"Bonding" and "bridging" were the buzz words in the opening day of "Imagining a More Civil Society: The Summit on the University and the Jewish Community." (A video of the opening session is available on the Hillel Web page.)
Putnam at 2008 Summit.
Social scientist Robert D. Putnam introduced the concepts in his opening remarks to the conference which attracted over 675 participants. Putnam explained that individuals create social capital by "bonding" with one another within groups and looking out for one another's interests. "Bridging" takes place when members of different groups share their social capital. "We need to find ways to bridge across social capital," the Harvard professor said. "Our young people are ready for it."
University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann explained that on her campus, with more than 200 extracurricular student groups, bonding and bridging are taking place at a rate not seen since the 1960s and early 1970s. "We are witnessing a sea change," he said.
Gutmann at 2008 Summit.
University of California, Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake emphasized that his campus is committed to a series of fundamental values: respect, intelligence, curiosity, commitment, integrity empathy, tolerance and fun. In response to a question from the audience, Drake stated that these values extend to all students on campus, regardless of background or belief: "We absolutely deplore and reject hate speech and bigotry and anti-Semitism. We reject and deplore those absolutely and in every way that it occurs."
“We cannot survive as universities unless we have civility," said University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala. "Learning does not take place unless there is respect for differences of opinion.”
Tufts University President Lawrence S. Bacow pointed to Tufts Hillel as an example of how a university group can bond together while bridging to the community at large. Bacow served as a conference co-chair.
Fellow Summit Co-Chair Beatrice S. Mandel explained that the Summit theme was chosen as an "antidote to the coarseness that too often accosts us on campus and in the community." She cited the "vituperative approach to expression on many campus" and violence on campus, such as the incident at Virginia Tech, as reasons to restore a sense of "safe space, sacred space" to university campuses.
Summit Co-Chair David M. Cohen noted that the Summit is the product of a collaboration of university administrators, faculty members, Jewish community leaders, and Hillel professionals, including individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, traditions, disciplines, campus roles, institutions and locations.
Summit participants included representatives from 128 campuses; 15 current and former university presidents; more than 125 campus administrators and faculty members; several hundred volunteer and professionals from general and Jewish non-profit organizations; and 80 graduate and undergraduate students.
The Summit was preceded by the Hillel Lay Leadership Symposium which attracted more than 150 people representing 50 campuses and communities.
Afternoon forums included Impacting the World through Investing in Higher Education with Daniel A. Burack, Managing Partner, Altman, Burack, Schenker Partner; Susan Miller, The Miller Family Foundation; Lynn Schusterman, Chair, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; Co-Chair, International Board of Governors, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life; and Robert P. Aronson, Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and Acting President, Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life.
The day concluded with a dinner in the new Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard of the Smithsonian Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture featuring addresses by Hillel International Board of Governors Chairman Edgar M. Bronfman and UJC Chairman Joseph S. Kanfer.
Summit sponsor David Einhorn praised participants for their commitment to civil discourse and civic engagement. A noted hedge-fund manager, he called the Summit, "a good investment."
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill student Elizabeth Bernold described how her experience on a social justice alternative break contributed to her Jewish identity.
Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone emphasized the importance of civic engagement to Hillel. He used his remarks as an opportunity to announce the largest grant in Hillel history, a $10.7 million gift from the Jim Joseph Foundation.
A Civil Society and the Controversies Within It (Inside Higher Ed, March 25, 2008)