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Thursday, April 28, 2011



One may wonder why this post is of interest and my explanation would be that it's the snapshots of life that often paint a picture. Sometimes little things, when viewed together, tell stories of places and people. That's what I try to do with my blog. So, consider this. Mary and Katie were good sports. They were amused by the situation, glad to be photographed without fuss, and both seem cheerful and happy. They are typical of our students in that they are both very likeable, or, put another way, they are kind of alike... That's all.

Internal dialog:
Oh, look, there's Trinity senior Mary W. Wait, that's not Mary, that's someone else.

Real dialog:
Hey, Mary, did you know there is a "Fake Mary" on campus?

You are the second person to tell me that - this must be true!

I will get a picture of her for you.

Me (days later):

:Excuse me, miss, what's your name and may I take a picture of you to share with your doppleganger?


Of course! My name is Katie S (sophomore).

Me:I will send you a picture of Mary W too.

Katie (aka, Fake Mary):
I look forward to it.

Vote, above right, on whether or not you see a resemblance.

My Greek Odyssey

A year ago discussions began about improving the relationship between the administration (primarily me) and Greek alumni and students. A report – one year later – will be posted on the Greek Web page within a month. The directions identified last year to make improvements included the following: develop the Greek Alumni Advisory Council; arrange consulting; review insurance issues; define off-campus events vis-à-vis groups; improve electronic communications; review big brother programs; host a men’s conference; and bring in a sexual assault speaker.

Not only did a lot of people work to make those things happen, but other unanticipated successes took place. Whereas last year the first step was to look at what was broken and how to fix it, this year the new outlook is how to continue our momentum from an incredible year. Again, there is not an expectation of perfection from our students – as individuals and groups. But we need a healthy system that strives for excellence and clubs that strive for distinction. In addition, shifting a culture takes time, so no wonder some students and alumni found the 24-hour delay of bid day due to a winter storm suspicious. But we can live with that.

Anyways, here are some things I learned this year that I hadn’t expected to, and here are some things that happened that I didn’t anticipate:

Accidentally Greek
I learned the benefit of Trinity having a primarily local system. Funny that I learned this more from having my sons look at different colleges. At many other campuses in the state the national Greek life scene dominates the social culture on campus. Part of Trinity’s charm, in general, is its healthy laid back nature. Students don’t come here wanting to fit a particular stereotype, and in fact, a recent survey showed that many come here with little notion of joining Greek life. The reason students join our groups is because they like the people they meet in those groups in casual settings. I call it being accidentally Greek. We offer something pretty unique. Not having formal houses adds to this vibe. I appreciate this more than I did before.

The Death and Resurrection of the Omega Phi Fraternity
Omega Phi lost its way over the past ten years. This isn’t a judgment on the individuals in the group. Former members lamented the way the group deviated from the initial mission of the club. Sticking to one’s core mission is a sure-fire way to ensure longevity and the club lost that and the older alumni base and they floundered. The few remaining members did the right thing by holding on as long as they could, but eventually disbanding. A handful of students and a lot of alumni jumped in to fill the void and the Greek Council jumped in to generously allow the group to start anew. Personally, having strong connections today to many Omega Phi alumni, I am very gratified to see the enthusiasm pouring in as the club gets a new chance – the old way.

The shift of the Greek Calendar for 2011-2012
The staff, particularly those with Greek life experience from other campuses, has often felt the recruitment/orientation calendar was too long and that this created multiple problems. This year, the new Greek Council, in its first month, surveyed new members and came to the same conclusion. The leadership was more focused on two issues. First, there was little time to just “be.” The whole fall was dedicated to rush and the orientation process ended the week after spring break. In a recent meeting, in an extraordinarily bold move, the Greek Council decided to cut orientation in the spring so that it would end the week before spring break begins. The main driver to this was that the weeks before and after spring break were not only the most intense in new member orientation, but were the most intense academic weeks of the semester given the mid-term exam schedule. They decided to delay rush until early October. The student leadership, discussion, and decision-making were phenomenal. The ability of the Council to have conflict with civility, take a risk, and compromise were outstanding examples of the education that takes place through involvement in Greek life.

Strategic Planning
Groups began the process of reviewing their organizations, with assistance from alumni. Specifically, clubs started to review their visions, missions, values, goals, and points of pride and distinction. The University is doing the same thing. This is an incredible exercise to go through and I appreciate the Gammas taking the lead and sharing their results as a model for other clubs.

Mark Sterner
The Greek Council from this past year initiated the Mark Sterner lecture prior to spring break. This intense lecture is by a young man who killed three friends while driving under the influence on their last night of spring break. The clubs mandated their members attend and they sat in pin-drop silence as Mr. Sterner laid bare his excruciating life and times. In addition, the Greeks co-sponsored the sexual assault speaker last fall. They again packed the house by mandating attendance.

In summary, the success in areas that were a focus for us this year was tremendous. The fact that there were no organizational conduct cases of any kind, in University Conduct Boards, or internally within Greek Council, was terrific. The unexpected gains outlined (listed above) are even more gratifying. They represent initiative, creativity, positive momentum, and success for the greater good. And we are just getting started.

Special thanks and acknowledgement to Dr. Raphael Moffett, Director of CCI, the Greek Alumni Advisory Council, and the Greek Council from 2010-2011, the new Greek Council, and the chairs from both.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Counter in TUitive 4.12.11 - Animal Story

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 the stories are published on-line I will provide links.

Overall issue review - 4 blog hits
Subtitle: Stream of Consciousness Rant

See April 8, 2011 issue:
This is the best year for the Trinitonian that I can remember. So, imagine my surprise and shock to see a large page one photo of what appears to be a student, dressed like a student (not like a hunter), hovering over a dead and bloodied bear, with a knife in hand. (The student had the knife, not the bear -- or the picture may have reflected a far different result.) Maybe it is the smile on his face (again, the student, not the bear)... maybe it is the pristine pick-up truck in the background that might suggest this is a roadkill incident... or maybe it is the fact that there is no caption or story, so we are left to make up our own: "Student tragically kills roommate at a surprise costume party at a nearby truck dealership..." But something seems strange about this.

Fortunately, there is a reference to an accompanying story on page 15. This makes me wonder, do I want to read about this, really? Of course I do. It is here that I learn that the bear is actually a boar. Huhh? I don't know if I feel better or worse. Why did the student kill a boar with a knife and look so happy about it? Turns out he hunts boars, with dogs and said knife. Huhh? He apparently shoots animals too, but prefers this kind of hunting, in which he and the dogs corner the boar (which can often come in 12-packs AND weigh as much as 400 pounds), and then murder the boar with a knife because it will "eat your crops." Huhh? Boars are such boors when it comes to wanting to... eat.

I know, I am probably not keen on stories like this, being a vegeterian and all (with the "all" being hating to see things killed). But the story raises bigger questions, such as, why is this in the Trinitonian? There is no apparent context except the photo makes readers want to know why this happy, clean-cut student murdered a bear. I mean boar. And that's another thing. Why is there no blood on this guy. What, does he think he's OJ? But I digress. The story doesn't mention anything to tie the story to Trinity. I guess we are to assume that it is just understood, here at TU, that every once-in-awhile we all want to be treated to a good bear/boar/boor murder story.

The story goes on to quote another student (who is a pretty good little basketball player) who went to Canada on Thanksgiving to shoot a moose. I note several ironies in that one sentence, by the way. He likes to do this rather than doing touristy things. He said that. He bagged his moose, noting, "You don't realize how big a moose is, until you get up close to it, and you get to appreciate the animal." Before, that is, you shoot it with a gun. And give thanks, I suppose.

Other stories include one about a pack of dogs attacking a jogger, not a boar, and one linking Facebook to depression. There is actually a picture of the attacking dogs taken by Grounds Chief, Mike Schweitzer, who had been talking to the jogger while in a golf cart (the jogger wasn't in the golf cart, being a jogger and all, with the "all" being about running from dogs, who may or may not be accompanied by a student with a knife.) Mike, realizing my lawn wouldn't cut itself, no doubt, had driven off, only to see the attack, turn his golf cart around, race to the scene, take pictures of the dogs, call TUPD, and then assist the woman... I'm pretty sure in that order.

What is this, Trinity Geographic? And the main editorial is about the elimination of the senior capstone course? Are you kidding me? Can you say missed opportunity? After seeing all this... I give up. I think I'll just take my chances with Facebook.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bridge to Nowhere

It isn't easy to secure renovation money to remove -- rather than add -- construction. I'd like to see Trinity remove the bridge, pictured above, that goes nowhere, except into a brick wall along the third floor of Thomas residence hall. Previously, there was a doorway into the building where the bridge ends. When the University went to a proximity card access program (for students to use their ID cards), my colleague, John Greene, Director Facilities Services, started eliminating exterior doors.

Originally dorms featured key access, which proved unreliable, resulted in frequent door propping, and didn't allow for accountability. The new system is far better, but far more expensive. Thus the Great Door Crusade. Students were livid. The residents in Thomas Hall would be forced to use primary entrances on first and third floors. The push-back was tremendous, as the door closure was simply more evidence (to students) of a callous administration insensitive to student wants and needs. Even if the ultimate goal was student safety.

That comes with the territory on a college campus. Students protested the creation of the now popular first-year quad, they liked - then didn't - then did, the Sophomore College and group housing/community initiatives/block housing. Former HUGE campus issues included students not clearing their own trays in the dining hall and also leaving trash cans outside their doors so maids wouldn't disturb them when sleeping in. On the latter issue, students would leave the trash cans outside and just open the door when they needed to discard trash. That created issues related to animals (in exterior halls) and drunk trash can kickers - not one in the same. There was a nasty and public halftime Homecoming tradition as well, that seemed to mock, in a very inadequate biological re-creation, the conception process. The Good Ol' Days.

Resistance to change isn't exclusive to college students, though. University professors and staff are not always completely open to shifting tides. At least with students, the turnover every four years quickly creates short memories of how things used to be. In this first year of our new President, there have been plenty of changes on campus, from banning University-bought individual water bottles in departments (some nonsense about the planet), to staffing changes at the executive level and elsewhere, to new budgeting procedures. With each change of Presidents there are always hopes for - and then resistance to - change. It is easier in theory than in practice. I am not immune either. Every time I say to students "that won't work here" or "we already tried that" I can hear the cock crowing for the third time. Dang it.

Indeed, in my own area, working with ARAMARK has brought changes to the University Club and to the new plan. The new plan addresses years of complaints, yet is being met with suspicion and some (minor) push-back. So I see the issue from both sides.

And so it goes. We can follow the same old paths that end up with us running into brick walls, or we can embrace new and different ways... and change. This is a really exciting time for our University on so many levels. And it is happening at a pace we aren't accustomed to. Not all change is good, nor is it all bad. But resistance for resistance sake can take us nowhere - other than a dead-end street.