As many of us know, Muhlenberg held a “Teach-In” on Feb. 3, which consisted of informal lectures on an array of subjects that are newly important in the beginnings of the Trump administration. The event was a success, and one that many people expressed should return periodically throughout the next four years and beyond. This return is very likely, because on Feb. 3, 1993, then- President Arthur Taylor held a “Plan- In” on campus. Though this event was geared towards College-specific problems, the Plan-In would be a hot topic in The Weekly for the next couple years, returning to campus periodically.
The Plan-In was announced in the Jan. 29, 1993 issue of The Weekly, with the entire page dedicated to “The Muhlenberg Campus Plan-In.” The article describes the intentions of the Plan-in, writing, “the Plan-In will consist primarily of a variety of different discussion groups in which members of the Muhlenberg community will be given the opportunity to contribute suggestions.” Taylor hoped, the article continues, that the Plan-In would “generate new ideas for improving Muhlenberg College.” Though similar to the recent Teach-In with its intention to allow students and faculty to come together and reflect, the Plan-In was different in multiple ways. The biggest of which was its length; instead of short, half hour lectures throughout an afternoon, the Plan-In lasted a whole day. Taylor cancelled all classes, seemingly giving students, faculty, and staff no reason not to attend. Of course, the other biggest difference was its leader: President Taylor. Taylor, a businessman by trade, modeled the Plan-In off of old Japanese business techniques in hopes to foster a more cohesive sense of community. The Plan-In was just his first step in a thirty day period of inward collegiate reflection and improvement.
The rather sudden arrival of such a serious improvement plan caught many off guard, including the former Editor- in-Chief of The Weekly, Stephanie Bahniuk. In an editorial after the Plan- In was announced, Bahniuk states that when the Public Relations department approached her and asked her to cover the Plan-In, she “was clueless as to what exactly it was,” but after looking into it, wrote “I can’t begin to express how important I think it is for everyone to get involved on Feb. 3.”
The whole event kicked off bright and early with a continental breakfast at 8:45 a.m. followed by the President’s Message. During his address, Taylor really hit home the importance of this Plan-In, stating, “We will begin a deadly serious process to find a powerful concept for Muhlenberg which will make us truly distinctive among colleges. Everyone is a participant in the process.” Following his remarks, students were welcomed to attend the three, 60-90 minute sessions spanning 10:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Altogether, the day-long event hosted 32 sessions, divided into four main categories: Student Focus, Teaching, Globalization, and Financial Resources. These sessions spanned topics ranging from “In search of Muhlenberg’s optimal size,” to “The Greeks—Crisis or opportunity?” These sessions would each have a faculty/staff leader, a “resource person,” who was an expert in that field, and a recorder who would write down every and any suggestion, “regardless of how general, specific, or drastic the suggestion was.”
Most of the campus believed the Plan-In to be a resounding success. Taylor himself believed the event would “go down as an historic day in the life of this College.” All however, were not so impressed. Managing Editor Scott Wolfson wrote an article titled “Where Were The Guys?” in which he calls out the male athletes on campus after only four cumulatively showed up to the Plan- In. Wolfson wrote that “it was disgraceful and discouraging to see such poor attendance by male athletes—varsity and recreational… I am beginning to get the impression that male athletes are more comfortable with the perks and privileges that they know they receive.” Wolfson believes that this lack of representation was entirely counterproductive to the purpose of the Plan-In, and this was the athletes one shot to freely air either their grievances or suggestions and be met with actual change. Summing up his anger and frustration with the athletes, he finished his article writing, “you guys left myself and particular athletic staff in an uncomfortable situation during the Plan-In; and now you’re going to be forced to play with the score in the other team’s favor.”
With mostly positive feelings after the Plan-In, it was now up to the administration to not only read through all of the notes taken during the sessions, but also finally act. It wasn’t until March that Weekly headlines began talking about the information gained in the Plan- In. With such a wealth of information and opinion finally collected, Taylor wasted no time in improving Muhlenberg. In the following months there were votes made on attendance policies, environmental actions, and Muhlenberg traditions, just to name a few. Going off of the success of the February ‘93 Plan-In, an aptly named Plan-In II was scheduled for Sept. 18, 1995.
Given the success of the first Plan-In along with the second, Muhlenberg not only corrected its troublesome course, but also cemented the role of student opinion in college decisions moving forward. Though the recent teach-in was held for reasons outside of Muhlenberg, the reasoning still stands: the opinions of students should be valued. If in your following years as a college student you become discontent with the directions the College takes, remember that the current and future success of the college falls not on the administration, but on the collective voice of students, faculty, and staff; coming together to make sure their voices are heard.