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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Year in Review - 2008-2009

As the last day of classes is upon us and the farce issue of the Trinitonian (Trinibonian) is published and the Mirage yearbook is distributed, it is time for the first annual Dean's List review of the year. Above, AcaBellas Cristina Castro, Emily Sadler, Lindsay Vande Hey, and Candace Hawkins entertain in Coates and are one of this year's bright spots.

Top Stories

1. President Retires - No other story tops the big news that Trinity University President John Brazil is stepping down after ten years on the job. Between him and predecessor Ron Calgaard, there have been just two TU presidents in the last 30 years. Other personnel moves shaking the campus are the departure of Campus Security Director Rudy Gonzalez and CCI Director Becky Spurlock. Faculty notables leaving us are Char Miller, headed to Pomona, and Alida Metcalf, assuming a teaching position at Rice.
2. PIKES peak - The new national fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha burst onto the scene. If you didn't know they were national you might not notice. The group is still made up of Trinity students. The group got off to a fast start, adding a large inaugural class.
3. The Capital Campaign nears goal - The University should soon conclude it's $200 million capital campaign. When will the next one begin?
4. Sustainability catches on - The signing of the AASHE agreement by President Brazil led to the creation of the Sustainability Task Force, which led to campus-wide efforts to formalize green initiatives. Among them, sustainability course with a residence hall connection, LEEDS certification nearing for renovated Thomas and Lightner Halls, and a recycling program to be proud of. Kudos to Physical Plant Director John Greene and Dining Director Miguel Ardid. They made huge sweeoing changes.
5. Tragedy - Student Emma Hutchinson passed away in August and an accident in April left a student hospitalized and another from A&M dead. Really, these are the biggest stories based on personal impact and they deserve their own category. On the other hand, they shouldn't be trivialized as campus news. They are listed simply because we need to remember these students who we care so much about as well as these important events.

The Honor Roll for 2008-2009

The AcaBellas - This group has incredible talent and brightens the campus. They are the Eve to the Trinitones' Adam. The Trinitones have gotten plenty of well deserved attention. Now it belongs to the ladies! Click here to see one of their Coates Center performances.
Raj and Tyler - Is it me or are these guys hilarious. They showcase what our students can do with a little know-how, creativity, and willingness to not attend class.
Spotlight/Trinity Idol - These events have gotten bigger and better every year. In my calendar these are "don't miss" events. Spotlight really delivered this year and was the best show I have seen.
Christmas Concert - This Christmas Card to San Antonio is one of my all-time favorites. Lots of talent, lots of energy, and lots of good spirit.
Alternative Spring Break trips from CCI - These trips grew this year under the direction of Edwin Blanton. The Washington D.C. and the Dominican Republic trips set a high standard and students and staff want to see these grow in the future. Beach trips aren't dead, but cool doesn't have to only happen at the beach.
IM Field - Sure it smells like rubber, but it never needs cutting or water and it never turns to mud. Good investment in student recreation!
Greg Mortenson - The Three Cups of Tea lecture and Reading TUgether program was the brainchild of VP Felicia Lee and carried out to perfection by CCI staffer Ben Newhouse.
Nalgene bottles - speaking of sustainability. The distribution of bottles to all students was a stroke of genius by TUVAC and ASR. This will become a tradition as the bottles are distributed to all new students annually.
John Cleese - This Monty Python icon was not only notable for a great talk, but he cut across generations and Laurie Auditorium was packed for his lecture. People were turned away at the door. The Q&A was the best. Sure he is another white male, but at least he was funny.
Thomas/Lightner renovations - It took three years, but Physical Plant oversaw a renovation that makes these halls complete and stylish. They are green too!
MLK march - This march has been happening for years. This year, CCI staffer Ankita Rakhe did a fabulous display in Coates and ratcheted up the program by having the MLK speech played in the buses on the way to the march. It was the biggest Trinity turn-out ever and was buoyed by Sophomore College participation.
Sink - The non-story story of the year. Don't stand between a University community and its java!
Spring Hallympics - A new tradition from Res Life staffer Josh Brack.
Come TUgether - Civil, interesting, and outwardly focused. A good place for local and Trinity news.
Firefighters playing sports - Maybe some students don't like the area firefighters parking their trucks between the tennis courts and the Bell center. I find it reassuring. I want them to know our campus well and I like knowing that they are shooting hoops or playing tennis instead of sliding down their poles.
Northwestern University - I like that they practiced on campus for the Alamo Bowl. I think smart Universities like ours should help some of these other places when they need it.
Jerheme Urban - A Tiger in the Super Bowl. Enough said.
Pikes and Sigmas - Maybe the Sigmas had a companion fraternity. Maybe not. The union between them and the Pikes was a good one in the late spring. Their see-saw marathon and the GIVE program reflect the best of what Greek life has to offer.


Athletic teams - especially Trinity baseball (last summer), Trinity soccer (the best team didn't win, again), Trinity volleyball (they deserve a title). These teams represent us well and had very competitive seasons. There coaches have been here awhile and have built fantastic programs. Honorable mention to men's basketball, the over-achieving-est team on campus.
My Tiger Talk - I like the concept and even the edginess, but not the lack of civility and respect. It only drew in a fringe group and I think in part that led to the creation of a second student run list-serve.
Reel Big Fish - They really could have been better and their music was fine, but they had the maturity level of say... Sugar Cult. Something about microphones and bands that brings the f-word out in the best of them.

Too soon to tell

Upperclass Task Force recommendations
- Sophomore College, Class Marshal/Alumni Sponsor program, Senior Year Experience, class identity, and Welcome Week. It all got off to a good start. If the Trinitonian had stopped bashing Sophomore College in the weekly editorial perceptions may have been different. But we made mistakes and learned. Next year should be different.
Twilight at Trinity - The first ever senior banquet funded by Residential Life. It hasn't happened yet. On the positive side, over 200 seniors have responded that they will attend.

Under the Radar

Student Affairs Strategic Plan - Collaboration with faculty members, student development, social justice and diversity, and a topping of assessment. This was the first year of the plan and there will be more to follow.
Crisis Management Team - People only care about it when they need it. This month, we've needed it.
E-mail Migration to Google - I still don't get it, but it will be better, faster, stronger, and tastier. Good for us.

On the horizon

ASR finally gets to do something - Our student government is great, but they get bored and most of their nit-picking of campus issues and policies has been heard. Now they get power and authority as they prepare to assume responsibility for doling out the student activity fee - just like every other student government does.
A new/renovated science building - This will take some time and new construction will be meshed with renovation. The end product? Hopefully a building that rivals the arts and administration buildings.
Miller renovation - This dorm needs it as does its neighbor Calvert. One year at a time...
New President - New vision and leadership and some excitement. It's like having a baby. We just want to meet him or her.
Joint Statement - This statement in the student handbook about student rights and freedoms was to be reviewed, changed, and adopted. Mind-numbingly slow and tedious and still not right. Look for this to gain momentum in the fall.
Oblate property - The West Village... Picture it across from Thomas and Lightner on Shook. Imagine the possibilities.
Lights to decorate the Tower - We have the most prominent structure outside of downtown. IA small group will keep requesting seasonal lights to draw attention from across the street.
HDTV - High-def is coming. Maybe 2009, maybe 2010, but it's coming.
Policies - The alcohol and balcony policy revisions will be rolled out soon.


Sunshine Cottage - Will start building a new facility north of campus on Hildebrand. Hey, I didn't know there was land there!
San Antonio Marathon - The city rocked with over 25,000 participants in the inaugural San Antonio iteration of this event.
Trish for Mayor - A former Trinity student is on the run.
Mike Soto - Professor Soto, seen on TV at San Antonio election night party in November, is now his own man. Will Obama reciprocate if Dr. Soto wins?
River development - The River Walk isn't done yet. It is creeping closer to the Trinity campus.
Bush visits - Love him or hate him, he stopped traffic when he visited the Olmos Pharmacy last fall. At least he won't have a library on campus.


Light rail - Will the stimulus package come our way? Light rail to Austin makes Austin City Limits the EASY place to be.


Amethyst Initiative - Changing the drinking age? Good idea to discuss it. There is nothing magical about 21 except we need our highways.
Election - Trinity was revved up for an Obama victory and got its wish. Bexar County votes Obama. He wins anyway.
Economy - Quick turn-around needed: Institutions and families look at costs in tough times.
Swine flu - This story is catching on. Trinity braces for the pandemic, but the timing could have been worse. Classes are over.

Grand Kenyon

Happy Secretary Day to Lynette Kenyon (second from left) , Senior Secretary in the Dean of Students Office. Lynette joined us last summer and does a spectacular job. Aside from proofing my blog, Lynette does a lot of work on the TrinitE Parent newsletter, publishes the TigerBytes newsletter, fills out paperwork for students who need Dean Certification forms, and manages all student conduct administrative work. She is fun, puts up with me, calls me when I am not where I should be, and thinks I am amusing. All important job requirements!

She is pictured above with Lisa Chapa (far left) from Residential Life, Alanna Saldivar (second from right) from Dr. Lee's office, and Cally Chenault (far right) also from Residential Life. The photo is from the annual Student Affairs breakfast where the directors cook for the administrative staff. Other staff members serve and clean. it is a small way to thank our outstanding colleagues.

Captain's Log - April 22, 2009

Two to three times a month I hold publicized office hours in the Coates Center lobby. This is a way to be visible - a must for a Dean of Students. I have other ways too. Thought I would log today's session.

9:15 a.m. - Set-up: I am assigned the southern of the three tables. Good start

9:16 a.m. - I am here at this time to catch the traffic from students walking up from the dorms on the way to 9:3o classes. They look tired.

9:18 a.m. - Accost first year students Sheila Castle (fellow runner) and Reagan Pennycuff (Springsteen fan) for photo op. Poor lighting. Will try later.

9:19 a.m. - Start counting student reactions to my being in Coates lobby. Begin by categorizing "eye-contact," and "no eye-contact" responses.

9:22 a.m. - Notice TV monitor over the info desk across from me. Advertises campus events. Graffiti Wipe-out slide for Saturday program. Supposed to show paint. Looks like blood. Not good.

9:28 - First-year student Nathan Friedman stops to introduce himself. He likes me, he really likes me! I have a new BFF.

9:30 a.m. - "No eye-contacts" have a commanding lead. They are just tired. Or suspicious.

9:31 a.m. - Four Security Officers outside of Coates chatting. I am safest Dean in the country at this moment.

9:32 a.m. - All is quiet. Too quiet. Go on a decaf coffee run at Commons. Son Nguyen, info desk worker, watches my gear.

9:34 a.m. - Think of grabbing USA Today courtesy of the student government readership program. Decide not to take a paper. Need to be sharp for student visitors. Ask Son to take picture. Why is my face red?

9:36 a.m. - Still feeling very safe here.

9:38 a.m. - New category to tally my passers-by: "Sympathy looks."

9:40 a.m. - Oh lord, I forgot to wear a belt today. That explains a lot.

9:42 a.m. - Posted banner at main windows advertises "Chain-mail Night" make-your-own program. Immediate suspicions confirmed: sponsored by Gaelic Cultural Society.

9:44 a.m. - Still safe.

9:45 a.m. - 1970's Christopher Cross song "Sailing" is playing on the tinny Commons radio in the distance. Some songs should be retired. This is one of them.

9:52 a.m. - Security departs. Still feel safe though as it seems my "Office Hours" sign could read "Pretend I do not exist. Really, just IGNORE ME. Have a nice day."

9:55 a.m. - Just waiting for Nathan Friedman to get out of class.

9:58 a.m. - What would Susan Boyle do?

9:59 a.m. - Prospective student from Greece or Arlington stops at info desk with mom. I interrupt their questions to Son so I can feel loved. They think I am too forward I fear.

10:00 a.m. - Son goes to class.

10:03 - Two women from Club Tennis staff northern table recruiting people for weekend event for charity. Now THEY are forward, but I relish the competition.

10:05 a.m. - Staff member stops to check with me on two students in recent accident. We have a very caring community. That's no joke.

10:10 a.m. - Tennis girls attracting young male students.
10:11 a.m. - He seems hot.

10:15 a.m. - Sasha Nouri, first year student, introduces her friend Rachel Johnson to me. Things are looking up.

10:20 a.m. - Taylor Woodard, senior stops by. She has a sweet job lined up in NYC!

10:22 a.m. - Class just let out. Here comes action.

10:24 - Robby Glass and Lindsay Landgraff stop by. Lindsay tells me of the PIKE/SIGMA event at noon. For 48 hours they will see-saw on the esplanade to raise funds for the Children's Shelter.

10:28 a.m. - Forget name of one of the RA's we hired for next year. Oops. It is morning after all. And it was decaf too.

10:30 a.m. - Domale Dube reports for duty at info desk. Fifteen minutes to go. Only five hours until the weekly Nacho Hour in this same location. Can't wait!

10:31 a.m. - Mike Guerra, junior/RM, stops by. He has been by every time I have had office hours. Stalker...

10:32 a.m. - Stop counting "no eye-contact" people. It is getting sad. Many are even looking at the screen with the blood/paint across from me to AVOID eye-contact.

10:33 a.m. - Adam Cason, ASR president (also an office hour stalker like Mike Guerra) stops by. Wants a pen refill (long story). Heads north to the table with the... Wait a minute - I KNOW he doesn't play tennis.

10:34 Elliott Wilkes, senior, comes by. May get a job in Obama administration. OMG, a line is forming behind him - well, one guy anyways. "Great Elliott, say hi to Barack for me... Next!"

10:35 A.M. - Student asks legitimate question... I have to get back to him.

10:40 a.m. - Class must have started again. Shhhhh.

10:41 a.m. - Student complaining to tennis girls about end-of-semester assignments. I totally could have handled that one.

10:42 a.m. - Trinitonian editor picks up a guitar-shaped package from Mail Center across the lobby. Maybe will write song about Sophomore College.

10:45 a.m. - Final count (does not include anyone I know - some of whom also ignored me):
No eye-contact - 63
Eye-contact - 12
Sympathy looks - 2
Disdain - 1
Greetings from strangers (some verbal action required) - 4

Well, at least I got something out of this.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Doctor's Appointment

Last week Dr. Felicia Lee, VP for Student Affairs, notified the division "that after eight years of dedicated service to Trinity University, Becky Spurlock has resigned from her position as the director of Campus and Community Involvement effective June 2009." She will become Belmont University’s new Associate Dean of Students
This was a surprise to most of us but probably shouldn't have been. A few days later Mrs. Spurlock defended her dissertation at Texas A&M and now joins the ranks of the elite, to forever be known as Dr. Spurlock. (Coincidentally, this month I sat in a luxury suite at a Spurs game, went to the Springsteen concert, dined with a famous Brit not named Paul McGinlay, and on Easter was able to start eating cereal again, so I know how it feels to be on a similar roll.)
Dr. Spurlock has been here eight years, first making a splash as the Director of Career Services. She immediately raised the profile of that area and the campus was literally abuzz with her arrival. After a failed search for the new CCI Director Mrs. Spurlock threw her hat in the ring and was a unanimous choice to fill the post. In her time at CCI she has re-structured the department, developed strategic goals, led with vision, and systematically worked to improve all areas under her purview (Greek Life, Orientation, Multicultural Affairs, Service, Publications and more).
Additionally, she has consistently taken on tasks such as re-accreditation, leadership training, and the development of a student organization handbook (which is more impressive than it sounds). Becky has been our resident expert on all that is academic in higher education. I have learned a lot from her when she was able to keep my attention.
Dr. Spurlock is most infamous, though for putting an industry-standard risk-management policy in place for student organizations, to the chagrin of many students. Holding students accountable, expecting them to follow laws and policies, worrying about their safety - these are all reasonable things. But, getting in the way of students' rights to party doesn't poll well. That's too bad. Usually when things go bad though (student injury or death, hazing, assault) people will turn, and point fingers back on campus. Dr. Spurlock has always gotten that -- and taken her lumps for it. But she leaves with a clear conscience and faith in her convictions.
We have seen Becky's clan grow from couple to family, with the births of her daughter Madeline and her son Miles, pictured above with her husband Jeff. Belmont has gotten a strong leader and staff member and we are losing one. They will welcome her and we will miss her. Congratulations on your new appointment Dr. Spurlock.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

And now for something completely different...

Pardon my self-indulgence. So who is the man on the right in the photo? The good looking one. It is John Cleese, who rose to fame as one of the founders of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

For the first time in my 20 years at Trinity my wife and I were invited to a dinner at the President's home with a distinguished speaker. My theory is that President Brazil probably I couldn't say anything inappropriate to the person who once dropped the F-bomb into a eulogy.

In addition to Monty Python, Mr. Cleese has been in many movies and TV programs. His film credits include a Fish Called Wanda, the voice of the king in Shrek, and the role of Nearly-Headless-Nick in the Harry Potter films. He is a renaissance man of sorts, dabbling in business and writing. He has an impressive educational pedigree.

To prepare for the dinner I did lots of research on the Internet. Better to be over-prepared, right? It is a tough job, but looking at clips from the Holy Grail, the Python shows, and other skits was crucial to my preparation. I also was nervous and wanted to have conversation starters, so I posted on Facebook that I was soliciting ideas. Responses included a discussion about silly walks (it was determined that he had probably seen enough of silly walks), his divorces (glad I didn't ask about his wife - he's had three), Spam, bathroom humor, a penguin on the telly, and soccer. The tip about him being a vegetarian was my ace in the hole. Imagine my astonishment when he was served a nice steak. I couldn't let it go so one of only two or three comments I made during dinner was "Hey, I thought you were a vegetarian!" This is when he started to mostly talk to Dr. Liz Ward from Art, which was also after I made a reference to the aforementioned eulogy, which he either did not hear, or disregarded.

So here is how this works. There are typically about 15 guests who all sit at the same table with the guest of honor at the center of one of the long sides. This gives the whole table equal access, I think. The President sits at one head seat and the first lady at the other. (I sat next to Mrs. Brazil and she was a delight, as always, and even let me eat her silver-dollar shaped corn-wheat-pancake thing that tasted like a french fry - after I ate both of mine. I asked if she was going to eat it. She said no, but I think she just didn't want to disappoint me.) Couples are seated apart, so my wife Donna was at the opposite corner, but we could at least make eye contact. I think she likes me.

Mr. Cleese asked us what were some of our favorite comedies from the last five years, which he says are difficult to do well. As a movie buff I thought this was my big chance so I volunteered the films Wristcutters, Lars and the Real Girl and Kenny. Professor Aarons from English mentioned The Station Agent. Oh my gosh, I was embarrassed for her (it's like six years old). Anyways, the subject quickly changed and I thought "Burn After Reading! You idiot. How did you forgret that!"

I never got to use many of my conversation starters, unfortunately. But that's okay. I asked him to announce that Rat Race would be showing on campus after his talk. He was so gracious he nearly volunteered to attend, but had an early flight. Mr. Cleese was kind, charming, well-mannered, witty, and interesting. He pretended we were too!

This is one of my top celebrity experiences, along with talking to Rick Springfield in a bar (he blew me off), offering a can of beer to then-presidential candidate Jerry Brown on State Street in Madison, when I was a student, seeing veteran character actor Brian Dennehey at Mr. Whipple's Christmas Wonderland in Connecticut, getting a golf-cart ride from Steve McNair (he was cool), driving Greg Mortenson (awesome man), and getting kicked out of the Bell Center at Trinity for asking for autographs from the Spurs. Who knew they were in the middle of drug-testing?