On a humid Monday morning in May, in that brief, comparatively quiet space bet ween spring semester’s end and Commence- ment, John Bravman sits in
his office in Marts Hall revisiting the most
difficult stretch of his tenure. He’s just
completed his fifth year as Bucknell’s
president, and he cites among his proudest
accomplishments a set of numbers — from
recent faculty hires and from the incoming
first-year class — that show historic progress
toward the creation of a more diverse
campus. They are the early but tangible payoff of a concerted effort.
“There are some real successes here, and
to me, they’re exemplary of what we can do if
we really put our minds to it,” Bravman says.
“To reach that point, and all of a sudden find
that at risk — it was hard. That’s one of the
many reasons why this was so difficult.”
This, of course, is the now-notorious
campus radio broadcast, an awful moment of
brazen hate speech in March that drew
national attention and sent tremors through
the University community. “N----,” said one
student. Then another: “Black people should
be dead.” Then a third student, “Lynch ’em.”
The words used by those three since-expelled Bucknell students were specific and
toxic, so flagrant as to seem almost unreal.
But talking about it now, even as he refers
to this “single event,” Bravman is ever mindful
of the context: There was shock, of course,
even dismay at just how blatant the comments
were — but for some, the content of the
comments themselves was not surprising.
“To hear things like that when you’re out
downtown at night, that’s nothing,” says
Danielle Taylor ’ 17, a leader in both student
government and the Black Student Union.
An appreciation of that broader context is
vital to understanding both the damage done
and the opportunity created by that incident
this spring. Talk to the president, to faculty
members and most importantly to students,
and it’s clear that those realities must be
considered side by side. Yes, this happened,
and no, it wasn’t an anomaly; racism exists at
Bucknell just as it does at institutions across
the country. Some might argue that racism
at Bucknell is exacerbated by a culture that
in many areas, and despite many efforts,
reinforces existing divisions in the student
body. That all of this is true cannot distract
from another truth: That this community
possesses the tools to do, and be, better.
To look back on the days and weeks that
followed the broadcast is to see the progress
Bucknell has already made, and to glimpse
early steps on a hopeful path forward.
The Bucknell Student
Government distributed T-shirts
at the April 14 solidarity
ceremony declaring that
discrimination and hate will not
be tolerated at Bucknell.