Friday, February 19, 2010
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...
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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.)
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Thursday, February 18, 2010
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.
Friday, February 5, 2010
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.