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Going in a Different Direction

As a graduate of both Swarthmore and the University of Chicago Divinity School, I watched a Web video of President Chopp’s Q+A session at Alumni Weekend with real delight. I have always believed that the two pieces of my higher education fit together well, but when I heard the thoughtful tones of a [Chicago] Swift Hall Wednesday Lunch talk in the setting of Lang Concert Hall, I found my faith confirmed.

However, two items in the July Bulletin disturbed this confirmation. First, although I am sympathetic to Editor Jeffrey Lott’s attempt in “Parlor Talk” to encourage a wider spectrum of personal stories from alums, I thought the way he did so mirrored the condescension he professed to avoid. The ending juxtaposed, in successive sentences, the categories of “victims of economic, social, and natural forces beyond their control” and “classmates and friends whose lives have ‘gone in a different direction.’” This collocation created an unfortunate impression that Swarthmore graduates without outstanding achievements are victims who deserve compassion. I doubt this appeal will encourage anyone to share personal experiences that are meaningful but less than ideal. Actual change in the type and tone of future Bulletin articles would do more to sincerely open doors to all alums’ life stories.

Second, both as a scholar of religion and as a graduate, I was unhappy to see that the Class Notes will now be split among different versions of the Bulletin. I wrote a dissertation including three chapters on the Society of Friends’ publication of female writers because Swarthmore taught me, through its history and ethos even more than coursework, that persistence and change in Friends’ beliefs made their personal narrative writing worth studying. Quakers’ own histories and historiographies enriched my work. Splitting the older and younger graduates’ Class Notes diminishes what future historians as well as current alums can learn about years when the College included more Friends among its student body—an intellectual as well as a personal loss. The option to receive both versions of the Bulletin seems neither cost effective nor environmentally responsible. I hope some modification is being considered so that I can still receive all Class Notes without two paper Bulletins.

Christina Devlin ’86
Montgomery Village, Md.

Editor’s Note: No condescension was intended in my July “Parlor Talk,” and I regret that it might have been perceived in that way. As for the Class Notes, readers will note that this issue contains all of the classes. We did indeed reconsider the idea, and you will find a further explanation in this issue’s “Parlor Talk.”

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