Google Analytics Tracking Code

Friday, February 19, 2010

Crystal Blue Persuasion

I was the first in line on Wednesday to have my image etched in crystal for free. I was the last in line too. Kind of ironic, since this promotion was a student organized TIGER Council event. Here is how it worked: Kramer Entertainment does a Clearly You Laser Crystal Imaging program that burns a 3D image into a two inch tall crystal piece. I had to have one. Or two.

The primary organizer, student Philip Jensen, says that in the six-hour time period of the event, 120 crystals were etched. Or maybe 122. I love this idea. Through the years I have seen student fees spent on concerts, inflatable moon bounces, movies, and scads of t-shirts. One of the most popular programs is the wax hands event during the Welcome Week Coates Caper. But this is the coolest thing, because you walk away with a little somethin' for yourself. Now I'm not materialistic, but... Oh, I forgot, I am. Philip tells me they normally sell for $60 retail.

I needed two crystals though. The first as a gag-wedding gift for former VP Felicia Lee and her soon to be husband. He-hee. It is in the mail. The other one, though, is a get-out-of-trouble-free token for my wife. The next time we have a fight, and at the point at which I lose - again, I will pull out the crystal in its nice little gift box (more like a crystal casket, to be candid) and give it to her: as in, "Well, the timing of the fight was really bad, because I actually got this for you..." Oh man. I may start a fight just to give it to her. The crystal.

So, at day's end I asked the Kramer people if I could get a second crystal, since my image was already on file. (I actually worked during the six hours in-between, I swear.) The man said "no, one per customer." Well, really, I don't know if that was his rule to make. We (the students) were paying, and there wasn't anyone waiting. He just wanted to go home. So I played the VP card for the first of what I hope to be many times. I asked Josh Beebe, the TIGER advisor, to see what he could do for me. Josh went up to the guy and said, "Hey, my VP would really like another crystal, and you would be doing me a favor..." Oh man. He is good. I have a new-found respect for him. The result: crystals are mine... all mine.

The truth is, I suspect Dr. Lee and my wife will return these to me because the crystals are, honestly, a little creepy. That's okay though. Someone already suggested that I now have my white elephant gift for next year's Student Affairs Christmas party. Maybe two.

Anyways, congratulations to Philip, and TIGER, and Josh. This was cool. I hope they do it again. I suspect that will make Phil, and Josh, a little nervous. But not me.

Counter inTUitive 2.19.10

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.

In their editorial this week the Trinitonian bemoans the lack of participation in the ASR election this year. It is a really good column with the kind of ending I like. Essentially, and I will link it here soon, the call is for more involvement and action by students. I actually think it is less bleak than in the past. This was the first year in a while that candidate filing deadlines didn't have to be extended. In addition, at one point there were four candidates in the mix for the two officer positions, but some soul-searching by two and some juggling by others left us with the President and VP positions unopposed. I am genuinely excited to see Emmalee and Katie usher in the new era in ASR (with the new constitution and funding model). Current President, Emily Faber has done a good job in this transition year setting the new group up to succeed. When students see how important representation is in the new funding process over the next twelve months we may see more competitive elections. Regarding the lauded '09 race, most of the students didn't really care then either...

4 Blog hits

Tom Tielleman appreciates feedback. Here you go Tom. His column this week applauded the green efforts of Physical Plant and ARAMARK. Long over-due. In fact, I urge Tom to challenge the student body as a whole to care about sustainability more. Aside from a handful of student activists, many students like the idea of green more than green itself. In the residence halls much of the recycling receptacles are contaminated by the co-mingling of trash with recyclables. (Probably by the same people who don't rack their weights in the Bell Center.) If we need more trash cans, we can get them. What we need most is buy-in by the masses. Tom pokes fun at the TU Security pick-up, but I would point out that many of the Security officers are on foot or bike patrol. The pick-up does have a function: Meeting girls. No, actually, it is to transport barricades, cones, and kegs from the residence halls back to headquarters to dump. (Nice technique, btw, Tom, because both times I did want to interject exactly where you noted the reader would. It was fun sitting with you at dinner the other night too.)

4 Blog Hits

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Missing the araMARK

Last week the Association of Student Representatives, Trinity's student government (which I advise), passed a resolution calling for ARAMARK and the University to divulge the contract that binds the two entities. At today's "speak-out" for candidates for next year's ASR senate, several candidates again expressed this call for transparency.

I am proud that ASR is making noise about food service. They have moved from complaining to demanding. I appreciate that. I do hope the contract-angst doesn't derail the students from some important issues though. Those issues include understanding all of the dynamics at play in the student-ARAMARK-Trinity triangle.

The issues of quality and cost are inter-connected. Trinity's food service is at the highest level in terms of variety and quality. Rather than a few options at meals, students have many. When our students visit other campuses they often report back firsthand that our food compares really favorably. ARAMARK can lower the prices, but the quality will change.

Students do have power to affect change in the area of dining service, but don't exercise it in any coordinated way, except for this related resolution. ASR and ARAMARK regularly schedules open dining committee meetings (sometimes with lunch provided) for those within and outside of ASR. Usually there are two or three students who show up. So maybe the forum isn't right. Then ASR invite dining management to an ASR meeting. Most of the communication now, though, is around the edges and around the little things, such as, whether or not the meat spatula touched the veggie burger.

Though ARAMARK is a multi-national corporation, on the very local campus level, real people named Miguel, Mario, and Susan, work energetically to produce high quality products. They will listen to specific complaints, issues, and suggestions. There is little incentive to be adversarial with the student customers.

ARAMARK is a business and sells what students want. Two years ago I urged them to offer only whole wheat products in place of processed, refined, enriched carbs. While they have added the whole wheat options, they won't discontinue selling the other products because of high demand. They have offered healthy products, but M&Ms outsell vegetables for some odd reason.

Finally, there are so many opportunities to shape the way food service looks (and tastes) at Trinity. The contract isn't going to change a lot and getting to see it will distract from other substantive changes that can be made. I have a vision for our food service that has more locally grown food, more organic products, more fresh options, better fruit, less processed food, more Odwalla, only water from the tap with the bottles ASR already provides, better options for international students, more options for vegetarians, less soda, and a Central Market-like atmosphere in the Commons.

What is the student vision for food service here? Tell someone who counts. Tell ARAMARK. Press them. Then - the contract won't matter.

Life is Good... TOO Good?

Nevermind that what I really wanted to do last night was watch the Spurs on TV. I wouldn't dare. I was committed to the Student Affairs sponsored program on Human Trafficking in Laurie Auditorium, where a professor from San Francisco explained that 27 million people are enslaved today.

If I didn't care about modern-day slavery, I could have attended the Coates Library Film Series across the way in Northrup Hall to view the Norwegian film "Troubled Waters." But then I would have missed the ASR kickball tournament on lower campus, which was planned to raise money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. If I were a member of the College Democrats I might consider skipping the 7:30 pm meeting for any of these events, which would generally seem to align with my political convictions.

Of course, I was tired and wanted to be a couch potato. And I didn't even go to the Ash Wednesday service at the Chapel yesterday, though I did make it to Nacho Hour and to have my image etched into a crystal at the Coates Center (that's a different post). Had I gotten too down, depression screening day was up the stairs from 1 to 4 pm at Counseling Services. And, if I were a senior, I may have needed that after going to the graduation preparation expo in the Fiesta Room, feeling blue over leaving my beloved TU. Even more depressing may have been seeing the food drive collection bin that as a graduate, I might need to take advantage of given the current economy.

So, that was Wednesday. Factor out meals, exercise, classes, homework, facebook, hygiene, checking YouTube... Well, you get the idea.

As crowds shrink with each passing event, one has to wonder whether or not we have too much of a good thing going. I would like to say that Wednesday was an anomaly, but it wasn't. The Thomas Friedman lecture was the previous evening, the Iranian comedian is tonight, and the latest play opens Friday. And so forth and so on. But what would you cut? We want it all. We are left to make tough choices though. No wonder the urge to sit at the computer often wins. it is simpler, believe it or not.

Consider this post a mere conversation starter. We need to figure out how to trim down or better coordinate events in the future. I plan to schedule a forum to discuss this issue. I am looking at Monday night. I hope to pick up those not attending the roast of senior Josh Currie, or those going to the career-searching-in-the-age-of-social-networking workshop, or the Josia Heyman lecture on the theory, ethnography, application issues related to the US-Mexico border region, or those slated for Student Conduct Board, or...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Diploma See

An exciting and provocative debate has emerged among students about the wording on the Trinity diploma. The date is preceded by the wording "The Year of Our Lord..." Non-believers and non-Christians would like that wording removed. The student government and Trinity Diversity Connection co-sponsored a forum to discuss this issue last week.

There is no easy answer. The issue does offer a choice, however. In the academic setting, the process is more important than the outcome and our University has handled this issue with great diplomacy, if you will. The forum, moderated by Dr. Jarrod Atchison, debate coach, featured three-minute presentations from various faculty members representing a variety of disciplines: Religion, Philosophy, Communication, History, and Political Science. Students then posed questions and an open exchange of ideas followed. It was an outstanding event. The faculty never took a stand, but merely illuminated the issue. (Their views could obviously be inferred...)

Those wishing to see the language retain cited the historic and cultural ties to the Presbyterian church. one student noted that the Trinity seal, featuring a Bible etching, is on the diploma as well. Should this also be removed? Others cite the inherent nature of the modern calendar as rooted in Christianity. Probably the most common argument is that this would begin a shift toward political correctness and an erosion of what we are. What goes next - prayers at commencement? Vespers? The Rev?

On the other side, students participants discussed the internationalization of the campus and its marketing efforts at promoting a diverse and welcoming campus environment. Then, say some, students come here to only learn that the diploma has overtly and unnecessary Christian lingo on a document that is very personal.

There is no middle ground. The wording stays or goes. Logistically it would be a nightmare to allow for customized diplomas (Choose A or B). It would be a mistake to compromise on this issue. The University needs to make a decision and live with it. Trinity should take a stand. Watering this down to appease both sides is like a tie in an athletic contest.

ASR will be voting on this issue next week. That resolution will then be forwarded to the Commencement Committee, which is reviewing the issue in full just days later. That meeting will feature invited student speakers for and against the change. Presumably the committee will then consider all of this input and make a recommendation to the President and Trustees. This has been an extremely civil and thorough process - again, we should be proud.

It has appeared to me that the students pushing for a change have more at stake than those who wish to retain the current language. It would mean more to the students who object to the wording to have the language removed than it would mean to the students who want it to stay the same. For the former it is personal and about acceptance and inclusion. For the others it is primarily philosophical. Most wouldn't feel that the change would lessen the diploma. Most didn't know the language was even there in the first place. In a year, no one would miss the current phrasing. Shouldn't we respect the wishes of those who feel hurt by this? Removing the language, ironically, would seem the Christian thing to do.

What do you think? Weigh in on the poll at right.