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Anne Dalke's picture

Some Notes and Keywords: 9/27


Some notes and keywords I jotted down during our discussion on 9/27,
about "creating a culture of risk @ Bryn Mawr":

on being personally risk-averse
on BMC not being a culture of risk
on wanting to make it, instead

  • a culture of generosity

giving freely, in the expectation that
one will be met w/ generosity in return
(not to be confused w/ the conventional self-sacrifice of women...)

  • a culture of trust

this means

  • working against our training: we are so quick to be critical!
  • being forgiving
  • acknowledging that decisions/consequences need not be irrevocable
  • going beyond what we have been trained to be
  • re-thinking the way we measure success:
    how do we know when we have been successful?

in a culture of autonomy, gratitude has been seen as a weakness
scholars are awarded for autonomous work;
when one "earns no points" for professional advantage,
one must beg for generous contributions

what about the problem of involuntary risk-taking?
some people make the decisions, and others must be brought along

ours has been a fear-driven culture:
one that allows no mistakes and gives no apologies
"but the ice is melting under our feet"

with little supervision or monitoring in the classroom,
faculty occupy a place without visibility (or consequences?),
while the work of staff is publicly accountable

what are our expectations in the classroom:
to perform and succeed?
or a commitment to change (and so being wrong?)

ours has been a culture of smugness and stagnation

there is a deep investment in the stability of our arrangements here

it's like "building a house on quicksand":

how do we institutionalize pilot programs,
and make experiments perpetual?

some of us represent "sub-corporations,"
legally independent of other parts of the College

might we abandon the use of "institution" and "administration"
(as "rocks," cultural relations, or categories that can be blamed for what happens) and work instead with other individuals?

how can we make personal innovation an institutional priority?
can we construct some institutional arrangements that will
encourage risk-taking, that are committed to the goal of innovation?


what practices at BMC stifle risk-taking (without intending to)?
for example: evaluating professional achievement in three fixed categories, of scholarship, teaching and service encourages seeing them as conflicting activities

this is a paradoxical place, combining ancestor worship with amnesia
we have never talked about coming to terms with our historical mis-steps
we can't talk about the present until we talk about what has been

we need a change in leadership style: more honesty, more discussion,
a willingness to concede, an obligation to explain

"private deals are an offence to equity"
they presume "ancient forms of privilege" that need to be changed

can we commit to trusting one another?
can we commit to continuing this conversation together?

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