn't provide me with insight about my career (well, maybe the "writer" label gave me a clue), but it drove home the array of perspectives any one person brings to life.

Almost 25 years later, I remembered that exercise as I spoke with Professor of Government Joseph Kling, who chaired a four-year project on campus diversity funded by the Hewlett Foundation, and Christine Zimmerman, director of institutional research, about the results of that effort. The task of the Hewlett committee, according to Kling, has been to "dismantle the mythical norm." In various ways, the committee has worked to inform the community that if a society is truly diverse, the distinction of group identity is critical, and should be promoted, rather than denied. At the same time, all cultural groupings should be recognized in a given society as having equal value and worth. Both conditions - promotion of difference, rejection of any one specific identity grouping as representative social norm - are necessary to remove the social power a culturally dominant group exercises over those it defines as "other."

All members of a society, then, are different, even if some members have more in common with one another and others have less in common. Commonality is described by demography. Diversity is described by attitude. Diversity includes everyone who might add his or her voice to a conversation; every voice has a right to be heard and every voice has a different tone and timbre.

The St. Lawrence magazine staff wants to share a glimpse of the conversations that have been happening at the University, conversations about the nature and expression of diversity. Kling offers his view of the Hewlett Project in his piece "Pluralism and Unity: The Bridge-Building Work of the Hewlett Committee." Former Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs Thomas Coburn, who returns to the religious studies faculty after a six-year term as academic leader, writes about the difference that difference makes in the classroom. You'll read about some of the events in the successful presentation "Flippin' the Script," a spring semester collection of cultural and educational programs recognizing diversity at St. Lawrence. And you can consider the points of view of several students and alumni who define themselves, in part, as members of groups on campus that, in demographic terms, have fewer numbers.

What is the Hewlett Project?
Four years ago, the Hewlett Foundation awarded St. Lawrence University a grant as part of the foundation's Pluralism and Unity Project to "enhance the campus climate to make it a more open and welcoming place for diversity and difference." We formed a committee of faculty, staff and students and decided that one of the most important activities we could adopt would be "cultural audits" - we knew the demographic profile of the University community, but we did not know their attitudes, the perspectives they bring to the conversation. We looked at existing survey data relevant to St. Lawrence, and comparative with peer colleges in the nation. To augment the existing information, two members of the sociology and education departments developed and applied a set of ethnographic techniques - observation of social behavior in various settings as well as focus group discussions. For more in-depth understanding of this "cultural audit" process, Kling offers the perspective of the committee chair in his essay. This article will focus on the results of the student audit conducted in fall 2000.

Who are we?
If the three predominant descriptors of diversity are broadly defined as gender, race and class, we already knew the demographics.

Gender: In the fall of 2000, 46.5% of the undergraduate students were men and 53.5% were women. We take seriously our heritage of coeducation and are watching carefully as the demographics of college-bound high school men show a decline in this population.

Race: The numbers show that in fall 2000, about 6% of the student body at St. Lawrence identified themselves as members of an ethnic minority (African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, Native American or multi-racial). Another 2% represented international diversity, though many
of these students are Caucasian. In fall 2000, 6% equaled 112 of 1,940 undergraduates.

Class: The St. Lawrence student body was at or below the average for family income for selective liberal arts colleges. For the fall of 2000 (when the Hewlett survey was taken), the average family income for first-year students fell in the range of $60,000 to $75,000 annually. That same fall, 74.8% of all students received need-based aid and 68.5% of all undergraduates had taken loans to pay for their college expenses. A senior student in the fall of 2000, planning to graduate in May 2001, could, on average, expect to have $18,200 in loans to pay back.

However, demography and diversity are themselves different concepts. What did the Hewlett survey tell us about the experiences and attitudes of the students who comprise the statistics?

Overall, women and men bring different perceptions and experience St. Lawrence in different ways. Gender differences emerged as significant in virtually all measures addressed by the audit. Male students at St. Lawrence see themselves as more accomplished and successful than female students on almost all measures when they enter college, and report greater gains on the same measures as exiting seniors. (More women are in the top 10% of any graduating class, however.)

According to the Hewlett survey, students learn a great deal about multiculturalism and difference in the classroom and through their academic work. The best single predictor for students having frequent conversations with other students who are different (with respect to economic, social, racial or ethnic background, religious beliefs, political opinions or different values) is working with classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments. Sharing academic work is significantly stronger than other predictors of interaction, such as gender, sports participation, Greek membership and participation in co-curricular activities.

The Hewlett committee found evidence that St. Lawrence students operate in clusters of non-overlapping groups more than at similar schools. Approximately 50% of our students say they never or only occasionally have serious conversation with students of different beliefs or personal values, with students of a different race or ethnicity. The Hewlett audits show that St. Lawrence students espouse, overall, more politically liberal attitudes than students at peer colleges nationally. Men are more conservative than women. In fact, the most liberal men are in the same place politically as the most conservative women.
Greek membership revealed some patterns. Relative to independent students at St. Lawrence, Greeks are more politically conservative, more likely to report that being well off financially is a personal goal and less optimistic that the individual can change society.

In the broadest terms, which were the terms used by the Hewlett committee, St. Lawrence students are more different than mere observation might propose, though a great deal
of demographic as well as attitudinal homo-geneity still exists. Do they, and by extension, does the college, celebrate difference among its 2,000 students? Are differences appreciated? Is the climate inclusive, not just tolerant? We invite you to join the conversation.