SLF Holds Intellectualism Council

Kate Preziosi

In a candid address to the members of Tuesday’s Intellectualism Conference, sponsored by the Colgate Speaking Union (CSU), Harry Emerson Fosdick Professor of Philosophy and Religion Jerry Balmuth explained his perspective on a dire issue facing the University’s student body.

“The issue is compartmentalization of Colgate life. Our students perceive Colgate as a place where they work hard and they play hard. This duality of experience is typical and characteristic of data on college life. Well, that’s not the way it is in life itself,” Balmuth said.

Addressing the faculty and students in attendance, Balmuth’s words on the divide between academic and social spheres spoke to the purpose of the conference, which allowed for an open discussion about bridging this gap between the spheres.

But, as attendee first-year Nicole la Hausse de Lalouviere pointed out, “I think that’s just the way college students function. They have all their activities organized in carefully determined time slots: classes, homework, clubs and sports. It is efficient, but it gives them the illusion that these activities are completely separate and each one is done so intensely that all they feel like is moving on to something else when one of them ends.”

CSU faculty advisor Jeannine Privat feels that there are still opportunities to enhance intellectual life beyond what is required for students.

“Many of the ‘intellectual’ activities of the CSU aim to be challenging, but also fun,” she said. “By doing this, the student organizations form a unique niche where students can intellectually challenge each other in a relaxed environment beyond the classroom.”

At Tuesday’s conference, Privat enlisted the 22 in attendance to solve a question: “What can Colgate student organizations do to support intellectualism on campus? That’s really something this program is all about, something all four organizations [that comprise CSU] strive to do in our activities.”

Summing up his table’s discussion for the rest of the group, first-year Conor Tucker shared some thoughts for intellectual integration.

“One idea was to hold a speakers’ bureau which would have professors switch disciplines in order to foster interdisciplinary thought on campus,” he said. “There was also the idea of a CSU weekend. But the big thing we talked about was discussions on campus and how to foster those.”

First-year Hannah Robinson said that her group felt it was important to promote the intellectual opportunities on campus to the incoming first-years.

“Maybe we could do something during orientation,” she said. “It would be a good idea to connect with the freshman class.”

In his initial speech, Balmuth offered the idea of a student-sponsored lecture series “in which there is a self-examination of Colgate life itself.” He suggested several topics of relevance to America’s youth, including abortion, the Iraq War and religious life.

He also felt the CSU should provide a forum for observing the economic status of the Colgate community in relation to the country, so as to provide an “examination of the privileges which [sic] Colgate students take for granted.”

Some reasoned that the campus does host some outlets for students interested in further enriching their intellectual experience at Colgate.

“I think the CORE classes are a perfect means to encourage intellectualism and they are successful to a certain degree,” Lalouviere said.

Yet the faculty and students in attendance on Tuesday were speaking to a deeper issue that is not isolated within the Colgate campus — one that cannot be easily solved: the “work-hard, play-hard” ethos pervasive in the attitudes of the youth today.

“The notion that, somehow, when the artificial fifty minutes of class time ends, then you go out and lead your social life, and nothing in the classroom reflects that social life,” mused Balmuth. “That needs to be resisted, and this group clearly is aware of that. Now, I suggest that there must be some way we can bring that to the attention of our fellow students that the world doesn’t fall into these compartments. Life doesn’t.”