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Monday, August 31, 2015

All in: Optimal Buzz and B'low Optimal at Trinity University

Optimal Swag
After a two-year pilot program, Trinity has fully rolled out its B'low Optimal alcohol program this fall. The program offers on-campus students an incentive to drink according to Optimal Buzz program guidelines, created several years ago by Dr. Richard Reams Associate Director of Counseling Services.

For years Trinity University worked with students, faculty, and staff, through the Trinity Alcohol Coalition to develop cohesive messages and programs that fit to these three tenets: we acknowledge students will drink; we care deeply about student health and safety; and we will follow our alcohol policy as proscribed by law.

Our Responsible Friend policy acknowledges students will drink and shows we care about them by letting students off the hook if someone calls for help because they see another student in crisis related to alcohol. No one gets in trouble. Lawful alcohol at tailgates is now part of policy and complies with these tenets. Beer and wine are served in the Skyline Room for various events. There are many examples.

We have been reflecting this approach through a brief and practical video/slide show we send to new students and publish on our alcohol web page:

Dr. Reams used to talk about the Optimal Buzz with first year residence hall students, but we were only hitting about half of each class. We produced a video this year that was shown at New Student Orientation to all new students, with much greater reach. It acknowledges that students will drink and teaches them how to drink like (most) adults - to be safe and drink in moderation:

The B'low Optimal program takes the Optimal Buzz a step further. If students are caught drinking, but say "I wanna blow," the Residential Life staff allows them to opt-in for a breathalyzer reading. If they are within the Optimal Buzz range up to .06 BAC, then they only receive a pre-warning. This acknowledges students will drink, shows we care about their health and safety, and still complies with policy (just with an adjusted sanction - the pre-warning).

This is self-sustaining, financially, as we have used student fine money from alcohol and drug cases to fund the videos, new breathalyzers, and some of the items pictured above: shirts for new students; cups, with serving-size markers for sophomores; and bottle openers for juniors and seniors. Next year seniors will receive shot glasses that state: "This is ONE drink - Go Optimal."  The staff is doing an accompanying poster campaign as well.

Let's face it. Many alcohol education programs miss the mark. We will be assessing this approach to see if it is effective in reducing excessive drinking. Early reviews in the pilot program were promising, though we learned many lessons that have been addressed in the new full program.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pizza and Pleasure Redux

In January 2014 I wrote about some push back to the Trinity Pizza & Pleasure program. This series offers sex education and pizza (as an incentive to draw attendance). Briefly, some (mostly parents - and not many) objected that the series seemed to emphasize promiscuity and there was no forum for alternatives. Program architect Dr. Richard Reams agreed to add some different topics. Here is the lineup and attendance figures from 2014-2015:
  • Getting What You Want from Sex (Sept. 18; 60 attendees) Presented by Cay Crow.
  • Getting What You Want from Abstinence (Sept. 25; 22 attendees) Presented by Ms. Crow.
  • Body Image and Sexuality (Oct. 2; 20 attendees) Presented by Ms. Crow.
  • Sexual Orientation and Identity (Oct 9; 22 attendees) Presented by Dr. Richard Reams.
  • The Secrets of Love (Jan 22; 33 attendees) Presented by Dr. Erin Sumner.
  • The Secrets of Dating (Jan 29; 32 attendees) Presented by Dr. Sumner.
  • The Secrets of Men’s & Women’s Sexuality (Feb. 5, 13 attendees) Presented by Ms. Crow.
  • ‘Kinky’ Sexuality and Relationships (Feb. 12; 20 attendees) Presented by Ms. Crow and guest.
I wanted to review how the new programs were received. Dr. Reams, a master of assessment, has submitted his results, and they were quite positive. In his report, he states:

The three new sessions (Getting What You Want from Sex, Secrets of Love, Secrets of Dating) were the most highly attended and are definitely worth continuing to put into the annual rotation of topics.  Attendees generated new topics that are worthy of consideration for the 2015-16 P&P series: distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy relationships, addressing myths about sexuality, same-sex dating and relationships, and recovering from a relationship breakup. 

Additionally, some of the post-program survey comments on the abstinence program noted ways in which the program was meaningful:

Knowing that "Not being emotionally ready [for sex] is normal"

Talk to your partner about boundaries
It helped me understand that I am not alone
It helped me feel better about my choice

The changes were covered in the Trinitonian in February and it seems that Dr. Erin Sumner is an excellent program addition.

I should note that in the original post I discussed bringing Wendy Shalit to campus to speak on these topics. We decided to first see what we could do internally before going to the expense. The programs we offer likely don't justify increased costs on a per person basis. Our experts do great work anyways. Based on the assessment we will continue these programs in-house.

Some lessons learned or reinforced:

- Nearly everything we do is about education. This series has been an excellent and growing program for five years. Regardless of the topics, messages of safer sex and respect are consistent themes.
- Sometimes we don't know everything. The suggestions from parents about a better-balanced program, once implemented, enhanced the program.
- Dr. Reams, his colleague Dr. Amy Stone, the presenters, and the departments that sponsor this series have cobbled together a great program in the absence of a sexual education course on campus.
- Assessment is important in determining whether or not our programs are effective and if they contribute to student learning. Kudos to Dr. Reams and others who have lead the way in program assessment on campus.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Seventh Annual: The Year in Review - 2014-2015

The portrait of Dennis Ahlburg hangs in the Northrup Hall Presidential suite.
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 Affairs perspective. I have certainly missed some things and invite readers to post on those things in the comment section.

I will write a handful of posts between now and August, but look for more regular posting to occur when we begin the 2015-2016 academic year.

Top Stories

1. March Sadness
The Trinity University community was rocked by two very public tragedies. On March 4, Professor Mike Kearl passed away after suffering a heart attack while walking across campus. His students and faculty colleagues, were devastated. The community suffered another shock when five students were in a car crash on March 30, leaving one student dead and two in critical condition. The campus still mourns the loss of Dr. Kearl and young Corey Byrnes.

2. Presidential Transitions
President Dennis Ahlburg stepped down, finishing his four-year term in December. Michael Fischer took the institutional helm until Danny Anderson was selected and took over on May 29. Dr. Ahlburg came in with an agenda to affect change and he advanced several campus initiatives and connected to many in the community. President Anderson comes in at a time of exciting change, ready to advance the Trinity Tomorrow strategic plan and the Pathways curriculum.

3. Centers of Attention
The Trinity Tomorrow Strategic Plan is becoming a reality. Centers for Student Success, Experiential Learning/Career Success, and International Education are coming on line with soft openings this year. Hopefully a year from now these places will have more permanent homes and will be operating at full capacity and improving the student experience even more.

4. Coalition for Respect
While sexual assault continues to be a national and campus issue, the Trinity community has made great strides to address the issue head on as demonstrated by this annual report. It shows a commitment to effective policies and procedures and prevention and education.

5. Speakers in the house
Admittedly, the lectures that drew my attention were those in my areas of interest. Doris Kearns-Goodwin was really terrific. Tim Wise was a passionate and fiery MLK speaker - perhaps the best one yet. Keith Edwards gave an incredible talk on the culture of sexual assault. The top program was the Reading TUgether event that featured Diana Holt and Edward Elmore. What a treat!

6. Leveraging the faculty
The Trinity Diversity Connection and others hosted several faculty-led panels. Most notably, the discussion about race and Ferguson, co-sponsored with Black Student Union was insightful and impactful. Panels on ISIS as well as the transgender tipping point showcased the faculty for those unable to take their classes. These programs are a great reminder of the learning environment our students are immersed in.

7. Residency requirement
This issue was raised by the Student Government Association and was discussed by the SGA President, Sean McCutchen with the administration and Board of Trustees. It definitely received fair play. The institution remains committed to the residency requirement. It is part of our modern-day DNA. The staff and students will continue to look at ways to make the upper-class experience a better one. The North Hall renovation is a terrific start.

8. Pikes place
The fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, was removed from campus following several tumultuous years and sanctions from the student-led Greek Council. The national fraternity experiment was relatively brief. Going forward, there are terrific opportunities for our young men to grow and bond in other fraternities with strong campus roots.

9. Smoking
The Student Government Association had a difficult time getting student survey responses related to the residency requirement. Conversely, the responses about smoking were abundant and pointed. Students want a healthy environment in so many regards, but having a smoke-free or tobacco-free culture imposed is less palatable. This is not uncommon when schools transition to smoke-free. It is likely inevitable, but the timing and phasing in will be important.

10. Urban Renewal
New football coach, Jerheme Urban, brought in a new philosophy, including morning practices, in an effort to reset the program after many successful years under Coach Mohr. In addition, #TigerPride is swelling up all over campus thanks to efforts of staff members such as John Jacobs, Michelle Bartonico and others. We have a new logo and a new fight song will be unveiled this fall.

- Tiger baseball nearly made the championship round in the College World Series!
- Coates Center refurbishment was well-received.
- Bell Center Bandit nabbed in refurbished Coates Center.
- Murchison dorm renovation (and elevator to upper campus)
- Standing item: Acabellas and Trinitones
- Honorable Mention: The Trinitonian is really good.

- Tyga... Probably the shortest Welcome Week concert ever, but at least it was horrible. American Authors in 2015 may allow us to go big, or go home.
- Hertz on Demand just didn't have the infrastructure to work well. But there is another (see On the Horizon, below).
- B-Cycle was set to launch in September, then January, then May, and now, hopefully September. Spokes still turning.
- Good2Go sexual assault was a creative approach to a vexing issue and was from a Trinity family. It never got traction, but it was a good idea.

Under the Radar
- Student Affairs kind of went away, but in style...
- TU Life app seems to have great promise, and hopefully will take off.
- Jim Cullum Jazz Band plays in the Skyline Room every first Saturday night of the month.
- The mayoral debate came to campus.
- Israel and Palestine is a huge topic for some on campus, and hosting speakers adds to the complexity.

Big Hurts
- In addition to the aforementioned Dr. Mike Kearl and student Corey Byrnes, retired professor John Donahue died as did recent retirees Reggie Lyro and Tom Nixon. The obituary page has brought other sad news to those of us who have been here awhile.
- Less extreme, the University has seen several employees retire, resign, or otherwise move on. We lost a president, a VP, John Greene Mary Denny, the Chapmans, Briana-Becka-Amelia from Student Life, and many more. Hate to see colleagues leave, though we sure attract great people.

On the Horizon
- While students were away... the Campus Carry gun debate heated up and it looks like we dodged a bullet, as private institutions can opt out, for now.
- We are wrapping up a five year complete re-do of our dining services and have some fun and positive changes in store for the year ahead.
- The First Year Experience will include a broad array of exciting new classes similar to the HUMA model. Game changer.
- Zip Car is coming to campus to replace the stalled Hertz on Demand program!

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:
On race
On advising
On YikYak
On drugs
On things students can do
On blogging

On nostalgia

Monday, June 8, 2015

Life, Death, and Student Affairs

Legends: Janet Waltman, Jim Potter, Debbie Kimbell, Pete Neville, Margaret Farris, Thurman Adkins, David Tuttle, Coleen Grissom, Gary Neal, Peg Layton, and Richard Reams
It's still too soon to talk about "the accident." But we'll get there.

This April, as the curtain fell on the Division of Student Affairs, it seemed perfect that former colleague Pete Neville was back in town for the first time since he left over ten years ago. After all, Pete, the Director of Student Activities was here when I began my Trinity University Student Affairs career in 1987. He was one of many. We'll get there too.

The dissolution of Student Affairs at Trinity has been more evolution than revolution. It probably started when VP for Student Affairs Felicia Lee left in 2010. Months later, her division would learn that she wouldn't be replaced. Student Affairs would report to Vice President for Academic Affairs, Micheal Fischer, in an effort to more fully integrate academic and student life. It made sense. I would remain as Senior Student Affairs Officer under the Associate VP title.

It's logical too, that the Trinity Tomorrow strategic plan would finally focus the University, among other things, on experiential learning, career success, and student support through a new Student Success Center. So this spring (2015) Student Affairs stalwarts (Counseling Services, Health Services, Career Services, and Community Service) were plucked away to be part of new campus "centers." What remained of Student Affairs then, was simply the Dean of Students Office, Residential Life, and Student Involvement (formerly CCI, formerly Student Activities...).

This is perfect in so many ways. The changes are mission and student centered, as they should be. It is an exciting time for Trinity University. But there is a little melancholy as the changes are implemented.

For Student Affairs folks, when the night is shattered by an early morning phone call, it is usually not good news. It can range from the report of a drunk or belligerent student, a request for a room search related to drugs, or an update about a student hospitalized for mental health issues. And at its worst, the call is about a student death. We fear it. It is hard for it not to feel like a failure - a failure to protect someone's child, sent here to discover, grow, become, not to die. Not on our watch.

When I arrived here in 1987, I could never imagine that I would be here nearly 30 years later. As a new Area Coordinator (now called Residential Life Coordinators) I was struck by my good fortune. I had never worked at a place that was so student driven. Most of that drive came straight from our Vice President and Dean, Coleen Grissom. Among her many axioms: "We don't do things to be administratively convenient - we do what is right for our students." Riding shotgun, Thurman Adkins seemed born old -- and wise. Over the years he would make Dean Grissom's goals his plans as a steady hand, working with student government and student conduct. With those two and Pete, Peg Layton rounded out my group of mentors and heroes.

It seems odd, now, for me to be at the helm as the division as it has unraveled. It feels Gorbachev-ian on a much lighter scale. It feels a bit like a failure to have happened on my watch, though it offers a fresh start. Res Life, and Student Involvement are now part of the re-branded "Student Life." This was my idea. For years, Student Affairs has seemed to some in the academy as a distraction to college, not a part of it. The new structure, and name, may put that to rest. In truth, Student Affairs, or Student Life, hasn't really changed, but it is just more of what it used to be. Sexual assault, alcohol, hazing, health issues, psychological hurdles, deceased parents, accidents, deaths.. these aren't new. In the age of technology, everything is faster, harsher, more public, more criticized. But with it are more rewards too. Working with young students, some more fragile than ever, has never been more gratifying. Students are clever, bright, sensitive, and they care about the world in ways they didn't used to.

Nevertheless, Student Affairs has always felt under-appreciated, and that isn't just a Trinity thing. In addition to handling crises, my colleagues here and elsewhere are expected to engage students outside the classroom. We need to keep them busy, happy, social (yet academically grounded), well-fed, well-exercised, and protected. At little schools we are charged to make the experience seem bigger and at big schools we work to make it smaller - for students to not feel like numbers. And we face harsh criticism - trying to balance a culture of order and at the same time a culture of openness. We face issues of the minority rights against the majority needs. We struggle to be consistent and flexible. And many days it seems no one thinks we get it right.

Sometimes it seems our task is the impossible: to protect students from one another and themselves, and to keep them safe.

There's been an accident and there may be fatalities. First year students were in a fast car, and there was a turn, and there was a crash. You better get to the hospital. 

Everything seemed to align in April of 2015. Pete was coming back, the division was evaporating, and it was the perfect time for a send-off. Student Affairs didn't start at Trinity in 1987. But it did for me. It became my life, and my personal and professional identities have been forever merged. So it seemed important to put this chapter appropriately to bed with Pete's visit. The call went out, and "legends" from 1987 already mentioned, along with Janet Waltman (Health Services), Jim Potter (Intramurals), Margaret Farris and Debbie Kimbell (Coates Center), and current staffers Gary Neal and Richard Reams (Counseling) answered the call.

We had lunch in the Skyline Room on April 9, 2015, to celebrate, reconnect, talk about old times, and to share our experiences. Those were shared when each person said a few words to our current staff and Jamie Thompson's leadership class. The underlying message: impact.

It was less than three months in as an Area Coordinator in 1987, when the night was broken. The impact of the crash hurdled two students out of the t-top and over the highway ramp. We lost two first year students, Michelle and Matt, and nearly lost two others, in a brief moment when the car swerved and hit a guard rail. Matt's sister was an upper-class student here at the time. That was over 25 years ago. And it still seems too soon to talk about. Too much raw pain. As I follow the lives of the survivors on Facebook, today, I never forget the two we lost, though I never knew them. It simply became "the accident." The speed, the unfairness, the randomness, and mostly, the tragedy.

What has been amazing about Student Affairs here became evident at the April lunch. The names and faces have changed and dozens have come and gone, leaving there indelible marks on the institution and mostly its students. The ethic of care that was so important to Coleen Grissom, as well as her successor, Gage Paine, and then finally, Felica Lee, has only become stronger. A culture is set at the beginning and there is a reason it is hard to change. The culture of Student Affairs in 2015 is the same as it was in 1987. The legacy of OUR legends (and yes, there are Grissom, Neville, Adkins, and Paine awards) lives on. The division and the structure may change, but the ethos doesn't. Indeed, while so much about our work has transformed since 1987, so much is exactly the same.

This time it was the TUPD Police Chief, Paul Chapa. His late night calls are never good. There's been an accident, and there may be fatalities. It was March 30, 2015. And it was happening again. Speed, a curve, and impact... We lost Corey. His sister, Natalie was a senior here who graduated this past May. We nearly lost two others, Andrew and Claire. And it feels too soon to talk about. Too much raw pain. It simply became "the accident." The speed, the unfairness, the randomness, and mostly, the tragedy.

In Student Affairs, we routinely and quietly deal with gravity, levity, and absurdity. It is how we live. Each year brings more of the same. Every issue seems familiar, yet each is different. If it is a circle of life, it can be one that is as gratifying as it is cruel. This spring, on this campus, we had a rare chance to reflect on that, to celebrate, and to get closure before we start a new chapter. What we heard about was fulfillment, making a difference, and being part of something bigger. I think most of us feel fortunate to have been called: through life, and death, and student affairs.

Friday, May 1, 2015

What do you say to a naked lady?

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Recently a young woman at Texas State sat naked on the steps of
the library as an art project. I think people would call it performance art. So, what would I do, as an administrator if it happened here? I also wonder how others feel. Some initial thoughts:

It's weird
Being naked in public just seems... unnatural. I mean, she wasn't wearing (hardly) any clothes and people could see she was naked. Several years ago a student in California known as The Naked Guy wore the emperor's clothes. Sometimes people do things in the name of art to simply draw attention to themselves. Or maybe they are troubled.

It's oddly sexist
If a guy did this people would be creeped out and would call him a pervert, or worse, just laugh at him.

It's art
Really, in this case it is expression, and art really is expression. Though unconventional she did communicate something to others... I am impressed with her courage if not her boldness. What started as odd actually morphed more from spectacle to message, at least for the thoughtful.

It's unfair to the other art students
...but of course most people take longer to do their artwork. So is it really art? It is possible she hadn't been doing well in class, and thought "oh crap, this is due today" and ran out to the library with her blindfold and headphones... Meanwhile, someone is laboring for weeks on his or her project. I could see that as unfair.

It makes the University choose between rules and expression
Sure, most universities have policies that explicitly or implicitly state that people should wear clothes. Sure, some people might be offended by this woman's actions. On the other hand, students do offensive things on most campuses on most weekends, and with much less thought or virtue. Universities are the open market places of ideas. In this case, people may be compelled to talk about the point of her art and the statement she is making in substantive ways. Or not.

In this case she did not violate any law and apparently no policies. I think Texas State handled it well. The story didn't become about them.

Free speech - again
Sometimes people have important things to say. Sometimes they have crude and rude things to say. And sometimes people are fighting oppression against themselves or others. Generally, even offensive speech is good speech because it stimulates ideas, allows students to find their voices, and helps them learn to choose their battles, to push back, and to be assertive while being civil.

To wrap it up...
I tend to think that if this happened here people would let it go. We let Calvert Ghosts happen. (That is a Halloween streaking tradition. We let that take place because it is relatively small, it isn't alcohol-driven,  the students are more like naked tots running from the bath to the bedroom with glee than anything harmless, and because we want to see naked people.)

What do you think? Weigh in on the poll at the upper right.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Social Media Lessons by Michael Buble

Students, and all of us, really, have to be careful in using social media. Pop singer Michael Buble recently created a stir when he posted an Instagram photo of a woman's derriere on his account. He later apologized, but said he intended no offense. No surprise that there has been some intense reaction. I have posted before on social issues such as race, twice, and homosexuality, twice. I have also posted about social media. There are so many educational lessons here related to sexism and social media combined, that I had to break them down in a pie chart (above).

Many are saying people shouldn't go out in public with their gluteal folds peaking from underneath their shorts. If they do, then all bets are off. Hopefully we all have friends who will give us grief about what we are wearing... or we at least have mirrors where we live.

The biggest question, in my mind, is this really something a sensitive person would do? It might be a little mean, a little... un-Christian. (Though in fairness, it is a little-known fact that the original Christians had wonderful senses of humor. In the recently recovered Biblical book "Antics of the Apostles," we learned that St. Bartholomew was teased mercilessly for his flatulence problem. He was often referred to by the other apostles as "Fart-olomew.") So as a society, we must ask, "are we overly sensitive?" Or is it just a fact of life that everyone throughout time has made fun of other people? He who has not commented on another person's appearance should cast the first Instagram.

Public shaming
There seems to be quite a bit of consternation that this person was put out there with no consent and could be ashamed. This hits close to home for me as I recently found a photo of me on a professor's account that was pretty embarrassing:

Me, innocently shopping for vitamins...
Anyways, it could be worse. At least this woman has anonymity. Until she goes on Oprah. Celebrities themselves are routinely skewered in the media as though they have no feelings.

Michael Buble was simply doing what throngs of people do at Wal-Mart. His sin, apparently was being Michael Buble and not being anonymous. Of course if HE is taking all of the Wal-Mart photos we have several different issues.

I am not sure I really buy that this is sexist. I might buy that it is a little rude. If this were a guy in the photo no one would care and more likely, most people would be grossed out. Let's face it, there IS a sub-population of really chauvinistic people - they're called men.

So wait, his wife took this photo? So if he was really having her take photos that he would hashtag as #myshorts, #babygotback, #hungryshorts, isn't that weird? Isn't it even stranger that he is so locked in to those hashtags? If this was not rude humor then was it kinky. Eww... who are you?

Okay students of the liberal arts, you know the drill. Michael Buble is not all good and not all bad. So those who are writing him off for this are ridiculous. Those who are championing him might be blinded by his celebrity. It was a "light-hearted" post, as he said, and maybe it offended some and maybe it didn't. Period.

Fast Food
Which brings us to this issue: Why does Michael Buble go out for fast food. Really? You're Michael Buble!

Calling Michael Buble
If I ever want to find Michael I will definitely wear my short-shorts and go to What-a-Burger.

Okay, his apology was the worst. He tried to make us think he was attracted to this bottom, but his post -- with the hashtag #onlyinmiami -- seems disingenuous. Here is how I would write the apology:

"Sorry I offended some with my photo. I thought it was funny that I could see this woman's butt cheeks. I am not in third grade. Neither are you, but I bet you would have done this too. That's life. So, let me sing my sweet songs, eat fast food, and hang out with my wife. This was nothing more. And it's nothing less."