Butler’s Cultural Requirement causes concern


The motto is “eight before you graduate.”

This refers to the Butler University Cultural Requirement, requiring students to attend eight events before graduating from the university. These events include artistic performances, seminars and public lectures.

The University may withhold a student’s degree if he or she fails to attend the expected eight events.

In the past, a student would get a Butler student identification card scanned at an event to earn the BCR credit.

However, there is growing concern among faculty that students go to events, get their identification cards scanned and then leave without actually staying for the entire show.

“It has always been the expectation that students would attend the entire event,” Elizabeth Mix, faculty director of the core curriculum, said. “We have been working on this issue and expect that beginning next fall we will be able to scan in at the beginning of the event and scan out at the end of the event.”

The University had previously tried to implement a similar system; however, technical difficulties and issues with data management hindered these efforts.

BCR scanners have not been reliable when tracking event attendance.

BCR scanners have not been reliable when tracking event attendance.

Views on the BCR vary among the student body on Butler’s campus.

Sophomore Aaron Smith, an interactive media major, has completed seven of his eight required cultural events.

“The idea of scanning and leaving has crossed my mind,” Smith said. “But most of the events I have been to were for a class I was taking at that time. These were things we would discuss in class or had to write a paper about, so I always stayed for the whole thing. And they were usually interesting, anyway.”

However, another sophomore, an accounting major who preferred to remain unnamed, had a different view.

“Personally, I don’t see the value in these events, which is why I usually try to leave early. I have never been to one that I enjoyed,” the student said.

“The aim of the Butler Cultural Requirement is to engage students in these most valuable and exciting learning opportunities, and to encourage students to develop habits of participation in artistic and cultural events that will lead to lifelong engagement with the creative arts and public intellectual life,” according to Butler’s website.



  1. James F. McGrath said:

    I felt the need to comment on (and have also blogged about) the student (who wished to remain anonymous, self-identifying only as an accounting major), who said that they sneak out early from required cultural events, and that they have never been to one that they enjoyed.

    First, let me say that I am not convinced that the student is being honest. If you cannot find a single musical event on campus, a single debate or discussion, a single movie or other kind of cultural event, that you enjoy, there is something wrong with you, or at least with the way you are approaching things.

    But you need not enjoy every cultural event you go to. University education should also be enabling you to appreciate kinds of artistic creation that you may not personally enjoy. Certain musical styles – like country or hip-hop – are not my personal preferences. But I could go to a concert and appreciate the musicianship.

    What disturbed me most about what this student said, however, was not the ridiculous claim to be unable to enjoy any cultural event. What disturbed me is that this student does not know why he or she is at university, and is trying to fake their way through.

    Students exhibit the same attitudes at times in relation to reading in classes. Their thinking is that, if they can get the gist of a piece of literature from Spark Notes, and it lets them answer questions on a test, then that is good enough.

    There is a fundamental misunderstanding at work here too. The point of reading great literature is not to be able to answer questions about plot points. The point of reading great literature is the life-transforming effect that literature has on one’s life.
    Sometimes by making the focus on quizzes and testing, we may give the wrong impression about what is important. But in many instances, the reason we are quizzing and testing is to ensure that literature is being read, music is being listened to, and other crucial experiences are being undergone.

    Perhaps a change is needed. But how else can we weed out of our universities students who are trying to fake their way through, and who don’t embrace what is the only good reason for them to be there and to be spending as much money as they are in order to do so?

    These people are going to go out into the working world, and when their employer sends them to a cultural event to schmooze with important clients, and they yawn and say they wish they were somewhere else, and lose the contract, the employer isn’t just going to fire them. They are going to question the value of the education that Butler provides. Students like this cheapen the value of a Butler degree for everyone. And so perhaps we should spend more time trying to get this message across to students, and encourage them to police themselves more?

    But the very notion of these being matters to “police” – as though the experiences one has as a student are a chore rather than a privilege – suggests that there is far more work that needs to be done in helping students to understand why they are on campus at all, and why they are at a university with a strong liberal arts foundation rather than at a vocational training college.


    James F. McGrath
    Religion Professor

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