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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Next up in dining changes: Skyline Room

A committee of students, faculty, and staff are looking at the next phase of improvements to the dining program. The Skyline Room, pending budgetary approval, is up next. That approval is not a slam dunk, but the Mabee renovation and the addition of Einstein's were the first of many changes including ones to the Commons and the addition of a Science Cafe. One thing is for sure - the Skyline Room is one of the best locations in the city and it is only being used ten hours a week - and only by a minority of the campus population. Consultants last spring told us we are under-utlizing a fantastic space. It needs refurbishment and re-envisioning.

Here is the vision for the Skyline renovation so far. I invite comments here so we can have an active dialog.

1. For the faculty, professors are generally seeking a place that is available for quick, convenient lunches and where they can have spontaneous and conversations with other faculty members. Good, fair-priced, healthy food that is served up quick or is self-serve, such as the current buffet is what many seem interested in. There is also a need for lunches when staff and faculty are hosting job candidates and other guests, including students.

2. For the students, ARAMARK recommended moving the beer and wine license up from the Tigers' Den, which is non-functioning except for special events. The Skyline Room would serve as a venue for late-night weekend entertainment. It could include acoustic music, karaoke, jazz, open mike, comedy, etc. Students of all ages would be welcome but having a beer and wine option would be nice for those of age.

3. For the staff, students, and faculty, the Skyline Room might be open for Happy Hour a couple days a week and a limited dinner menu for those staying on campus between classes and meetings, but uninterested in making the trek down the hill.
Overall, the committee recommends a warm venue, akin to a place such as Cappycino's or other wine and coffee bars. The space should be flexible, allow for break-out spaces as it does now, and offer a flexible and reasonably priced menu based on time of day and needs of the people on campus at those times. While students can use Tiger Bucks there currently, the space would be primarily faculty and staff oriented at lunch and more faculty/staff/student-oriented later in the day (student-oriented on weekend nights).

Offering a limited lunch plan for senior students to use the space is also being considered. One professor suggested having a piano up there. A staff member suggested it have technology available for slide shows and videos. There is a lot of interest in opening the terrace as well. So what would you like to see?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

LeRoy, Oh LeeRoy

Today on campus I noticed this guy with a maroon cap with the Trinity Tiger sports logo on the back. I had never seen that cap and was struck by the large tiger, but something seemed amiss. Turns out my subconscious thoughts were screaming at me that the Major League Baseball logo was under the tiger. I looked, inconspicuously,and noted the big "T" on the front of the cap. And so I met LeRoy Mitchell, first year student and TU football player (see t-shirt). He was extremely polite and when I asked where he got the hat he explained that he had it made back home - Lubbock I think. He had the Texas Ranger T put on a Trinity maroon hat and added the Trinity tiger logo on back. And he didn't mind some guy taking his picture.
Did LeRoy know that LeeRoy used to be a live tiger borrowed by the University for Trinity football games and is the moniker of our daily newsletter? Doubt it. But I love LeRoy's spirit for his football team and his school. And he just got here. Hold that Tiger!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Loss and Found

Popular Trinity University senior, Catharine Found, lost her sister, Caroline, in a moped accident on August 11 in Iowa City, Iowa. On August 23, Catharine's mother, Ellyn, passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Catharine, a member of Gamma Chi Delta, returned to classes recently and to the Trinity University volleyball team, on which she stars. Her coaches, teammates, and their families offered tribute to the Found family by designing, purchasing, and distributing special Team Found t-shirts for the September 2nd game against Wisconsin-Platteville. Catharine played with poise, grace, and enthusiasm in the win. The game was dedicated to the Found family and the team will wear the t-shirts in warm-ups for the entire season. The game was heavily promoted to bring in a big crowd to show Catharine and her family support from the Trinity family.  We all grieve with Catharine, her father, Ernie, and her brother, Gregg, who were in attendance Friday. We are here for you always Catharine.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Magically Nutritious?

A handful of students have questioned me lately on something I wrote in an all-student e-mail about recent changes in dining services on campus: Specifically, seeing fewer unhealthy options on campus (ideally, none), and more healthy options. This is what got me into trouble:

“I am committed to healthy food options for students. So is ARAMARK. I would like to see only whole grain options in Mabee Hall (as opposed to processed flour), and I would also like to see less candy in the convenience store. I am on a one-man crusade to remove all white bread from the dining area (two-man crusade if you include President Ahlburg). I think I actually struck a deal with Miguel Ardid, Dining Services Manager, that he could keep serving donuts only if a whole grain alternative is offered. I have told ARAMARK that any cereal that includes primary or pastel colors needs to go.”

Based on recent feedback. Most people agree with me. Some students, though, have respectfully pointed out that it isn’t the place of the University -- or me -- to dictate what we serve (or don't serve) to students. I remember arguing in favor of a cigarette machine in our dorm when I was a smoking college student. My convenience mattered most. Lung disease not withstanding... Anyway, I appreciate having the respectful dialog, so thought I would take my case to the cyber-community. (Weigh in at the poll above right).

Personally, I would find it difficult to argue in favor of crummy food. An American obesity epidemic, food that is manufactured/slaughtered/sprayed/injected, and engineered. Factor in the lifestyle of the college student, and it seems that we have an obligation to do the right thing for our students. Couple that with the Student Affairs strategic plan that features a learning outcome specifically related to health and wellness. It is in our DNA.

What is more, the argument that we should offer students free choice in this matter seems erroneous to me. Trinity University is exemplary, I think, in allowing freedom of expression and thought both inside and outside the classroom. But it isn't a free-for-all in how we manage our operations. Though the law permits it, we don't allow hard liquor in the residence halls because it promotes binge drinking. (I know, not very effective as a deterrent.) We don't sell cigarettes or porn in the bookstore (though students get HBO in their rooms). We "force" students to do things all the time: We design a curriculum and we have a residency requirement, and we have a balcony policy similar to ones off campus, for example. Conversely,we sell and give away condoms in the bookstore and Health Services respectively. We also have a responsible friend (Good Samaritan) policy and offer cab vouchers through Tiger Bucks to make it easier to not drink and drive. These are things you get, when you choose us. We are not values-free. (And I'm not talking "family values.")

One thoughtful student mentioned wanting sweets or white bread and candy once in awhile. I have to admit, I do have a sweet tooth. I ate six cookies last night at the ASR meeting. Long meeting. I strive to eat healthy, but it seems no matter how well I eat in Mabee Hall, I always need a slice of cheese pizza as a chaser. But I wouldn't grab it, if it wasn't there. I wouldn't buy M&Ms either. My wife and I curse each other out whenever the other brings home family-size bags of the M&Ms. But we do have something called free will. We don't have to eat what is served or sitting on the counter. But we also easily fall to temptation. So why tempt? And yes, full disclosure, not only do I love Lucky Charms, but I love the chocolate kind! And my comfort food IS donuts.

So, I envision dining services where students and employees can have whole grain, made-from-scratch, organic, and natural food choices on a daily basis. And people will eat what is served. If we serve soda, and white bread, and sugary cereal, we are actually forcing unhealthy choices. That runs counter to our mission.

As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, no pun intended. I have framed this as all or nothing, but maybe that is extreme. I suspect that over time, we will see a decline in the unhealthy products and a corresponding growth in healthy options. I can have my way with a healthy menu, I suppose, but one that includes some latitude for those who once in awhile just want their donuts.

Per comments below. Click here to see some of the data that led us to review dining service option.