The following was written by Tobias Humphrey, a first-year student at Gutenberg College, my alma mater in Eugene. Tobias has addressed it to all the members of the Gutenberg alumni community. Tobias gave me permission to reprint it here.
To all the Gutenberg alumni:
Gutenberg Freshman here.
From being a part of the Gutenberg community this year and from snooping around websites and visiting briefly with alumni, I sense that there is a feeling among them that Gutenberg is becoming more conservative minded and losing its intellectual diversity. I can’t say what Gutenberg used to be like, but I can attest to my current experience of it. There is not a variety of thought. And this concerns me.
I’m not saying it is necessarily anyone’s fault. Much of the students currently attending Gutenberg are conservative high school graduates that came to Gutenberg for a classical Christian education. They are mostly interested in doing well academically rather than trying to challenge their personal beliefs. (That is not to say that they aren’t willing to. I appreciate their willingness, in fact.) The tutors are awesome in the sense that they are completely open to hear differing views. However, they all hold similar conservative views. This creates an environment where there are limited, primarily conservative viewpoints.
I thought Gutenberg would be different. The brief discussions which I have been able to have with alumni from time to time have been very encouraging. The alumni seem to have a more diverse range of ideas. This is what I expected Gutenberg to be. But it is not. I’m not saying I don’t like Gutenberg. (It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.) However, I do have a fear that it’s becoming one great big conservative Christian circle jerk. I don’t want that to be true.
So this brings me back to where I started. I have sensed a fear of this among the alumni. Much of this seems to have stemmed from the 2013 Summer Institute and Jack’s recent Sexual Ethics class. Maybe I have not assessed this sentiment correctly. Regardless, if you do have this fear, I would love nothing more than for you to engage with Gutenberg. If you think it suffers from a narrow, conservative bias, then be a voice that will change that. Come to the open classes and offer a differing view point. Be a part of the community. It would be a huge favor to the students. (At least to me.)
To sum up, if you are an alumni who fears that Gutenberg is losing its way: I share this fear. I encourage you to engage. Bring your desperately needed alternative point of view. It will be appreciated.
Thanks for listening.
(Also, this is in no way critiquing anyone at Gutenberg. I have great respect and thankfulness for all the tutors.)
2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Gutenberg College Alumni”
Note to Tobias: you present your overall criticism very graciously. I hope that others do come to class to offer their ideas. (It is so important that there is a range of opinions and that we all find a way to dialogue well with people we don’t agree.)
For myself, I feel that supporting the school financially is more important than encouraging change. I think they need to feel the support of some as much as they hear the critiques of others.
But I just greatly appreciate how kind your letter is. I hope it stirs further conversation.
your argument, that the monetary support of Gutenberg outweighs intellectual diversity makes Gutenberg’s struggle no different than that large, unthinking organization just down the street…the University of Oregon. Gutenberg has been skating the “razor’s edge” financially speaking before, during and after my attendance of the school in 2006. During my attendance they asked/deterred over five of the students in my mega-size freshman class of 20 from coming back because we didn’t had the right ideas. Or, as the Prez of Guty put it, “we think you’d be better challenged elsewhere.” After 2006-2007 and subsequent dismissal of Mr. Stollar, the admissions adviser, Gutenberg took a far more radical swing toward the right and became a “bible” great books college, whatever that means. The trend of the better half of the decade has been to shrink the intellectual diversity. I do not see the trend reversing with or without Midas’ golden touch. They have made it very clear through deed and sometimes word that they are insistent on keeping their intellectual horizons cloistered to what they already know and espouse.