BC flows with intelligent life

Maryann Kopp

The issue of whether intellectualism is thriving or even exists in Bakersfield has long since been a topic for debate. The level of intellectual activity on the Bakersfield College campus is no exception.
When asked about how they perceived how BC fared in terms of intelligence, overall, professors Reggie Williams, Rene Trujillo and Randy Beeman were all optimistic.
“I am happy to respond to your inquiry by noting that intellectualism is alive and well among our faculty and our students,” Beeman began.
He went on to mention different BC faculty members who not only contributed to the campus in terms of cultivating “intellectual inquiry and achievement that transcended the classroom experience,” as the first president of BC, Grace Van Dyke Bird, had, but also reached beyond BC to publish books or even have plays they have written and performed on Broadway, much like the late Frank Wattron.
“Today we have an array of faculty who keep this intellectual tradition alive,” Beeman continued. “Dr. Reggie Williams is publishing at a level that would lead him to tenure at an Ivy League school, and Dr. Ed Barton in the English Department is the author of a literary glossary used around the country in English courses. Many of our faculty, such as Gloria Dumler in the English Department, are long time supporters of the arts here in the community.”
Beeman, a history instructor, has also published a book alongside many articles while teaching at BC, and assures that he has “continued to work as a scholar on the national and international level.”
Williams, while admitting that Bakersfield “definitely doesn’t have enough intellectualism,” also had plenty of positive things to say about the overall state of things at BC.
“I love ideas,” said Williams, a philosophy instructor. “What gets me interested in my ideas and part of what I have had published in philosophy journals have emerged from discussions in class.”
Williams, in fact, had a paper on affirmative action published in 2005, which was inspired by a question a former student of his brought up in class, whom he was sure to thank in his first footnote.
What helped to bring that about is something that both Beeman and Williams have in common: staying current on what is developing in their respective fields and bringing that knowledge into the classroom for scrutiny and discussion.
“I personally think that the really important part of me staying on top of my game in teaching consists of staying on top of what is going on in my field now,” said Williams. “That way I don’t end up as that proverbial 85-year-old teacher who is still talking about the 1930s.”
Part of staying on top involves writing papers and giving lectures on them in different venues, which is exactly what Williams will be doing on Oct. 19 at 3:30 p.m. at CSUB, where he will be discussing his same-sex marriage paper.
Rene Trujillo, who only recently started teaching philosophy at BC, compared the level of intellectual activity to those of places he taught before.
“I spent 15 plus years in the Bay Area teaching and also being a college administrator,” Trujillo began. “One of the nice things was the target-rich environment of educational organizations and institutions. Through San Jose and San Francisco we had roughly a dozen community colleges, and we also had half a dozen CSUs and some UCs. On top of that, there were private schools. So there was a lot of opportunity to engage in all things intellectual. There were talks on just about anything every week. There were a number of exchanges between schools, too.
“I thought that when I came here, that there wouldn’t be an avenue to engage in such activities just because, first off, the size of Bakersfield, and the fact that we have just one main junior college and one CSU and not a whole lot else in terms of brick and mortar places. I was pleasantly surprised with BC and the staff here.”
Trujillo went on to list the many discussions that have already taken place this semester, alone, at BC and was impressed with the recent discussion on business and ethics, as it included “Confucian ethics” along with other points one would expect from a discussion on U.S. ethics.
Other professors, such as philosophy professor Michael Einhaus, were not as optimistic about the state of intellectualism, or lack thereof.
“I’ve spent many an hour drinking adult beverages and ruminating about the depressing situation we are in,” Einhaus began. “If you measure the intellectual health of a campus community by the amount of vigorous exploration and debate of important issues among students and faculty, then BC is somewhere between needing vitamins and needing an IV.”
One of the reasons for this problem, according to Einhaus, is that BC is becoming more and more of what he refers to as “a commuter campus.”
“The professors come to class and teach, hold their office hours and leave,” explained Einhaus. “The students come and sit through class, and as soon as class is over, they head home or to work.
“Everyone has a busy schedule and there is very little time to spend exploring issues and ideas in an intellectually curious way other than in the classroom. And this builds a misconception that the proper place to be spending your time thinking and exploring and questioning should be during class, not outside of class.”
Another reason for intellectually stunted growth, in Einhaus’ opinion, is political correctness.
“Political correctness has so polluted the intellectual waters that people are loath to defend their views in an intellectually open and honest way lest they be branded a racist, sexist, homophobe, mean-spirited idiot, etc. Its just easier to avoid confrontation.”
Various faculty members are striving to open more avenues for students to be more involved in thought provoking activities on and outside of campus.
“It would be nice for more students to get involved,” said Trujillo. “For example, we have First Fridays, but what I am talking about is getting more opportunities for students to present papers or essays, things that they’ve written for classes that may have gotten attention in the class, so that they can bounce ideas off of each other.
“I’d like to try to get some activities connected to a sort of philosophy club that could sponsor a colloquium in the spring once a year and might be able to tie it to some initiatives that we have to create new prizes for people in the philosophy department.”
According to Trujillo, Williams is developing a new award, which will be connected to the winning essay at the proposed colloquium.
“So many of our faculty have talents that extend beyond their teaching expertise,” said Beeman. “I would encourage students to talk to their professors about the process of becoming lifelong learners.”
Einhaus also had a few suggestions for increasing intellectual involvement.
“My first suggestion would be for the student democrat and republican clubs to take seriously the idea that they are here to educate the student population about important issues,” said Einhaus. “This could hopefully result in a greater number of debates or panel discussions on timely issues.
“Second, the administration could, I suppose, offer to help the academic departments in a financial sense, at least. They could recruit speakers who could easily and cheaply come to BC and talk to us about important issues such as the war in Iraq, health care, immigration, and so on.
“After that, it is up to the instructors to promote such events and involve themselves with students who demonstrate any interest.”
Trujillo had some more suggestions on how to expand upon what BC already has going on.
“It would be nice to see if we could piggy back with SGA and Student Services and do some joint things on campus, things that are more student oriented, not just with professors or outside speakers but something that would get students involved. While I’m very impressed with the faculty here and how engaged they are internally, I think there’s room to grow and we can learn from what other communities do.”