12 September, 2002
Every top exec knows company image is everything, especially those whose stock values have recently tumbled. Bobby Vagt knows this too. Davidson relies on its image to attract each year’s new students, to pursue new benefactors and faculty—in short, to perpetuate its very existence. The image we broadcast to the world is tightly manipulated and carefully controlled by the administration so that the Davidson community can maintain its standard of excellence while striving to improve it.
Such improvement ironically requires the appearance of having already attained what one is striving for; apparent qualities, through their display, lead to actual ones. In order to become the school we want to be, we must work hard to simulate the very environment we lack, else the people whose presence can turn that vision into a reality will simply never show up.
The simulation of diversity is active in some arenas. The percentage of minorities represented on our web page far outweighs their actual proportion in the student body. Students who went abroad in high school pad rather meager international-student numbers. These generous interpretations of the student population signal that diversity is a priority, but other admissions policies undercut it. Is a school that still prefers to draw fifty percent of its students from the southeastern United States really after diversity? In this light, the number- fudging begins to resemble a strategy for stagnancy rather than improvement.
We become who we perform, not who we claim to be on paper. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.
--l a m a r