Haverford and Bryn Mawr absent from character-development rankings
By biconews On 15 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Tom Goodhue

The John Templeton Foundation recently released a guide ranking colleges according to their focus on character development. Neither Haverford nor Bryn Mawr made the list of the top 100 colleges encouraging character development, although Haverford was recognized as an exemplary institution in two subcategories.

According to the web site, “The John Templeton Foundation established the Honor Roll for Character-Building Colleges to recognize biennially those institutions that emphasize character development as an integral aspect of the undergraduate experience.” Of the 100 institutions

recognized, all “exhibit a strong and inspiring campus-wide ethos that articulates the expectations of personal and civic responsibility in all dimensions of college life.”

The Foundation defines “character” as “the constellation of strengths and weaknesses that form and reveal who we are. Our character does not consist of a single statement or a random act but of those qualities and dispositions that we practice consistently.”

A wide variety of schools were represented in the Templeton Honor Roll, from Yale and Princeton to George Fox University and Southwest Missouri State University.

In addition to the 100-school honor roll, colleges were recognized in 10 “exemplary” areas. Haverford was commended for its academic honesty as one of 35 colleges “that effectively communicate the values of honesty, trust, respect, responsibility, integrity, and fairness in the classroom.” Haverford was also one of 40 colleges noted for its civic education program, one which “encourages students to develop the skills and habits of mind to become active, well-informed, responsible citizens in a democratic society.”

Haverford College Professor of Philosophy Lucius Outlaw de-emphasizes the rankings, saying, “Character development gets done through what people do, not through explicit instruction.”

Nevertheless, Outlaw believes that character development at Haverford needs to be examined. “I worry significantly that the way the character development at Haverford is going is in danger. We have to ask ourselves some hard questions.”

In particular, Outlaw expresses concern that Haverford does not provide guidance to students: “We don’t provide a lot of structured things. We must focus more on managing the culture of this institution.”

Haverford senior Jessica Braider argues that character development is a natural part of a Haverford education: “I think Haverford has a pretty clear idea of what they would like to see in the characters of their students and so they try to accentuate those characteristics, such as respect for oneself, the community, etc. I think Haverford believes that through the Honor Code, Haverford students are given a guideline of what strong character should be.”

In addition, Bryn Mawr College was not recognized in any of the ten categories.

Dean Karen Tidmarsh downplays the significance of the rankings, saying, “Ranking institutions which are so different in their goals and constituencies is pretty impossible at best, but when one is trying to assess and give numerical rank to something as complicated as ‘character development,’ it seems especually futile.”

Noting the high level of character she believes exists at both institutions, Bryn Mawr President Nancy Vickers maintains that “Both Bryn Mawr and Haverford have lively and historic commitments to cultivating students’ capacities for civic participation, leadership and personal responsibility.”

In addition, she notes, “I do not think Bryn Mawr completed the nomination forms (for the Templeton rankings). Our offices have no record of receiving them, though it is certainly possible we did.”

Rankings were compiled based on nominations and applications submitted by colleges and higher education associations, and on independent research performed by the Templeton Foundation.

A complete list of categories and results can be found at: http://www.collegeandcharacter.org

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