Thursday, October 23, 2014
Logos are tricky because they are used in different ways. At Trinity we want some consistency, but we have the official seal for the more high brow uses, such as on diplomas. We have the tower logo for the more day-to-day business uses. And we have the Trinity over Texas football helmet and the aforementioned tiger spirit logos, old and new.
But maybe it is time we reconsider the tiger altogether. I am sure it would be blasphemy because the tiger has a long Trinity tradition and the alliteration works. But it really isn't THAT unique, or for that matter, descriptive. After all, we are in an athletic conference with the Tigers of Colorado College and former conference Tigers included DePauw and Sewanee. And there is LSU, Clemson, Missouri...
Names matter, especially to alumni. Southwestern considered changing away from Southwestern because well, it isn't really Southwestern. That discussion did not go well. Texas State used to be Southwest Texas State but changed that, maybe because of the confusion with Southwestern. But Southwest Texas State was once called SWTS Normal school, so name changes seem normal to them. No one would ever suggest that Trinity change its name, though its roots and religious under and overtones cause some confusion related to its identity.
But I think mascots can be more easily changed. The Incarnate Word Crusaders became the Cardinals, the Marquette Warriors became the Golden Eagles, the Syracuse Orangemen simply became the Orange, and the Washington Redskins... Oh. Bad example. To me, the best mascots reflect time and place. New Orleans Jazz was good. Utah Jazz, not so good. My Milwaukee Brewers, in the land of beer and brats is perfect. Other good names include Bucks (deer hunting), Trailblazers, Steelers, Longhorns, Spurs, Padres, and Yankees. Note that none of those are birds or random animals. So I propose we consider changing the name Tigers to something that is more Trinity.
10. TU TTLES
Hmmm, that just seems TOO obvious. But the logo would be cool.
9. Trinity Onesies
As in Number One in the West since the West was One.
8. The Feral Cats
This is the only animal entry, but given the popularity of the Trinity cats and the fine work of the CAT Alliance, it does deserve consideration. And we can say we will neuter the opposition - but at least we will feed them.
7. The Trinity Taco Tacos
We are hot! And how easy is the cheer "Go Tacos Go!"
6. The Primarily Undergraduate Liberal Arts and Sciences Residential Institution with Professional and Pre-Professional Programs TIGERS
We seem fond of that...
5. The Grissoms
Beloved English teacher, famous Dean of 30 years, straight-talking, quick-witted, sharp-tongued, extremely brilliant, organized, pet-loving, polarizing, and hilarious East Texas Girl... We get her and love her. She is we. That's all that matters.
4. The Trinity Quarry Rockers
How tough is that. Even though, technically we just live and work on an old quarry, dammit, we are still Quarry Tough!
3. The Trinity Towers
We tower over the city, the competition, the, well, everything...
2. Trinity Ampersands
This is the perfect tie-in to our marketing campaign. Our students are athletes & engineers; actors & senators... And when it comes to athletics we will win & pummel & route & destroy. And most importantly, we can call the Stand Band the AmperStand Band.
Yes, that's right. The Onions! A play on the word "Trinitonian." You can't cut us! We make the opposition cry. We have many layers. We're bad man. We're really bad. Go Onions Go. Slice 'em up, Dive 'em up, Peel 'em back, GO!
On second thought, Tigers works too...
Sunday, October 19, 2014
I don't want to confuse any portions of this post with the facts. Nearly all of the facts related to marijuana can be disputed. Students on college campuses everywhere have done great research to de-bunk any claims of harm that comes from smoking weed. I think if some studied their course work with as much passion as they researched marijuana we would be a far smarter nation.
So here are some things I will stay away from arguing: Marijuana may or may not be addictive. It may or may not have long-term health risks. Its legalization may or may not benefit or hurt Central American producers and distributors and drug kingpins. Everyone may or may not do it. Smoking pot may or may not increase the popularity of potato chip nachos at Mabee Hall. Getting high may be considered trendy, funny, cool, hip, and natural. Smoking pot may shrink ones testicle's and it may sap one of energy and drive. Pot is or isn't a gateway drug. It may or may not be true that those from privileged white backgrounds are jailed far less than impoverished black men with few options to get ahead in the ghettos and educational systems they were born into. (Okay, I am pretty sure that one is true.)
Most universities are required by law to enforce drug policies or risk losing financial aid. One day that may change. At Trinity we don't allow 21-year-olds to have hard liquor on campus even if they may have it legally off-campus. This is to deter binge-drinking, not that it is particularly effective. So if and when Texas legalizes marijuana I still wouldn't want it permitted on campus.
Mercifully, here is my sure to be unpopular hypothesis: College campuses are no places for drugs, including marijuana. I have my reasons.
1. I believe two primary things about college. First, colleges are places of higher learning. We have communities of scholars and we espouse that we are building global citizens for a better world. A quarter of the population makes it to college and far less graduate. It is a rare and special privilege. Students nationwide will eventually cure cancer, find ways to distribute clean water to all peoples, and hopefully one day cancel the Big Bang Theory from network television.
Second, I believe for traditional age students that college is a safe place to make mistakes and grow from them. It is dynamic and fun and students are meeting others from different backgrounds, having late-night conversations over pizza and cereal, and are finding out who they are and their place in the world.
Somehow along the way, and I blame movies mostly, and some people like me who partied hard in college, we have defined college culture as "work hard/play hard," with playing hard being binge drinking and smoking dope. That all may have flown when I was paying hundreds of dollars for tuition. That is less the case today. When I do parental notifications related to drug offenses usually the parent and the dean are aligned on one thing: With what it costs to go to college, students may need to choose between their education and their entertainment. I suspect too that our students are far more comfortable lighting up in their campus dorm rooms than their bedrooms in Houston.
2. I don't really care if people get high. It is kind of their business. I know guns don't kill people, people do. I know that some people drink too much and are predisposed or simply become alcoholics. I know some students get addicted to video games and Yik Yak. And some students get addicted to pot. Several students have left our own campus in the last two years as a direct consequence of their drug use (not because of policy violations either). I guess it is their fault. But smoking isn't as harmless as it seems and it has real-life negative consequences for some of our students. There are an estimated 1,800 alcohol-related college deaths annually. It seems we are okay with that (except probably for the friends and families of those 1,800 students I would think). Choices and consequences... Marijuana has far fewer short-term negative consequences than alcohol, so it seems benign to most students. But there are costs. Are we okay with that too?
Many students are on medication that doesn't mix well with alcohol and drugs. And many students find that smoking pot numbs their pain and is the only way to feel good. It is called self-medicating. And if it becomes the only way to feel normal or better it can be a problem.
3. I actually hate myself for saying this, but I just don't like the drug culture. Admittedly, when I was growing up it was impressed upon me that tripping on acid would result in horrible things like trying to fly from atop a tall building, running naked through the streets, death, becoming a drug dealer, or over-focusing on the fact that the background in most Flintstones clips repeats.
I just think it is weird. We are not the Trinity Tokers. Our dorms should not smell like incense and pot. We are not head shops. And no campus wants drug dealers packing heat roaming the residence halls. (Ironically, students who buy and distribute for their friends don't consider themselves dealers - just good friends.) I don't like the word "weed" or the term "high." I don't like cute little posters, shirts, or hats about marijuana. I don't like grinders, scales, rolling papers, and towels under the door and people calling each other dude. It just seems beneath people. I also have met many students who just are bad at drugs. They are not pot-heads. They are pretending to be pot-heads, much like I thought I was the Marlboro man in college. I don't know that I was fooling anyone and neither are many of our students.
In short, despite the perception in my own mind of being somewhat cool, I am just an old fart. I hate that.
I don't really care if people want to smoke pot as long as they take it off campus. I don't really care that it is illegal or not, except I think poor people are dying in drug wars so people of privilege can get high once in awhile. I don't like that drugs short-circuit the lives and educations of some of our students. I don't like that as a society we have somehow connected college to drugs and binge-drinking. I never could really get into the Grateful Dead, but I tried.
I love our students who smoke pot as much as the ones who don't. I just don't like pot. For me it is less legal, ethical and moral than it is practical. To that end, my guess is the way most campuses will better enforce drug policies is to go smoke-free. We are headed that way at Trinity and it has nothing to do with pot. It isn't an end-run. But it may be the best way to make our colleges, with their high costs and aspirations, more of what they should be. And for the students who want to still get high - they can still find a way. They just shouldn't do it here.
Friday, September 26, 2014
|Call it like it is: Dean has OCD!|
The article makes me look like a micro-manager who makes unilateral decisions based on personal preference. Despite that being true in this case, I rarely work that way. It also could lead people to think I was dodging the Trinitonian and letting my staff answer for me. In fact, I was at the beach.
In some ways, I don't mind this. Dealing with alcohol, suicide attempts, and sexual assault, I welcome something as petty as this as a distraction. I am befuddled that this was the lead story. I am perplexed that with the increased vibrancy in the building that this is what got the attention. (The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive!) Finally, I want to make it clear that Jamie Thompson and Becka Bovio disagreed with me on this decision but were good soldiers in how they portrayed the issue to the public through this article. A faculty member wrote a letter to the editor this week decrying the decision. So, I feel like I should clarify some things about this.
1. There have only been banners hanging in the Coates windows for the last five years or so. This was done to make the building seem more student-friendly. It needed it, because the building hadn't been refurbished in 25 years. It was stale and drab. It featured mailboxes in its prime location. So the banners and Nacho Hour made sense to bring it to life. Somehow for 60 some years the University functioned without banners there and it will be fine again.
2. The best way to make the University Center student-friendly was to change it to be a destination for students. That has been the result of the changes, all of which were reviewed multiple times, and given the nod by the Student Government Association. This banner decision is not a snub to students, as claimed. Indeed, I have proposed renaming the building the Coates Student Center to give it a sense of belonging to the students. The building is newly vibrant and alive, and THAT sends the most important message. Note too that we have Lazy Boy recliners and special "switch" sofas upstairs that are solely for student comfort and rest. There are multiple configurations for leisure, study, privacy, and socializing (with a few more pieces due mid-October).
|Circa 1987 - A historical reference.|
4. The building is showing well, as they say. I have been to many student centers and many are newer and nicer than ours. But we didn't need a full, expensive renovation, we needed some upgrades. The new furniture is in school colors and the spirit logo is featured in four places, including on the media-scape. A lot of resources and thought were put into this. The banners looked cruddy. It would be like losing weight, getting a tan, buying new clothes, and NOT washing your hair.
5. Despite what people may claim, advertising events and getting people to pay attention is really a challenge and the banners were simply part of the noise. There are banners in Mabee, daily announcements in LeeRoy, the online calendar, class newsletters, the Trinitonian, table tents, and the now outdated Facebook groups. We could offer personal invitations and that still won't get people's attention. Let's not over-state the importance of these banners.
My faculty colleague posits that this is about education versus appearance and education lost. I disagree. It is much less sinister than that. It is about a Dean who made a decision to have a place that is student friendly, warm, accessible, and yes, neat and nice. Our students deserve it. Maybe I am just being petty. But I don't think I'm the only one.
Friday, August 29, 2014
|Edward Lee Elmore and Diana Holt sign books for our students. (Russell Guerrero)|
1. The topic
We offer a great many lectures on campus each year, with about four major ones with broad appeal. The Reading TUgether, Maverick, and MLK lectures offer variety. The other lectures are funded for primarily for political speakers (see number 3).
This lecture particularly resonated because of how personal it was. As one of my staff members pointed out, we often have the author, not the subject. The death penalty, is, unfortunately, timeless. People can only imagine the injustice of being locked up and mistreated for 30 years when innocent. Ms. Holt related a story, in this case, about a guard accelerating a dental procedure on an un-medicated Mr. Elmore, pulling out nearly all of his teeth to get it over with. The story is filled with prejudice, bias, bigotry and cruelty. It is about one case, one victim, one man, but it could be about so many others. Ms. Holt pointed out that 47 of Mr. Elmore's death-row friends were killed.
2. The introduction
Sara Miller, senior from Albuquerque, was chosen to introduce the speaker. Our president is bright and witty and I enjoy his introductions. He is confident enough to step aside for this lecture and the MLK lecture and allow for a student introduction. Dr. Tynes could have done the intro as well. But learning permeates everything we do. So when Sara stepped up to the microphone it just seemed right. Then, she started to speak. Professional and personal, she described how reading the book turned her plans to practice non-criminal law to the opposite: She has a new passion. She and Ms. Holt hugged as they had already bonded over dinner. Afterwards, Sara wrapped things up with equally touching and eloquent remarks. She even gave the two guests books about San Antonio to commemorate their visit.
3. The speaker
We have had incredible speakers with great name recognition. The one speaker that I heard was the best (one of the few I missed) was Ken Burns of documentary fame. Michael Moore was a hit as well and I missed that one too. I did see Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Norman Schwartzkopf, Tony Blair, Mario Cuomo, Desmond Tutu, William Proxmire, George H.W. Bush, John Glenn and more (as opposed to Moore).
For many, you would have no idea where they were, save for the Trinity seal hanging in the background. It is a pet peeve of mine that this day in age a well-paid speaker couldn't look up the Trinitonian on line and make some joke about a current campus issue, or acknowledge with specificity our academic ranking and reputation.
|Elmore, Tuttle, and Holt (Guerrero)|
Where do I begin with Ms. Holt? She started her talk by describing her wonderful experience as the guest of the campus and Dr. Tynes. She kicked off her slides showing a photo of the "first person to sexually abuse" her as a child, and a corresponding picture of her from around that time. She was honest and vulnerable from the start. She kept turning around to see the slides and then refocusing on the audience giving her talk more the feel of a conversation than a speech. But her preparation was stellar as she hit the main points without becoming awash in all the details. In addition, she was clearly, as she was described in the book, someone who was passionate, still bent on justice (she isn't done yet), and blunt. I think at one point she referenced fat white men, for example. No offense taken. She was funny as she dropped names much like a celebrity she met recently, and as she described being asked by Reese Witherspoon if she could play her in a movie.
Finally, Ms. Holt showed great sensitivity and compassion in her treatment of the victim, Dorothy Edwards, and the victim's daughter, Carolyn Edwards Lee, who she now calls a friend.
4. The guest
This could be included with the "speaker" section above, to be fair to other lecturers. But Mr. Elmore deserves his own section. In the book he is assessed as mentally retarded or incompetent. Ms. Holt said the proper term is actually "intellectually deficient." After several references to him, she pulled him up on stage with her at the end to answer questions from her and the audience. He was clearly uncomfortable, stating he was "shy." He used the word "right" a lot as he answered questions, and he didn't go into a lot of depth. He seemed exactly as described in the book: kind, gentle, warm, docile, polite, happy, and genuine. His favorite ice cream flavor? "Any." This was the first time he traveled by air and he was excited to be here to see the Alamo.
The best part, though, was the inter-play between him and Ms. Holt. At times she seemed part parent, and almost condescending (in a way that can come only from familiarity) as she explained questions to him. At other times she was playful, talking about him being buff and ribbing him that he still owes a balance on her bill. She rubbed his back, came to tears when she related the dental story, and showed her genuine love for this man. After what he had been through, and what she had been through with him, she could treat him any way she wanted. She showed a clip of the judge's ruling that he was free and described it as the happiest/best moment of her life. He clearly loves her and appreciates her so much.
You can't can a talk like this. You just can't.
5. The audience
And finally, while there were several upper-class students in attendance, it seemed that nearly all of the first year students were there. They liked the book, and read it - an easy read given the subject matter. They wanted to hear from her. And they wanted to see Mr. Elmore. (When I got to meet him I told him I was so glad he was alive. "Me too," he said.)
At first I wasn't sure if they got her and understood Ms. Holt was pointed, ironic, sarcastic, and funny. Indeed, this class seems VERY sweet and polite. They got her all right. They were just captivated. When she opened it up for questions, there were no microphones up front as there usually are. I think that could have been an error. But it added to the informal atmosphere as finally one, then two, and then a flood of hands started to go up as she and Mr. Elmore answered questions.
I actually get some chills thinking about our students. They wanted to know how this injustice (not the microphones) could happen. They were shocked, angry, moved, and sad. They wanted to hear from Ms. Holt. And they really wanted to hear from Mr. Elmore. They wanted to know how he FELT. They cared about him. It is rare here, if not unprecedented, for students to not stream out during the Q&A. Barely a soul moved when Ms. Holt concluded her remarks and began calling on students.
In the book-signing line afterward, some waited for over an hour for signatures and photos. One student took a selfie with them, which Ms. Holt explained to Mr. Elmore. They kindly posed for pictures, accepted hugs, deferred praise, and thanked our students for their care.
What makes a lecture a good one: The topic, the speaker, the learning, a personal approach, accessibility for our students (no secret service for this one), and emotion.
I wish they could all be this way. There is a reason students leave during the question and answer portion at other talks. They don't feel a connection. And that is the reason they stayed for this one.
Thank you Dr. Tynes, Sara Miller, Diana Holt, Edward Lee Elmore, and the Class of 2018 and other students. You just showed us the anatomy of a perfect lecture.
Friday, August 15, 2014
|Res Life staff dining in Skyline Room - Now accepting Bonus Bucks!|
In reviewing our program, students, faculty, and staff were interviewed and surveyed. Studies of campus foot traffic and usage patterns were conducted. The administration, faculty, and students were routinely updated. The following values were identified to under-gird all dining -related initiatives: quality, variety, value, health, and sustainability. Secondary values include convenience and presentation. Student government embraced the changes and voted in favor. Among the initiatives:
- Changing from an ala carte to all-you-care-to-eat format in the main dining area, Mabee Hall. This included a renovation and significant menu changes.
- Relocation of the POD convenience store and grill from the Coates Center to Mabee Hall.
- Installation of an Einstein's Brothers Bagel Shop in the Coates Center.
- Addition of local favorite, Taco Taco to the Coates Commons.
- Renovation of the swanky Skyline Room and a change to a bistro-style menu. Students will be able to use their Bonus Bucks now.
More changes are planned:
- The upper-campus POD in the Center for Sciences and Innovation will open this August.
- The Commons is tentatively scheduled for a minor renovation during winter break, to include a new, healthier option sandwich and salad station.
- The Skyline menu will be reviewed and updated.
This all matters a great deal to me because I believe that students and employees deserve healthy and tasty options on campus. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for - institutionally and on a meal-by-meal basis.
So beating out Muhlenburg and 1,925 other schools is a great start. But students still have issues, primarily related to our main dining program in Mabee. I met with the Residential Life student staff this week and we discussed what they like and dislike. Perhaps the best comment was that despite the variety, it doesn't taste like there is a big difference between the offerings. That is something we can address.
Our Student Government Association has been missing-in-action in developing channels for offering systematic and consistent feedback. They need a seat at the table, so to speak, but they aren't even asking for a reservation.
A quick review of the top 75 schools shows that the best programs are the ones that are responsive to student feedback, innovate their menus and programs, and support health and sustainability.
So I challenge our dining staff and our students, and especially SGA. Let's roll up our sleeves and put our napkins on our laps. Let's cull through the top national programs and identify what we like and what is attainable. Then we can look at moving up higher on the list - not to rank better - but to be better.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
|These students show determination to affect campus life. Or maybe they just play football.|
However, students control their collective destiny and the campus culture in ways they may never realize. Here are twelve ways Trinity students can make their experience better, for themselves and others. There is a theme here: Your experience is what you make it.
12. Tread lightly into Gossip sites
Every year the staff receives requests from students to do something about specific posts on any number of gossip sites. We can't. Working with the sites is logistically impossible. Last year our complaints about one site resulted in it being taken down by Facebook, because it was a personal rather than group page. It sprang up immediately thereafter as a group page. Free speech rules the day, even if it is mean.
What students can do: Be nice to each other for starters. Understand that these sites rely on audiences. Don't like the content? Don't participate and don't "like" absurd comments. (That works better than challenging comments, as trolls then take control.)
11. Peeing and puking in the dorm stairwell
This is against the rules, no doubt. The sad thing is that everyone around the area has to live with it until the cleaning crew gets in after the weekend. Never mind that we wait for minimum wage workers to come in Monday morning to clean up the elements left behind by a privileged few... It is disgusting.
What students can do: Use the bathroom. And clean up after yourselves. And tell your peers who do this that they are gross.
10. Caring about the Planet on Campus
While the University has put resources into recycling, after student efforts failed, and made concessions in the dining areas, only a few passionate students really care enough about the environment to do anything.
What students can do: The best thing is to put trash and recycling in the correct receptacles. It is so simple, yet contamination undermines the efforts of those who care about Mother Earth. And use the water refill stations if possible.
9. Managing the three-year residency requirement
By year two, living with a roommate becomes stale, especially after having a single room all the way up UNTIL college. For now, the administration is committed to this, but some new configurations for junior and senior single rooms may be on the horizon.
What students can do: Push the issue with student government and the administration. And find a good roommate.
8. Get into the Act on the Welcome Week Concert
Students generally want a big name band. But, they are really expensive - upwards of $50,000. So we often settle on a recognizable name on the way down rather than on the way up.
What students can do: Identify and push for favorite local or lesser known bands that students really want to hear. The Program Board wants ideas, but suggesting Kanye or The Beatles will not help...
7. Get used to being asked to give back
The majority of our students receive some aid. Trinity is also seen as a tremendous bargain relative to other like-institutions. When students are asked to adopt a mindset of giving it isn't to pad the wallets of faculty and staff. Campuses are expensive because of the specialized labor, technology, and facilities. The best way to make a school is affordable is to raise money to make it less expensive.
What students can do: Statements such as "This place already got enough of my money" are overly cynical. Did you receive aid? Do you want others to take advantage of the same experience? Giving is an affirmation of one's own experience and an investment in those to follow.
6. Park far away
Most employees aren't very sympathetic about student parking concerns. Most paid more for parking (and it was further away) when they were in school. A few years ago we offered free parking for students who agreed to park in a north campus lot (think long-term parking at the airport). There were no takers. Students generally want parking nearby. (So do the faculty and staff.)
What students can do: Ask the Parking Committee to look more broadly at parking strategy rather than just at ticket prices. No one wants to deal with parking, so students have to insist they do through student committee reps. And maybe accept that parking further away is just a thang.
5. Show school spirit
Last year during the TU-hosted conference basketball championships our women lost a close battle to nearby Texas Lutheran College. Their fans out-numbered ours two to one, easily. That's a shame. The administration can't give students school spirit, it needs to come from within.
What can students do: Want school spirit? Show school spirit. Especially keep an eye out for conference rivalries, tournaments, and playoffs.
4. Accept the food or suggest changes
I have eaten at many other campuses and have only experienced one that was better (Richmond). And the students and parents pay a lot more for it there. The thing is, the dining staff wants feedback. They do surveys, go out into the dining room to question customers, and solicit on-line comments. (Often, students won't talk to them.) The student government has been asked repeatedly to assist, but tends not to.
What students can do: "The food sucks..." is not feedback. Students should talk to ARAMARK staff and give them specific feedback. Don't like how something is prepared or served? Tell someone. Have some different ideas? Tell someone. Tell them immediately. Be blunt.
3. Understand the alcohol policy
Trinity probably has the most reasonable policy in the country. Over the last decade the philosophy and policy have evolved to be realistic because of student involvement and feedback. The philosophy: we acknowledge students will drink; care deeply about student health and safety; and will enforce policy because the law says we have to.
What students can do: We get it. Students will drink. It is not ethical or moral. it is like speeding. Take your chances, and sometimes you get caught and most times you don't. Trinity is not against alcohol. Go to an employee party and see for yourself. Just try not to hurt yourselves and others. Call for help if someone is in danger and no one gets in trouble.
2. Alcohol? Again? Designated Driving
Designated drivers should not be the least drunk drivers. At times students have wanted a safe ride program to drive students to off campus parties and back. We couldn't get insurance and it is uber expensive.
What students can do: What is free, already in place, and readily available? Yep. Take a night off from drinking and keep each other safe.
1. Prevent Sexual Assault
There has been so much focus on what institutions are doing wrong when they learn of assaults. The key is to prevent as many as possible.
What students can do: Demand safe parties or blacklist specific houses or groups. Students can protect one another, declare safe zones and times. Students can ensure that those who accompany them to parties return with them. Students are the culture they create.