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Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's a Wrap: Happy Holidays!

Dr. William Burke (above) serves at the Residential Life midnight breakfast on December 9, 2010. The tradition happens each semester during the second reading day. This year, Student Affairs staffers invited professors to assist in the program. See the slide show, which features photos of the professors with those who invited them, pre-gaming of caffeine at Starbucks, and fun between the students and those working the event. A second slide show features students, many whom arrived in costume directly from the library Rave. The following day, Residential Life, under the coordination of Cally Chenault, brought puppies to campus for a stress-relief break. It seemed to have worked (see slide show).

These events were preceded by the Trinity Christmas Concert, Vespers, and Christmas on Oakmont. Because there is not a VP for Student Affairs living on Oakmont this year, the staff pulled together to feature a Charlie Brown themed open house at 146 Oakmont. Thanks to Cecily Cassidy and the rest of the staff for really putting together a fun display and reception!

Here is to wishing all students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and friends a very happy and joyous holiday season. The blog will hibernate until the University reopens in January.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hertz so good?

Is this too good to be true? The University has been approached about participating in the Connect by Hertz program. Essentially, several cars will be left on campus, and students who are pre-approved can reserve the vehicles for $12.99 per hour. Participants are given a swipe card that allows them vehicle access. The attraction for colleges is that the program allows 18-year-olds and international students vehicle access, as long as they are pre-approved. What this means for Trinity students is that those from out-of-state, from across the globe, or with no vehicle can have access for short term use. There is also a daily rate.

The Residential Life Office currently funds a program through the dorm fee run by International Programs that offers a shuttle every other weekend. ASR would like to see that program operate every weekend and is considering supporting the Hertz program as well. What do you think? Take the poll at right.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Half Marathon Challenge 2010 ROCKS!

The 3rd Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge and Food Drive is officially in the books. The program has grown from 40-some participants, to 80, to 100 over three years. What's more, some of the people who have done the half in previous year have come back to participate in the full marathon. Trinity's team won the city-wide Get Fit Challenge in the large group division of the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon!

There were about 50 regulars who trained with the group at various times, and our biggest training run had 33 participants. The others trained off-site (parents and alumni out-of-town) or trained on their own, but signed up through the Get Fit Challenge, attended the pasta dinner on campus, and/or purchased the official Trinity running shirt from the bookstore.

Over 1,000 food items and $600 were donated to the San Antonio Food Bank. Special thanks to the Trinity University bookstore, Athlete's Foot, Coach Derick Lawrence, and the YMCA for supporting this program.

I want to personally congratulate the runners for their awesome spirit, drive, and enthusiasm. It is a great pleasure to get to know people over both easy and grueling runs throughout the city. Our training took us past mansions and homeless shelters. We saw the Riverwalk, the Alamo, the the Tower of the Americas, and ran through a market and around a lake. Nevermind that a guy in a turkey costume passed me at mile 11. See the slide shows at right for a sense of the experience.

Next year's race is scheduled for November 13, 2011.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Strides: Mother and child reunion

This is a series on runners participating in the 3rd Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge on November 14, 2010. The final feature is about a new student from San Antonio, Arlyne Martinez - above left, and her mother, Yvonne Martinez (Class of 1976) - above right. Yvonne was diagnosed with stage four cancer five years ago. She is a tough cookie. Try running with her. They answered the questions independently by e-mail.

Why are you running the half marathon?
I am running the half marathon because my daughter encouraged me to do so. I really was only going to run the half marathon relay, but didn't have someone to run it with. I had decided I would run next year. Then my daughter, Arlyne e-mailed me not to forget about the early registration deadline. This is a challenge I never thought possible five years ago when I could barely walk.

Arlyne, your mom is running to keep cancer at bay. You motivate her. How does she motivate you?
My mom motivates me because shes does what she wants. She isn't pushy and tells me to just do my best.

What do you feel lucky about?
I feel lucky that I am a cancer survivor. I see life with a different perspective (almost as if I am living on borrowed time). This ordeal has brought our family closer together. I am so lucky to have my family.
Arlyne: I feel lucky about a lot of things; I have a lot of good things in my life, like my family, my friends, my cell phone, and much more. I’m very happy that I have what I have, and am able to do the things I do. Even like simple stuff: walking, seeing, eating, reading, some people can’t do those things.
Editor's Note: Really Arlyne? Your cell phone? Kids...

What about the other person makes you smile?
A lot of things about her make me smile, like how small things make her happy and how proud she is of our little dog.
Yvonne: Arlyne makes me smile when she is happy, successful and silly.

Mother, daughter or friends?
I’d say we’re both. She is always my mom and does mom stuff for me, like make me food. But I tell her stuff and she tells me stuff like friends do.
Yvonne: My role in Arlyne's life is of a mother first. We are close and I will be there also as a friend. Arlyne is my only daughter and there will always be a special bond between us. She has been my companion and my inspiration in much that I do.

Why did you each decide to go to Trinity?
I decided to go to Trinity because it is a good school. It will get me where I want to be in the future.
Yvonne: I decided to go to Trinity because of faculty and student ratio and its reputation.

Strides: Hunger, drive

This is a series on runners participating in the 3rd Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge on November 14, 2010. Laura Yeo Perez graduated in 2006 with a BA in Sociology. She grew up in Houston but lives in San Antonio now. Laura is an LMSW, works as a case manager at Haven for Hope. (Laura is pictured above after finishing the marathon in 2009. She is on the right with Trinity alum Elyza Sanchez, shown left.)

Your job overlaps directly with out food drive mission as the charity we do for our run. What do you do at Haven for Hope?
I work with about 45 single adult men and women, helping them navigate their way out of homelessness by working with them to create a vision for what they would like their lives to be, establishing a plan on how to get there, taking action on that plan, and eventually transitioning out of homelessness.

What is it like working there?
Never a dull moment! The homeless individuals that I work with are all incredibly diverse and have very different needs, but I am lucky to be a member of a great team of case managers, and part of an incredible network of partners that provide everything from counseling to resume writing to culinary arts training.

How important is it to feed those in need?
Without the proper fuel, it's impossible to search for a job, go to school, go to work... anything. The meals that the San Antonio Food Bank provide to the members at H4H as well as to the community of San Antonio are intended to be a catalyst for self improvement and reaching goals for a better future.

What connection do you see between running and the food drive?
We have a running group at Haven, called Street2Feet. The physical and emotional benefits to the homeless members of this group are AMAZING.... and a huge part of it is the lifestyle shift to conscious healthy eating, which the food bank provides through their meals and donated food to the community.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Counter inTUitive 11.5.10

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.

5 blog hits

Bugs may bug us, but not time for panic
So, let's see... There was a health department report that gave demerits to dining services. You were set-up perfectly to seize on the sound-bite and knock the competence of ARAMARK. So what do you do? You go and defend them?! Your reasonableness and perspective are shocking. Nicely played. (As a bonus, note that we are still on schedule to look at some major changes in dining services. Be patient. You will be among the first to know anything!)

Note: I can't find the on-line edition to link the story and the editorial, but will if it goes live... or I find it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Strides: Happy Feet

This is a series on runners participating in the 3rd Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge on November 14, 2010. Today's post features Phil Beyer. He graduated from Trinity in 1999 with a BS in Physics. Phil is training for the full marathon. On one nine mile training run he showed up with nine miles already under his belt. Phil trains in FiveFingers running shoes (gloves for the feet!). He is cheerful.

The background
I was then and am now, mostly a science nerd. I love exploring the universe... small, large, close, and very far away. These days my learning takes the form of securing information from prying eyes in the professional world, and teaching my children how to learn and explore for themselves.

When did you start running and why?
I started running to chase my lovely wife, Jean (Higdon) Beyer '96, but I slowly grew appreciate its effects (read: it took a few years). A little over a year ago, I felt moved to give long distance running a try, so on a Saturday morning, I just ran as far and as long as I could. For future reference, I don't necessarily recommend that 2.5 hr experience to anyone, since my lack of training, a good pre-run meal, and any water resulted in significant pain. However, I did emerge with a new found enjoyment of the practice. I've been running farther and faster ever since.

What is something that other half marathon Challenge runners don't know about you?
Half Marathon last year... Marathon this year... Ultra Marathon next year... Ironman after that... Grand Slam of Ultrarunning... Badwater...

What is it like to be an alumni running with the Trinity group? Strange?
The runs have been quite fun. I expected it to be more awkward, but instead, it has turned out much the way I hoped... comfortable, social, educational, a little nostalgic, and marked by a subtle intensity. We all have our sights set on a respectable goal, requiring focus and a little levity from time to time.

What advice would yo give non-runners?
I recommend running to just about anyone who is willing to listen. It is a rewarding activity that returns in health and energy much more than the time you put in. Start slow, very slow, and just keep going. If running with other people helps, there are groups all over the city, state, country, and world who can motivate you. If it's inspiration you need, read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall or watch Spirit of the Marathon .

Editors Note: Links by Phil.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Ice Luge: Let it slide?

When a fraternity member asked ARAMARK dining staff what they charge for an ice luge, the staff did what they are supposed to. They told me. I affirmed their answer: No - we won't make a block of ice with rivulets to add a sporting element to doing shots. Upon follow-up, the student clarified to Greek Life staff that the request was for an ice sculpture, not a drinking device. Whatever. The real question is, should we even care about this at all? (Weigh in at the poll to the upper right.)

The "luge" pictured above left was from an old fraternity Web page several years ago that has since been unpublished. When I was a college student I would have wanted an ice bobsled. The reaction to the recent request isn't about prudish denial of someone's fun. It is about safety and responsibility and control (or our lack of it). Really, this isn't about the luge. It is about looking at an old issue that needs handling once and for all so we stop going over old ground. Or ice.

As the Greek Council and the administration look at the issues of off-campus events with alcohol, however, the underlying question is how far should the reach of the campus extend. It is the University that is initiating this conversation. By policy, we have the right to deal with off-campus behavior. But frankly, I am tired of the friction created by parties that sometimes put students at risk and require staff time to investigate -- and be lied to. Maybe there is no incentive to tell the truth - and that's on us. Usually, we learn of the events because something bad happens back on campus following an unregistered loosely monitored event. So, we are left with responding to groups only when something bad happens. That confounds our students, who see that approach as unfair. The incentive for them is to cover-up bad things. We want the opposite. We want to help when things go south. But we want honesty too.

On GreekTalk an alum recently lamented that it is impossible for the University to monitor the behavior of 18-21 year-olds off campus and we should stop trying. I couldn't agree more. The law compels us to care, as do the attorneys of families when bad things happen to their kids. Still, the same law that says we have foreseeable risk is indifferent when deputies from the county are paid to keep gate-crashers out of parties. This while underage drinking happens under their noses.

We know that turning a blind eye puts us at risk. We also know that close monitoring doesn't work. In the meantime, students want clarity. They want to know what makes a party a party and what makes an activity a club event or a personal one.

A student sub-committee is to make recommendations in the next week or so. I hope those recs go as far as I want them to. For one thing, the administration (me) can't have it both ways. If events are group-sponsored at homes off campus, we can't sometimes decide they are private events and sometimes group activities, all based on whether or not a problem arises. There are challenges to be sure. When neighbors are disrupted I get the call and the issue is that they can't believe the behavior of our students. We should care about that. But should we act?

For another thing, we need to be all in or all out regarding our philosophy that "we care deeply about student health and safety." In other words, in the spirit of what our Greek consultant suggested earlier this fall, we need to do the right thing. That may mean whatever happens with the law and liability will happen. It happens anyway.

What I foresee from the students, is a statement with guidelines on what constitutes a group event versus a private event. We have provisions for students to host lawful events with alcohol for those of age. If groups don't choose that option, then they are responsible for what happens in privately-owned residences. We have never been able to control those parties and never will. But we can and should go a step further in helping educate our students at-large about alcohol, personal, and sexual safety when they do what college students do. But does that increase our liability? Do we care? Extending the responsible friend (Good Samaritan) policy off campus and to groups may also be a good place to start.

The ice luge, however, represents our biggest challenge. If we care about student health and safety, then shouldn't we investigate when we suspect a block of ice will be used to expedite the drinking of hard alcohol? Or should we know that this will happen anyways, maybe at another house on another weekend, whether we accidentally learn of a luge or not? Maybe we should coach them on why the luge isn't safe and leave it at that. The question is indeed a slippery one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Strides: Intestinal Fortitude

This is a series on runners participating in the 3rd Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge on November 14, 2010. Today's post features Morgan Jackson a sophomore Biology major with a Sociology minor from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Ben Newhouse is the Associate Director of Campus & Community Involvement. He graduated from trinity 1999. They had not known about their common ground. They do now.

Morgan Jackson
Why do you run?
I played varsity soccer and swam on the varsity team in high school and swam and played soccer while dancing all throughout my life. So I have always run to stay in shape for those activities but when I got to college I knew I wasn't going to do either at the collegiate level. I got the e-mail from Dean Tuttle about running a half marathon and decided to give it a shot. I ran the half marathon last year and will do it again this year and hopefully many years to come.

Talk about how running relates to your health issues.
Well the summer before my senior year of high school I started having excruciating stomach pain for three weeks and saw several doctors before being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. So during that initial three weeks I could barely walk let alone run or do any of my favored activities so that set me back a little bit. Currently I haven't had many issues with my Crohn's, however, sometimes when I run I do experience some pain. Unfortunately, it often does cause me to have to stop and walk a bit before I can resume my run. Thankfully, it doesn't affect me on every run and so most runs I am able to run like normal.

What's on your running playlist?
As far as my music play list goes I don't really have one. I tend to just put my iPod on shuffle and skip the songs that aren't working for that moment. However, I do like to listen to a lot of Trapt, Skillet, A Bird a Sparrow, The Hit, Maroon 5 and Mayday Parade. Anything with a steady and peppy beat is good.

Ben Newhouse
Why do you run?
I was never a runner, and I got tired of all the excuses I was using for not getting out there. So I chose to do something drastic by signing up for the half marathon. My motivation is--I may not look the part, but I'm out there.

How is your experience training a second time?
Last year, 13.1 miles was intimidating. It's amazing how much more confidently I train knowing that I succeeded last year. I wish I could pass that knowledge on to the first time runners. I know they can make it!

Tell me about Crohn's and how it relates to your running?
Crohn's disease is a GI disorder that causes a person's immune system to attack their own body, which in short turns the intestines into Swiss cheese if untreated. Symptoms include intense abdominal pain, rapid weight loss, vomiting, and well, you get the picture. Five years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn's. I had lost 80 pounds in 3 months because I couldn't keep anything down. Fortunately, with surgery and ongoing treatment, I have been relatively symptom-free (or as Crohnies call it, flare-free) ever since. Many don't fare as well and have endured repeated surgeries and aggressive drug therapy with little to no relief. Five years ago, I was so weak that I could barely walk. Today, I run because I understand that the ability to do so is a gift. I run because so many of my fellow Crohnies are still too sick to join me.

What is the best thing about running with students?
I love hearing about their week--the successes, the challenges, and the drama. I find that I am much better listener during runs because talking would waste precious oxygen.

Editors Note: Student Bart Davis has gathered about 12 students to run the half marathon to raise money for Crohn's research. Bart has family members with the disease. Ben Newhouse is helping the group.The Dean's Half Marathon Challenge runs for the San Antonio Food Bank.

Glory Day

This post is really just a photographic musing of the inauguration of President Dennis Ahlburg as Trinity's 18th president. The ceremony was on October 22, 2010. I actually tweeted out the photo at right under the heading of "Modern President." It just seemed funny to me to see the man of the hour in these antique robes chatting on his cell phone. I think it is called cognitive dissonance. In reality, I think he was talking to a local radio reporter. This was just prior to the ceremony. President Ahlburg is modern in many ways, though he is probably less tied to technology than some of his VPs.

This next photo shows part of the crowd of the assembled representatives from other institutions and the faculty. One thing I noted from my vantage point on the platform party was that there was no correlation between the speaker or the size of the academic regalia on one's head and taking a little snooze. It did seem to that there was a correlation between age and inner eyelid gazing. I asked a younger professor for her view of the ceremony. i think she summed up the feelings of many when she said it was really interesting and more spirited than she anticipated. I completely agree. As formal ceremonies go, this felt down-to-earth, fun, and interesting. I should note that a colleague of mine strongly suggested it would be inappropriate to be on the platform party taking photos and tweeting. Duh. I know that NOW. I did snap this on the way out, which explains the picture quality. Let's just say, lots of good photos and Tweet opportunities were missed.
Another fun image included the energetic and angelic/impish Master Benjamin (in coat and tie, below) adding youth to the inauguration - even outlasting some of the robed guests in stamina. San Antonio mayor Julian Castro (southeast photo below, left) and student government president Emmalee Bannon (southeast photo below right), offered welcoming remarks as did Carmen Garza, representing the staff. I loved that the student and the secretary more than held their own against other more experienced orators.

Probably the best part of the day was the dinner honoring the President. It featured speakers who were friends of Dennis and Penelope from Australia and Minnesota and some nice words by Board Chairman Walter Huntley and Trinity first Lady Penelope Harley in a hat reflecting the Australian couture theme. The President had the air of a person who had just been made official, based on the tie and socks he chose for the event. As with the ceremonies earlier, it signaled that pomp and formality could co-exist with fun and frivolity. That's how it can and should be in our work. I think we can take our cue from our newly official leader.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Trinity Interrupted: Learning Outcomes

Elise Goen almost always starts what she finishes. She came to Trinity in 2006 and should have graduated last May. She actually did graduate on time, but as an Oklahoma Sooner. Her destiny wasn't to finish here, but Trinity is proud of her anyway. If we could give her half a degree, I swear we would.

I was shocked when I saw the transfer application for Elise, who was studying abroad in Poland. I immediately called her mother, Patty (above right) in College Station to see if there was some kind of mistake. There wasn't. Trinity grad and Express-News higher education reporter Melissa Ludwig had been covering Elise that year as part of a series on access and retention of college students. She tracked two others from different campuses as well.

When Melissa contacted me to recommend a student for her to follow, Elise immediately came to mind. She embodied all the best traits of a Trinity student: bright, compassionate, enthusiastic, and fun. But her background was really different.

I met Elise in her first week at Trinity. She was one of the original runners in my "run with the Dean" program during new student orientation. It was clear from the outset that she was someone special and was mature beyond her years. As the oldest child of five, Elise had to grow up quickly when her parents, both doctors, packed up the family and moved to Nigeria to do Christian missionary work. Elise had to work hard from age 12 to help her family and also invest in her own non-traditional educational experiences.

There was never a question that she would graduate after a successful career here. But she knew this boy. One Express-News article offered a clue of what was to follow. "She dreams of becoming a diplomat... But domesticity tugs at her heartstrings too. Having grown up in a large family she wants lots of children and has a boyfriend too." I'd say. She got married and transferred to Oklahoma University to be with her fighter pilot husband, Dave. They are moving to a military base in North Dakota.

This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. It was a tough choice, with her heart being in two places. It was the right choice. Elise is able to have it all. She is in love and happily married and has her college degree. I wonder if Melissa Ludwig knows. Elise is a success and as the Express-News series predicted, her trajectory toward academic success was strong. It gets better for Trinity. There is another. Elise and her mom were in town because Elise's brother, James, was here for a campus tour. According to them, he is better than Elise. Ha!

So, maybe we'll get a Goen to graduate from here at some point. It seems that we really already did, even though technically... On this alumni weekend on campus, I look forward to the return of many Trinity grads. They have their Trinity degrees. Elise doesn't. Still, for me. she'll always be one of them anyway.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Counter in TUitive 10.8.10

I love the Trinitonian. In the most recent edition, a photo is displayed on page 2 of the Dean of Students' campus house - my home - which was TP'ed with toilet paper the previous night. The headline read: "Are we in middle school again?"

Actually, it is high school. My house was toilet papered by the cheerleaders for Central Catholic High School for my son, who plays football as a senior there. I actually went out and chatted with the vandals as they decorated. They also did a little work on the Suburban, as pictured above. The front windshield actually said "Sexy Senior" which drew all sorts of odd looks when I was driving around alone later that week. Senior, yes, as in gray-haired old man.

I will think the Trinitonian staff thought I was the target of this: That -- by their headline --they were chastising the childish pranksters in a way that was protective of their Dean. That is good news to me. Even better news is that TUPD, housed next door to me on Kings Court, had also noticed the decorating and called me about it before charging in.

In Stride: the Long run

This is a series on runners participating in the 3rd Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge on November 14, 2010. We begin the series with senior Jessica Long, a Biology major from Arlington, Texas.

Why did you decide to do the half initially?
I had run off and on for years. Then you sent out an email saying if we could run three miles by the end of the summer we should be able to train for the half, and I love a challenge.

Why a full this year?
A half was no longer a challenge distance-wise. I knew I could do it, so I needed another challenge.

What motivates you?
I’ve always been self motivated. I have a strong need to succeed that drives me and keeps me going.

What are you proud of?
I’m proud of being at Trinity, especially since neither of my parents went to college, my baking abilities, and the two half marathons I have run.

Tell me about your grandparents and what they mean to you.
My grandparents mean the world to me, and I don’t know what I would do without them. I have lived with them since I was 13 years old, and they have always supported me any way they could. Because of them I have had countless opportunities I would not have had otherwise, including Trinity. Technically, they are my grandparents, but, for all practical purposes, they are my parents. I know they will be sitting on the front row at graduation in the Spring cheering me on now and always.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Underdog forever

Kayla Mire ('10) passed away on October 2, 1010 in a one vehicle accident. I wish she hadn't been alone, but she had grown comfortable there. The last year or two weren't the easiest for her, but she was making a comeback. In her sister Jaime's blog honoring Kayla, she encourages that we be honest and "say what we feel." A stressed out Kayla sought advice from me about her commitment as an ASR senator. She decided to step down, and her peers in the senate rejected her personally delivered resignation. They didn't care if she didn't do another thing. They were pulling for her. They weren't the only ones. She had professors who loved and appreciated her and who worked closely with her to get back on track. They were pulling for her too. So was I. She played the unwilling underdog and is forever stuck there for me.

Her story is much fuller to many other people though. I look forward to the memories as posted on Jaime's blog and to hearing more stories about her from previous, happier times. Her sister, also a recent TU grad who had to endure the death of her brother in 2004 as well, says "I'm working on putting together a service project in her a honor, most likely a posthumous poetry reading, featuring her writing combined with the writing of those who knew her. It's titled the KAYLA project: Keeping Active with Youth, Love, and Art. I set up a blog where people can post their favorite memories, a letter to her, maybe a poem - whatever they feel. And their words, inspired by Kayla, will go on to better the lives of others. She wanted to devote her life to service, so I feel it's the best way to honor her."

Please honor Kayla's memory by reading or contributing to the KAYLA project blog. The funeral is set for Saturday afternoon.

Minerva, Meredith, M*A*S*H, and Mary

Student Affairs staff member Minerva Lopez, shown with President Dennis Ahlburg, was the recipient of the Helen Heare McKinley Employee Excellence Award for September, 2010. Minerva is on the left.

An announcement by committee member Meredith Elsik noted: Minerva has been a member of the Trinity community for over 10 years, currently serving as the Senior Secretary in the Counseling Services offices. She also worked as a secretary in the Health Care Administration department for several years. One of her co-workers described Minerva’s dedication to her job, saying “Minerva Lopez is the Radar O’Reilley of Counseling Services. Like the M*A*S*H character, Minerva knows how to get things done and makes them happen."

Minerva was also honored at the annual University Awards ceremony for ten years of service. At that same ceremony, Mary Butler, from the campus Mail Center, was recognized for 20 years of service to Trinity University. Mary is a tremendous employee and colleague and serves with pride and enthusiasm. She is pictured with several family members who attended the October 5 ceremony. She is the one clutching the award like she earned it every day of those 20 years. Congratulations to these great two staff members!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Right Stuff

This is complicated. The campus paper, the Trinitonian, has participated in a one-week celebration of the First Amendment, by publishing a four-page wrap-around TriniPHONian with news that is presented as, well, phony news. That wrap-around illustrated what the paper would be like if the administration - not the student body - was the publisher. The editorial in the regular portion of the paper explains this and then explores the importance of free speech, applauding the way it is practiced here. (No prior review of the paper, for example.)

This is all set to the back-drop of a story and editorial from the previous week, about Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Apparently two club officers were stripped of their leadership positions in IVCF because one was dating a non-Christian, and another announced that she no longer believed in hell.

But before judging IVCF too harshly, check out the Trinitonian story about the speaker the group brought to campus this week. She is Trinity parent Evelyn Husband Thompson and she talked about her faith following the loss of her husband Rick in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle tragedy. He was the mission captain. Her talk, as covered by the Trinitonian, was inspiring. Her faith, apparently, helped her rebuild her life from a very real kind of hell. Maybe they are on to something.

A Trinitonian columnist who is actually the President of IVCF wrote a personal and stirring column about some of the less-than-civil criticism he has endured in the wake of last week's story. In his column, he openly disagreed with the paper's coverage and editorial the previous week. So he wrote about it as a columnist for the same paper this week. The paper, apparently, practices what it preaches, no pun intended.

This week there is also a letter from a professor who suggests Jesus wouldn't be able to hold an officer position in IVCF under current rules. I think is tongue-in-cheek. It's hard to tell, because the letter includes terms such as "anti-intellectualism"(guilty), "relativism," and "secular humanists." This is why I prefer being a staff member. (I could do a whole blog post on the pros and cons of Jesus being in a Trinity student organization, by the way.)

A library staffer, two brothers, and a satirist also weighed-in this week on the IVCF issue. I offer a brief synopsis:
- If I believed in hell, which I don't, I would suggest you go there;
- Date people of different faiths even if marriage isn't imminent;
- Houston is hell and;
- The words "womb" and "anathema" are good to keep in your arsenal.

As we learned during last year's diploma debate, sometimes being right, doesn't make you right. Sometimes there is much more gray than black-and-white. People in the same community and even part of the same publication can make legitimate differing points through civil discourse. And yet again, we see the students and the learned faculty and staff here able to exercise their First Amendment rights (even at a private institution) and debate in generally thoughtful, emotional, and intellectual ways. The focus is on teaching and learning. In the end,the details really don't even matter that much. Yes, it's complicated. On a college campus, it should be.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Laurie's Head

I don't know that I can play this straight. No one else has seemed able to. My first experience with Laurie's head was seeing Marc Raney, former VP for Advancement, carrying it in the elevator en route to the Northrup fourth floor supply room last spring. It was a bit shocking, seeing Marc with a head -- in addition to his own -- bigger than most, and with what appeared to be some slight damage. It was shocking too, apparently, for secretaries who went looking for office supplies only to come face-to-head with the University legend.

In a ceremony on September 13, 2010, Laurie's head (a plaster sculpted head - not a bust - of former TU President James Laurie) was presented by its artist, Phil Evett, and installed in Laurie Auditorium. Evett, a former TU art professor, looking out over the graying and balding crowd noted that for awhile he actually thought he might have died. What probably should have been a somber and formal ritual seemed to turn into a series of head jokes worthy of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The Trinity old-timers, it turns out, are just like us. Current President, Dennis Ahlburg actually set the tone, announcing first that Dr. Laurie built the campus and while the Ahlburg legacy is to renovate it.

President Laurie retired in 1970 and died later that same year after being stricken with hepatitis. At Laurie's retirement ceremony in May of 1970, Andrew Cowles announced that the new auditorium on campus would bear Laurie's name. At that same ceremony, professor Frances Swinney thanked Dorothy Laurie, who by all accounts was universally revered, for her grace as a "respecter of life and love." The same Frances Swinney had a front row seat at the September ceremony this year. (I actually met this hip, charming, and witty lady at a function this fall.) Reverend Raymond Judd, who presided at Dr. Laurie's funeral, was also back and offered an invocation at the ceremony. Dr. Laurie was beloved as a remarkable, giving, warm, and principled man. Raymond Judd came to trinity as a student when Dr. Laurie arrived as President.

The ceremony led me back to the Doug Brackenridge history tome of Trinity. In it, he details the Laurie years, which saw Trinity move to the current location, often referenced as the "miracle on the hill." Current professor and former Dean of Students Coleen Grissom confirms that Dr. Laurie had the presence and vision that made him a pivotal institutional figure. He hired her back to Trinity after she initially left. That should be enough proof of his judgment. He knew all employees by name before his first day on the job. He would spend money the University didn't have to build the campus we have today. At his retirement a speaker noted that he "always insisted that Trinity live within its means, even if it had to borrow money to do it."

This was one of the best University events that I never looked forward to. The artist went on to discuss how, in the initial stages of this secret commission, he would stealthily stalk President Laurie at various events to get the right perspective for his piece. When the widow of President Laurie was first being shown the auditorium that would posthumously bear his name, she actually unexpectedly turned a corner to be faced with the stunning head of her late husband. No one noted the irony James "Woodin" Laurie was immortalized by plastic. The unique style actually does give the appearance of an incomplete sculpture, which makes it more art and less figurine.

Laurie's head sat in the studio of Professor of Phil Evett until a retired professor, Frank Kersnowski, worked with Trustee Jim Dicke (art expert - see Dicke Art Building) to have the head displayed in Laurie Auditorium. It went from studio, to supply room, to where it sits now, in the Laurie Auditorium lobby.

This has created for me a rush of nostalgia for a time I didn't even experience. The ceremony, with all of these elderly University relics, was spirited, funny, warm, and personal. Dr. Evett said he would replay the day in his thoughts in the months ahead because its meaning and being back on campus with his old colleagues and memories. The day was an incredible reminder of the vibrant life of a past so often dulled by black and white photos and historical footnotes. It could not have been a better tribute to a man, a head, and mostly, a heart that still beats strong today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Counter InTUitive 9.10.10

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.

Since this is the first Trinitonian review of the semester, I will offer some broader feedback. Overall this issue features great quality regarding depth, writing, reporting, professionalism, and appearance.

On the University screening student e-mails:
Not only can we not technically or legally read student e-mail, we have no interest. Most of us don't have time to read our own e-mails, let alone get into a raunchy student exchange about the Iliad. Mainly though, we just don't think you are that interesting (no offense).

RIP Cobb-Racy
Regarding a small building being torn down as part of science facility renovation:
It might help for people to know that SLH stands for Science Lecture Hall. SLH was mainly the term for the 60's era terraced classroom. Oh, and you owe Dr. Blyston an "e."

Professor Play list:
Speaks for itself. Great feature.

Hot water story and editorial
Regarding the lack of hot water over Labor Day weekend
So, I only learned of the water softener angle by reading the Trinitonian. Despite having measures in place to manage things like hot water outages the University response was rife with miscommunication, late communication, and errors. We will do better next time. In our defense, some of these things unfold over time in unpredictable ways. The long weekend, the rain, and narrowing down the problem all compounded things. I am not making any excuses... Just kidding, I am. Our bad. (Note to students: next time you stage a protest do it when we are around. It looked fun though.)

4 blog hits

ASR (student government) Student Activity fee
Coverage on the initiative by ASR to propose a fee increase
Good story and editorial. Equally thrilled and bummed that a former blog post of mine was used against ASR. We ARE over-programmed AND under-funded. Those things are not mutually exclusive. Well-considered editorial, but there is more to this in terms of student groups wanting funding. That's not ASR's fault. But at least people aren't criticizing ASR for inaction. This is more like it!

4 blog hits

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Interim Steps

In the role of interim VP for Student Affairs I identified several major goals for the year ahead, dating back to February. Serving in this role offers an opportunity to address some things that are stuck in my craw and that will hopefully reduce some ongoing friction points with students. The big three, in no particular order, are as follows:

Dining Services
ARAMARK will be presenting some preliminary findings to student government next Monday from the Market View study they have been conducting over the past several months. The preliminary recommendations should be well-received by students, faculty, staff, and the administration. The next step will be to study the costs of the recommendations and then roll them out to the students and University community this fall. Some changes could be made as soon as early spring. I am very excited about the opportunities for an extreme makeover to our dining program.

Greek Life
Next week a consultant will meet with fraternities and sororities as a community and then individually to look at our overall program and individual club orientation programs and values. This is on the heels of the roll-out of the new Greek Alumni Advisory Board and the new alumni advising system that is being put into place. In addition, and related to the consulting, we will convene a group that can help us develop ways for groups to socialize off campus in as safe a manner as possible. This is also exciting as it appears that administrators (particularly me), students, and alumni are all ready for a less adversarial relationship. We need the alumni involvement in this and they are thrilled to be involved.

Residency Requirement
At the Board of Trustee meeting late next week we will take a little time to discuss the three-year residency requirement. Why do we have it? Is it still relevant? Does it hurt more than it helps? Does it make students feel controlled? Do our facilities support the requirement? I have ideas, but the trustees certainly do too. Ideas from this discussion will be helpful as the full university-wide strategic planning process unfolds this year.

Student Affairs is still engaged in year three of its own five-year strategic plan, is looking at weekend campus programming options, hoping to revive the Tigers' Den (related to ARAMARK plan), developing leadership programs and a men's conference, building a sexual assault survivor ally program, and is focusing on social media as a way to connect with students and other constituents. Expanding or redefining Career Services will certainly be discussed in the broad strategic planning efforts of the University. Look for updates on these issues and others in Student Affairs as the semester moves forward.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

By the Numbers, and the Book

There has to be a better way to count people. Grant it, we didn't trek to Bethlehem on a donkey, but couldn't we use satellite imaging or something? I was confused by the whole process of counting students, but we must have done well, because we received a certificate for our good work, (See photo below.) Our good work involved hanging posters in the dorms and letting census workers sit in the Coates Center lobby. I think I should get a certificate for working with Louise (above, left) every month.

Louise works for the census bureau and her job is to do a monthly count of residents in a specific dorm and interview ten of them. This month it is Susanna Hall. She deserves a certificate too. She doesn't just sit at a table and I doubt there is a better census taker in the nation. Let me lay out the evidence.

Louise is a rule follower. Despite the fact that she has met me monthly for about two years, she never strays from her script: "Hello, I'm Louise and I am taking a census of Susanna Hall." Yes, Louise, I know you. Then she shows me the card that lists six options for the type of facility we are discussing and I identify that it is, in fact, a college residence hall, just as it was 16 months ago. Louise takes no shortcuts as she hands me the census brochure that I immediately recycle. I then complete and sign the confidentiality agreement that is required annually but makes her feel better to have monthly, because she is a rule follower. (I don't know if the agreement covers blogging.) This is followed by her explanation that her supervisor may contact me to evaluate her performance. I wish he would. Louise would get an A+.

Louise holds people accountable. She described to me, in great detail, her experience with the census worker who came to Louise's door. That woman never had a chance. She was not a rule follower and Louise made her re-do the interview following the script. I am more of a spirit of the law than a letter of the law person, despite being in charge of student conduct. I would have failed as a census worker.

Louise is my third census worker. Shedrick and Diana were my first two. Shedrick resurfaces once in awhile. I was his first client and he was nervous, so I tried to be really nice and helpful and just kind of got attached to him. As time passed he became uber-confident and started showing up wearing bling and alligator-skin cowboy boots. I like to think I played a confidence-boosting role in that new swagger.

The census people have to interview ten students a month and ask them questions that are illogical to ask college students. I could have delegated this long ago, but instead, I e-mail the students and tell them to be nice to these people and cooperate. The students assume I am a rule follower and want to comply.

I regularly receive articles in the mail cut out from the local paper that contain Trinity references. These come from Louise. She likes to add a personal touch to her work. She doesn't own a computer and I suppose doesn't know that I see these articles on-line and also read the paper. I don't care. I think it is sweet that she clips articles and mails them. Who does that? Not every census worker, I assure you.

So, I will recycle my certificate for my good work in 2010. It doesn't mean much to me. The clippings - those I will save. I will also print this post and mail it to Louise. But no matter how you count it... we won't be even.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sprayin' some hits...

Classes haven't started, it isn't baseball season yet, and there was a bizarro magician performing as part of Welcome Week to a packed house in Laurie Auditorium. Despite all that, and the unexpected activation of the sprinklers, and that no one was around to shag balls, senior Tiger baseball player Ryan Murphy spent some time Monday night honing his craft with a bat, a tee, and a bucket of balls.

I like that the field was available to him. I like that the lights were available to him. I like t
hat there was no homework for him to think about. And I just like the image of a guy with a work ethic, indifference to recycled water, and a little muscle memory: All with Trinity as the backdrop. Moments make the experience. This seemed like a cool one. According to his Coach, Tim Scannell, Ryan is a hard worker and a terrific young man. All the better.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Loser's Lament

Above, seniors participate in the annual toast at the annual Last Great Reception.

Trinity has stopped booking spring commencement speakers. The truth is, our student speakers are so good, and their messages so personal, that there is no need for anyone else. The ceremony lasts long enough as it is. A committee of seniors, staff members, and a professor audition students and the seniors on the committee select the finalist.

This works for us. Students are empowered here to do a lot: Our conduct board is uniquely an all-student board. We offer self-governed living communities and allow juniors and seniors great autonomy in halls specifically for them. Students serve on all university committees and even represent at Board of Trustee meetings. For commencement, about 30 seniors are asked to consider being on the speaker selection committee. From that, a committee is set. An all-call is made to invite students to audition.

In 2010, Brendan McNamara gave a fun speech in which he recalled mud fights and punctuated his theme with a reference to the Road Less Travelled, with his own interpretation: "Screw the road."

There were 11 students who auditioned. I asked the losers to send me their speeches because they were all really fantastic. It seems a horrible waste for ten students to write speeches that no one would ever hear. While these refections are pertinent to the Class of 2010, they contain terrific wisdom for the Class of 2014. So with their permission, I share some highlights:

"We are not quitters, and this is not a trait that I take lightly, or for granted. There was a time when I was ready to quit. I filled out the forms to withdraw from Trinity and planned to transfer to another school. I had my fair share of rough times and I doubted my ability to continue – a sentiment that I suspect I am not alone in feeling at one time or another. How many times did we get frustrated at our work load, almost crumble under the pressure of the myriad commitments we took on, feel like we were at our wit’s end? How many times did we want to just give up and quit? How many people do we know that did? But we didn’t. We persevered."

"...But after the initial joy of being independent and free went away, I realized how awful college actually was. The methods that worked to get you through 12 years of education did not work anymore. We had to work harder than we had ever worked before. We had messy roommates, loud hallmates, and we were convinced that professors schemed together to assign all of our midterms within a 48 hour time period. We were forced to live on campus for three years, subjected to eating Mabee food, and despite paying $40,000 a year, we were handed toilet paper rougher than sandpaper."

"Trinity is a haven for cultivating relationships - with friends, professors, administrators, musical directors, coaches, grounds workers, boyfriends, girlfriends, and even with the Trinity cats."

"I started to think about what made my Trinity experience. And then I realized it same thing that makes all of our Trinity experiences - people."

"You just never know and the beauty of college is that it prepares you for that unknown. I came into Trinity wanting to be a doctor since age six. Had this been one of many other schools, you known what I would have done? Taken the courses I needed, graduated, and got on with my life, without ever stepping out the world of science. I’d be a one-sided individual without anything to hold me together besides what Id learned for the MCAT. Trinity changed that for me. I’m graduating as a premed frat biochemist with a passion for drama. And there’s no way I could’ve known."

"When you reflect upon the memories that Trinity University has given you, that you and all those around you have helped to create, look harder. Look past the tower that you climbed as a first-year, and realize how much farther into San Antonio you can see, the community that has revealed itself to you beyond the Trinity bubble. Feel past the chill of Miller Fountain on your 19th birthday, and realize how many people have filled you with warmth since that day, relationships predicated upon introductions to fellow innocent strangers at Trinity 360. Hear past the chorus of hand bells in December of 2006, as they delicately place their chimes amongst the yuletide voices in Laurie Auditorium, and realize how many words you have heard, how many songs have been song, how the clarity of sound is deafening now that you know what those words mean. Smell past the mud caked on your knees from your first IM game, your first tumble up Cardiac Hill, your first (and last) mud fight in the Quad on a rainy day, and realize how many rains have fallen since then and the freshness you feel when the sun hits your weathered cheeks, how the smell fills you with life and a renewed purpose everyday. Go past all of these things, and realize that there is something more than what you have seen, something more than what you have felt, something more than what you have heard, something more than what you have smelt, something more than what you have tasted."

But the speech that struck me most focused on risk-taking and involvement which is where all of the above begins. It called out those who missed out on the experiences that were there for the taking, but never taken.

Probably it wasn't chosen because those who sleep-walked through their experience would have felt like they wasted their time here. If they were listening. My hope for the Class of 2014 is that they are listening. Before those students know it, they will be graduating. And I hope it doesn't pass them by without their full involvement. If so, it will be the loser's lament.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Short and the Long of it

Is she tiny? Is he tall? Students can find out when they return in August and meet Soisouda Inthavong (left), Coordinator for Intercultural and Diversity Relations and Erick Twyman (right), ASR Accountant. Soi will work with TDC and coordinate programs such as the MLK events and Women's History Month. With a degree from Schreiner University, Erick will work part-time to keep the books straight for ASR in its newly-constituted money-disbursing role. He will assist other sponsored organizations as well. His position is funded by ASR with money from the Student activity fee.
Lisa Steelman will serve as the new Residential Life Coordinator for part of the first-year area with returning Coordinator Lily Gonzalez. Mark Barker will oversee the Sophomore College while Cally Chenault has moved to the upper-class area. We are thrilled to be at full-staff in Residential Life and for residents to work with these new and returning staff members.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trinity's Catapedaphobia Tower

I have a couple problems. First, I would like to go through a whole day without seeing an ad - on the Internet, on TV, in a magazine, or in my cereal bowl - that doesn't feature the woman from the Progressive insurance commercials. I know people like her. I just guess... don't. My other problem is called Catapedaphobia. I don't love that it has the words "cat" and "peda" in it, but that's another issue. Recently, the Trinity Murchison Tower was refurbished, including a repainting of the side of the top of the tower, called the fascia, and replacement of the soffit, the underside of the top of the side of the tower. (See poll at right.) The grates on the full-length sides, adjacent to the stairs, have been removed for repainting and hopefully, re-installation.

When I tell people of my phobia, Catapedaphobia, they often dismiss it. But when I find someone who shares this affliction, it is akin to meeting a lost twin or a fellow Milwaukee Bucks fan. We know what it is like to be in a misunderstood minority. The phobia is that one fears he or she will inexplicably jump from a high place against his or her own will. I KNOW! Why would you jump from a place you were afraid of falling from? I DON'T KNOW! If it was rational it wouldn't be a phobia, it would just be a fear, like getting in trouble for not cleaning out the lint filter of the dryer. I only have this phobia in open spaces: on a ferris wheel, in the tower, and on those creepy hotel walkways that are 20 stories up and open to the inside of the building.

People on campus were excited to see the huge crane that towered over the tower (ToT, as we call it in the profession). It's like seeing fire trucks or Eva Longoria. Even so, some poor guys were up in the basket (sounds secure) to do the repairs, which I just can't fathom. This all begs the questions: Why do we need to re-paint a roof that we need a crane to see? And, did they change the light bulb when they were up there? (They didn't.)

The Trinity tower had just been a plain old tower for some time until someone decided to light it at night, I think, as a beacon of higher education to the San Antonio community. (The then President flipped a ceremonial switch and there was a lag between that and when the electrician flipped the real switch, which is my lasting memory of the night of the first lighting.) I like to think of this era as Tower 2.0. Problem was, when students then wanted to participate in astronomy lab from the adjacent academic building, the tower lights obscured the view. So when the tower is not lit at night the community can rest peacefully, knowing some Trinity students are on a rooftop studying stars. Or something else. At least this time, astronomy won.

Typically, the students are allowed in the tower twice: When they arrive as new students, and right before they graduate. The Trinity President awaits students at the top to shake their hands. I hate these tower climbs. I am always worried, because of my phobia, that someone forgot to screw in the grates properly and some clusters of students will fall out of the tower because they leaned on a grate. You worry about these things when you are a Dean of Students. I haven't decided how I feel about this year's upcoming climb. Could be the re-installation means more secure grates, OR that someone forgot to properly re-install a grate. Either way, I will stay on the ground. And a few steps back. Graduating students, by the way, can purchase a brick to inscribe a message onto for the price of the year. Cost this year was $20.10.

The University purchased a GO SPURS GO banner, a San Antonio tradition, about five years ago to proudly display from the tower during playoff time. I love this banner, which ushered in the 3.0 tower era. If all goes well this fall, that era will include holiday lights on the tower to reflect our seasonal spirit outward to the San Antonio community. I suppose this commercialization of the tower could be met with skepticism. But I think you have to sometimes draw attention to your best features -- and the expanded use of the tower gives us that opportunity. If you've got it, flaunt it. Just don't worry about jumping off it.

This video doesn't enhance the story. I just wanted to see if I could embed it!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Go Student Go!

Students take a study break during final exams to pet therapy dogs that were brought to campus as a stress relief program (note the woman with the exam "blue book"). See the slide show at right. The further it advances the more tired the dogs become. The students though - couldn't get enough. This program will be repeated again, no doubt.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Let's get Fiscal, Fiscal...

Here is a tip of the hat to honorary Student Affairs staff member Penelope Harley, who is also the wife of President Dennis Ahlburg. Ms. Harley has opened up the President's home -- or "castle" as she calls it -- to many groups for a multitude of events in her first six months at Trinity. She, Dennis, and their son, Benjamin have been very intentional about literally and symbolically creating community for the campus at 150 Oakmont.

Recently, she and the President hosted two groups from Fiscal Affairs to recognize their good work and to introduce new VP Mark Detterick. It was really more like a party than a reception. It is pretty amazing how one English woman can transform a backyard fiesta. In a scene reminiscent of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs party scene, Penelope took turns dancing with different members of both staffs while a Physical Plant-led Zydeco band rocked the house. She is shown, above, with Physical Plant Director John Greene. We are lucky to have her here, and luckier yet that Mr. Greene rarely dances in public.
At the same event, new University Police Chief, Paul Chapa, presented Rev. Stephen Nickle with a Police Chaplain's badge - number 100 - for his support of the chief and the department. This was really kind of touching and a nice honor for the good Reverend. We are lucky to have these gentlemen here too.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Second Annual: The Year in Review - 2009-2010

For the second year in a row I am using the last day of classes to do my own summary of the past academic year. After reading last year's piece, I was actually shocked at how long and dull it was. Going USA Today on you this year though... Take the poll at right to rank the top stories.

Top Stories
1. Diploma-gate
The Board retained the wording "the year of Our Lord" on the diploma. Thumbs up to ASR for being strong allies to the Diversity Connection and to the faculty for teachable moments. Thumbs-down to mean people.
Honorable mention: The diploma issue kept many from noticing the new Muslim Prayer room in the Chapel. Can't we all just get along?

2. Dennis
Not sucking up, but only a national story could top the announcement of the appointment of new President Dennis Ahlburg. The phrase "Let me take a year and get the lay of the land" is not in his Australian vocabulary. Thumbs up for hitting the ground running and for fun intros of distinguished lecturers.

3. A little off the top
Losing VP Felicia Lee, Academic up-and-coming el-wunderkind Jorge Gonzalez, and diversity queen Ankita Rakhe serious blows. Some heart and soul drained off to California of all places. I blame Katie Storey for starting this. Two more VPs retire. Sadness for the losses. Excitement over changes...

4. ASR
New constitution, new funding power, and reconciling hookah and tobacco.
5. SoccerHaiti visits. Tim Isom Memorial to be constructed. McGinlay Facility to be built. Hosting NCAA tournaments this year and next. Two great playoff performances. One really bad call.

Condi Rice - Surprise entry: charming, funny, articulate... Presidential
Miller renovation
Twilight at Trinity Senior Banquet
Res Life: Block housing, off-campus petitions
New TU Web page
New hires: Chief Paul Chapa, Security: Rafael Moffett, CCI Director
As always: Idol. Spotlight. LX salsa tasting. Hot. Hot. Hot.

Welcome Week Concert - Anyone remembered who played?
Swine Flu - Refusing to call Lew Alcindor Kareem.
Angela Davis - Gravy-training anyone?
High def - Never happened in the dorms...
California (see #3 above)
Linking to your own blog in your own blog... Shameless.

Under the Radar
Capital Campaign - $200 million... ho hum
$1.6 million High def Tiger TV - Great toys!
Joint Statement - So much can mean so little
Friedman and Musharraf - Good stuff
ASR first year senators
ASB - It means Alternative Spring Breaks!
Gaelic Cultural Society - First diversity organizational award winner

On the Horizon
Food service improvements
Greek Life relationship building
Lair or Paws - Something is changing this summer
Science building - Take two
Calvert Ghosts exorcised - Renovation planned

Friday, April 9, 2010

Emergency Situation

On the faculty and staff listserv, employees often publish really important intellectual items that you would expect from a place like Trinity: wire hangers, puppies, nannies, and even whether or not snakes deserve to be killed just because. When Grace Martinez from Purchasing posted that surplus items were for sale, I knew I needed to check it out. I'm not a rummage sale/estate sale type of guy. Once after going to an estater sale my wife bought goblets that I refused to drink from because a dead person had last used them. I have learned from experience, though, that sometimes Res Life lounge, room, or apartment furniture accidentally gets mixed in with other stuff that is being auctioned off. My interest in surplus is usually a defensive measure.

Imagine my surprise, then, to see the photo above with a post offering five of the OLD emergency phone poles for sale. My running buddy, Rick, had actually tipped me off about this listserv special. He usually talks about what kinds of bushes and plants we are running past, so the mention of emergency phone poles definitely caught my attention. But there is more. This whole thing is a bit complicated and I have issues.

First off, these were the only items being offered, so really, was that even worth an e-mail to the employees on campus? Couldn't Purchasing staff wait until they had some, oh, say old fire hydrants on their hands and do a package deal? Second, I am not a marketing expert, but if I was trying to sell abandoned and rusted emergency phone poles (without the phones) I might put a little energy into the marketing. Who am I to say that throwing these poles on the ground in the midst of trash and other recyclables isn't a good sales strategy? It got the Purchasing department into my blog I guess. So there. Third, I am not sure how the price was set at $10 a pole (plus tax), but it seems simultaneously way too high and way too low a price. Fourth, was it really necessary for Grace to put in huge letters, highlighted in yellow, to respond to her through e-mail rather than calling? Without that caveat, I assume Purchasing would have been dealing with this scenario. Intercom: "Grace, you have calls on lines 1 and 2 about the poles."
Grace: "I don't have time to deal with this now! Do you have any idea how many golf carts I need to buy?"

Somewhere near mile three of my run with Rick, when he apparently spotted some wild flowers, I had a brainstorm. Why not buy a pole and write about it in my blog? It was brilliant! So, I e-mailed Grace and put in my request for a pole. My plan: To use it during office hours in the Coates Center as a way to draw attention to my table. Imagine my disappointment, and shock, really, when Grace responded to my e-mail (I knew I should have called!) that the poles had all been sold. To add insult to injury, and this is completely true, she put in this little dig. "You need to speed it up when it comes to surplus. It goes fast."

As a generally petty person, I fired back, inquiring as to who purchased these poles. Apparently Purchasing departments aren't bound by the same ethical privacy concerns of the Registrars Office (FERPA) or Health Services (HIPAA). Add espionage to marketing as another career Grace should never pursue. It was like taking candy from a baby, and Grace told me that Tony Zuniga in IT bought ALL FIVE poles!

This is very distressing to me. It is bad enough to beat out by a guy who e-mailed me back about the "polls" he bought. It is equally frustrating to find out that one dude got all five "polls." But the most upsetting thing was that while I had planned to invest in a pole simply to have a prop for office hours and something besides diplomas to blog about, was that Tony bought these poles for something useful. Are you kidding me? To make it worse, he is "a welder on the side" and will turn these perfectly good poles (for blogging purposes) into smokers for meat or grills or something. Does he know I am a vegetarian? Does he know that in my free time I watch TV on the side? Guys like Tony make the rest of us men (TV-watching, plant identifying ones) look really bad.

So, I guess we all got what we wanted. I got a blog post out of it, Tony got some meat smokers, Rick is off somewhere cataloging plants, and Grace got surplus inventory off her hands and reaffirmed her career choice. I still just really wanted one of those poles.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Counter inTUitive 03.26.10

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.

Welcome to my world.

5 blog hits

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cessation and Taking Sides

I have written here about smoking policies before. As a former smoker I am ambivalent. When someone near me lights up I breathe in what I can just to remember how things used to be. On the other hand, when the mrs. comes home at 3 a.m. after a night of carousing and crawls into bed smelling of cheap bourbon, chicken wings, those orange spongy circus peanut candies, and an ash tray, my thoughts are different. (Editors note: any resemblance to real persons is done simply for dramatic effect.)

I have a proposal for our students, which my friends at the Trinitonian will love, because they want more student involvement in decision-making. I say we leave decisions about smoking in the dorms up to the residents. ASR passed a resolution this year that would ban smoking from within 50* feet of building entrances. The Safety and Health committee and Faculty Senate are considering the recommendations related to non-residential facilities. The Residential Life Office has the authority to set smoking policies for the dorms and will respect the 50 foot rule (from main entrances) as proposed. Of course, there would continue to be no smoking in designated substance-free and LEEDS-certified buildings.

ASR stopped short of banning smoking from student balconies, which our current policy permits. (Smoking is not allowed inside any campus building). ASR learned that sometimes you have to choose between two noble values: In this case health/rights of one group versus the freedoms of another. This is the learning environment the liberal arts should promote. ASR chose freedom. That is not surprising for college students. This all stemmed from growing complaints from students about those who smoke on nearby balconies. In the recent diploma debate, ASR chose the rights of the minority (by number) over another important value.

Through this post (take the poll at right) Residential Life is soliciting opinions about a new policy that would prohibit student smoking on balconies unless voted otherwise by the residents of the specific dorms. By allowing smoking on balconies now, the Res Life Office is taking sides in a way, not unlike ASR. We have apparently sided with the freedom to smoke, which again, I generally support based on my own college experience. But really, our choice should be, in this situation, about the right of the majority - the group who wants to be heard related to their rights to live smoke-free - to live in the freedom that they choose. (A survey showed recently that non-smokers would support a balcony smoking ban.) By placing the onus on the smokers to appeal to the entire in their building it gives them responsibility for making their case to smoke. That case would have to be made to their peers who live in the same building. This takes the administration/staff out of it and leaves the entire issue to the students.

The only downside to this is the perception of the Pontius Pilate approach - simply washing our hands of the issue. But the choices are to leave the policy the same (which means we have taken sides), to ban smoking on balconies (which means we are taking sides), or to let the students in each dorm decide. This will allow all students to learn what ASR did. Taking sides isn't always as easy as it looks.

*The ASR standard was 15 feet, but LEEDS policies and most ordinances target the 50 foot distance.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Counter in TUitive 3.6.10

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.

The Trinitonian editorial staff came out swinging this week, citing recent decisions as mounting evidence of unilateral University decision-making that is insensitive to student needs. That allegation always stings.

First up is the Student Affairs decision to take authority away from the Greek Judicial Board because it was struggling to manage cases effectively. Greeks were the only ones on campus getting the chance to judge its own members on hazing cases, and the outcome has been questionable at best. It has proven too big a challenge to hear cases regarding other organizations knowing the same groups could be in the judgment role the following week. The University extended this privilege to allow the Greek Council to self-govern, but it hasn't really worked. So now all student organizations and individuals will face the same judicial process in the future. The Trinitonian staff wanted the students to have another chance. They may not realize that this experiment has been tried - and failed - before.

Second, Residential Life implemented a group housing community initiative program several years ago in response to a campus-wide Quality of Student Life Task Force that recommended more self-governing options for upper-class students. That program was delayed a year because of student objections (this was in 2001-2002). The program then met with initial success, but over the last three years has grown stale, with no credible new communities seeking to be added. The ones who continued were marginal in fulfilling the goals of the program. (Self governance is work and is different than no governance.) This was all due to the implementation of the Sophomore College - an outcome of another task force with broad student representation.

Last year Residential Life wanted to terminate the Community Initiative program. ASR was consulted and suggested letting it die a slow death. (Trinitonian staffers would know that if they attended student government meetings.) It has died that death, and in consultation with the groups themselves, has been discontinued. In its place is a block housing program allowing groups of students to reserve larger blocks of space together in the lightly staffed upper-class area. There are many advantages to this for students.

The Trinitonian staff feels that the administration is making too many one-sided decisions. Interestingly, they were invited to observe the entire recent campus conduct review committee (and failed to show until the last meeting). They fail to communicate clearly that the changes to spring room reservation have been made with full student consultation. Those changes include a better system for juniors to request to move off campus.

What they have done instead is drag out tired old situations that they were unhappy about before, in an effort to demonstrate a pattern that, in my opinion, isn't there and ignores other popular student-led initiatives. That's what college papers do, and at least ours does it respectfully. Despite evidence otherwise, the Trinitonian continues to contend that students weren't consulted when the last student-heavy task force recommended Sophomore College - with full ASR support. The truth is, students objected when the first year area was created. They objected to the Community Initiative program. And they resisted the recommendations by the Upper-class Task Force. Naturally the Trinitonian editorial staff has a memory as long as their experience here. They contend we don't reverse decisions when students protest them. They fail to acknowledge that student opinion is often in opposition when programs either begin or end. That is the nature of administrator-student relationships. I invite the Trinitonian to consider the perspective of the the administration: The long view.

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