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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mixed Blessing

Above, Michael and Stephen McCormick, Mike Masse, Rebecca McCormick, and Caitlin and Andrew Masse on June 27, 2008.

When Michael McCormick and Caitlin Masse were on the Cinco Rancho High School cross country team together, they had no idea that their fates would be tragically and joyfully intertwined forever. In 2005 they each lost a parent. Michael's father passed away in July of 2005 after a battle with cancer. Caitlin's mother died five months later after a cardiac event when she was working out at the local YMCA. Both families knew each other. The surviving parents, Mike Masse and Rebecca McCormick turned to one another for support and their relationship eventually blossomed. They were married on June 27, 2008.

During this time, as high school seniors, Michael and Caitlin Masse discovered that they were both Trinity-bound. Michael McCormick came to Trinity for the Music program and Caitlin was drawn to San Antonio for the cross country program. This year, on the same weekend in November when Michael and his step-dad Mike ran the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon together in San Antonio (photo inset), Caitlin was there to cheer them on following her second place finish in the SCAC championships the day before. Michael still runs, but has put his competetive energy into cycling.

Following their marriage, Rebecca and Mike decided to move into one of their homes rather than start fresh in a new Houston-area residence. The Masse's moved into the McCormick house, which is now home base for Caitlin and her brother Andrew (a student at Texas A&M). They joined the McCormick's, including Michael's brother Stephen, an Austin College grad. At times, it seems, it would be helpful to have a score-card to keep the family members straight.

While there are always adjustments when families mix, this one has had few major issues. Michael McCormick explains "It was a bit difficult to comprehend that my mother was getting married again when I first heard the news when at home for spring break my freshman year. There were obviously a lot of mixed emotions present at first, but those passed very quickly. This has been one of the greatest things to happen in my life within the past few years and I'm so glad that my mother married Mike." He adds, "Both of our families experienced the painful loss of losing a parent (or spouse) and we all have a deep understanding of what each of us went through as a result. This commonality has united us in so many ways and, despite it being a sad event that created this bond, it has allowed our new family to become close rather quickly."

Rebecca, Michael's mother, notes "We tell stories and share memories of our life during our first marriages with each other and with our children & stepchildren. Our bookshelves are lined with photo albums spanning the last 25 years and those are great conversation-starters. We stay in close touch with the members of Sue’s and Kevin’s family. They have been especially warm and accepting of our new family situation. I joke that I have a mother and 3 mother-in-laws."

Mike Masse adds "We try to show all four of the children that life can go on in ways you didn’t even expect and that you can be happy and have a future. While these losses have been hard on us all, we consider ourselves fortunate to have this new blended family. Neither Rebecca nor I have tried to replace the lost parent. Rather, we have each let the relationships with the kids develop in a natural way. So, step-parent has become more friend-advisor to which all the kids have responded splendidly. In fact, by doing this I think we are sometimes more accessible than the biological parent. Caitlin, for instance, knows that she can tell anything to Rebecca without being criticized. And likewise for Stephen and me."

Rebecca points out that each of the kids grew up with just one sibling, while Mike is amazed at how quickly things have changed for all of them. "Having a larger group of siblings has been really neat. When I explained to Andrew that Rebecca and I were thinking about getting married and that would mean he would have two brothers, his reply was, 'Wow, that would be neat. I never thought about having brothers before.' This was unique to Andrew since of the group he was the only one who had not had a brother. The other thing is the 'good-sized party.' Because all of the kids grew up within a mile of each other and went to the same high school they have many friends in common. During school holidays the house is almost always full with friends. The other thing is the new bonds that have formed among the siblings. They are all good friends but it turns out that Stephen and Caitlin are very similar in personality. And they have become pretty close in just the year and half that we've been together as a family. That's neat. And all of the kids have truly embraced their new step-parents. This has been special and maybe a bit unique for blended families. We are blessed."

This doesn't mean there aren't logistical issues. The family has yet to take a combined vacation because of the difficulties of managing the schedules of six grown-ups. Says student Michael McCormick, "We do have SIX cars at the house though whenever everyone is home for the holidays. We can have three in the garage and three on the driveway, although Andrew usually parks his truck next to the curb. I feel like we need an air-traffic controller to organize our parking logistics though. Mike and I have been heading off to work (an internship in my case) around 6:30 in the morning before only to find that we were barricaded in the garage by other cars. The unamused siblings, who were awoken hours before their desired hours, grumbled a bit while we retrieved their keys."

Michael also seems to sum up the feelings of his mom and Mike, stating "I am so thankful that my mom married Mike because this step family has been (and continues to be) such a blessing. Everyone in my family means so much to me and I can't wait to make more great memories with them."

Note: Caitlin was unavailable for comment. Her dad, Mike Masse noted on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, "And if you need to, send a search party out for Caitlin. She's still on campus....she's got an Animal Behavior class tomorrow."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trinity Faculty Going Downhill (Part 3)

At Trinity University, some believe that drawing faculty members physically downhill – from the upper campus academic area to the lower campus residential area – can create an enriching and meaningful learning environment for students. It is a sometimes controversial issue because faculty members can only be stretched so far and students often like to separate, rather than integrate, their in-class and out-of-class experiences. This three-part series will take a look at the history, issues, and current standing of the blended educational experience at Trinity University.

Part 1: The set-up
Part 3: What Works
The 2006 Upper-class Task Force explored issues related to residential life for sophomores, juniors and seniors. The final report made several recommendations, including ones related to increasing faculty interactions on campus. Professors, staff members, and students discussed at length the benefits of a blended educational experience and ways to make that happen. Ironically, those with the most to gain from having faculty down the hill are relatively ambivalent about it. In a survey last year only about half the students questioned saw value in such interactions. They agree with about half the faculty. Perhaps this is because neither group can articulate how meaningful these interactions can be until they happen. When programs have been assessed this year, the responses from professors and students alike have been encouraging and exciting.

The formula for success is simple. The interactions need to benefit the students and the professors, they need to be meaningful, and they need to be convenient. If they are initiated by the faculty, they are even better.

There are several classes that have residential components. All of these were suggested by the professors. In addition to the Humanities 1600 class (a six credit combined writing workshop and seminar on classical studies) mentioned in part two, there is a first year sustainability class and learning community, and one associated with the entrepreneurial program. There is also a Chinese language floor where students can speak the language with others trying to learn and can benefit by native speakers as well.

Dr. Stephen Field explains elements of the program: “The first activity of the year for the Chinese Language Floor of McLean Hall was a lecture on Fengshui given by me on Sept. 3. It was well attended, and students appreciated the chance to see if the rooms I assigned to them were “auspicious” or not. Since then the hall has hosted the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebration, which was held on the McLean roof. Finally, we held the inaugural class for the Chinese Cooking Demonstration. Melissa Pinchback (Residential Life Coordinator) was instrumental in helping to organize this event.”

Professors Mike Fischer and Diane Graves have been utilizing the electronic classroom on lower campus and provide this input: “We teach a FYS course called: Forever Young: The Life and Times of Bob Dylan. Because the Witt classroom is remote, we can play Dylan’s music (or covers of it; see: Hendrix, Jimi. “All Along the Watchtower”) at the volume we choose, without fear of annoying other classes—or making them jealous! This classroom has everything we need: state of the art technology, plus chairs and tables that can be easily rearranged. We enjoy walking to the lower campus, seeing students and colleagues along the way, and getting to know the Witt Center staff. Students love being close to their rooms, especially when it’s their first class of the day and they can arrive straight from bed (even though the class starts at 11:20 a.m.!). After class at 12:35 p.m., Mabee Hall is one minute away for lunch.”

Residential Life Office staff members invited advisors of new students to come to the residence halls to spend time with their advising groups, which are housed together. The REAL LIFE program series features a section called “Educational Success.” The advisors were invited to help plan, lead, and attend these sessions. Over 31 professors participated in these programs. One Resident Mentor comment was “Many residents remarked on the evaluation surveys that they attended the programs because the advisor was going to be there. Overall, feedback was very positive.”

Feedback from one professor read “I was impressed by the turn out and some of the questions I received. One student asked me about strategies for developing short term memory...! I was thrilled that such a surprise question came up (although I wasn't completely prepared to answer it), and it makes me think that students were truly thinking about real issues related to their academic success in preparation for the discussion.”

Interestingly, several professors felt the success of these programs was directly related to the involvement of the Resident Mentor, while these student staff members linked program success to the involvement of the professors.

In its second full year, the Sophomore College has found success in the Major Meals program, which brings faculty members, seniors, alumni, and sophomores together over meals in the Skyline Room to discuss potential majors for sophomores. Nearly 200 students attended the meals over a couple of evenings and met with faculty members from 15 departments. In follow-up surveys nearly two-thirds of the students in attendance found the program to be beneficial in selecting their majors.

Finally, at a wine and cheese reception for seniors and professors held in the Lightner Tea Room this month, students and their mentors were able to mix socially as the senior year begins to wind down. Some unsolicited faculty feedback offered this: “I thought last night’s gathering for celebrating seniors was one of the most successful I’ve been to at Trinity. The setting (going to their dorm) and the actual space (which was fantastic), the mix of so many faculty without a deluge of undergrads, and the requirement of drinking in an adult manner really gave the whole event a mature, cocktail party-like atmosphere (and not just an academic-like or bar-like or house-party-like atmosphere) which was enjoyable for me and important for the students. Other events don’t quite have this nice balance or feel to them and don’t educate the students so well. I’m all for more of these.”

Faculty members have had a strong presence as members of Team Trinity on move-in day. They serve as judges for Trinity Idol and Spotlight. Two faculty members are serving in the Class Marshal program (Dr. Angela Breidenstein for the Class of 2012 and Dr. Harry Wallace for the Class of 2013).

Our program and our students benefit greatly from these and other interactions with professors. These exchanges, on top of what takes place in the classroom and during office hours help create an enriched experience throughout campus. Not just up the hill.

Katie Storey Gets it Right

Katie Storey leaves Trinity University and Residential Life in January to be a stay-at-home-mom. She will be with her son Cason and build a home she and her husband Chris started to build while living in the Thomas Hall apartment. She leaves behind a place that she and Chris worked to improve once they knew their family would be expanding. With their own money they purchased major appliances, added wood flooring, and made other permanent improvements to their temporary home. Now they get to do it for real in their new house.

Likewise, Katie Storey took a foundation laid be her predecessor, Cara Taylor, and built upon it as well. Where Ms. Taylor developed the REAL LIFE and Resident Mentor program, Katie Storey took the Assistant Director for Residential Education position to further heights. She implemented the Sophomore College program with Cally Chenault. This was a bittersweet project, faced with adversity, resistance, and finally success. She further developed the Community Initiative program as well. She also became the expert on assessment in Residential Life and throughout Student Affairs and developed the departmental web page. The torch will now be passed on to Melissa Pinchback to develop these areas even further.

What Katie brought to our department was honesty, hard work, and enthusiasm. She was stellar at organization, worked creatively, and followed through on everything she started. She has a great sense of humor and I have created a bit of a monster as she has learned to comfortably out-sarcasm her director. Mostly, though, I am proud of Katie for the woman and person she is. She came from difficult, humble beginnings, and has never complained or been bitter. She has been a positive force but she appreciates the struggle of the underdog. She values education dearly, and completed her Master's degree while working full-time and having a baby.

During her nearly six years here Katie helped make our department a home. She was attentive to everyone’s personal needs and offered the kind of warm touches that make a house a home. We will miss that here but know that she will take her skills and blessings to her family. They deserve it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Counter inTuitive

This is a regular feature to examine the information in the weekly Trinitonian editorial. I love the Trinitonian and the students who run it. Sometimes, however there are more nuances to the issue than they have space for. Besides, electronic media allows for there to be "watchdog" watchdogs. Editorials are rated by "hits," as in blog hits, with one being worst and 5 being best. If they are published on-line I will provide links.

November 13 - Registration
If one counts shooting the bull with other seniors in the newsroom as comprehensive research, then this editorial is fine. There are several issues explored here and I think they are all valid: how students are assigned advisors, whether students advisors have time for them, whether or not we offer sufficient academic support services, the functionality of degree audits, and the University's role for accommodatingh seniors who haven't planned thoughtfully. These are big issues and each is worth some in-depth exploration. Theme: I sometimes sense that the main editorial is a late Thursday night afterthought and think it deserves more time. It should be the voice of well-considered and thoughtful student opinions. "Simba, you are more than you have become."
2 blog hits

November 20 - Supporting Local Education
Right on! The writer was inspired by the speech from the Young Alumnus Award winner Mark Larson, who runs the Kipp Academy. This piece scores highest because it calls students to greater action to serve those in need in our community (and stops just short of blaming the administration, though I am not sure for what). I wish they would have acknowledged that over 100 students are currently mentoring and tutoring students at two schools in the San Antonio Independent School District as part of an initiative by the Residential Life staff. That oversight just cost them one blog hit.
3 blog hits

Tom Tielleman - Seriously?
Tom, you asked for it, though I never intended to critique columnists, just the main editorial. First off, your last name is hard to spell. Second, thanks for acknowledging my blog two columns back. "It's actually pretty cool" flatters and offends me all at once. Third, I am not sure what you are writing about, but I like it. And finally, related to this week's piece about making the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a holiday, you are generally on target, except for the facts. Just kidding. The reason adding a day to NSO is a problem has to do with when faculty come back, how quickly the residence halls can be turned around from summer conferences, and when parents can travel to deliver their first year students. Opening on a Thursday instead of a Friday would mean taking off on Wednesday for those more than a few hours away. That is hard for families. I like the solutions you propose to give graduating seniors a pass/fail. keep up the above average work! None of this has to do with when our calendars are printed, but nice touch.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Heavy Medal!

The Second Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge was run last Sunday (November 15, 2009) as part of the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. There were over 25,000 runners, including at least 80 who participated in the Trinity training program. That number qualified TU for third place in the Get Fit Challenge in the extra large division (not XL people, but size of company or school). Above, first year students Kevin, Morgan, Lucy, and Savannah proudly display their medals after crossing the finish line (an observer looks on while blowing into a bottle). These four students were regulars on weekend and mid-week training runs. Along with other students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends, participants trained weekly in escalating runs of longer distances. See the slide show at right for pictures of the pre-race pasta dinner, the runners expo, and race day. Click here to see peoples results and to watch video of specific runners crossing the finish line. (As Ben Newhouse and I have discussed, we thought we were flying at the finish, but the video shows otherwise.) The group also raised $400 and collected over 1,200 food items for the associated food drive. At right, above, more medal winners: Jessica, Amanda, Jessica, and Maddie.

I enjoy this program, not just because I like to run, but because it is so fun to train with people who have set their sights on a milestone and followed through to realize their healthy goals. Getting to know the runners and seeing the camaraderie develop is really awesome. I am inviting the runners to comment on their experience to try to fire people up for next year!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Taking the Low Road (The homeless don't run)

The homeless don't run. They have other concerns, such as finding a place to sleep, and food to eat. The Trinity group that participated in the Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge embraced the needs of the homeless - and those who are hungry in our city - by conducting a food drive for the San Antonio Food Bank in conjunction with the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on November 15, 2009. In marathons, vitually all groups training together run for some charity. The food bank is a good one for us. It doesn't over-tax the students or their parents, and participants can learn about hunger by seeing need as they run through San Antonio.

Food matters to runners. Eating right, fueling up, and replenishing for recovery are all important elements of race training. It was against this back-drop that the Trinity runners took the food donation charge to heart (Challenge one: run; Challenge to: feed). We are blessed to see food in this context while others are forced to scrounge for meals. To drive home this of privilege we possess, the weekend training runs were intentionally designed to slowly show the contrast between the haves and have-nots in San Antonio. One of the favorite run of the program is through Olmos Park on Contour drive. Two of the later runs included one through downtown San Antonio near the SAMM Shelter and the bridge pictured above. The contrast is stark. In one running session you can literally run from mansion to sleeping bag and back.

Heading west on Commerce just past the skyline, one can take the high road - a long daunting rise of a hill - by running on the bridge and over the homeless... Or, one can literally run through them, below. On what I refer to as our one hunger run we ran through them. It was easier on the legs, but harder on the soul. Ironically, some of the homeless didn't care for us. We were heckled by the people we were running for. We were even jeered and imitated a bit. Mostly it was difficult to discern what people were saying, but it was clear that we, the privileged, were not really welcome in their space.

This run was not done to make a show of the homeless or to flaunt our luck and fortune. One runner said to me: "This is really eye-opening. It makes me want to help those people with less than me," and "I can't believe I have everything that I do, and then see this. I have to do something." THAT was the pay-off.

We could, and did, run back to campus and shower and sleep and play with our electronics. In our midst, though, we saw directly that there are those who need our help. Personally, as the leader of this program I had really anticipated that this would help the students learn a great lesson outside the classroom and beyond running. In truth, it affected me more than I expected. It made me want to be kinder, and more understanding, and more generous. It made me want to do more next year. It made me hungrier.

Note: The runners raised nearly $300 in food bank donations and collected the food items purchased.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stand Band Blows

The Trinity University Tiger Stand Band, a brainstorm of junior Matt Galla has burst onto the scene at TU football games this year. I really took notice when I noticed their members wearing TUTS shirts at the most recent game. That was actually my college nickname, for obvious reasons. Matt is working on getting me a shirt - so his group deserves a shout out here.

This volunteer band is the perfect example of how something works when it is homegrown. Students saw a need and they organized themselves and by all appearances are having a blast. (They even enlisted ParentTalkers to put the word out on their listserv to notify students.) As football has wrapped up they are now setting their sights on the TU basketball season.

The previous "official" band that was part of the Music department was good, but numbers dwindled to the point of extinction. Eventually, someone in Athletics creatively brought in the Alamo City Community Marching Band, a local band of grown-ups to play at games. I loved this band, though it was a little embarrassing for our school pep band to be, well, old. But it was campy - and you can't argue with that. Unless you are the opposing team. Then you can make fun of our campy band.

Trinity has some nice traditions, but the ones that stick are the ones that come from students: Calvert ghosts, birthdays in the fountain, the Trinitones and Aca Bellas. Hopefully this new one sticks. If not? We always have the Alamo City Community Band.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trinity Faculty Going Downhill (Part 2)

At Trinity University, some believe that drawing faculty members physically downhill – from the upper campus academic area to the lower campus residential area – can create an enriching and meaningful learning environment for students. It is a sometimes controversial issue because faculty members can only be stretched so far and students often like to separate, rather than integrate, their in-class and out-of-class experiences. This three-part series will take a look at the history, issues, and current standing of the blended educational experience at Trinity University.

Part 2: Collaboration
Trinity’s mission boasts a residential campus experience. On a very basic level, the three-year residency requirement is in place to shape the student identity as being immersed in the traditional college experience; to house students close to one another; and to offer easy access to lectures, athletic contests, and plays. Beyond that, the requirement affords the University a tremendous opportunity to foster interactions between students and faculty members outside the classroom.

One of the reasons that the campus pub – the Tigers’ Den – was so attractive when proposed and implemented, was that it created a space where professors and students could sit down over a beverage and wax poetic about Kant and Nietzsche in a setting that a classroom doesn’t allow. An experienced professor here wishes the University would buy housing near campus so faculty members can live close by and participate in campus events and have meaningful informal interactions with students. It makes senses, as sometimes the best interactions aren’t planned, and they happen in the most unusual settings and at the most unusual times. Creating opportunities allows for these types of interactions to occur.

One of the most sincere, yet damaging programs created on campus to create this dynamic occurred in the late 1980’s, when the then Residence Halls staff proposed and implemented a program called Faculty Friends. The idea was to connect students on campus with professors who would become informal mentors and leaders. Because the relationships were artificial the program failed miserably. Professors saw little benefit to going downhill for a dinner with students who had been cajoled by Resident Assistants into participating. Moving faculty from that era beyond that experience has proven challenging for years and even decades.

Generally, bringing professors and students together on campus is more of a challenge on larger research campuses. At schools like Trinity, professors will regularly serve extensive office hours and relish the opportunity to assist students outside of class and in small groups. This is what students view as the most significant part of their educational experience here. Most think that is enough, whereas others come from campuses where there were language houses and special living units, and regular night-time and evening interaction that made the experience really meaningful. One professor (not from TU) recently made a strong case for the benefits to students and faculty when professors live among students.

Faculty members do not speak with the same voice related to their outside-the-classroom roles on campus. Indeed, faculty members are judged almost entirely on the quality of their teaching and on research, a measure of one’s engagement, productivity, and ongoing development of expertise within a discipline. Service, such as serving on committees, comes in a distant third. Several years ago a professor helped advance a faculty-generated proposal that Residential Life would pay for faculty meals in the dining hall. The Faculty Senate declined, fearing that the ones who didn’t participate would be judged negatively, or that this would create an expectation for all professors that would interfere with the important business of teaching and research.

Likewise, I have been asked by professors why there is “this push to get faculty into the dorms.” On the flip-side, others have asked why we aren’t creating a better, more interactive environment on lower campus between faculty and students. One such professor challenged me personally years ago to include a residential option with the Humanities 1600 course. The success of that program has been transformational for me, and for the Residential Life program at Trinity.

Coming in Part 3: What works

Friday, November 6, 2009

Counter inTUitive

This is a (new) regular feature to examine the information in the weekly Trinitonian editorial. I love the Trinitonian and the students who run it. Sometimes, however there are more nuances to the issue than they have space for. Besides, electronic media allows for there to be "watchdog" watchdogs. Editorials are rated by "hits," as in blog hits, with one being worst and 5 being best. If they are published on-line I will provide links.

Last week I was disappointed when the Trinitonian called out the University for not reducing carbon emissions. We do have a ways to go there. More troubling, though, was they called out Physical Plant Director John Greene while patting the students on the back for making great strides in recycling and other efforts. While the students have done well, they would be nowhere without Physical Plant and ARAMARK. In particular, John Greene took a poor student-run recycling program into his department and dedicated two full-time staffers, a truck, and recycling bins to this important issue. ARAMARK eliminated Styrofoam, as a response to important input on the topic. My point is, the last person who should be identified as slacking in sustainability initiatives is John Greene. Other cost and institutional issues are at play in measuring and then reducing the University's carbon footprint.
2 hits

This week, the Trinitonian calls on students to be vigilant about the new ASR constitution, which has that student government body directly funding student groups instead of appointing a board to do this for them, or having THAT board delegate to other groups (TIGER/TDC) to distribute. The editiorial calls on students to be vigilant about what ASR may sneak into its bylaws and also to be careful about the power ASR has. Finally, students are called on to regularly challenge ASR's authority. I generally like all of these points. ASR should be accountable and transparent. Hopefully as proposals for funding are submitted they will be put on-line for students to comment on. In addition, the ASR budget should be put on-line so any student can determine at any time that the activity money they pay is being well-spent.

What I would have liked to have seen emphasised more is that students can directly "vote the bums out" if they feel they are not good stewards of student activity fee money. In addition, this new constitution may create more interest in students running for senate positions. (In recent years the first wave of applications for candidacy didn't produce the minimum number of candidates required.) Also, the truth is that ASR has held this power all along, but delegated it to an appointed group to give out the money to the other groups to give out the money. Finally, on the issue of the by-laws, these are simply the procedures used, among other things, to accept proposals and allocate money. They should not be controversial (and never have been) and also will be published on-line.
3 hits

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm NOT Gay (not that there's anything wrong with that*)

You don't want to receive an e-mail from your wife that reads "I always knew you were gay!" It seems my appearance in a recent student video project though, featuring Trinity grad Michael Elder, has spurred some questions. I prefer to think of myself as a good sport. This video was part of Bri McGlammory's Tiger TV project for the "Not So Late Show." I was happy to participate. Sometimes my internal filter doesn't work so well, but I did decline Mike's invitation to spoof the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene, and I did pass up on an on-screen back-rub. When Mike asked if I could sit "sexily" on the piano I told him that was the only way I knew how. Having seen the video I now realize that's not entirely true. I fear I have single-handedly taken the sex out of sexily.

I have gotten questions about my orientation lately because I also have a touring bag for when I am on my bike. It is NOT a purse. My dad used to have keys and a billfold. That's it. I have a camera, for my blog, an iPhone, reading glasses, earphones, business cards... I think you understand.

The picture above? Now I can explain that. Again, I was just being a good sport. I passed by this photo op on the esplanade and was in a playful mood so I jumped in. I thought it was funny. I am NOT gay. I didn't actually kiss the guy, and I'm glad, because it turns out he is not even a student. The young woman, Alison Kimura is, and this was a photo project for a Beginning Photography course by Kara Lee Shervanick.

But more to the point... Trinity University has an obligation to accept all of our students for who they are -- and that includes those students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. The challenge is to move from being just tolerant to actually welcoming and embracing this population (probably about 5% of the student body, not counting those questioning their sexual orientation and gender identity). Fortunately, recent generations have become much more open to lifestyles that are different than their own and the University has some strong allies for them throughout the faculty and staff, most notably Dr. Richard Reams in Counseling Services. According to Dr. Reams about two-thirds (64%) of the 34 LGB students who responded to an anonymous LGB Campus Climate Survey last semester reported the climate to be somewhat or very welcoming, an increase from 47% in 2004.

Some people worry about this welcoming approach to our gay population. I have had e-mail exchanges with older alumni who feel that THEIR Trinity would never have allowed homosexual students to form a student group. In an exchange that I was accidentally copied on, one person openly speculated that I was probably a "faggot." In my own journey away from homophobia, I discovered I wasn't offended by this.

There are other signs I have evolved. My reaction to the photo above was not "oh my, did I really pretend to kiss a guy," but rather "dang, I need a haircut." I no longer ask Dr. Reams to put an asterisk (*not gay) by my name in the annual Trinitonian ad welcoming gay, lesbian, and transgender students to campus. And, I didn't find the request to do the video that big of a deal. (Out of respect for my wife, I would have actually declined if a female student had asked to do this.) But now my wife and I have other issues to resolve.

In many offices on campus, including mine, there are rainbow signs that state "LGBT Ally." These offices are safe places for students to discuss their lives authentically. I like that. This should be a safe place. I suspect in years to come, when this generation is in charge, those proclamations won't even be necessary. I plan to meet them there.

*Seinfeld reference