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Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Sky's the Limit!

The "Dean of Student's Half Marathon Challenge for Health" wrapped up on race day, Sunday November 16, 2008. This inaugural program coincided with the first Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and Half Marathon in San Antonio. Pictured above are a handful of the 50 Trinity runners who completed the Challenge. Most runners from Trinity finished within 15 minutes of the two hour mark (1:45 to 2:15 for the 13.1 miles).

The primary goal of the program was to help students develop healthy lifetime fitness habits. In a follow-up survey this week 92 percent reported they would continue to run in the future. Thus far, 38 of 39 respondents have reported they would participate in the program again or would attempt the full marathon next time.

The group generally trained together on weekends and in pairs or alone during the week. The program included presentations on running gear, technique, nutrition, and strength training. The bookstore on campus discounted Trinity Under Armour shirts for us to wear (and Trinity got lots of shout-outs during the race when spectators saw us). A food drive was generated as part of the program to give something back to the San Antonio community and 279 pieces were collected for the Food Bank.

Probably the best indicator of the success of the program was on race weekend itself. The group had a pasta carbo-loading dinner (see photo at left) at the Dean of Students' residence on the Friday preceding the Sunday race, and a group went to the marathon expo on that Saturday to pick up information and check-in for the race. Mostly, however, the spirit of camaraderie and accomplishment was evident on race day, when twelve weeks of training culminated in all of the runners crossing the finish line.

On a personal note, this was one of the most positive experiences I have had as a member of the Trinity community. I really enjoyed this group. You get to know a lot about people when you spend a couple hours a week running together. They were all so nice and gracious and positive. I also appreciated the role some of my colleagues played in helping pull this off, namely Pete Kelly-Zion, Rick Roberts, and Harry Wallace. The greatest thrill of all, besides my pride in all of the runners, was completing this run with my 16-year-old son Nathan, who was participating in his first race!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Honor Parking - Why Not?

Nick Shockey, former ASR senator and current senior, hasn't let his loss in last spring's ASR presidential election slow him down. He is continuing to push forward a proposal he initiated last year to create short-term (15-20 minutes) parking spots at various campus locations.

Shockey's plan is to designate a half dozen spots on campus (where students are often currently ticketed) as they run in and out of buildings on quick errands. Some proposed spaces include Thomas Hall first floor, in front of the Witt Center, in the lot between Ruth Taylor and Northrup, and in the Heidi Circle.

Nick has looked at various options such as placing parking meters at these locations. This creates some issues as Security will have to spend even more time in parking lots rather than keeping campus safe. It also means that someone needs to remove coins, track revenue, etc. Meters would also be targets for thieves and vandals.

The issue is really how to monitor students who take advantage of these quick 15 minute spots and remain for longer periods of time (a meal, a class, a meeting). Identifying these spots is easy. Leaving enforcement to Security is problematic. (Security is often characterized unfairly for overzealous enforcement, which is really done to simply support those who have paid for the right to park.)

Why not make the spots 15 minute honor spots? The punishment for abusing the privilege would simply be the ire of other students who can't take advantage of the parking places. Post signs identifying these as honor spots, hazards required, and let students have at them. It would reinforce the ultimate on self-governance. Security wins as they don't have to enforce the use of the spots and students won't get tickets that frustrate them.

Nick will continue to work with the Traffic and Parking Committee. If you support his plan, let others on the committee know.

My Life as a Man

I have four sisters and no brothers. I have worked primarily for women, outstanding women: Susan Winters, Rhonda Viney, Coleen Grissom, Gage Paine, to name a few. I have had many female colleagues in a profession dominated by women. Strong women. I have respected and feared many female secretaries as well. My wife Donna - a fantastic woman- has been at my side for nearly 19 years to love, guide, correct, and fix me. (Pictured at right are Sandy Ragan, Coleen Grissom, Felicia Lee, little Kellyn, and Donna Tuttle.)

So what took place on November 13 was as unpredictable as it was inevitable. Men have an internal clock that ticks to a time when a bone-headed remark or action will have to take place. It is nature's way of keeping us grounded. Exhibit A: Telling your bride at the altar that her mother looks great in her new dress.

Back to November 13. My supervisor and Vice President, Felicia Lee, stopped by my office so we could walk together to the Young Alumnus Luncheon, honoring an outstanding 1993 graduate named Tess Coody. As she bounded into my office suite in Northrup 118, Dr. Lee asked, very directly, "Does this skirt make me look fat?" She would later say that she was asking my administrative secretary, Lynette Kenyon, and not me. But she posed the question and she looked at Lynette, and looked at me.

It was really ironic that she asked about her skirt, because I had met with her earlier in the day and actually thought to myself "what's with the skirt?" Sometimes men make decisions to do the wrong things with confidence. Exhibit B: "I don't want anything for Mother's Day, it's such a busy time for you." Other things just jump out: "Wanda, you look like a Den Mother."

What is it about time that in a split second one can go through an incredible thought process? Here's how mine worked. First, I don't think my boss looks fat. So, no, I could definitely say, to the question I thought was directed my way, "no, you don't look fat." However, Felicia Lee is a complicated person. Lynette, who speaks her mind to me, clearly knuckled under to the VP, declaring, "no, not at all, it's really cute." Ha, she totally fell for the trap. I knew this was a test from Dr. Lee. There is a lot riding on this, I thought. If I lied, like Lynette, then Felicia would not trust me as a confidante in important decisions, like what to do with the Tigers' Den or where to have the holiday party. If I told the truth, she might ridicule me and harass me forever.

As the perspiration started to bead up on my brow I could hear my father-in-law's voice in my head saying "when will you ever learn?" I even heard my wife's voice saying, "David, those skirts are in style, and besides, never say anything about a woman's appearance, ever."

But what came out of my mouth was this, in my own voice: "I don't really love the skirt, but it doesn't make you look fat." It was, I believed, a brilliant tactical ploy. Avoid any negative reference to weight, but attack the object: I was honest and sensitive, right? "So let's go to lunch."

"I wasn't asking you!!I look like a clown! I'm fat!" It was like something out of a bad Cathy cartoon. Lynette called herself on the phone so she could answer her own call to escape, leaving me to my own misstatements. Sometimes knowing when to be quiet is a good strategy. Instead, the rest of the conversation went like this:

David: "It's just that the way the fabric hangs over the top, it makes it look... a little, big."
Felicia: "I have to go home and change!"
David: "That belt thing in the back, all of that fabric bunches out around it and..."
Felicia: "I thought it would be different, I wanted to take a risk."
David: "It looks like a burlap bag. I am sure it is fine, I just prefer a classic look."
Felicia: "James said I was dressing too old, I took a chance, and YOU called me a clown."
David: "I've just never seen pleats there on a skirt."
Felicia: "Argggh!"

I was like a broken sprinkler head, I couldn't stop. It got a little worse after that.
At the luncheon, budding Lynette's, er, students, kept commenting on how "cute" Dr. Lee's skirt looked. You've got to be kidding me. "Oh, wool is really in right now," one said. There is a fine line between wool and burlap.

Suffice it to say, the rest of my day I received harassment from all quarters, even strangers, about what had by then been blown completely out of proportion by my boss. So to my brethren at Trinity, I offer you some advice. When you make a mistake with a woman, please just shut up.
As for me, at least I didn't say anything about Dr. Lee's shoes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can it!

Support the Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge for Health by donating food to the San Antonio Food Bank. All runners are being asked to donate 13 food items during these 13 days before the 13.1 mile run. Over 30 people from the Trinity community will be participating in the Challenge as runners in the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. Show your support for these runners by donating to the food drive. Runners aren't the only ones who need nutritious fuel. By sponsoring the food drive the group can support the city that hosts this marathon and demonstrate care for those in need of daily sustenance. If you know a participant or just want to show your support, this is a fantastic way to recognize our road warriors.

The Audacity of Action

A classroom in the Bell Athletic Center is found with a homophobic slur on the blackboard that references the desks turned upside down as a seating arrangement for gays. A Black Student Union flier in a residence hall has the word is defaced. A ROTC student gets jeered when he walks on campus in uniform. The "N" word is posted on a electronic message board. A neighbor calls the Dean at his wit's end about the behavior of Trinity students on his block while an alumna writes to complain about the drunken comments (including dropping the F-bomb) by a fan at a Trinity football game.

The Commitment to Excellence in the Student Handbook states that "the University strives to create an atmosphere in which basic civility and decency are expected, mutual respect are fostered, and sound religious faith and expression are encouraged."

Some have apparently not gotten the message. That's too bad, because the outliers do not reflect the general goodness in the souls and consciences of the majority of our students. Now more than ever our students show through their speech and action a genuine caring for the community and the world, and a global perspective absent just a decade ago. But as any team, company, college administration, political party, profession, or fraternity is judged by the negative actions of a few, then our students will be judged, at times, the same way.

So where is the disconnect between what is expected in this community of scholars and the actions of a few? Perhaps it is just simple mathematics. In any sized group a certain percentage will be knuckle-heads. Maybe it is the nature of the millennial generation, raised on Reality TV and shock radio, anything goes and well, its only words. Perhaps people are de-sensitized by the media they are constantly fed and only want sensitivity when they are the ones being offended.

Hate-speech codes have been shot down by the Courts because they take away the free speech of others. Colleges and Universities, espousing values of diversity, openness, civility, and care desperately want to create an environment where all students feel welcome to share perspectives and to feel comfortable where they live and study. But creating rules to demand respect never work. As with those who protest tasteless art, the attention then is drawn to that which deserves it the least. On campuses, the argument becomes about speech, not inclusion. (Note that at Trinity there are no restrictions on speech or even assembly, which often are detailed in time, place, and manner policies.)

So does the institution set up workshops, conferences, and meetings to try to wring the incivility and insensitivity from students? It might help, but more often than not, the audience who needs it the most is nowhere to be found.

It is the general responsibility of the Student Affairs staff to promote and cultivate the values of civility, citizenship, and caring in the student body. It is paramount that the faculty educate students about sexism, racism, homophobia, and more. But mostly, it is students who need to hold one another to a higher standard - to not accept that "boys will be boys," as former Dean Coleen Grissom oft stated - to hold one another to a higher standard of respect and care. It was the students who developed the Trinity Honor Code after all.

Until yesterday it seemed all that many people in the country had was hope. Now it is time for more. Our students who exercised their civic responsibility to vote need to see that this was only the beginning. It is time now to hold one another accountable, every day, in every setting, to make this place collectively better and to accept nothing less than civility and honor. It is time to act.