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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.