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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Good fellas

JJ and Moff
Manny Gonzalez
What a pleasure to have Dr. Raphael Moffett (above, right) drop in last week. He even borrowed some of my threads to play a little noon-ball and showed us that the kid still has game. He also shared funny stories about students calling him "Old School" during games up at Langston U in Oklahoma where he serves as VP for Student Affairs. We miss him here. He formerly served as Director of Student Involvement.

John Jacobs, or "JJ," also stopped by for lunch with some other colleagues and came down to the courts to say hey. JJ recently left his Assistant Director role in Student Involvement for a position as director at Northeast Lakeview College. I think he came back for his check, or vacation days, or something JJ-centered.

These two were superstars on campus here and were extremely popular with our students. Whether it is faculty, staff, or students, we are consistently blessed at Trinity to be among terrific individuals. Just this month, in addition to seeing Mark Montalbano and Cesar Giralt at the national Alumni Board meeting, some other alumni stopped by to re-connect (below). Manny Gonzalez served as SGA President and Siro Gutierrez recently relocated back to San Antonio. Finally, Steven Leach continues to work on world peace initiatives, ministry, and renovation projects.

Siro Gutierrez

Steven Leach

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hard liquor, hard questions

Though hard alcohol is banned in dorms, on and off campus seniors still get a reminder to pace their drinking.
"Trinity should restore full alcoholic freedoms to students of age and end the prohibition against students of age and end the prohibition against hard alcohol in the upperclassmen residence halls."
- Gabriel Levine, Trinitonian, September 10, 2016

I enjoyed the opinion piece, "Let there be Liquor," that ran in the Trinitonian recently. Seems as long as there is alcohol I will always have something to post about. In a nutshell, Gabriel Levine argued that our rule banning hard alcohol should be reconsidered. I checked out Gabriel on Facebook and he has many "friends" I like, so I know he isn't a knucklehead (if that is how one measures knucklehead qualities). I emailed him and asked if his column was serious (it was) or was meant to be funny or farcical (kind of).

A professor on the rule-making committee at Trinity once said to me "I'm in favor of rule that slows down students getting drunk." This flies in the face of what Gabriel is saying, which is, I think, Students are going to drink anyways, and of-age students want hard alcohol (and you can't stop us).

I don't totally disagree. Years ago the Trinity Alcohol Coalition laid out its three philosophical pillars that stand today: acknowledging student drinking; caring deeply about student health and safety; and enforcing policies as proscribed by law.

The Coalition did good work and the harm-reduction model was chosen as a way to deal with alcohol. The results included serving beer and wine to students on campus (see August senior happy hour in Coates lobby as one of many examples); the addition of  pub (which failed, but the license now resides in the Skyline Room); Tiger tailgates; the responsible friend (Good Samaritan) policy; the B'low Optimal/Optimal Buzz program; and most recently the revised off-campus SPIn initiative.

When the Coalition developed the pillars and revised the alcohol policy years ago, I also wondered whether or not the hard alcohol ban was effective. Hard alcohol is lawful for those of age and we acknowledge students will drink it. At the time, President Brazil felt strongly that the ban should remain in place because students generally used hard alcohol to get drunker faster. Essentially, the pillar in question was about student health and safety. He obliged the students and staff who asked to research the issue and present their findings. We didn't have to. My good colleague, Dr. Richard Reams, in Counseling Services, did some of that research and re-sent me his records after he read Mr. Levine's column. What we learned undermined our case, and though it is dated, is still compelling:

Essentially, those who didn't have a hard alcohol ban wished they did. With students routinely hospitalized with alcohol poisonings, the most consistent culprit was doing shots.

  • "Within the 10 years I have been (here) every single alcohol poisoning incident (100%) that required a transport to the emergency room involved the over-consumption of hard liquor (in addition to other types of alcohol in some cases as well). We are in the process of reviewing the role of hard liquor on our campus and we are looking to limit the use and availability because we see it as such a high-risk variable." 
  • 49 of 51 cases of alcohol poisoning during a single semester of the 2001-2002 academic year involved distilled alcohol
  • When (we) banned hard alcohol in the res halls in 2002, alcohol poisoning decreased 61% in fall semester 2002 compared to fall semester 2001. 
  • "it is part of my job to meet with students after they have experience alcohol poisoning and required medical attention, and I have done so for the past 7 years. As part of this conversation, I talk with the student about happened the night they drank too much to make sure that that does not happen again. Without a question, in easily over 90% of these cases, hard alcohol (distilled alcohol) was involved."

It went beyond anecdotes:
From the Los Angeles Times (9/3/2000):  Based on a survey of 2,500 students at 100+ US universities:

“Forget banning keg parties, the students say.  Beer isn’t the problem.  It’s hard liquor, particularly shots and shooters, that gets used exclusively to get drunk fast--and often poses the greatest dangers. . . .  If it were up to students to suggest one thing to protect their classmates from the dangers of unsafe drinking, a large majority--67% to 27%--say they would ban hard liquor.”


The Student Life, 2002 article, “Trustees form alcohol advisory committee”, sparked by the near death of a student the previous year
  • 'I told the trustees that if I could ban hard alcohol from campus, I would,' Quinley said. 'I don't think I can, though.'
Distilled Alcohol (Spirits) & Aggression
Gustafson, R. (1999). Male alcohol-related aggression as a function of type of drink. Aggressive Behavior, 25, 401-408. 
 In his study of 90 young adult men, “[s]pirits elicited more direct physical aggression than either beer or wine” despite comparable BAC levels for three groups of drinkers--beer drinkers, wine drinkers, and liquor drinkers.

Conclusion:  “[T]he present experimental data together with data from previously published studies strongly suggest that the so-called alcohol-aggression link is restricted to spirits.”

Today, Stanford, Dartmouth and others have banned hard alcohol. There is some evidence, mostly anecdotal, that this can be effective. And still, there are skeptics who believe students will drink what they want, when they want, and where they want. Our ban is specific to the dorms as we have no fraternity houses. Our ban was not created specifically to address sexual assault, thought that is obviously one of the harmful behaviors we hope to reduce, along with alcohol poisonings and drinking and driving. And while our hospitalizations and forays to detox seem to be up, it is more likely related to students feeling comfortable asking for help because they know they won't get in trouble.

Does the ban deter students from having hard alcohol in their rooms? Probably not. Might permitting hard alcohol in the dorms increase drinking-related problems? Probably. It would change the nature of room parties. We would probably not change this rule just because students say they won't follow it. If we did that we would probably have to allow marijuana on campus or permit plagiarism.

Trinity University continues to be progressive in how it addresses alcohol consumption. Despite the cost of higher education, some residential students will still make drinking to get drunk a part of their experience. We know we can't stop it. But maybe we can slow it down.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spirit Searching

We have no spirit.
That's been the complaint for as long as I can remember. A recent Trinitonian story explored why we are lacking in this area. The conclusion, I think, was that we need better publicity. I don't agree with that. Every once in awhile it is good to do some soul-searching on this topic, because being told we have no spirit can feel like an accusation or judgment. In the end, we have pride, and that means something, maybe more. More on that later.

So here are my theories:
1. It's about scale
We have about 2,400 students and 500 employees. we simply have a smaller audience to draw on for fan support at athletic contests.

2. It's about time
There are other small schools that have smaller numbers but better fan support. At Trinity, we have very involved and academically-driven students. They only have so much band-width and given that there are many athletic contests in a given week, they simply don't have time to attend. 

3. It's about location
We are in a dynamic city. Unlike rural or small-town campuses, students have lots of choices related to how they spend their time. We are not the only busy campus with a rigorous academic culture, but we have plenty of other options for students to consider.

4. It's about competition
Obnoxious Bronco fan Eric Engle was quoted in the article, and this time made a logical case, that we excel in our conference. There is little drama. We expect to win and it is horrible if we lose, so why attend?

5. It's about Division III
We cannot compete with Aggies and Longhorns for game-day pageantry, hype, and excitement. Even though the quality of our athletes is high and their skills are strong, we will almost never land on ESPN. When we did, for the Mississippi Miracle, many I knew recognized the famous play, but had no idea it was us. A national championship in baseball this year barely scored a blip on our own Web page.

6. It's about interest
For most, there is football and basketball. Here, soccer is in that same class. When I attended a Big Ten school I went to maybe four basketball games and most football games. I never went to a track or swim meet, a baseball or volleyball game, or a regatta. For some of these sports, friends and family of the athletes and occasional fans will come out. That's how it is.

7. It's who you know...
I don't see a lot of theater people at football games or a lot of basketball players at recitals. Generally, students go to support their friends. Sometimes many of our athletes' best friends are in fraternities and sororities or on their team. There is nothing wrong with that, but this is who will be at their games.

8. It's not who we are
After TLU brought more fans to our gym for the basketball conference tournament a couple years back I was frustrated. How could we get out-shone in our house? The Athletic Director talked ME down. He was happy with any crowd we could get and liked the atmosphere. He knows who we are and I have to accept that too. 

When we hosted the national championship women's soccer game a couple years ago I would say that at best a quarter of our students went to the game. We even offered free buses to go to the stadium on the north side. We are not a rah-rah place. If our students wanted that they wouldn't have come here.

9. It's about pride
People love it here. They love to go to school here, to learn here, to work here.  The #TigerPride and maroon Friday campaigns have ignited some of that pride. Rarely do I hear alumni reflect anything but a sense of pride and loyalty in their alma mater. That people don't show excessive spirit and support doesn't mean anyone loves it here any less.

10. It's time to to accept our destiny
I have turned gray sitting through student government meetings about tailgates, and t-shirt giveaways, and spirit and ways to create what we are not. Small schools try to be like big ones in this regard. On the other hand, big schools try to be like us in residential colleges and in the classroom.

Go to the bookstore and buy a championship baseball shirt. Go to a game once in awhile. The institution and the athletes have done their part. The game schedules are posted on bulletin boards, in LeeRoy, online, and in the Trinitonian. The issue isn't a lack of publicity. Community is as community does. It's simple: If you want spirit, show spirit.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Eighth Annual: The Year in Review - 2015-2016

Another academic year is in the books, and as is tradition, I take a look back at the year that was. I try to think broadly, beyond the Student Life perspective. I have certainly missed some things and invite readers to post on those things in the comment section.

I want to also note that I review the Trinitonian and my own posts to prepare this piece. The Trinitonian does a fantastic job of reporting a LOT all year long. They deserve more credit than they receive. Sources tell me the weekly paper will come out earlier this year, which should help Friday morning readership!

Top Stories
I rank these mostly by impact and long-term/present-day scope and affect on others.

1. The Anderson Presidency 
Danny Anderson began as the 19th Trinity President on May 29, 2015. He is already well-liked and marked his first year by listening a lot and developing deep connections with others. His inauguration was a celebration of learning at Trinity University through the Great Trinity Experiment. He began building his own cabinet, hiring Mike Bacon and Sheryl Tynes to important posts. Additionally, he hired Deneese Jones, a nationally prominent academic administrator and educator. She is also the first black Vice President in Trinity's history, who is also the first female to serve as Vice President for Academic Affairs.

2. We are the champions!
It is really hard to win a championship at the collegiate level. In a field of over 400 schools, consider the odds. Tiger baseball delivered big-time this summer sweeping through the DIII College World Series. We should savor this with #TigerPride All. Year. Long!

3. Pathways
Well, not as sexy as a championship, but in terms of reach and impact, launching a new curriculum is huge. The Class of 2019 was the first to undertake the new six credit First Year Experience class. For many, it was a daunting way to start college. Overall, the faculty worked extremely hard to kick-off this important and well-considered new curriculum. It will be assessed and evolve to create a meaningful blueprint for 21st century learning.

4. Social Justice and Related Issues
Whether the issues were Islamaphobia, race, political correctness, women's rights, gender equity, terrorism, open carry, the election, the environment, or sexual assault, there was no shortage of topics for students to digest and process. Since graduation, Orlando, terror overseas, police brutality, and brutality of police have occurred. The world needs change, leadership, and education...

5.Campus Dialogue
Those issues (above), created a tremendous amount of discussion and dialogue on campus. Whether through speakers, programs, multiple forums, editorials, counter-editorials, counter-counter-counter editorials, the campus was a fertile environment for deep and meaningful discussions. Students from the right pushed those on the left, leading to multi-faceted conversations with a subtext of free speech and the role of a college campus in delivering and fostering that.

6. Campus Master Plan
A comprehensive year-long review between campus leaders and a consulting firm through a campus-wide committee lead to a number of recommendations for the future. Chiefly, conversations about Chapman, Halsell, the library, and a way to link these areas was of top priority. The evolution of housing, including more single rooms and the addition of apartments was discussed as well.

7. Greeks
The Triniteers were suspended and the barred Pi Kappa Alpha had some residual issues. Nevertheless, this was an outstanding year for Greek Life. Coordinator Jeremy Allen took the helm at a time when there was a decrease in conduct issues. He worked with a really productive Greek Council. Revamped standards resonated with clubs. The staff relied heavily on fraternity and sorority leadership to again address vexing issues related to off campus parties at private residences. What followed was a new approach and that hopefully takes hold this year. Students are the culture here and they can keep one another safe...

8. Sexual Assault
...which was the approach of the Coalition for Respect and Student Government Association. A spring student-only forum put students at the center of this issue, where they were challenged to proactively address campus culture related to alcohol and sexual assault. The University's role is to educate and manage complaints. We all must strive to eliminate that need altogether. Our one-of-a-kind (second annual) report shows a campus community engaged in addressing this important issue.

9.North and Pets
A renovated North Hall introduced designed single rooms on campus for the first time. The reception was incredible as assessments showed that residents were thrilled with privacy in their third and fourth years on campus. The master planning committee took note. This fall we will pilot a pet-friendly hall with cats and dogs in South Hall. There are critics but with the three-year requirement it is important to offer students dynamic living options. Ruff.

10. Trinity Market
The Market incorporates all of our vales: discovery, excellence, impact, the individual, and the community. It is a wonderful venture, is well-managed, and marketed (no pun intended) extremely well. The question is, will it take? It competes with the Pearl Market on Saturdays and there is not an easy and direct entrance. Let's hope it gains traction as the heat lessens this fall.

- #TigerPride... It is growing!
- Admissions hits the mark with a big crew for the Class of 2020!
- Active shooter drill: As we learned from UCLA, people need to know what to do, unfortunately.
- B'Low Optimal and Optimal Buzz programs taught students to drink like grown-ups. Well, some grown-ups.
- Student Government (SGA) had a terrific year.
- Tiger Network allowed off-site access to lectures, events, and athletics. It was huge in allowing Trinitonians to follow Tiger baseball to the championship. And, you can still find the tremendous 2016 commencement speeches in the archives.
- Jane Goodall was great, though again, could have been anywhere...
- New chef at Mabee and new offerings, including smoothies were well-received.
- HBO Go!
- Trinitonian headline: "T-Pain was better than Tyga" Duh. And he wore a TU shirt!
- Mousetrap - What a fun play!
- Standing item: Acabellas and Trinitones

- From last year: B-Cycle was set to launch in September, then January, then May, and now, hopefully September. Spokes still turning. Update: SGA met with B-Cycle, did extensive survey, and still awaits a response from B-Cycle. Prediction: Great idea, but students are reluctant to pay and the program leadership and city may want to put resources elsewhere.
- Zip Car: It was successful enough, but vandals broke out the windows of one vehicle and another was stolen. Oops.
- The Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and city announced a route change to eliminate the hills near campus (yay!) but now the route will bypass Trinity (hiss...).
- Milo
- Student complaints about Mabee and parking...

Under the Radar
- Academic Success Center with Stacy Davidson: What an important addition to Student Success!
- Game of Life from Residential Life received a national award (NASPA).
- KRTU turned 40, and all that jazz!
- Conduct changes: after a year-long review student hearings will be very different next year.

Big Hurts

- Professor Dan Spiegel passed away during finals.
- Staff members Carolyn Bonilla and Randy Creech died, leaving colleagues broken-hearted.
- Our obituary page reflects the losses of former faculty members Ted Sparling, Mary Ann Tetreault, and Jean Chittenden.
- Some real heavy hitters retired from the faculty. They will be missed.
- Hate to see colleagues leave, though we sure attract great people. Among those who left this year were Edwin Blanton, Soi Smith, Lisa Petrakis, Lyndsey Aguilar, Ana Windham, Jerry Ferguson, and Ann Knoebel.

On the Horizon
- Bell Center renovations are underway.
- Year two of Danny Anderson presidency
- Master planning decisions
- Off campus parties and new conduct procedures
- We will be smoke-free one day, the question is when...
- Don't look now, but 150th anniversary is just around the corner

Year 7
Year 6
Year 5
Year 4
Year 3
Year 2
Year 1

Bonus tracks
In case you missed it, here are some of the topics I got to write about this year. Trinity is rich with material:

Stolen Endings
Alcohol speaker
Faculty sandwiches
A Christmas Story
Work fun
Alumni on Campus