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Sunday, March 29, 2009

All in the Family

The 2009 Spring Family Weekend was a smashing success. See the slide show at right (click on it to make it bigger, then click slide show). Among the events pictured are the Student Affairs Awards of Excellence, the Saturday reception and ParentTalk ice cream social, and Trinity Spotlight. The Spotlight talent show was an incredibly well-done program: Every single act was entertaining and extremely well-done. But don't just take my word for it. The Pike/Sigma number evoked memories of the original "Sing-Song" which was a showcase for Greek organizations. Congratulations to Ben Newhouse and his committee for putting on a terrific weekend.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Coed Blue

In today's paper, the Trinitonian covered the recent ASR proposal to create co-ed housing in Lightner Hall. Because that hall has double rooms with their own bathrooms and shared living rooms in between, this is not a radical proposal. Men and women wouldn't be in the same rooms, just the same suites. It is somewhat benign.

Residential Life has asked ASR to put a little more texture into the proposal. What are the benefits and the reasons for this? What are the drawbacks? Do some benchmarking with other schools, as was done in the Trinitonian editorial, demonstrate student interest (do some students actually oppose this?), and determine what kind of use this program would receive. These requests seem reasonable. Given that the request came just weeks before room reservation for next year this delay was probably inevitable anyway. (Weigh in on the ASR proposal in the poll at right.)

The Trinitonian dismisses our request for compelling data and details, but all good initiatives are supported this way. Sometimes change requires that people justify their reasoning (see Sophomore College).

In the end, this proposal boils down to whether or not the University wishes to stick its neck out for a program that may draw negative criticism. Guilty. Perceptions of prospective students and families (many of whom think we are already too co-ed), Trustees, donors, and the community, do matter. And ultimately the University will be asked to defend its decision. Is this a battle we want to fight? Right now we don't feel strongly enough to do so. Based on what ASR has presented so far, we are not sure the students do either.

1 I advise ASR and I do get this proposal.
2 I think the Trinitonian is fantastic and I like the work they do. I don't want to regularly get into the cycle of event-story/editorial/Dean-Blog-rebuttal. But I have done so twice this semester.
3 I don't love being accurately quoted saying "students now do this off campus. This would be fun rather than going off campus to do this, they'd do it on campus." I guess it depends what the meaning of the word "this" is.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Presidential Search Delayed

Wanted: A strong dynamic leader with vision and an administrative skill set. Looking for a person willing to lead during an important time of change. Must be available, flexible, and willing to work hard. Candidates from under-represented groups, especially men, are encouraged to apply.

Benefits: Serving Trinity University and gaining experience in a leadership and management position.

Experience: None required.

Following the close of the Sunday deadline for students to file for positions with the Association of Student Representatives for next year, no one has declared his or her self a candidate for the important position of President. This is an extremely busy time of year for students, but for those seeking leadership experience there are many opportunities. In addition to this position there are senate positions open as well as Conduct Board spots and other leadership positions throughout campus.

ASR is undergoing a massive re-structuring with TIGER, TMN, and the Student Finance Board. This will give a student a great chance to lead during this very important time of change. Candidates may pick up application materials at the Coates Center desk.

Friday, March 20, 2009

In Sink

The e-mail from our librarian to the campus community read: "Java City is back up!" Thus ended a controversial several days when Java City - the library coffee shop - was shut down by a local health inspector. Apparently after several years of not having a distinctive and separate hand-washing sink, Java City was in violation of code. A student eyewitness reported ordering a cup of water that was dispensed from the sink when the health inspector announced that the operation would be shut down because an employee had previously washed her hands in that sink. This is apparently a no-no, although clean hands are considered better than dirty hands in most cases.

An all-campus e-mail was sent out by Librarian Graves at 8:30 on Wednesday morning announcing the shutdown. (Ms. Graves is known mostly for her campus-wide e-mails warning students about music piracy, so this was a refreshing, if not disturbing change.) Apparently standing between a campus and its coffee is a bad idea. A new sink was installed from start to finish within 36 hours. This may be a good omen for the tightly scheduled summer renovation of Miller Hall.

Up next for campus problem-solving: global warming.

a Baby Storey!

The Trinity family grew by one on March 18, 2009 when Assistant Director for Residential Education Katie Storey gave birth to her first child - Cason Oliver Storey.

Katie and her husband Chris live in the Thomas Hall apartment and the burning question (besides: "Is this baby (sans beard) named after ASR President Adam Cason?") is who will disturb who more in the dorm - Cason or the Thomas residents.

The Student Affairs and Residential Life teams are thrilled to welcome Cason. We have enduring love and respect for Katie and are so excited for her new and important venture as a parent.

Cason was 6 pounds and 2 ounces for those who like to track these things - and was 17.5 inches tall/long.

Den There, Done That

The Trinitonian reported on the floundering Tigers' Den in its March 20 issue. I wish more space had been dedicated to this story, because the presence of this facility is important to this campus. Its lack of use by students endangers it as a viable social space in the future. There are currently no plans in the works to address the future of the Tigers' Den. It will limp along as is for the time being.

As background, the 2001 Quality of Student Life Task Force recommended that the University have a pub on campus as a social space for students, faculty, and staff to gather. Everyone likes that in theory. I like that we have this space and that we serve beer and wine on campus. It reinforces our message that we are not opposed to lawful and responsible alcohol use. Also, by having this facility we don't have the fight. That fight was often the panacea students imagined when invoking the memory of the former Rathskeller at the same location. That was a true pub and was closed around the time the drinking age changed.

Despite efforts by ARAMARK and Student Affairs to try different things and to market the Tigers' Den it has never met the expectations envisioned. One of the reasons is obvious: alcohol is not served to a majority of our students, who happen to be underage. When alcohol is more freely accessible off campus and in dorm rooms, why would underage students choose to go to the Tigers' Den?

At Sewanee they have a very successful pub but it is THE only game in town on most nights. (Sewanee is isolated in a remote location in Tennessee - pardon the redundancies.)

Last year Student Affairs did some preliminary investigative work and found that for underage students there is little to draw them to the spot. There is not a full kitchen there and there are not other pub-type games, entertainment, and things to draw a crowd. I should note that when this room was strictly a game room/tv room it didn't draw a crowd either. Nor did it draw a crowd when it was a coffeehouse or when it was simply a cozy, dark, comfy study room. We have "been there - done that" in this space and there is a little fatigue around turning this into a winner.

For Student Affairs this raises two issues. First, is this just a crummy location? Since the 1980's it has been poorly functioning. Second, is the idea of a campus pub (not unlike the idea of a convenience store) just a fine idea, but not good in practice. Where this goes from here is any one's guess. The solution will have to be based on student needs and desires for an attractive social gathering space on campus. While the Tigers' Den was never set up to make money, it can't continue to lose it either.

Whether a pub, a coffee shop that also serves beer and wine, or a restaurant-type facility, the Tigers' Den could be a campus jewel. Losing the opportunity to make it a viable space for students would be a shame. We probably wouldn't get it back. (Weigh in on the short poll at right.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

We're Throwing a Party

The Residential Life Office, with some financial backing from Alumni Relations, is working with guidance from a group of seniors to throw a party/banquet for graduates the Thursday before commencement. Here's the catch: There isn't one. There is no cost for the attendees.

This "Senior Send-Off" event gives the University the chance to do something special for our seniors before they leave campus. It will be the last chance they have to be together informally. We want to give the seniors a slap on the back that simply says "we'll miss you." Some staff will be on hand to supervise the event, but this isn't a faculty/staff and student mixer. We will get out of the way so the students can have a nice time just with each other.

The students we tapped to assist with this have come from ASR and the Ambassadors. After getting feedback from them we jointly developed a survey that went to all seniors to solicit feedback.

Of the over 200 respondents the excitement for the event was almost unanimous. Based on what the seniors have said they want, here is what the event will look like. It will be a cocktail hour from 7 to 8 pm on the Storch Mall extending north toward the Miller fountain. Beer and wine will be provided. Dinner will start at 8 pm and will be a buffet on china served by ARAMARK. Students will be asked to dress business casual. The entertainment is intended to be classy background music. We are close to signing a jazz band to play near the tower. There will be about five minutes of welcome from the student planners and a staff member and that will be it. We are also making arrangements to have a scrolling message board for seniors to send approved messages to their peers throughout the evening.

The idea is for the seniors to be able to have conversation, to unwind, to enjoy a festive atmosphere, and to watch the sun set on the city as it sets on their time together at Trinity. The seniors surveyed reported that they were interested most in the free food, adult beverages, and a fun atmosphere. We think we can deliver. The Thursday date was selected because it is after finals and usually before families have arrived for the weekend festivities. The long-term vision is to establish this as a University tradition, whether from Residential Life or other offices.

We also want to see if this event resonates with seniors. The popular and traditional senior tower climb and the Last Great Reception are different enough, we think, that this event won't be redundant. Following commencement the University also throws an excellent reception for students and families to say a final good-bye. Seniors will be sent E-vite invitations in April and will be asked to RSVP by May 1. Based on survey results we expect over 200 seniors to attend.

Like this idea? Take the poll at right!