David Tench S Chapter


Community seems to be a fundamental aspect of the human condition - it exists wherever and whenever people interact with each other. Everything from your workplace or school to your knitting circle is a type of community. But the ways in which communities develop and function are far from universal. While both a present day middle-class American suburb and a small Kenyan tribe (note: I will fill in a better-researched analogy soon) are communities, the two are clearly different. And it runs deeper than the obvious stuff - yes, your annoying neighbor doesn't have to hunt wildebeest to survive, and a Kenyan mother doesn't drive her kids to school in a minivan. More importantly, the ways in which people are aware of, and actively participate in, these different communities make them distinct. Being a homeowner in a housing development is not the same thing as actively working with your immediate neighbors for food and shelter, even when you strip away factors such as technology and local geography. Members of a Kenyan tribe would see their role in the community differently than a suburbanite - a member of one group has both responsibilities and expectations of support that a member of the other group would not. It would be just as silly to ask a Kenyan tribe member to attend zoning board meetings as it would for you to look to the oldest person in your housing development for medical and spiritual advice.

In short, all communities are made up of members who are dependent on each other - even your knitting circle or Dungeons and Dragons club. Different communities might exhibit this interdependency to various degrees and in multiple distinct forms, but all are tied together by this basic idea.

Colleges are unusual communities, to say the least. The majority of its members are transient, the community is focused primarily on a narrow set of goals not directly related to day-to-day survival, and arbitrary boundaries often attempt to divide and insulate the college from its surroundings. Since we are, after all, in college, these factors warrant INVESTIGATION.

In particular, as members of the Lehigh community, it makes sense to ask what defines that community. Why does Lehigh exist in the first place? What do its students, faculty, staff, and administrators expect from Lehigh? What's more, since our working definition of community is based on mutual dependence, we can't avoid acknowledging that the Lehigh community spreads beyond the official limits of the campus. Lehigh is not a self-sufficient community. Just imagine how life would be different if the frats were responsible for providing your electricity, or if the cafeteria workers grew the food. Every day Lehigh's 'official' members interact - often out of necessity - with outsiders, be they family members, Bethlehem neighbors, companies and businesses. Lehigh does not grow its own food, does not house professors, does not directly provide water or electricity. Even at such a bare-bones level, it's clear that the web of dependence in which we dangle extends far beyond the traditional borders of the campus. Does it make sense for us to abandon the concept of the institute of higher learning on a hill, removed from the rhythms of 'normal' life? Is there value in isolation and concentration on academic pursuits, or do we rob ourselves of something important by attempting to artificially create a community for a specific purpose? Will I ever get around to answering these questions?

In the end, a community derives its identity from its members and the ways in which they interact, which are in turn determined by their mutual dependencies. In this chapter, I will first explore this definition and try to find ways in which we can generally distinguish between "good" and "bad" aspects of communities. After that, I'll try to understand the Lehigh community as it relates to the idea of mutual dependencies. By discovering the ways in which we depend on each other (and what our goals are) we can decide which aspects of our shared experience are desirable, and which are not. I suspect that there is no good reason for RHA.


As I've already stated, any group of people who are mutually dependent constitute a community. For the purposes of what I'm talking about, "mutual dependency" means that each member of the group has needs which are met by other members of the group. A very simple example: A family (in the social, not the biological aspect) is a group in which each member is dependent on the other members for emotional support and possibly physical or financial support. This "web of needs" connects the members to each other and "binds" them together. It is this "web of needs" which constitutes mutual dependency, which allows us to identify the group as a community.

There are some interesting ramifications from this definition of community. Since most people don't see community explicitly in terms of mutual dependency, many groups that are communities under my definition aren't what you'd call "communities" in the common vernacular. Under my definition, an internet service provider and its customers constitute a community, despite the fact that most people don't consider it one. The provider meets the consumers' need for internet access, and the consumers meet the provider's need for income. The fact that most people do not consider such groups "communities" despite the presence of mutual dependencies is an important discrepancy that will be discussed later. Until then, just keep in mind that this new definition of community is different than the notion you may already have.

The idea of mutual dependencies defining communities means that most Americans are members of a great deal of communities. We live in a society that is complex and multi-layered. The processes that are required to meet even your most basic needs involve the input of huge numbers of other people. The labor alone that goes into putting food on store shelves or maintaining public sanitation is staggering.

The upshot of this massive number of communities is that no one is aware of their involvement in all of them. It's simply not possible to keep track of them - you rely on so many different people, in so many different ways, that it's just not possible to appreciate them all. You might not notice that others are responsible for meeting your needs, and sometimes you may not be aware that your needs are being met at all.

Another important point to consider is that communities are seldom limited to their official boundaries. Although Bethlehem is a city, with well-defined borders, it's incorrect to say that people living in Bethlehem are dependent only on others living there. If you begin by considering the needs of Bethlehem residents and how those needs are met, you'd find that the web of dependency extends far beyond the city limits.

If left in its most basic formulation, the mutual-dependency definition could arguably encompass everyone in the world (or almost everyone), since in today's interconnected world, actions have wide-ranging effects. To avoid this sort of problem, it's useful to limit the dependencies we're considering. We've already done this in a previous example: When I talked about internet service providers and their customers as a community, I was defining that community by a set of dependencies. The company relied on its customers for money, and in turn met their needs for a product or service (internet access, in this case). Each group has other needs, of course, but by limiting the scope to something more manageable, we can disregard those other considerations.

The simplest way to do this is to say that communities are distinguished by the ways in which their members are mutually dependent. If dependencies differ between two communities, then they are fundamentally different types of communities. We just talked about one general set of dependencies in the internet provider example. Group A (the company) meets group B's (the consumers') need for a good or service, and Group B meets group A's need for income. In a similar manner, the previously discussed concept of a family community can be defined by mutual emotional dependency - clearly different from a product/money relationship. Each member relies on the other members for support, love, and encouragement, not necessarily physical or financial need. These two communities have different dependencies, and are therefore different types of community.

Before we move on, please note that communities can be of the same type, but not be the same community. Your family can have the same mutual dependencies based on emotion that my family does, but we're two separate and distinct groups. No one in my family relies on anyone in your family for emotional support, or vice versa. We're two instances of the same type of community, NOT the same one.

Now that we’ve established what “community” means, we’ll apply this definition to Lehigh. The first question we need to answer is “What constitutes the Lehigh community?” While it’s tempting to quickly decide that we’ll only consider those “officially” involved with the university – students, faculty, administration, and staff – we don’t have any reason to immediately assume that this is the most useful scope. Our definition should be derived from a set of mutual dependencies, since our method of analysis will focus on such dependencies.
So how do we decide what dependencies are important? To decide this, it’s necessary to consider why Lehigh exists. Lehigh’s official Mission, according to its website, is “To advance learning through the integration of teaching, research, and service to others.” This can be condensed and simplified into what we’ll call the Lehigh communities’ primary “function” – to educate students, and to research academic stuff. So the parties on which Lehigh relies to achieve these goals will constitute the Lehigh community. While we obviously can’t trace every dependency of every person, we can at least paint in wide strokes the general form of the Lehigh community as it stands today.
Obviously, to educate students, you need students. From that starting point, we can begin to explore the mutual dependencies that shape the Lehigh community by considering what students need to get a Lehigh education, and who meets those needs.
First and foremost, students need teachers – professors, both tenured and not; aides and other non-student help; and perhaps outside tutors or instructors. The students rely on this “teacher” group to provide their education, which forms at least one half of a mutual dependency. Other than the rather shaky “without students, teachers wouldn’t have jobs” argument, it may not be immediately clear how teachers are dependent on students. However, keep in mind that teachers may be dependent on other community members we haven’t considered yet. Let’s include them in the Lehigh community on a “probationary” basis until we find reason to exclude or include them.
Any university, and especially one as large as Lehigh, will have a lot of organizational challenges. On the most basic level of needs for education, someone needs to plan each term’s classes and make schedules so those classes happen. Large amounts of money must be collected from students and alumni, and directed to meet Lehigh’s financial needs. In addition, leadership for the university as a whole is of course necessary. The people who accomplish these tasks, including administrators and bureaucrat-types (NOTE: find better general names for these things. Learn more about these groups and their functions. Talk to mom?), are dependent on students to provide the income that keeps their aspects of Lehigh running, and students rely on them to solve the organizational problems outlined above. This qualifies administrators as members of the Lehigh community.
In addition, teachers rely directly on administration for their pay, which means that teachers have a mutually dependent relationship with the Lehigh community as we’ve defined it so far (students + admins). Therefore, teachers are also part of said community.
Students have more than just academic needs, of course. Since the majority of Lehigh students live on campus, they depend on the Lehigh community to provide them with basic necessities – such as food, lodging, and utilities, among other things.
Food is, of course, something we simply can’t do without. Since Lehigh subcontracts its food to Sodexho, a mutual dependency is formed etc etc NOTE: I need to talk to Mike about how his chapter topic and how we can dovetail this thing. For the time being, all I need to say here is that Sodexho is, for better or worse, part of the Lehigh community since they supply food.
Education requires a safe environment. Nobody’s going to learn too much in class if they’re afraid of getting shot as they walk home each night. The Lehigh police force meets this need. Students depend on the safety that law enforcement provides, even if they don’t appreciate it when their parties get broken up. The Lehigh police force depends on Lehigh for its funding, and actually its existence. This mutual dependency solidifies the police force as part of the Lehigh community. NOTE: ascertain the exact nature of the relationship between LU and its police force. I’m not sure if everything I’ve said here is quite accurate.
Since Lehigh owns all of the buildings in which it houses on-campus students, it’s responsible for the maintenance of those buildings. The people hired to take care of these jobs are therefore part of the Lehigh community – another instance of the “service in return for money” mutual dependency. This category can also be expanded to include those responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the grounds, and all other Lehigh property. NOTE: learn more about this too. Is this stuff done straight through Lehigh, or is it subcontracted to a firm or something?
Lehigh students, like anyone else, require running water and electricity. Lehigh produces neither. The university and its students rely on the local utilities system to operate, and it relies on their business.
Not all Lehigh students live on campus, and few, if any, on-campus students allow the official Lehigh structure to supply all of their needs. Those students who live off-campus are sort of hybrids between Lehigh students and Bethlehem citizens. While they still depend on Lehigh to meet their academic needs, and Lehigh relies on them for tuition, their practical needs are usually met by people not associated with Lehigh University – local grocery stores, plumbers, electricians, etc. Most on-campus students occasionally get food from sources other than the official Lehigh ones, and shop at stores for various products throughout Bethlehem.
So we now have a general idea of what is required to educate Lehigh students, and the groups that currently provide those needs. Presented again in simple list form:
1. Students themselves.
2. Teachers.
3. Administrators and related staff.
4. Providers of food (in this case, primarily Sodexho)
5. LU Police
6. Maintenance personnel
7. The local utilities.
8. The South Side Bethlehem commercial district.
This group, by the definition we’ve chosen, is the Lehigh community. So the next question is:
Which aspects of the Lehigh community are positive or desirable? Which are not? How can the negative aspects be improved?
To answer this question we must first decide what is positive or desirable in a community.
What makes a community "good"?
You have more than likely been exposed to the trend in opinion in recent years which condemns modern suburbia, and post-industrial communities in general. Suburban ennui and “bored white kid syndrome” are clichéd symptoms of the clichéd spiritual poverty of the modern American middle- and upper-class communities. “Reasons” for this lack of togetherness and belonging abound – an excessively consumerist lifestyle, the development of the internet and similar technologies, an overall decay in moral fiber – but none of these theories offer much insight towards solutions.
Those who worry about this problem often praise the simplicity and virtue of the seemingly extinct small-town community, a simpler time where everybody knew everyone and decent, friendly folk were never in short supply. While this wonderful hypothetical community may or may not have ever occured on a wide scale in the US’s history, the mere fact that the ideal exists – and is so darn persistent – suggests that there may be something of value to glean from it.
I have a theory. I think that the lack of “sense of belonging” that is a commonplace occurance in our society and the “good” community element in the small-town meme can both be explained in terms of our definition of community. Specifically, having non-trivial emotional relationships with your mutual dependents is a positive thing, and serves to produce a sense of belonging in the members of the community. A person who does not feel like a part of a particular community lacks that feeling for at least one of three possible reasons: He is not dependent on any member of the community, no member of the community is dependent on him, or he does not have emotional relationships with his mutual dependents.
This seems to help explain what exactly is so nice about that ideal small-town community. In such a situation, it’s easy for each member to have emotional relationships with the other members – the population is small enough that you’re forced to interact with your mutual dependents. So the tendency in that community is for people to develop ties that lead towards a fulfillment of this need for “belonging.”
This idea is supported by current research in sociology and psychology. Recent studies suggest that there is an intrinsic mental limit on how many people you, as a human being, are able to care for as people. The most widely accepted value for this limit, Dunbar’s number, estimates that the human average is around 150, with individual variances anywhere from 100-300. This seems to be inescapable – the parts of your brain tasked with empathy and relating to others don’t have enough processing power to do so for more than about 150 people at a time. This theory explains many phenomena. Why do you cry for days after your cousin dies, but you’re not upset when you hear that 15,000 people have died in an earthquake in Bangladesh? If you don’t have an emotional relationship with someone, you don’t see them as a person, at least on a subconscious level. To the parts of your minds that control what emotions you feel, the garbage man isn’t a person. He’s the Thing That Makes The Trash Go Away. Thus, you don’t feel slighted if a different garbage man comes to pick up the trash next week. You probably won’t even notice, because those people aren’t a part of your emotional universe.
To feel like you’re a member of the community, you must identify emotionally with at least some of the other members of that community as people. In other words, some of them have to be part of your 150-person “caring sphere”. Otherwise, interactions with those people – and therefore that community – would give you no more satisfaction than if a machine met those same needs for you. People who you view as automatons cannot satisfy your psychological desires for company and contact – the factors that determine our feelings of “belonging” to a community.
It’s clear that this emotional connection increases personal satisfaction in a community. But it’s also the case that communities that encourage these interactions are also generally better off. When people view other members of a group as humans (i.e. inside their caring sphere), they are more likely to make socially constructive choices and thus have a net positive effect. Conversely, many social problems stem from a dehumanization of others. People who engage in socially destructive behaviors, like tax fraud, often don’t feel guilt because they’re not hurting what they see as people. In fact, there’s no well-defined victim; only “the community at large” can said to be damaged as a result. For a person who doesn’t feel like they’re a part of the community, there’s no guilt for committing such acts because any negative consequences are an abstraction. Similarly, identity theft, vandalism, and corporate embezzlement can be “rationalized” by the perpetrators. People who would never hurt a person they cared about will engage in these kinds of behaviors if they’re emotionally alienated from the community in question.
Communities where people have emotional relationships with their mutual dependents avoid some of these problems. The number of destructive actions a person might consider acceptable decreases when they care for the victims. Of course, I’m not claiming that this solves all crime-related problems. Desperate people will often steal out of necessity, for example. And there are some sociopaths who simply aren’t at all concerned for the well-being of others. But people who have emotional relationships with members of a community have fewer methods by which they might rationalize destructive behavior.
So now that we’ve got a general idea of what to aim for in communities, we can apply that idea to Lehigh. But, as it turns out, there’s no immediately apparent way to manufacture meaningful relationships between people. How much success do you think you’d have if you tried to convince your neighbors to all become friends with the garbage man? It’s a simple fact of life that humans will pursue relationships when they want to, regardless of what outside authorities say.
One thing I’ve noticed about my Lehigh experience so far is that the university seems interested in “helping” students become part of the community, through a number of confusing means. They do things like sponsor lots of expensive events and mandate freshman attendance, or [insert 2nd example]. The implicit assumption behind these sorts of things is that the average Lehigh student isn’t capable of “becoming a part of” the Lehigh community without help. This seems to suggest that, somehow, students are failing to “socialize” naturally. What exact problems the university feels it is trying to fix, however, aren’t clear; and our aim would be different from theirs regardless. We’re looking to bring together the entire Lehigh community, much of which likely falls outside the scope of the official university’s perspective.
To do so, it would be tempting for me to suggest a plan or a program that would somehow directly induce members of the Lehigh community to develop emotional relationships with each other, but I don’t think that such a strategy is necessary, or likely to be effective. When put in the right environment, people don’t need coaxing to form friendships; they just do it. The fact that this isn’t happening too much at Lehigh, therefore, suggests that some thing (or things) are preventing such positive events from occurring. So rather than thinking along the lines of “What can we do to make people form emotional relationships with other Lehigh community members?” we can instead ask “What obstacles are preventing Lehigh community members from interacting and forming relationships? How can we remove these obstacles?”
Some such obstacles are apparent, and geographic proximity is a good example of that. Clearly it’s rather difficult to develop a meaningful relationship with someone who’s far away most of the time. In fact, doing so almost always requires both parties to make a conscious effort to form and sustain the relationship. Why bother when there are other, closer people you can get to know? The power of proximity shouldn’t be underestimated – if you see a person around, day after day, you’re likely to eventually get to know them. This will happen without planning on either person’s fault.
Think about your most successful friendships. Did you plan to become good friends with those people? Probably not. They were most likely the ones who were around you a lot, and things happened naturally from there.
Social inequality can prevent people from forming relationships, too. There’s always tension that exists between people of different financial means, or different social status. While, of course, resources and repute are not evenly distributed among the members of most communities (and likely never will be), there’s a point at which the irregularity starts to become a problem. When distinct sub-groups form, separated by wealth or standing, the community suffers. The primary problem in such a situation is that while the members of each subgroup form emotional relationships with others “on their side,” very little line-crossing happens. The “haves” don’t associate with the “have-nots,” and the net result is that the community is divided in two, at least emotionally. The two groups depend on each other (they are still a community, after all), but this consideration becomes a negative since they’re not deriving pleasure from the interactions with members of the community outside their subgroup. This, of course, can lead to all sorts of even nastier problems, especially when other divisive factors such as race differences further separate the two groups. Anyone who is familiar with the race riots in the 60’s should need no further convincing of the disruptive power of social inequalities.
For the purposes of clarity and conciseness, I’ll focus on these two obstacles for the purposes of this chapter. When you stick mutually dependent people in the same area, and take away their best reasons for hating each other, emotional relationships are bound to form. It’s human nature – befriend those who help you, so they’ll help you some more.
Our next step is to assess the problem – to what extent are these obstacles present at Lehigh? Let’s start with geographic proximity, since it’s the easier of the two. Students, by and large, aren’t much of an issue with this one. In keeping with the American College Experience Tradition, the vast majority of students live on or close to campus, and since many of them have no other options, student proximity isn’t likely to be an issue anytime soon. Teachers and administrators are more of a problem – most commute a considerable distance to Lehigh, some even from other states. (RESEARCH THIS MORE FULLY) -Ask mike about Sodexho-. The LU Police force maintains a 24-hour presence on campus, and the majority of its members make their homes in Bethlehem. The maintenance personnel (?). And of course, the South Side is right next to Lehigh (and isn’t likely to move around that much).
It’s also immediately apparent that there are class disparities in the Lehigh community. While the professors and administrators as a whole are upper-middle class, the maintenance staff
These factors divide the Lehigh community by forming three distinct subgroups: the professors and administrators who are geographically removed from the campus, the local laborers who are alienated by class differences and the tensions that result, and the students who find themselves unable to relate to either group. If these divisive forces are reduced or removed, the Lehigh community will benefit.
Obviously, you can’t force people to move somewhere they don’t want to. If Lehigh suddenly mandated that all of its professors lived in the area, we’d lose a lot of the faculty. And it’s unlikely to work for any of the other groups either – you simply can’t force people to relocate. So, a subtler strategy is required here. The trick will be to make living nearby desirable. More on that in a moment.
The class tensions that exist in the Lehigh community are largely based on economic disparities – the Bethlehem citizens that interact with the official Lehigh University are, on average, poorer than the university’s students and faculty. Let’s face it – Bethlehem has been in a funk ever since Big Steel went under, and its citizens have been impacted negatively. This disparity could, in theory, be resolved by somehow impoverishing the Lehigh population until their economic status was comparable to that of their Bethlehem neighbors, but that doesn’t seem to be a very popular idea with the people I’ve suggested it to so far. The other option is to find ways of enriching the city of Bethlehem and its residents, with the goal of increasing the wealth of its citizens until they reach the same status as the Lehigh student or faculty member.
It just so happens that solving these two issues (geographic unity and class equity) can be accomplished simultaneously. If the city of Bethlehem is enriched in the sense I describe above, its members will be on par class-wise with the Lehigh folks AND the professors and faculty that Lehigh employs will be more likely to live nearby. When this happens, it will be easy and natural for community members to form emotional relationships with their mutual dependents – the obstacles preventing them from doing so will be gone.
The question remains, however: How can this be accomplished? It turns out that Lehigh itself holds the key.
Lehigh has a lot to offer the surrounding areas. Its biggest resource, though, is demand. Lehigh’s got 5,000 late teens, early twenties-types, most of whom are upper middle class. You can’t ask for a better group of potential consumers. Bethlehem would benefit if its mutually dependent relationship with Lehigh expanded, if for this reason alone. If more interaction between Lehigh and Bethlehem took place, the increase in economic activity would do much to revitalize the city – existing businesses would flourish and new ones would emerge. This would create new jobs and improve the opportunities available to locals.
And these changes will serve to strengthen the community, as well. The more you can interact on a personal level with the people who provide for your needs, the more you will feel like part of the community. As a bonus, everyone gets richer! Up until now, distance and class issues prevented this from happening, but the possibility of positive change exists.
In a sense, Lehigh is a reservoir of potential growth for Bethlehem and the surrounding area. Right now, that potential is dammed up by divisive factors in the Lehigh community that encourage exclusive sub-groups and prevent interaction. But if these factors are removed, economic opportunity and growth will literally flow down the mountain, and community growth will follow.

-end of rough draft thus far-

Outline of entire chapter at paragraph level:

(note: this isn't in a light style. it's just a bare-bones conceptual map of the things I want to talk about. actual interesting writing and possibly humor will come later.)

(other note: I'm having trouble formatting this. everything should be indented. I'm messing around with a portion of my outline until I can get it to work.)

I. Community - definition.

A. Any group of people who are mutually dependent constitute a community.

1. Ramifications of this:

a. Everyone is a member of multiple communities.

b. People may only be partially aware (or unaware) of their involvement in some communities.

i. This occurs when people are not fully aware of their dependence on others, or vice versa.

2. Communities can be A-type or B-type (note: come up with names for these)

a. A-type communities are built primarily on mutual dependencies that are tangible and apparent.

i. Examples: immediate family, schools or workplaces, social clubs, unions, self-sufficient towns, businesses

b. B-type communities are built primarily on mutual dependencies that are abstract and subtle.

i. Examples: Your internet service provider and its customers, suburban areas or other post-industrial living spaces

3. It's important to note that communities rarely are limited to official boundaries.

4. If you wanted to, the general statement of this definition would encompass everyone in the world.

a. You can get around this problem by limiting the dependencies you're considering.

B. Communities are distinguished by the ways in which their members are codependent.

1. If dependencies differ between two communities, then they are fundamentally different types of communities.

a. Example: Workers in a business rely on each other's input to produce something of value for a profit. I do not rely on my family to produce things of value for me and turn a profit. Therefore, my family is not the same sort of community as a company.

II. Application of Definition to Lehigh.

A. What constitutes the Lehigh community?

1. To get some reasonable limits on our perspective, we need to decide what mutual dependencies we're looking for.

a. Lehigh official Mission: "To advance learning through the integration of teaching, research, and service to others."

i. Translation: educate students, research academic questions.

b. So our dependencies will be determined by what's necessary to educate Lehigh students and do academic research.

2. What's necessary to do those things? (bare minimum)

a. Students

b. People to teach - professors, aides, tutors.

c. Administrators, bureaucrat-types

d. Food.

e. Shelter/Utilities.

f. etc.

3. Which of the people/groups that provide these things are also dependent on Lehigh?

4. So the "Lehigh community" is made of those people on whom Lehigh relies to fulfill its mission, and who are also dependent on Lehigh.

III. What makes a community "good"?

A. Archetypal "good" community.

1. There seems to be a widely-held opinion that there's something good about stereotypical small-town communities. What could it be?

a. Phrases commonly associated with this include "everyone knows everyone," "simpler life," "friendly, decent folk"

2. Ignoring nostalgia, we can use our definition of community to analyze this wonderful hypothetical place.

a. Relevant factors of this community seem to be:

i. "Simplicity" - possibly meaning self-sufficiency or lack of commercialization.
ii. Close-knit - emotional relationships with most of those you interact with every day.
iii. etc.

3. These can be explained by positing that having non-trivial, emotional relationships with your mutual dependents is a positive thing.

a. Conversely, not having such relationships with those on whom you depend is a negative thing, and emotionally alienates you from said community.

B. Dunbar's number and related theories.

1. Many sociologists believe that there is an intrinsic mental limit on how many people you, as a human, are able to care for as people.

a. The most commonly accepted value for this limit, Dunbar's number, is estimated at 150.

b. This explains why 15,000 people die in an earthquake in Bangladesh and you don't get upset, but you cry for weeks when your cous cousin dies.

2. If you don't have an emotional relationship with someone, you don't see them as a person, at least on a subconscious level.

a. To most people's minds, the garbage man isn't a person, just The Thing That Takes The Trash Away.

3. This means that you may be a member of many communities where you don't identify with the other members as humans on an emotional level.

C. Synthesis of these two ideas.

1. The Dunbar theory supports my initial conclusions of what makes a community "good."

a. To feel like you're a member of a community, you must identify emotionally with at least some of the other members as people.

i. Otherwise, you feel no more social satisfaction in interaction than you would if a machine provided you with the same stuff.
ii. e.g. people whom you view as automatons cannot satisfy your psychological need for company, contact, whatever.

D. A defense of the phrase "good."

1. When people view others as humans, they are more likely to make socially constructive choices and thus have a net positive effect.

a. Conversely, many social problems stem from a dehumanization of victims.

i. People who commit tax fraud often don't feel guilt because there's no well-defined victim they're hurting.
ii. Similarly, identity theft, vandalism, and corporate embezzlement can be "rationalized" the same way by the perpetrators.

2. By this logic, communities where people have emotional relationships with their mutual dependents avoid some of these problems.

a. This is why they are good.

-end of offical outline thus far-

At this point, it turns out I need to do some more research before committing to an argument for the rest of my chapter. I'll outline the general idea of what I'm looking for, but I can't make judgments on these questions just yet.

IV. Based on this criterion, is Lehigh a good community?
At this point, I'm fairly sure that we almost completely fail in at least some of these respects. Food, for example. It gets carted in from who knows where. I will probably find that getting it locally would make for a better community, according to my definition.

possible evidence - how many lehigh students live off campus asap?

In any case, my plan is to figure out how we're currently meeting each of the needs described above, and seeing if they're a positive sort of mutual dependency or not.

I'm going to bring in the concept of A-type and B-type communities I set up forever ago. In general, and in keeping with my discussions of what makes a community good, A-type corresponds with positive relationships and good communities, while B-type corresponds with the negative stuff opposite it.

one thought - lehigh seems to try to take an active role in ensuring its students are socialized, as a sort of community-building thing. is it possible that the fact that this is necessary is proof of some sort of failure of the Lehigh community to "socialize" naturally? it seems to me like any time you need to introduce artificial measures to create a sense of community or whatnot, it usually isn't that effective. You need to understand why the community isn't happening in the first place.

V. How can we change the bad stuff to make it good? What will the overall consequences of such actions be? How likely is this to happen?

I can't really talk too much about this until I decide what's wrong with Lehigh.

MUSINGS: I suspect, and this is just a hypothesis at this point, that direct interaction with people you depend on is more desirable than removed dependencies. For example, Lehigh bringing in locally-grown food and renting dining space to small businesses is nicer than importing all of our food from the sinister Galactic Empire Sodexho. There's a certain value to being aware of the people that are providing for you. If all of your food just shows up in boxes each day, there's no sense of community, even though someone else did make it. It's too abstract. The Strategic Plan was all gung-ho about strengthening ties with the local community, and for that to realistically happen I think we're going to need to develop mutual dependencies with them.

This does have its downsides. Since Lehigh will be less removed from the Bethlehem community, if it deteriorates, we will too. This is inevitable to some degree no matter how much you try to isolate a college, but the effects are much more pronounced and immediate the more integrated you are with the surrounding area. I suspect this is why UPenn is essentially a gated community. Another problem with this sort of thing is that the Lehigh brass lose some control over what goes on, both on the campus and how its students interact with the outside community. I suspect these reasons are a large part of the reason Lehigh seems to be resistant to this sort of change - the necessary changes could potentially lead to problems the admins aren't thrilled about.

But I personally think that integrating college more fully with the surrounding community will eventually serve to strengthen both. I mean, come on. How is Bethlehem in a slump, when Lehigh essentially supplies a rotating supply of thousands of (on average) upper-class college students every year? We represent an asset to the Bethlehem economy, even only considering the value of our demand.

Comments for myself:
I need to somehow tweak my interpretation of dependencies to work better for large groups of people, and not focus solely on individuals as I've done here. Since I'm fairly certain I'll end up arguing that we should integrate the Lehigh community more fully with the Bethlehem area, I need to be able to discuss the connections of dependency without confusing people.

Also, I'm going to need to figure out how not to step on other people's toes with the stuff I talk about. I'm not going to worry about this so much initially; if conflicts arise we can identify and fix them later.


I have an idea! Building community gardens on the Lehigh campus and have students work them, create several small ones so that it is manageable, you are in a small group so that you have the opportunity to care about all of them - people interact and form mutual dependency, feeding each other. Idea isn't fully fleshed out put could stitch topics together and provide some concrete solutions


I think that second paragraph is awesome, very succinct. Also, I think that insulating Lehigh from the economic fate of the Southside is intentional. Is there a way we can introduce a plan that produces interdependence while giving Lehigh a cushion, just to make it more palatable?

Hahahaha the capitalization is the strong point. I'm not entirely sure if you can have that both ways. I suspect that any safety cushion would require the entire interdependence thing to be sort of half-assed.

Although I think that the that increased interdependence would enrich the area in multiple dimensions, including economically, and thus limit the risk of the Bethlehem economy tanking or whatever. I mean, plenty of "college towns" do just fine.


-Yeah, we could have a situation that is mutually reinforcing, it's a kind of chicken-egg we invest in Bethlehem to build financial security but at the same time expose ourselves to more risk. Guess we just have to make a really convincing case.


Hey Dave,
I think you have a very similar writing style to mine; I like to call it "business casual. I see the potential for a chapter progression here because you talk about defining community while I talk about the community itself. You bring up some very good ideas here and I see the potential of thoughtful and good overlap.

Me again!
You make some inside jokes here that many people may not be able to understand, you just may want to be careful about that. As I said before, your writing style is quite similar to mine.

Here's the sample paragraph I'm going to self-edit:

There are some interesting ramifications from this definition of community. Since most people don't see community explicitly in terms of mutual dependency, many groups that are communities under my definition aren't what you'd call "communities" in the common vernacular. Under my definition, an internet service provider and its customers constitute a community, despite the fact that most people don't consider it one. The provider meets the consumers' need for internet access, and the consumers meet the provider's need for income. The fact that most people do not consider such groups "communities" despite the presence of mutual dependencies is an important discrepancy that will be discussed later. Until then, just keep in mind that this new definition of community is different than the notion you may already have.

The edited paragraph:

This definition of community yields some interesting results. Most people don't think in terms of mutual dependency, so my definition includes more than just "communities"as denoted in the common vernacular. Under my definition, an internet service provider and its customers constitute a community. The provider meets the consumers' need for internet access, and the consumers meet the provider's need for income. But this seems to run counter to the traditional idea of community. This discrepancy is important - your previously-held idea of community may not be the whole story.

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