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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lights, Bedroom, Action

Living on campus at 540 Kings Court, my family and I have had many neighbors in the residence next door at 538. It's not that we can't keep good neighbors. But the property there, also owned by the University, has served as overflow office space for various departments that are dislocated while their facilities are being renovated.

Our current neighbor is the Trinity University Police Department. This is a good neighbor to have. Security for my home and family - and security from my teenagers throwing parties. A win-win. Other neighbors have included the Tomas Rivera Center, Public Relations (they liked looking at my dog in the backyard) and Art (students with... uniquely-shaped pieces, were frequently crossing our lawn as they came and went).

There are downsides to the arrangement with TUPD. Investigator Charlie Lopez has an office with a window right across across from the window near where I usually dress. That's his problem I guess. It is a little noisy sometimes, too, when your neighbors are coming and going 24/7. The biggest problem, though, has been the incredibly bright white porch lights shining into our bedroom. But when I have raised the topic of removing those lights, my friends next door wouldn't budge. I guess they were sensitive about all those donut jokes after all.

Now what happens in my bedroom is no one's business, unless I blog about it. My poor wife could not sleep because of these intrusive bright lights. My requests for the department to choose softer lighting, like student parking ticket appeals, fell on deaf ears. There are many downsides to a tired, cranky wife. Enough said. So, the last time I raised the issue with Chief Paul Chapa in our weekly meeting, he told me that if I would buy red and blue lights for their porch that we would have a deal.

One Home Depot run later and the deed was done. Ironically, the first night, last Saturday, the Chief was actually on hand at nightfall because he was on campus related to an arrest of a drunk and disorderly individual. So he got to see the lights on their very first night. He was kidding, he said, about the color lights, but he likes them. My wife likes them too. The only one who objected so far was the person in the squad car who kept yelling "f*** you." I don't think that was directed at me and the lights, but really, who cares if it was.

The next evening we were able to settle in for a nice deep sleep without the TUPD nuisance to grapple with. Until we heard the voice of Tiger Athletics announcer James Hill from the softball field in our backyard. "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to tonight's game between the Trinity Tigers and the Austin College Kangaroos." Someone please, just lock me in a squad car.

Friday, March 4, 2011


When she was a student, Elizabeth Farfan turned her back on Trinity - literally. Now she is teaching here. The energetic, funky, and personable part-time faculty member with a term appointment in Sociology and Anthropology is from Houston graduated from Trinity in 2005. She went on to receive her PhD. from Berkeley and has since returned to Texas. She just recently submitted her dissertation for review. She spent over a year with native tribes in Brazil doing her research.

As a student here, Elizabeth was a bit of an activist. She was involved in several student organizations, but it was really her senior year when she got on everyone's radar. In fact, it was at her commencement. During the spring semester the University announced that Congressman Lamar Smith would be the graduation speaker. Elizabeth and several others were disgruntled about the record of the Congressman and the process for selecting a speaker. That process was not very transparent, they said, nor did it involve students.

The students weren't pleased. So, they planned to protest during the commencement address by the congressman. That protest was to stand up and turn their backs to the speaker. To some it was a bratty show of boorish behavior. To most, though, it was a silent and strong statement of activism. Elizabeth calls it her last display of activism. It was a doozy.

When it came down to it, only one student stood up, turning to face a horrified audience, with her back to the powerful man giving the commencement speech. Her issues with him were personal, she says, noting "his political platforms were against Mexican immigrants. He especially worked very hard to make sure that the children of undocumented immigrants could not get access to public schools at any level. As the daughter of a once undocumented immigrant father, I would not have obtained my BA at Trintiy if Lamar Smith had been successful." Elizabeth recalls her family standing as well, in the back of the auditorium, in tears because they were both proud and fearful for her, taking this last stand, by herself, looking the other way, and on display. Any mixed feelings I had about the protest went away immediately, as I too watched Elizabeth from the back of the auditorium. She stood tall, chin held high, stoic, and with resolve. Then she sat.

Elizabeth is teaching three courses this semester - an upper-division course on Brazil, a course on documentaries, and a course on research. Her mentor when she was a student here was Dr. David Spener. She isn't upset that people didn't join her in the protest. She did what she believed in, with great courage and honor. Now she teaches our students. I suspect they love her, but I think they have no idea who stands before them in the classroom. Alone, proud, and with dignity.