David K. Scott was Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1993-2001.
This is an archive of the Chancellor's Web site during his tenure.

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The Connected University: Building Community in a
Pluralistic World

Susan M. Awbrey, Oakland University
David K. Scott, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Please do not quote this paper in any publication without first contacting the authors as this paper is not fully referenced in this format.

Robert Bellah noted that "one of the greatest challenges for individualistic Americans, is to understand what institutions are--how we form them and how they in turn form us". He comments that instead of the patterned ways we interrelate to form community, institutions are now seen as autonomous systems going on "over our heads". The rise of an interdependent global community, shifts in economic base, an increasingly diverse population and other historic changes have eroded the trust of the American people in their institutions’ abilities to respond.

The reestablishment of trust and the transition to institutions that are poised to meet the challenges of a new century will require changes at the institutional level in the very norms by which organizations operate. A major challenge is the replacement of selfishness with community and movement from fragmentation to interconnectedness. The values of individualism and competitiveness upon which America was founded appear not only to be inadequate but in many ways antithetical to the teamwork and interdependence called for in a new global age.

But modern changes are not isolated incidents. They are part of history’s unfolding -- a long repetitive movement from unity to pluralism in which the desire for certainty and belonging has been in constant tension with the desire for individuality and specialization. This pattern of movement from unity to pluralism is evident throughout our modern culture. We submit that it is to the broad patterns of cultural change that universities must look if they are to move successfully into the next century as strong, viable institutions.

Each transition within society visits confusion and concern upon those who must understand and cope with it. Today we are faced with the fundamental question of how we can move from fragmentation to a connected, transcultural society. John Rawls believes that the answer lies in what he calls overlapping consensus. Rawls states that "to see reasonable pluralism as a disaster is to see the exercise of reason under the conditions of freedom itself as a disaster" Overlapping consensus means that the underlying procedures of the society are essentials that all citizens as free and equal can endorse within their own differing comprehensive world views.

The ongoing dialogue about the balance of rights and responsibilities within a democratic society is itself a tribute to the basic structure of democratic societies that allows such hermeneutic conversation to take place without violence. Hillary Putnam has defined what he calls the epistemological justification of democracy. He writes: "Democracy is not just one form of social life among other workable forms of social life, it is the precondition for the full application of intelligence to the solution of social problems". It is within democracy that the plurality of all voices can be heard.

By endorsing basic structure, citizens form a society in which they are connected by a fundamental principle while free to differ in their comprehensive doctrines. It is the preservation of pluralism that distinguishes this view from those in which community is founded on comprehensive doctrines of a single religion, morality, or philosophy.

Our world is challenging us to trust democracy and to allow the dialogue to expand in ways that are inclusive. New voices are confronting the consensus of long-standing traditions and daring us to engage in a discourse that can identify new areas of overlap and form a new consensus. Change is a difficult process and human beings find security in the continuation of their traditions. Yet some of these practices, such as the very language we use, harbor seeds of prejudice and decay to which we have become blind.

New Pluralism: Open Doors, Open Minds, Open Systems

Cornel West describes this new pluralism as the "cultural politics of difference" which:

"Shuns narrow particularisms, parochialisms and separatisms, just as it rejects false universalisms and homogeneous totalisms. Instead, the new cultural politics of difference affirms the perennial quest for the precious ideals of individuality and democracy by digging deep in the depths of human particularities and social specificities in order to construct new kinds of connections, affinities and communities across empire, nation, region, race, gender, age and sexual orientation. . .The aim is to dare to recast, redefine and revise the very notions of "modernity," "mainstream," "margins," "difference," "otherness."

The presenters believe that the struggle of marginalized groups in our society can offer new insights into the relationship between pluralism and connection. It will be shown that some of the same marginalizing choices facing African Americans exist for other peoples of color, for women, for those from working-class backgrounds, for persons whose sexual orientations or religions differ from the mainstream, and for all scholars who face prejudice and marginalization both as students and faculty. Parker Palmer and others have noted the "pain of disconnection" and "sense of being detached" that many faculty experience in today’s universities. This lack of a sense of community is prevalent throughout the academy but perhaps most keenly experienced by those who are the most marginalized.

If we examine the struggles for equality by African Americans and women in the United States we find several interesting parallels. The period from the beginning effort to win voting rights for black males after the Civil War through Dr. Martin Luther King’s campaign for equality might be seen as a phase of Opening Doors. West’s book Keeping Faith describes the evolution of the black movement. He sees King as an "organic intellectual" of the first order--well grounded in the black experience. King was able to draw together the black churches, the trade unions, professionals and the poor black community. Additionally, West notes that King was able to build bridges to progressive non-black people. The drawback of the early freedom movement of African Americans, in West’s view, was its foundation of assimilationist and homogenizing impulses.

The movement sought equality through the submergence of differences into the dominant culture and an attempted unification. In West’s view this process runs the danger of subordinating the individual to a false universalism--of losing the qualities of difference that make the individual’s contributions and perspective uniquely special.

King’s movement was replaced by the black nationalists. This second stage might be call Opening Minds. It represents an effort to build identity and pride within the African American community. It corresponds with the period of multiculturalism in which diversity is valued. Unfortunately, West notes that the efforts of these black nationalists centered predominantly on the interests of the "new" black middle class leaving the larger black working-class and poor community behind by marginalizing black women, confining black intellectuals to internal dialogues that posed barriers to progressive non-black scholars, and losing meaningful connections to the black community and churches.

He writes that black nationalists left African American intellectuals with few options. First, the black intellectual could return to the assimilationist stance and develop a preoccupation with the legitimizing power of the mainstream thus cutting the individual off from his roots. Second, the individual can move toward an "arrogant group insularity". Although an important step in identity formation this separatist stance can reinforce insecurities and promote a racialist outlook if it becomes permanent. Third, the African American intellectual can choose to "go it alone". This orientation makes it difficult for the individual to "grow, develop and mature intellectually".

Some believe that the fragmentation and strife of the multicultural stage could have been avoided. Perhaps, but only through such evolution can a new world view become possible. Unless one has a sense of self, it is not possible to enter authentically into social relationships as an equal, confident and respected partner. To enter fully into community a foundation of individual dignity and self-identity is first required.Therefore, we believe that this second stage of African American identity is as essential as the first if we are ultimately to attain stage three. This third transformation may see multiculturalism move to transculturalism in which not only is difference celebrated but in which the dominant philosophy is equal and connected.

Arguments about cultural pluralism are both old and on-going. Our belief is best exemplified in the words of social theorist Iris Marion Young. She writes that it is our definitions of difference and identity which have brought us this dilemma between assimilation and self-segregation. If difference means "absolute otherness, mutual exclusion, categorical opposition", then one group be they black, white or any color will be seen to occupy "the position of a norm, against which all others are measured". It is the basis of exclusion. However, if we define difference to mean "specificity, variation, heterogeneity", then difference names relations of similarity and dissimilarity that can be reduced to neither coextensive identity nor nonoverlapping otherness". In this definition difference is relational rather than defined by categories and attributes. It is a "function of the relations between groups and the interaction of groups with institutions". Difference in this sense does not imply that groups lie outside one another. It recognizes that there are overlapping experiences and that groups can have much in common. It also recognizes that individuals belong to several groups at once and it is absurd to expect them to choose between segments of their own being. It allows the development of self-esteem that is based on all that we are rather than forcing us to disparage parts of ourselves in an attempt to emulate an idealized norm.

This view of difference emerges in the third phase of Opening Systems. It is in this process that West’s new option for black intellectuals can become a reality. He believes that African American scholars must become "critical organic catalysts", grounded in the community outside the academy. Renewing the freedom movement, according to West, will require the inclusion and organization of the larger black community, the "retooling" of black intellectuals (as organic catalysts), and the development of alliances with progressive whites and other persons of color.

As we examine these three stages we can see the movement from legally driven goals such as affirmative action, to ethically driven goals of attitude change, to strategically driven goals that focus on changing behaviors and creating new ways of working together within organizations. We have adapted this model from Gardenswartz and Rowe’s work on diversity because we believe it fits within a broader framework for change. It is important to note, however, that the development of Open Systems is dependent on Open Doors and Open Minds and we do not believe that the struggle to open doors and minds has yet been won in America although progress has been made. [Review the outline of Gardenswartz and Rowe’s stages].

If we examine the stages of development of the feminist movement we find patterns similar to the black struggle. In The Dissenting Feminist Academy Gisele Thibault describes the barriers of "scientific" and "biological" theories that women faced as they first attempted to acquire the right to vote and to enter academe. It was during the First Stage of feminist dissent that early female researchers began to challenge this "scientific evidence" within the psychological community. Researchers such as Helen Thompson Woolley and Leta Hollingsworth "ardently denounced the hypothesis that women’s intellectual capacities were less than men’s." Thibault notes that, although successful in debunking such theories, women again saw gene-based explanations of intellectual differences reemerge as dominant cultural influences in the 1970’s and 1980’s. A parallel might be drawn to the recent reemergence of biologically based theories of racial intelligence represented in works such as The Bell Curve.

The beginning of the Second Stage of feminism also fits within the process of Opening Doors as women struggled for equality within the framework of the dominant society. In the academy this meant seeking equal access, equal opportunity, equal representation in faculty ranks, and confronting issues of equality in promotion, tenure, salaries, and hiring. At this point in the movement the options facing women scholars would have seemed familiar to African Americans. Thibault writes:

Very often, women were forced to abandon their culture as they entered an academic world dominated by men. It was significant that the integration into a male world -- sexually, professionally, and politically -- meant that women were isolated from their culture and lost their old feminine supports [outside academe] with no supports inside the university to replace them.

When women tried to assimilate into male-dominated institutions, without securing feminist social, economic, or political bases, they lost the momentum and the networks which made the suffrage movement possible. Women gave up many of the strengths of the female sphere without gaining equally from the man’s world they entered

Nineteenth century women took it for granted that the public and private spheres of life were well partitioned and they accepted this as "natural". Thus, they accepted the need to assimilate to the "male" world when they entered the work force or academe. However, as more women entered the work world and became educated the tension between the private "feminine" world and the "male" public world increased. Women recognized that "while the private and public spheres have distinctive features, they cannot be intellectually separated" and "Because personal life itself, concretely, reinforces and strengthens social relations of domination, the ‘personal is political’". This issue became identified as the ‘career vs. family dilemma’. Two important factors resulted from this issue. First, one of the predominantly proposed solutions was to recognize that there is no solution and that women should focus on a career. However, this philosophy began to alienate many women, including poor and working-class women, from the movement. We see again a movement being torn away from the larger community and associated with what were perceived to be middle class goals. Second, this proposed solution although recognizing the public/private split as being "male-constructed with men’s best interests at heart", also allowed the "male constructed" definition of reality, i.e., the public/private split, to continue. Whereas, in the Third Stage of the women’s movement the public/private split has instead become recognized as ideological and not a "given" reality.

In the European model from which America borrowed these spheres have been rigidly separated and defined along gender lines. The presence of women in the academic and professional world in roles other than "help-mates" or "office wives" who take care of the social and menial tasks necessary to keep the institution functioning, according to Second Stage feminists, was seen as a threat to the male established split between the public [work] and private [home] spheres of life.

One interesting occurrence related to this phenomenon is the introduction of other models into our environment. Cultures with which we now interact in global trade and relations and from which our new diverse work force is drawn do not always evidence the same public/private split in their customs that the European model exemplifies. This experience of the "other" often results in misinterpretation of intent and misidentification of capabilities. For example, workers who talk and socialize while engaging in their work are often labeled in Western society as having frivolous attitudes, being unserious, and lacking in work ethic because socializing belongs to the private sphere. Yet, in Puerto Rican and many Hispanic cultures such interaction is typical and expected. Thus, as we are drawn deeper into a pluralistic world we become more and more aware that gender and race are only convenient rationalizations for an underlying, fundamental fear and rejection of difference that drives all prejudice. This is not to overlook the importance of the heinous treatment of African Americans as slaves, the destruction of Native American peoples, the internment of Japanese Americans or the other outrages and injustices that have been suffered. It is to point out that the reasons given for the justification of such treatment are merely rationalizations for a deeper cause and that all of these people suffered because difference was equated with inferiority.

Under an oppressive ideology it is the dominant group that defines what is and is not inferior, i.e., what is and is not "other". In the current Third Stage of the feminist development an awareness has arisen that women are being defined as "not a man". Like African Americans, women are dropping their desire to assimilate into a preestablished world and demanding to be valued for their unique contributions and viewpoints. They have entered the process of Opening Minds. Thibault writes that women are seeking out new ways of "restructuring institutions and work towards transforming the nature of power itself." They are rejecting "equality on male terms" and using their own perspective to fashion alternative systems of thought, language and practice which reflect alternative value systems.

It is interesting to note that, as we enter an era in which the importance of human factors are again on the ascendance, many of the early insights of women reformers in the first stage of the women’s movement are being rediscovered by men. One example of this is modern management theory. An article in the January issue of Forbes magazine highlighted the work of Mary Parker Follet who in the 1920's was calling for flatter organizations, extolling the benefits of teams and participative management, saying leadership comes from ability not position, proposing a new kind of cooperative conflict resolution for labor disputes, and advising that we tap the first-hand knowledge of the workers. Modern management expert Peter Drucker says "You may say I reinvented her...only I didn’t know that she existed". London School of Economics Chairman Sir Peter Parker quipped "People often puzzle about who is the father of management...I don’t know who the father was, but I have no doubt about who was the mother".

Mary Parker Follet is a good example of what feminist Whitty means when she writes that knowledge is a "social invention, [which] reflects conscious or unconscious cultural choices that [accord] with the values and beliefs of dominant groups" Follett’s ideas were put forward at a time when the prevailing management theorist was Fredrick Taylor and command-style, hierarchical organizations inspired by the military were the dominate model and virtually all executives were men. It was almost three quarters of a century before Follett’s ideas resurfaced under the banner of modern management with new authors.

Third Stage feminist women are Opening Minds by forging their own identity in a world they are redefining. Nevertheless, we are again reminded of Cornell West’s concern that the connection to the larger community may be lost. Thus, just as African Americans must reach out to other segments of the black community and to other races, the women’s movement too must move to the process of Opening Systems and reaching across class and gender lines if we are to achieve a transcultural society. As we enter the third phase of Opening Systems groups will come more and more to identify the areas of overlap and similarity which allow them to communicate and make authentic contributions to the on-going work of their institutions.

To achieve the next transition to a transcultural society Henry Giroux calls for a new shared "discourse of hope" ... "a critical dialogue rather than unquestioning reverence" in which there is an "interfacing of multiple cultural codes, knowledge forms, and modes of inquiry" to initiate the "possibility of creating new languages and social practices that connect rather than separate education and cultural work from every day life". As teachers we must become "transformative intellectuals" and as scholars "reflective practitioners". For, as Audre Lorde notes "difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic"

But what does this mean in practice. With regard to diversity, it means that we must build organizational environments that "enable all people to perform up to their maximum potential" by creating policies and practices that foster diversity not because we have to, or even because it is right, but because it is essential for the long-term survival of our institutions and society. It will be the responsibility of our institutional leaders to 1) create plans that foster awareness of what the research says about the benefits of managing diversity These include lower costs, improved employee attitudes, attraction and retention of competent employees, improved relations with the external community, increased creativity and innovation, 2) create practices such as those identified by Ann Morrison’s landmark study of sixteen of the nation’s organizations most successful in managing diversity, and 3) promote reality checks by providing demographic information about our current and future society and how it differs from the past.

Additionally, leaders face the very difficult task of reframing our view of the institution--of what organizational psychoanalysts call the "organization in the mind". Organizations play psychological roles for employees that help them alleviate anxiety. As Eric Fromm noted, "in the late nineteenth century, the development of complex urban life brought individual freedoms at once liberating and burdensome compared with the more guaranteed securities of the close-knit, premodern world". In today’s era of downsizing and reengineering, rapid change has exacerbated feelings of insecurity and powerlessness. Bellah’s more recent studies underline the "intensity of many Americans’ longing for a sense of community and acceptance they simply do not obtain at work...where job security is often in question and self-worth must continually be proved." Within this ambiguous and changing environment people still seek to resolve the basic human psychological problem of recognition.

Sociologist Lynn Chancer writes that in the most primitive sense "in order for life to thrive, human beings must feel acknowledged or recognized by others." She notes that there appear to be three solutions to this problem: first, one can subordinate oneself to another person in exchange for the other’s acknowledging, recognizing, and legitimizing one’s existence; second, an individual can subordinate another person to oneself and demand that they recognize and serve; third, the individual can understand that to be authentic recognition must be granted by another person who in some way cannot be controlled by the self, who has a degree of autonomy. In this view, people are both dependent on and independent of the "other". For, only if the other person is independent can I know for certain that they acknowledge me freely.

Thus, the "ability to tolerate some degree of uncertainty between self and other bestows a stronger rather than a weaker sense of internal confidence as well as a genuine sense of recognition. Helping people to live with uncertainty and ambiguity, and to deal with their fear of difference in ways that do not trigger controlling defenses will be key to a successful transition to a transcultural, pluralistic society. We can create new organizational structures in which the old hierarchies of dominance and subordination disappear, but they will reemerge in new forms as people attempt to discharge their anxiety unless we also provide them with new avenues for finding the recognition, meaning, and community they seek.

It is to this broader issue of reframing the view of institutions and what universities might become that our book is devoted. If we expand the threefold transformation that we have examined in the specific case of diversity we can see a wider framework of change that is working itself out in society and within our institutions of higher education.



The university has moved through the stages of the homogeneous university to the fragmented multiversity and has now arrived at a new transition point. We believe the next transformation will be to the connected transversity. This new transversity will be multidimensionally connected not only within and across disciplines, but across cultural boundaries such as race, gender and sexual orientation and across barriers to the broader society that separate it from secondary education, industry, government and other higher education institutions around the country and around the world.

But this transformation is built upon earlier stages. Initially isolating themselves from the external world, universities began as guilds of students and scholars with a strong sense of internal community. In the United States from the founding of Harvard to the mid-nineteenth century, institutions of higher learning focused on teaching. They were universities of single purpose and homogeneous student bodies. The first great transformation in this model can be traced to the Morrill Act of 1862 which created land grant universities in each of the States that would be dedicated to the idea of service and the furthering of practice particularly in the areas of agriculture and engineering. Harold Enarson has referred to this dramatic shift in emphasis as a novel idea which set forth that "public universities should contribute to the health, subsistence and comfort of all of the state’s people rather than to the prosperity, morality, religious piety and intellect of the individual, tuition-paying college goers". However, the concept of service as a part of the university’s mission did not have an easy birth. It was not until the creation of Agricultural Experiment Stations and the Cooperative Extension Service that the idea took hold and prospered in the United States .

By the turn of the century a second transformation was already beginning. This one has its roots not in American democracy but in the speculative Zeitgeist of 19th century Germany. It was the inclusion of the powerful research component in the university’s mission. This transformation gained prominence after World War II and completed the tripartite mission of the university that we know today. These two transformations were also the moving springs for the rise of the multiversity. Clark Kerr has described the multiversity as a pluralistic institution "in having several purposes, not one; in having several centers of power, not one; in serving different clienteles, not one. It worshipped no single God; it constituted no single, unified community . . . It was marked by many visions of the Good, the True and the Beautiful".

These vast institutions not only have difficulty in developing a sense of connectedness with their external environment but have lost their sense of internal cohesion. The proliferation of research centers and institutes, and the strong ties within disciplines across universities, rather than between disciplines within universities, have been the result of the uneasy alliance of the threefold mission. Daniel Alpert summarizes the phenomenon : "In recent years there has been a strong trend toward further organizational fragmentation--often to the level of the individual professor. The process has been accelerated by several features . . . among them the continuing increase in specialization, the system of performance evaluation, and the contractual mechanisms for the federal support of academic research"

We find a profusion of voices heralding a third transformation in higher education (see, for example, Bok, 1990; Duderstadt, 1992; Palmer, 1992; Rhodes, 1990; Shapiro, 1991-92; Turner, 1986; Wilson, 1992). As the university approaches this transition from the fragmented multiversity to a new more connected transversity we must pause to consider the options for building this new commonwealth of learning. It is always attractive to contemplate a return to simpler times such as those of the unified university. This nostalgic desire is understandable in a world of fragmentation and change. However, nothing of value can be gained by discarding hard-won achievements. While in maturity we may long for the less complex time of childhood, nevertheless we are forced to recognize the importance of our subsequent experiences to the person we have become. So too, higher education can use and value the lessons of its first two transformations as it enters a new phase and moves from the traditional to the transitional and on to a transformational, connected-pluralistic vision..

Because the third transformation of the university is dependent on maintaining the best of pluralism while at the same time developing a new sense of community and connectedness, it will require a reexamination of the comprehensive doctrines that undergird current higher education. The importance of developing an environment that fosters internal and external connections may require a revision of the knowledge-oriented inquiry principle upon which the university is currently founded . In meeting the challenges of a new age it may no longer be possible to concentrate solely on the generation, transmission and application of knowledge.

The next transformation may well replace the university’s knowledge focus with a focus on wisdom. As philosopher Nicholas Maxwell states: "We urgently need a new, more rigorous kind of inquiry that gives intellectual priority to the tasks of articulating our problems of living and proposing and critically assessing possible cooperative solutions. This new kind of inquiry would have as its basic aim to improve, not just knowledge, but also personal and global wisdom---wisdom being understood to be the capacity to realize what is of value in life." He further states "A basic intellectual task of philosophy-of-wisdom inquiry is to help all of us imbue our personal and social lives with vividly imagined and criticized possible actions, so that we may discover, and perform where possible, those actions that enable us to realize what is of value---happiness, health, sanity, friendship, love, freedom, justice, prosperity, democracy, creative endeavor, productive work---all that is of value and that is compatible with or conducive to building a good world---it being understood, of course that knowledge and understanding can in themselves be of value in life and that they are vital dimensions to almost everything else of value". This view is not an appeal to replace inquiry with the method of authority but to expand inquiry beyond the realm of knowledge and apply it also to the realm of values.

Henry Giroux describes it best when he claims this new type of pedagogy necessitates combining the modernist emphasis on the capacity of individuals to use critical reason to address the issue of public life with a postmodernist concern for how we might experience agency in a world constituted in differences unsupported by transcendent phenomena or metaphysical guarantees.

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