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Friday, January 29, 2010

Good Grief

Dr. Felicia Lee, above addresses the Student Affairs staff one last time after being recognized for her leadership, vision, enthusiasm, wisdom, and friendship. The outpouring of genuine sadness over her departure has been comforting: Her connections at Trinity were not just personal, but communal. Students, colleagues, parents, trustees all love her, and more than one has told me they want to be her - or would even settle for being like her. She has drawn out the University's social conscience and preached a message about loving others, excellence, and integrity. She leaves to be with her husband-in-waiting, James, and with her family in California.

From the Student Affairs perspective she has built a caring team that has a strong and renewed sense of itself and its mission for serving, supporting, and challenging students - and for serving others in the world around us. The division also presented Dr. Lee with a slide show to express our feelings and appreciation, and share it here.

Our grief will subside and in its place will be nothing but fond memories, admiration, and tremendous respect. It is a loss. But it has sure been good. Best wishes Dr. Felicia Lee!

Counter InTUitive 1.29.10

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 did a nice job in their editorial about the Tigers' Den -- and the move by some students to use the space differently: as a dedicated multi-cultural space. The Trinitonian's conclusion is that such a space is not necessary and runs counter to integrating multi-cultural students throughout campus. Of course, on the other hand, people gravitate toward one another because of their shared experiences and for support. In many ways, it is not that different than Greek organizations, athletic teams, or families. Perhaps we can have it all. Missing from the piece, though, is that there are probably a number of potential uses for that space and to frame the argument as bar versus multi-cultural space is too limiting at this time. (No one really gets dibs by calling it, though the facility is currently configured as a social space with beverage service.)

I am curious why ASR isn't the moving force in the Tigers' Den issue. A Senator is involved with the issue and his opinion would be valuable.

This editorial is printed in an issue that explores the Christian language-diploma issue (subsequent post to follow), a story featuring a former homeless man, and a play that addresses racism. It also features a letter that challenges the MLK speaker Angela Davis, based on her presence and her speech. In an educational setting, discussions on these topics are important and substantive. I applaud the overall coverage of Trinity's vibrant campus climate.

4 Blog Hits

Editors Note: Thanks to the Trinitonian for their editorial last week endorsing the Dean for a promotion. I'm STILL going to critique you though!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


For all their gifts, Trinity students sometimes walk the campus in Zombie mode. I shouldn't criticize because I am guilty as well. Several years ago on an ASR retreat, a student named Laila suggested that students say "Howdy" to one another as they do at Texas A&M to change the culture around this. I appreciated the sentiment, but we can't copy the unique greeting of the Aggies. More recently, in an e-mail exchange with a student, I learned that she and her friends call this the Trinity Block-head Syndrome: That students walk around campus oblivious to others.

I have been in situations off-campus or out-of-town where students and I see one another and offer acknowledgements. Back on campus the same student or students will revert to Block-heading. I have no answers (though solicit your opinions from the poll at right).

In any case, I offer my own unofficial guide to campus sidewalk styles/personas.

1. The look-away
Occurs when you try to make eye-contact and the person approaching seems to intentionally avoid a connection. Probably nothing, maybe he just heard a bird over there.

2. The look-down
Similar to the look-away, this happens when the eye contact avoider looks down, in an apparent attempt to avoid acknowledgement.

3. The thinker
Looks down, deep in thought, clueless to others (guilty).

4. The smile/sneer-just-though-of-something-funny-or-so-you-think
This move causes anxiety... Is my fly open? Was I in an embarrassing video?, etc.

5. The crab
People have bad days, that's life. (See comments for further description.)

6. The stressor
Usually talking on the cell phone, explaining how he or she was treated unfairly by boyfriend/parent/professor/roommate. Accompanied by hand gestures and maybe a cigarette.

7. The head-nod
My personal favorite, especially with the guys.

8. The sympathizer
Nothing verbal, no head nod, just a pursed smile of pity...

9. The judge
Hard to explain unless you have ever been judged. You know it when you feel it.

10. The over-enthusiast
Cheerful people. You gotta love 'em, unless you are a 1., 2., 5., or 8.

11. The techno-voider
In his or her own world.

I will try to do better if you will. We have the friendliest and finest students anywhere. We should let it show. Leave comments on your favorite (or not) sidewalk behaviors. I need one more to make my list an even dozen, I will add the one I like best.

(Thanks to Ashley Hamner for posing in the photo!)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Card Stock

Searching for an inappropriately appropriate birthday card for my colleague, Dr. Coleen Grissom, turned out to be a real treat recently. The birthday card section at the Trinity bookstore is filled with an uncharacteristic selection of crude, tasteless, offensive, and politically incorrect material. It saved me a trip to "On Main," just down the road.

Was this a move by the bookstore to cater to the whims of the fringe (maybe mainstream?) element on campus? Hardly. No one on the staff there really noticed, apparently, when the vendor introduced the new line... until the complaints came in -- and sales increased.

Dr. Grissom often says "I am of two minds..." and that's where I stand on this. There is something seedy and un-academic about this. I don't feel right browsing these cards without the smell of incense in the air. And I hate waiting for other customers to clear out so I can browse freely. On the other hand, these cards are more entertaining than the ones at Hallmark or HEB, and college isn't really supposed to have a Hallmark-ian feel to it. (You can weigh in on the poll - at right.) When I worked at Syracuse (in the same complex the aforementioned Dr. Grissom worked generations earlier), there was a satellite bookstore operation there that sold "girly"magazines. That seemed odd to me too.

Our bookstore doesn't do that. Nor does it sell condoms. Nor does it sell tobacco and tobacco products. Fret or worry not, depending upon your perspective. The bookstore will be getting a different line of cards in soon. For now though, stock up or stay away. As with birthdays and aging, the clock is ticking.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Palace Prison

The banner, above, reads "Welcome to the Home of the Keepers of the Palaces." It hangs at the entrance to the Physical Plant garage (which is gated at night as shown). This is a proud tribute to the Princeton Review "Dorms Like Palaces" rankings that Trinity receives consistently. This past year we were number 14.

We deserve to be in the top 20 most years. Having toured many residence halls on campuses such as ours, I know that most have small rooms with cinder block or concrete walls, no carpet, and a rundown air about them. I have also seen facilities that make me envious. Here's where we shine: the size of the rooms, the intimate feel of the smaller halls, the views, the balconies, the closets, and the suite style configuration throughout. We fall short in our lack of front desks, apartments (we have none), and facilities that are neither quaint nor modern.

In general, our maintenance is not deferred. On average one building is renovated each year. Last year Miller Hall was re-done and Calvert Hall is slated for this summer. Tentatively, Winn and Witt Halls will be done in the following two summers. This will complete a sweep pf the first year area following renovations recently done in Herndon and Beze Halls. Prassel, Thomas, and Lightner are in top shape as well from recent renovations. With each pass, buildings are receiving needed HVAC updates and fire safety updates (alarms and new sprinklers). In ten years, God willing, nearly every hall will have been completely re-done. And then we begin again.

At nearly $30,000 per room or more this process isn't cheap. The University should be commended for its constant upkeep of our residence halls. The next round of renovations should be less costly and more cosmetic, as renovations are prioritized in this order: safety, comfort (heating and cooling), and aesthetics. We have been aggressively addressing the first two in particular (a nice desk is less important when you have no AC in San Antonio). The Physical Plant, under John Greene's leadership does outstanding work renovating, repairing, and cleaning our facilities. They should be proud.

The rub comes when things aren't so bourgeoisie in the Trinity castles. Halls on the renovation list show their wear and, as former President, John Brazil often said, "students are very hard on our buildings." When I tour the halls, I see the good, the bad, and the ugly. The ugly being dingy stairwells, chipped paint on building exteriors, and bathrooms that are not of the brass-and-glass quality one would expect of a palace. (Tell us what you think by responding to the poll to the right...)

The Res Life staff cringes when we tout our palaces, because when others see the flaws that we see, they bristle at the characterization of our dorms as somewhat elite. They tell us all about it too. I don't blame them: When we boast about our halls we need to be prepared to back the bravado for the least of our rooms, not just the best. So, it remains a blessing and a curse, this Palace label. For better or worse, it is a jail of our own creation.