Task force hears student opinions on faith, service

by Roshan Dutta | 11/5/13 7:15pm

Students disagreed on linking the faith and service aspects of Tucker.

`A task force to assess the Tucker Foundation’s mission, structure and leadership held an open forum to solicit student feedback on Tuesday. The audience, composed mostly of task force members and students affiliated with the foundation, discussed the possible separation of the religious and social justice aspects of the foundation and potential strategies to expose a wider range of students to opportunities made available by the organization. The forum is among a number of task force meetings, many of which have been private.

College President Phil Hanlon assembled the task force in August after revoking The Right Rev. James Tengatenga’s appointment as Tucker dean. The task force will submit recommendations on the mission, structure and leadership of the foundation by Jan. 15.

Students not involved with Tucker cited the organization’s lack of outreach to the student body as the reason for their hesitancy to participate. During the forum, Evelyn Fernandez-Lizarraga ’16 said she attended out of curiosity and lack of public information about the organization’s purpose.

“I didn’t really understand how to get involved with Tucker — there aren’t many public messages outside of the occasional blitz,” she said.

In response to criticisms of the foundation’s presence on social media, Tuck School of Business professor and task force chair John Vogel asked attendees to suggest other on-campus organizations’ with successful marketing campaigns.

A number of students, in response, suggested the organization emulate the success of the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, which reaches out to the student body through frequent campus-wide emails.

Following the discussion on possible outreach opportunities, conversation returned to reviewing the foundation’s mission.

The Tucker Foundation’s current mission is to “educate Dartmouth students for lives of purpose and ethical leadership, rooted in service, spirituality and social justice.”

Andrew Zulker ’15, who is involved with Tucker through the student faith-based organization Cru, attended the forum and said he supported the foundation’s history of consolidating religion, spirituality and everyday life.

“However messy it might be, I think that the integration between your religious life, and the other facets of your life, say, academics or sports, is really important,” he said.

Some of the students and faculty in attendance voiced their support for maintaining the Tucker Foundation’s place as the intersection of different faiths in an everyday social setting.

A number of attendees said Tucker was the only designated space on campus for inter-religious discourse, and emphasized the importance of maintaining this role.

Other forum attendees said by presenting the foundation as a conglomeration of religious groups and community service projects, it alienates potential members who are looking to explore a specific religion or an experience solely grounded in service and social justice. As such, they said, the majority of the members of the 23 recognized religious groups on campus remain unaffiliated with the Tucker Foundation.

Some audience members also expressed concern with the organization’s emphasis on the intersection between religious or spiritual life and community service. Attendees agreed that some students do not participate in community service with Tucker because they might be wary of the implied religious overtones and that members of the Dartmouth community look at the Tucker Foundation, see a broad connection between spirituality and community service, and do not see exactly how they fit into the organization’s goals.

Reuben Hurst ’12, a task force member, said because of the lack of another on-campus organization dedicated to religious discourse and faith-based service, the College must consider creating a new organization for open spiritual discussion before the foundation can separate its religious and service-based goals.

“A combination between religion and community service does not exist in any other space besides Tucker,” Hurst said. “If inter-religious discourse does not happen at Tucker, then where will it be housed?”

Members of the Tucker Foundation’s task force declined further comment outside of the forum.