Google Analytics Tracking Code

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Speaking Dennis

So with a new President coming on board, it is time to prepare. There's a new sheriff in town. For our students, there isn't too much to be done. For the faculty and staff, however, it's every person for him or herself. I'm not implying that people will start pushing their pet projects and try to get the ear of the new President and buddy up to him. I am saying it outright. Based on what happened when Dr. Brazil arrived, prepare for sucking up, posturing, and selfless promotion like you have never seen before. And that will just be me. Someone's hoping for a new apartment-style dorm!

I have come up with two ways to get in good with the new President. First, he is a fellow blogger. One of ours is all high-brow, intellectual and financial, and the other's is, well... mine. Picture this conversation sometime in the future:
Me: "Dennis, do you mind turning up the power on the jets?"
President Ahlburg: "Why are you in my hot tub, mate? And stop calling me Dennis."

Me: "Remember that post about budget cuts and the American Economic Association you did at CU? Yeah, that was a good one. It was like the one I did about refrigerator magnets."
President Ahlburg: "Now, who are you again?"

Second, amidst the Kafuffle of his arrival, he may feel a little homesick for his native Australia, even though he hasn't lived there since like the early 1970's. Others may be bringing gifts of Foster's Beer to welcome him or talk to him about their favorite member of the Wiggles or that one Men at Work song. But I will be using his native tongue. I hope he is no cot case, as I will be inviting him to join us for noon ball and the half marathon training program. I will just put the billy on until he's all chocker, if you know what I mean. Oh, you probably DON'T know, because I have the "True Blue Guide to Australian Slang" and you don't. (It's not my fault that I am prepared. You probably have $8.20 sitting around somewhere. You could have gotten the same book.)

Well, I need to strike a blow, as they say down under. But let me first officially welcome our new President. He's going to love me. I just know it.

Searching for Truth

Well, it is over. The Trinity Presidential Search -- that was effectively launched last January when President John Brazil announced his retirement -- has concluded, nearly nine months later. As a member of the search committee, these are some of my own observations, in no particular order:

1. The first thing that comes to mind is the dedication of the Trustees on the search committee. They made multiple trips at their own expense to San Antonio and other locations. The amount of time and money they put into the process was proof positive of their commitment to Trinity. I think any Trustee here would have done the same.
2. In addition, the Trustees were pretty cool. They made jokes, got jokes, knew a lot about a lot, were very professional, and were really open to learning more about the day-to-day operations of the University.
3. As candidates learned more about the University they expressed that they previously had no idea what we had to offer and that they thought we had something special going here. Maybe they were blowing smoke, but they really seemed to be excited about us.
4. We met with a lot of quality people. They were professional, candid, showed great class, and were exciting. There were some characters too.
5. At any level, there is never a perfect candidate. If we could have "cut and pasted" together the perfect one, as a Trustee noted to me last week, that would be ideal. But we can't. I went into the search thinking that we would see people that brought it all. It's not like that. Think about electing a President in the U.S. You can't please everyone. But if you could cut and paste: Maybe a little bit of McCain, with a tad bit of Romney, and a big dose of Obama, with a pinch of Palin... Okay, I took it too far, but you get it. No one person is perfect. We settled for a human being.
6. The job of University President is HUGE. So, we were looking for a person with great integrity and character; an exciting public persona; an understanding of the economy and balance sheets; a fund-raiser; someone who would spend more time off campus raising money; someone who would spend more time on campus meeting students; a scholar; an administrator; a leader; a manager; someone who would build our national reputation; someone who would build our local reputation; someone with an international background; someone who understands the importance of globalization and service; and someone who is fun at cocktail parties. Got it Dr. Ahlburg?
7. As with the search for the Academic VP several years ago, there is no way to learn more about the faculty than to serve on a committee like this. I have been fortunate to have that experience both times. It is easy to not fully appreciate what you don't know. Additionally, faculty members on the search committee felt a tremendous responsibility to produce a candidate with intellectual stature that could be respected by their peers. Irespect their pride.
8. I never want to be around when people search for my replacement. Ask John Brazil and Becky Spurlock. To see what people don't like about me I would simply see what they were looking for in the next Dean. Ouch.
9. People talk when they aren't supposed to. Keeping secrets is hard. I am glad this is over.
10. The staff just wants to be loved too. (After the students, and the faculty, and the Trustees, and the Alumni, of course.) The staff contributes a lot to the campus and I am proud of my colleagues.

In all, this was an incredible opportunity to serve the institution. I feel a little selfish to have had the chance that others haven't. I wish everyone could have the same chance, but we'd never get anything done. What we do have is a new President and that always brings exciting opportunities for change and progress.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Girls Run Wild

Women have issues. Or so I thought. That's why I decided to sponsor a presentation for female Trinity students on women's running issues.

The session was to be one of several in connection with the Second Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge. (A group of male and female students, faculty, and staff members who train together for the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.) The sessions cover topics on running shoes and gear, proper running technique, and nutrition, to name a few. We all train together as well.

I didn't think it was absurd to assume that women would have running issues specific to them. There is even a running magazine for women. I am pretty savvy with women, although last year the female runners complained that the TU running shirts I ordered for race day were only in a men's cut. Picky. With all that in mind I contacted Catherine Austin from Run Wild Sports about talking to the females in our group about their special needs. My suggestions: sports bras; handling creepy male runners; pointers related to... female things unknown to men; nutrition for women, etc. Catherine says that aside from those related to elite runners, the issues specific to women runners are pretty minimal. She said she was willing to talk about sports bras, but said that would take about two minutes. I think I could talk about sports bras for two minutes.

My dilemma was that I had promised the women in the Half Marathon Challenge a session just for them. As a compromise, Catherine has invited them to her store as a group. I like the idea, because I want them to see a young female entrepreneur at work. And because they might have questions neither Catherine nor I had considered. Perhaps the most prominent will be: "Why weren't the guys included?"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where's the Beef?

From time-to-time I like to exercise my own freedom of the press by offering counterpoints to the editorials in the campus paper, the Trinitonian. I will invoke that privilege this week to respond to the editorial about the housing situation. Note that I have a great relationship with the paper and respect its usual excellence. The issue -- releasing students from the residency requirement to accommodate all of our students -- was nicely covered by Trinitonian reporter Kristina Meyer.

The accompanying editorial, however, somewhat unfairly characterizes the work of the Residential Life staff, particularly, that of Associate Director Wanda Olson as "obviously flawed." In addition the piece claims that the Residential Life Office failed to "properly plan." The editorial presents the office as one that has to base projections on guesswork. That part is true. Mrs. Olson looks at occupancy figures and wait list information from previous years and projects the number of students who can be released in advance in order to ensure that we have room for all of our students under the University's three-year requirement.

This is not an exact science. The previous year, when nearly everyone was released on the first pass, the Residential Life Office began the year with 50 vacancies. Predicting "student melt" is extremely difficult. This year we opened with a full house and are still moving people out of triples and upper-class students out of the first year area.

The second issue, articulated in the column, was that the staff is doing nothing but hoping for a new facility to resolve the issue. That isn't entirely true either. In fact, just this week, in conjunction with the Business Office, the staff has worked out a plan to refund room deposits based on cancellation dates. One of the issues Residential Life struggles with is learning of cancellations in a timely manner. The new system will provide incentive for students to notify the University quickly of their plans not to return. A full refund will be issued for notifications by June 1 and a partial refund by July 1. Previously deposits were completely non-refundable. This is a win for students who cancel, and for those waiting for the subsequent vacancies that are created. The plan was proposed by Mrs. Olson last spring, based on research she had done with peer institutions.

My greatest issue with the editorial is that it presents the staff as unsophisticated and uncaring buffoons. In fact, Mrs. Olson, specifically, gives incredible individual attention to students and the room assignment process. She really should be applauded rather than belittled. The assignment process is a complex one, condemning it without thought, though, is simple.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Flu season... It's Pure 'ell

As students returned to Trinity this fall they were greeted by an army of Purell soap dispensers strategically placed throughout campus.

The N1H1 flu, formerly known as the Swine flu is serious. Our very own Crisis Management Team spent days and hours on preparations and education last spring. A small group from that team, dubbed by one colleague as the Flu Crew, continues to monitor the epidemic daily and is plugged in to national data, trends, recommendations, etc. Many of our sister schools in the Associated Colleges of the South have been hit hard by the flu already. It will happen here.

All that being said, there is something disturbing about these hand sanitizers. Perhaps it is my revulsion to the foamy substance I have previously referred to as "used soap." Perhaps it is my aversion to wearing wrist bands and ribbons for causes. Maybe it is because I the only time I got the flu shot I had the worst flu ever. I guess I just don't want to go with the masses. Me and my grubby little hands. Don't get me wrong. I actually DO wash my hands. I just don't want to be one of those people wearing 3-D glasses in a movie theater or someone sporting Crocs. I just think there should be more to life.

Nevertheless, so far so good. We will all huddle around our communal soap dispensers with our clean little hands. Gone are the days of the water cooler chat or the cigarette break. This is good too though. The soap MUST be working because we have avoided the flu epidemic so far. Lather up Trinity. We may just make the Princeton Review list for "cleanest hands" AND "healthiest campus" this year.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Forward, Pay it

It shouldn't have surprised me that the Trinity Trustee forwarded my e-mail to him out to the rest of the Presidential Search Committee with his response. In that e-mail I was asking him for more information on the remaining candidates. The search committee's work is complete at this point, and the decision is now in the hands of the Trustees. I think my original e-mail made me seem persistent, impatient, and nosy. I actually am. But that's not the point.

This will likely not be the last time that an e-mail I send is forwarded against my intentions. I do it to others too, I suppose, though I try not to. As lawyers and others do, I could attach the little threat at the end of all my e-mails that say it is against the law -- and the will of the Lord -- to forward my privileged information. But why? Like others, I have become immune to that anyways, and now just delete the warning when I forward said e-mails to whomever I please. The truth is, I try to write funny, pithy e-mails to stave off boredom (mine and other people's)and I actually HOPE that most end up being forwarded. But not all.

A year or so ago I sent an e-mail to Career Services Director Brian Hirsch about an acquaintance looking for some job-search connections in San Antonio. I may have accidentally referred to the person as a "nervous-nelly," which really, I mean how bad is that. It can be a good thing, I think. Anyways, he forwarded my e-mail to her saying he would be happy to help out. I never did hear from her again, save for when she apologized for having bothered me. Sigh.

More recently, I sent an e-mail to some Trinity coaches asking them to ask their teams to stop taping signs up all over campus on game days, in violation of our very reasonable posting policy. My e-mail said: "... I don't mean to be a piss ant about this, but I am what I am." One of the coaches forwarded the e-mail to her entire team. They don't post "illegally" anymore, but they now all have an e-mail in which I am complaining about their activities and am admitting to being a piss ant. I am a very private person, and did not want the volleyball team to have this information.

I did want my staff to see that e-mail so they could see I was the guardian of all things posting policy-related. They thought it was pithy and funny that I admitted to being a piss ant, though a debate ensued about the definition of piss ant. Katie Storey thought a piss ant was a synonym for someone in a bucket brigade. Knucklehead. Josh Brack looked it up on his little electronic gizmo and the definition did pretty much did describe me, though not in a bucket brigade. He also took to the French pronunciation of the word to rhyme with croissant. The Residential Life staff has issues. I am the normal one.

Anyways, now I need to follow-up with new Security Chief Paul Chapa, who forwarded my e-mail about a staffer of his not using common sense, directly to her. Speaking of which...