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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy Holidays from the Tuttles!

Two of my favorite girls in the world at Christmas on Oakmont.




So we put a wrap on another semester. While my two boys are off at college - one studying abroad in Finland from his home base at Southwestern, and the other battling mono during finals at TCU, I am celebrating the bulk of the season with the women in my life. Above, Joelle and Kellyn help host campus guests at the annual Christmas on Oakmont program following Christmas Vespers. Earlier that day, my wife Donna and I participated in the Color Me Rad run in San Antonio. One of my runners, Molly Zumbro, set up a Trinity team and there were a ton of students participating among 7,000 locals. Many students volunteered at the event as well, and some were a little too happy, for my liking, to bomb me with dye packs. Occupational hazard.

We have had a blessed year and were lucky to be moved to a vacant campus house on Oakmont this fall, allowing us to fully participate in Sunday's activities. This is probably the final post for the month, with several new ones in the works for January. Until then, Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Student Government - What a Mess

ASR meeting on November 19, considering a student proposal.
A veto happy president, complex parliamentary procedures, resolutions to no one, confusion about the role of representation, and more money than they know what to do with. This version of the Association of Student Representatives is a mess. Hallelujah!!

I couldn't be more thrilled with the job ASR is doing this year, and particularly with the leadership of President Joe Moore and Vice President Sean Solis. Over the last several years the group has been engaged in re-writing its constitution and growing the student activity fee. In addition, they took an important stand on the diploma issue and led the way on changes in the campus dining program. This year the big issue is bollards. So it is refreshing that the meetings have been dynamic, engaging, and even respectfully controversial.

As their adviser, I care far more about the process than the outcomes. This is where the learning occurs and I wish them well on the success of  their initiatives. Here are some of the reasons they have made me proud:

- President Moore has unapologetically invoked his veto power on three occasions. This doesn't seem to irk the senators as much as one would think. On November 19, for example, the Senate over-rode his veto. How cool is that? What's more, they are handling this new wrinkle with civility and respect. President Moore has shown his desire to preserve some of the principles that have been important to ASRs of years past. One veto involved the lack of funding for a Black Student Union program and another in favor of t-shirt money for MLK march shirts to come from a non-sweatshop source. If you didn't know better he would almost seem... liberal.

- Sure, President Moore has called out senators for not dressing appropriately, but again, the Senate seems to have a thick skin. They even went along with a hyper-drive parliamentary procedure experiment in which the president was doling out 20-second speaking allotments. Having sat through many loooong and drawn out and repetitive discussions over many Monday nights when good football games were being broadcast, I really appreciate this.

- I love when ASR passes resolutions, though they seem reluctant to do so because the senators and other students sometimes wonder "what's the point?" Well, as a high-level bureaucrat I can say unequivocally the resolutions matter. The administration, believe it or not, craves student input and opinions. That doesn't always mean that the students will get their way. Dr. Coleen Grissom, in her role as Dean of Students, used to say ASR had no power, but lots of influence. That remains true today.But more times than not, the students will get their way because resolutions are well-considered, thoughtful, and reasonable.

- When issues are brought to a vote, senators have often respectfully abstained if the issues were related to organizations in which they participate. Conventional wisdom seems to be that it is proper for senators to debate on these topics, but withhold their votes, which could represent conflicts of interest. I'm not so sure. This is the money question, after all, in representative organizations. Are representatives there to represent? Are they there because voters trust them to vote on their opinion, not simply reflect majority opinions of their constituents? Or are they there to advance their special interests. It  may be situational. An exciting aspect of the larger activity fee is that it may lead to more dynamic elections for those who want to make sure the needs of their interests and groups are advanced, or at least heard. So why not vote on what matters to those elected? Or is that unethical? These are great questions for students to ponder and consider.

- Finally, ASR has money for once. And they are learning not to nit-pick proposals to death. They have proven to be good stewards of the student activity fee, but the coffers are still full. Students can and should tell the program board and others how to spend that money for a rich and vibrant campus life. This is what the students sought with the fee increase.

I think this ASR is mixing it up more than in recent history, and that more voices are being heard. It is complicated and messy and perfect. Just as it should be.




Friday, November 16, 2012

Finished


Leia and Evan, above, reflect the spirit of the Half Marathon Challenge, after finishing the run on Sunday, September 11, 2012, at the Alamodome. Over 75 Trinity runners competed in the half marathon - many for the first time. The Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge and Kayla Mire Food Drive has taken place for five straight years, coinciding with when the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series came to San Antonio. Around 20,000 people compete annually.

More and more, the highlights for me are all the attention the Trinity runners receive. Running in our maroon shirts draws lots of attention and the people on the PA systems at the start and finish acknowledge our presence and participation. The runners get lots of encouragement along the way for representing TU as well. We placed second in the city-wide Get Fit Challenge large division group. We have been first and second in that before, but now must find a way to beat Incarnate Word!

I also really appreciate the growing family involvement of the program. We had many parents and some siblings participate and many alumni as well. What a commitment from families who fly in to town to run with their Trinity kiddos! I love that.

This year's program was a little smaller than the past couple of years, but it was as meaningful as ever for me. I love the connections that are formed between the runners and my own connections with them. You get to know people well over ten mile training runs. Students Lucy Cevallos and Morgan Jackson ran the race for all four years while they were enrolled here. Congrats to them!!

We also did what I call "boutique" runs this year, just to mix things up. These included a run at a local park, a "hill-hell-hall-oween" run that was brutally fun, and an iPod Shuffle run where we traded iPods to be inspired by the music other runners listen to. (And yes, we use our own headphones.)

Finally, it is pretty moving to see all the causes and individuals that people run for - whether to fund-raise or memorialize lost loved ones. Our charity, the San Antonio Food Bank is a great fit for our program, and we donated several hundred pounds of food and several hundred dollars from generous donations of our runners and Trinity community members.

The 6th Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge will be Sunday, November 17, 2013. It's never too early to start training!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Counter InTUitive 10.26.12 - Stop already Trinitonian!!

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 they are published on-line I will provide links.Well, that was the idea anyways. The last time I reviewed a Trinitonian article or issue was in April of 2011. Since then, I have lost my will. The Trinitonian has killed it.

I love the Trinitonian. Sure, I do what all good administrators do: I quickly peruse it for damage control first thing Friday mornings. I look at the page-one headlines and turn right to the editorial section. If I am unscathed, I take a little time to enjoy the paper worry-free. Occupational conditioning I guess. So, unless the student newspaper staff really ticks me off, I will likely retire the "Counter InTUitive" series. Seems like I had already.

When I visit other campuses I am most interested in their dorms, their dining services, their student centers, and their campus papers. I always want to see that ours are better. Trinity-lifer conditioning I guess. I don't know that I have seen a better, more professional publication than our Trinitonian. I urge our others to not take this for granted. This week's issue gives us plenty to like:

Creative presentation
One of the first indicator of quality is how linear a story is written or presented. Linear would be a straight news story about the five year anniversary of the Mississippi Miracle. The Trinitonian's coverage is visually alluring and graphically exciting. Alumni were identified and interviewed. Kudos for interviewing the opposing coach from Millsaps.

Fun
The list of top five U.S. President's is about fictionally portrayed characters and properly had Jed Bartlet at the top of the list. This isn't U.S. News and World Report. A campus paper should be fun. Full Halloween coverage including costume reviews adds to it.

Seriousness
Issues in higher education, an obituary on a former professor, and coverage of sexual assault awareness programming are included. One of the best pieces is one by Faith Ozer about Affirmative Action. Clear, unbiased, and it uses a Trinity professor for context. With another graphical timeline this a credible and interesting piece of news.

Topical coverage
This appears to be the election issue, though I suspect, in the words of Yoda - "there is another." The coverage is wide and deep. It includes "Voting for Dummies" and a number of creative and clever stories, including some interesting intern columns, coverage of a political speaker, and a special Sidewalk Symposium which showcases the serious and silly nature of our students. Fraternity and sorority issues are also covered and yet another nice touch is an interview with a Lancer alumnus.

Opinions galore
Two males writing on issues of breast cancer awareness and sexual assault? They say some things sure to generate controversy. The throw-away but thought-provoking piece on - surprise - alcohol, and the safe, but spot-on piece about school spirit/school pride all make for interesting reads.

Faculty everywhere
It is almost like we are on a college campus. Editorials from professors in Communication, Political Science, and an article about East Asian Studies and Don Clark all showcase the intellectual fire power of the Trinity professors.

Sports
Who am I to say, but Aly Mithani seems to have nailed his NBA predictions. How about a follow-up at season's end. The touching story about an O-Rec trip leader saving someone's life probably should have replaced the dull topic of the Skyline Room on page one. It is all rounded out by an equestrian headline with a horseplay pun.

But...
The font in the star burst on page one is too small. The Skyline hours are wrong. AND, the headline about the Congressman acknowledges a second congressional speaker but never explains that in the article. Stop already Trinitonian. You're killing me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Use it or Lose it

Students at the Tigers' Den. The campus pub, once intended to be open as a regular night spot, closed two years ago, except for special events. The hope is to revive it, in a way, in the newly renovated Skyline Room.
A great number of things here that all seem like good ideas - sometimes don't pan out. It is often an issue of scale. Some examples:

- Last Saturday's leadership conference was nearly cancelled. About 50 students signed up and that translated to about $30 in expenses per student. The sophomore leadership program was cancelled because of minimal interest. That's a shame, as these are good programs.

- A showing of Casablanca ($600) was attended by about 20 students. We could have bought each of those students their own Bogey DVD and thrown in the Maltese Falcon to boot for that money.

- Career Services shut down its Tiger Treks program this fall because only four students signed up. Great idea, but it did require that students miss a full day of class. This isn't new to Career Services. They have had to cajole students into interviews, to job fairs, and to networking events where alumni often out-number students.

- I fear we will lose the Hertz on Demand program, which seems to answer all of the needs of students without cars. Free membership, $10 per hour rates (imagine if shared), no gas and insurance charges, and renters need only be 18 and have a license from anywhere in the world. Why aren't both vehicles constantly checked out, especially when international students report being campus-bound?

- This week we learned that the Tiger Ride Tiger Bucks voucher system is being discontinued for lack of use. That is what happened to the DVD Kiosk in the Coates University Center as well.

This isn't the fault of our students. While there is often a perceived need for various services, it may not warrant the investment in such services. This comes up routinely when students are asking for longer hours in the library and the recreation center. Keeping a building staffed for a half-dozen students does not make economic sense, is hard on workers, and presents security challenges. On the other hand, who knew we couldn't get enough of the Adirondack chairs all over campus?

The issue, then, is really not that students should use services just to keep them. It is that their lack of use makes it impractical to maintain them over time. Sometimes the University may be seen as unwilling to accommodate the requests of students. In fact, at a time when we are vigilant about controlling costs, maintaining certain programs and services is often uneconomical. No one is to blame, but this is the downside - one of the few - of a small place like Trinity. No doubt students are learning this in their Economics and Business courses. Supply and demand: Use it - or lose it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Liberal Arts


What struck me about Leigh Anna Logsdon, above left,was her Molecular Biology book. She was among about 20 students who attended a conversation with Congressman Charlie Gonzalez (D-San Antonio) on October 17 at Trinity. Over my 20-some years at Trinity I have learned to embrace the liberal arts. Our students often embody the qualities of life-long learners. Leigh Anna is a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major with a minor in Religion. And she knows the Congressman through her family and because she served as an intern for him. She took time out of her schedule to hear from a member of the U.S. Congress a day after one of the televised presidential debates. I snapped the above photo after asking her to prop up her book. She obliged, not really knowing why.

The liberal arts aside, Congressman Gonzalez spoke about the election, the Congress,and his relationship with the President. He was charming, candid, insightful, and funny. He was introduced by Ana Price, senior, and president of the Political Science Honor Society. She is also on the Student Conduct Board and is a swimmer. The Congressman used her - and me - to illustrate the different health care risks we may pose for potential insurers. She would be less risky, he opined, while I would likely have high cholesterol and other health problems not sought by insurance companies. I was pretty offended, though I do have high cholesterol and other health problems.

While citing Ana's fine conditioning the Congressman noted that he and I were not necessarily in the best condition despite both working out at the YMCA.

Congressman Charlie Gonzalez poses with senior Ana Price.
Good thing he retires after this term, as he was starting to lose my vote. I actually met him at the Y. Having great respect for personal space and boundaries I introduced myself to him several times. This eventually led to me inviting him to campus and he very graciously obliged.

In the audience Wednesday were many students from a Legislatures course taught by Professor Thomas Hayes. While I think they learned some things from the Congressman, I was actually struck by some of the other students that were there. Like Leigh Anna, at least three other students specifically came by because they knew Charlie or had worked with him as interns. He remembered them all by name and clearly had warm personal relationships with these students.

In a room nearby, prospective students were being prepped for a tour of the campus. While they didn't know a U.S. Congressman was holding court next door, I hoped that somehow they got the message of what we offer. Personal and professional connections, engagement, breadth and depth in learning, and a blended experience in and outside the classroom. There it was, right under their noses - a chance to be a part of something special. The Liberal Arts.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gone, not forgotten


The dog days are over. On October 3, The Dog Jurgens was returned to TSA at Lackland Air Force base after ten months as a Trinity foster puppy. The previous evening we held a roast and reception to say farewell. Jurgens was housed in the office of Katharine Martin, Campus Publications Coordinator, during the week and at my home with my family on nights and weekends. But she really lived on the whole campus. Students played with her during her office hours, saw her at campus events, and most importantly, signed up to walk her. She had boundless energy, so the walking was very important. She also has a sense of humor, as evidenced by her "routine" when Katharine had to put her in her crate. This was the only time a group, rather than a single family, served as a foster family.

TSA bomb-sniffing dogs are named for victims of the 9/11 attacks. Our puppy was named for Paul Jurgens. Paul's sister and brother-in-law, Alice and John Sheldon came to campus from Maryland on 9/11 this year to meet Jurgens, who they had been following on Facebook. It was a tremendous visit for all of us.

This fostering program was intended to be fun and give students a puppy to play with as a stress reliever. It turned out to be much larger than that. The training/behavioral regimen was different than with most puppies. We had to try to evoke certain qualities from Jurgens, such as toy drive, that would be used later on in her training. We benefited greatly by learning of Paul and meeting some of his family. And we were able to more appropriately reflect on 9/11 than since we dedicated a memorial on campus in 2003.

Mostly, we learned about a heroic man, a loyal and devoted family, and the personal nature of a national tragedy -- and the pain it continues to inflict. And we learned about a puppy who will also serve in protecting others with drive, energy, and relentlessness. To commemorate this experience, an etching from the World Trade Center Memorial commemorating Paul Jurgens, hangs in my office. It was done by staffer Raphael Moffett when he visited New York last summer. A photo collage and a letter from Alice Sheldon complete the grouping.

This will be placed in a more prominent location, probably in the University Center, next year. It includes a QR code to the Web page so future visitors can learn more about the man, the dog, and the program. All are too special to be forgotten. Our puppy will now spend up to a year in intensive training. If she is successful she will be assigned to an airport to assume bomb-sniffing duties. It is not uncommon for foster families to attend graduation. I hope they will be ready for Trinity University. We look forward to seeing her again. And remembering.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Breaking Bad

Rick and me at student move-in this year.

It takes a special person to be my friend. Just ask Rick Roberts. He is the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. Me? Not so much. I am more of a germ-o--phobe. I have in fact loaned Rick running gear, at his request, but I never give him my best stuff... because I would never feel right wearing it again.

The last few months have been difficult for me. I have been losing many of my best Trinity guy friends. I have known Rick for a long time. He and his wife, Dacia, are godparents to my daughter Kellyn. Rick and I have logged a lot of running miles together and he is a great listener. He is going to Texas Lutheran University to be their vice president for advancement. He deserves it. But... personal wing man: Gone.

Raphael Moffett WAS the director of Campus & Community Involvement here. He was actually the first to go. One day in August he told me we needed to talk about this great opportunity he had to be a vice president. I tried to make my pitch to keep him but I never had a chance. He had already taken the job. He skipped being a Dean of Students and went right to VP for Student Affairs at Langston University in Oklahoma. Raphael was becoming my go-to guy in Student Affairs. He was also becoming a close friend. But for the sake of scoring... professional wing man: Gone.

Ben Newhouse skipped a step too. He was slated to take over Raphael Moffett's position, but instead took the Dean of Students position at Birmingham Southern College in Alabama. He was actually stolen by a good colleague (and now FORMER friend), Dave Eberhardt. Ben has been here twice now, professionally. You really should only leave Trinity once. But I can't begrudge Ben his decision either, though I do. He will be a great Dean of Students and that was evident this week hearing students speak about him at his farewell reception. He is my combo guy (personal and professional): Gone.

Losing Rick and Raphael is especially tough for another reason. They were key members of our "The Administrators" basketball team. Mark Detterick also left this summer putting us in serious rebuilding mode.

So I will respond the way any normal guy would. I will watch TV, eat chips, and stop doing laundry. Oh wait, I already do that. But I will eventually need some testosterone-based companionship. VP Chuck White and I are friends, but he doesn't know it. So he's out. Chris Ellertson, Associate Vice President for Enrollment, would be great but he works too much and has nicer clothes than me. Eric Maloof travels too much. So he's out. Soccer coach Paul McGinlay is cool, but he's British. No. This is going to take some time. Desperate times call for one thing, and one thing only -- a  survey. That's right, I am taking friendship requests through Survey Monkey.

So candidates, step on up. Please take my survey! I might be a little high maintenance and somewhat self-absorbed. I don't drink, smoke, or eat meat. But I'm a lot of fun at parties. Well... at small gatherings. I am loyal. I am not needy. And for as long as the University will have me, I'm not going anywhere. I am a great catch.

I will miss you Rick, and Raph, and Ben. But someone will want me. Won't they?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Remembering The Man, Paul Jurgens

Alice and John Sheldon on the San Antonio Riverwalk, September, 2012.
Alice (Jurgens) Sheldon and her husband John Sheldon visited Trinity University this week to meet our TSA puppy - and to help the campus community commemorate the 9/11 eleventh anniversary. Their visit was covered by the local newspaper and a local television affiliate. Those outlets had previously covered the story of The Dog Jurgens in print and on the air.

In short, TSA breeds and raises puppies to become bomb-sniffing airport working animals. In the first year, the puppies are sent to foster families with intermittent visits back to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for more specialized training. The puppies are all named for 9/11 victims. Trinity University students and staff put in a request to foster a puppy and were rewarded with a year-long experience with The Dog Jurgens. She will be returned to TSA on October 5, 2012.

The TSA doesn't contact families about the namesake puppies, but they don't prohibit foster families from doing so. We received The Dog Jurgens last December and reached out to the family of Paul Jurgens in mid-winter. John Sheldon was the initial point of contact. As Paul's brother-in-law he has remained active in maintaining a We and foundation presence and he still closely follows the fate of terrorists awaiting justice.

Over the course of the last several months, John, Paul's widow Maria, and a number of other relatives have followed the adventures of The Dog Jurgens from afar. In our budding relationship with John, the University asked to host him and Alice for a visit to meet Jurgens in person. They gave up their usual family-oriented ceremonies with the family in New York City to be with the Trinity community.

Over the course of their two day visit they visited the campus 9/11 memorial garden, toured the TSA training facilities at Lackland, were interviewed by students in a 9/11 program, and met and spent play time with The Dog Jurgens, with whom they forged an instant and lasting bond. Most chilling was learning that the family didn't know that Paul would be near ground zero. He called in to his department to say he was headed there after the first plane hit. Only later in the day did suspicions arise and worst fears were realized. he was missing.

Their visit was extremely meaningful for the Trinity students and staff. Learning more about Paul Jurgens helps personalize - for the rest of us - the national tragedy of 9/11. In fact, Alice wasn't sure that there was still much interest from those outside of the hardest hit communities. I recently heard a woman named Jo Lucker give a talk about how you can't take away grief but you can show you care. This foster program and the Sheldon visit helps us show one family that this little campus in San Antonio cares about what happened. We hope John, Alice, and their relatives feel that they are part of the Trinity family now. They were a huge hit here and everyone loved them!

John did something I wish more guest speakers and lecturers would do. He did his homework on us: He looked at our Website and spoke to people in education about us. Having spent time with him this is not surprising. He and Alice are warm, personable, humble, caring, fun, and interested in others. That shouldn't be surprising either. That's how people describe Paul Jurgens.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Welcome Class of 2016 (You should listen to me)

Having listened to opening speeches from extreme orators Coleen Grissom, Gage Paine, and Felicia Lee, I have to admit I am always a little nervous about delivering goods at the same level. Frankly, I am more comfortable blogging or  ad-lib-ing But maybe they taught me something. Below are my remarks to the Class of 2016. I have linked images from the slide show.
President Ahlburg addresses new students and their families in Laurie Auditorium on August 16, 2012. The orientation "home away from home" was where I addressed new students the following night.

Welcome new and transfer students! It has been a true pleasure to meet many of you, and many of your family members, over the last two days.

To keep you visually engaged this evening, I have prepared an accompanying slide show for your entertainment in a desperate attempt to have you focused on something other than Facebook and texting.

As you entered the Auditorium you heard Drake Bell with his Greatest Hit – It’s Only Time. It's probably the only time that song has, or will be, played in Laurie Auditorium. You, of course remember him from the hit show of your youth, Drake and Josh.

Tonight is kind of our sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll session, and I like to get the rock-and-roll part out of the way early. I considered playing "Cell" (mistake intended) Phone by Maroon Five and "Queen Latifa" (mistake intended) or the latest song from "Gotya" (mistake intended).  But I settled on Drake Bell so you wouldn’t think I was trying TOO hard to be hip.

I would have played Bruce Springsteen, as I did last year, but the class of 2015 seemed underwhelmed by my choice for them. Now I don't trust them. So I decided to play it safe, and not risk Bruce Springsteen on the Class of 2016.

I consider tonight's program a sort of triage event. It is our chance to welcome you, and in some ways, to try to save you from yourselves. Everything about your experience here is about your education, your success, and your health and safety. So that is where we begin.

There are just three things I want to talk about before we bring our panel up here in a few minutes:

First, I want you to understand where our simple rules and policies come from. They are really more a code of care - for one another - than a list of thou-shall-nots.
Second, I want to suggest to you that there can be a different way to do college than the movies have shown you.
And third, I want to try to convince you that we are “we,” rather than we are "us" and you are "them." In other words, that we are here to support you, and are here because of you and not in spite of you.

Care and respect, a different way to approach college, and trust: Those are my themes for tonight.

This week you have begun your Trinity journey, and joined a community with a tremendous tradition of respect for others: One where we embrace those of different races, religions, cultures, sexes, and gender identities. We have a national-award-winning program, Sunday about our dynamic campus. Pay attention. You are lucky to be with, and among, artists and athletes, and Texans and Yankees and international students, and engineers and poets and musicians and computer programmers. That is our community.

In this community, then, our policies are built upon respect and are values based. 

This may frustrate you if you are legalistic, if you need a long list of what you can and can't do, or if you like things spelled out in black and white. But try to get used to it. In college, you will learn much more by spending time in the gray area than in the more clear cut, but stifling, black and white. You really don't even need a student handbook of rules, though we do have one on line. Just remember these simple things:

Respect yourself, others, the community, and property. If something is against the law, it is against policy. It is really that simple.

The values that matter here are that you take care of yourself - and those around you - and this place. One of the points I took away from our summer reading, is that regardless of the time in history, people can be cruel and violent. I am never sure how people can lack empathy without conscience. Sometimes that happens with college students too, though on a different scale.

Recently, we had students appear before Conduct Board because their elderly neighbors off campus complained to us that they couldn’t sleep with the disruption from the parties our students were hosting. Those students were more upset that our policies could reach off campus than that they had been rude, hostile, and intimidating to elderly neighbors. Granted, this isn’t as extreme as the horrors of the old west, but it is about empathy - and caring about others - more than one’s self. Most times here, when you find yourself in conflict with policy, it is probably because you are not being sensitive to others.

Sometimes, as with this example, some students think that the rules shouldn’t apply to them -- that college is an exception to the rules because it is the "best time of your life." But you don’t get a four year pass just because your email address ends in Edu.

We won’t expect more of you than those who preceded you at home, nor, from those who will follow us in your lives after college. So you may not like the residence hall balcony policy, for example, but it is no different than what you had in your neighborhood association back home, or that our Trinity seniors have to abide by in their off-campus apartments.

For the most part, just remember, that your right to swing your arm stops at other people’s noses, and you will be fine.

Okay, second: there are other ways to experience college than what you have been taught from the movies.

I am so sorry that you have been raised on films about how college is all about beer, parties, and sex. To be sure, there are these things, and they can be fun. Plenty of older people frequently engage in sex, booze, and rock and roll. And that’s just your parents.

So don’t carry away from tonight’s session that we are prudes. Indeed, we know this is a time when some of you will experiment, make mistakes, and explore and refine your values. We want you, and those you affect, to be safe, though, in doing so.

The movies leave out things, you will learn, like homework, grades, sexual assault, addiction, and more. So while you have been fed a myth that it is fun - and perfectly acceptable - to be berated, or to carry a chicken around campus, and that keg stands, beer bongs, and degradation of women are standard college fare, I ask that you consider that there can be more to your experience than what you have been shown. Indeed, there may be a different way to succeed in college.

Consider sophomore Andrea Medina, who came here to college hoping that students would engage in meaningful conversations. She created TU Speaks, a campus-wide blog where students are encouraged to participate and engage in dialogue and discussion on meaningful issues. She leads TU Students for Social Change - a group engaged in topics aimed at making a difference and challenging standards.

Consider the students who started, and have joined, HOPE Hall. They looked outward at our community, saw the needs of the homeless, and without judgment have organized to serve their fellow men and women. And they want you to join them.

Consider two students who last year stood up to bullies on a gossip web site, and stood up for others, suggesting that with no audience, anonymous gossips have no message. They were vilified, unfortunately, by a chorus of those extolling their own rights to free speech.  In this scenario, which role would you play??

And finally, consider ASR President Joe Moore and his friends, who lost their dear classmate Alex Reinis last year. I urge you to download the Website about Alex at the memorial bench across from Miller Hall (there is a QR code right there), to learn about his spirited life. I challenge you to take time and click on the link of the Skyline Room memorial service that was held in Alex's honor. Hear the testimonies of his friends to learn about college done right. You will be moved and inspired. 

College can offer the greatest years of your life, but that doesn’t mean they have to be lived based on what you think will play well on your Facebook page the next day. You can choose to play to the lowest common denominator, or not.

You can be the stereotype of a college student. Or you can be more. I urge you to consider that with what has been invested in you, and with the privilege that comes with this experience, that you make the most, and not the least, of these four years. Prohibition isn't coming back. Pace yourselves. And consider that two out of three students don’t drink or drink very little. The drinkers just make more noise and seem to talk about it a lot.

Alright: Respect for Others, Alternative ways to experience college. Two down.

Finally, I want you to understand that the members of the faculty and the staff are all here to serve, support, and challenge you. We are here by choice because we love college students. Please see us as allies, not enemies.

We know from experience that some of you are coming to us with difficult personal histories. You may have overcome an addiction, been assaulted, or experienced racism or homophobia. You may be children of poverty, divorce, and single parent families, and you may have lost people near and dear to you. You might have faced difficult psychological issues. It is also possible that you will experience some of these things when you are here at Trinity.

My own college experience was bittersweet. My parents separated, my mother took her own life, and I became dependent on alcohol. I think this makes me a better Dean of Students. I understand the breadth of highs and lows that students experience. I was the one-third who drank too much, was too loud, and talked about it way too often. I was the stereotype I urge you not to become. And I was one of those students who needed to be picked up and supported by the caring people in my University community. I think I can be empathetic and serve as someone whose mistakes you can learn from.
So I want you to trust me and to lean on me. If I could survive, you can thrive.

Likewise, everyone on the Student Affairs staff and throughout campus has their own stories. Despite us being older, more formally dressed, and lurking beyond facades of professionalism, we are just like you. In most cases, even more so. So trust us - and our intentions.

The lasting message I want to leave with you, is that if you ever need support, or if you feel lost or broken down at any time over your four years here, let us help. My promise to you is that you never, ever, have to feel alone here. We are all in, and are accessible, available, and hopefully approachable. This is what you get when you get us.

So Class of 2016, I ask you to care about each other, to be more than what you and others may expect of you, and to let us help you whenever you stumble. I am so excited to welcome you to this very special place at this very special time for you. Thank you.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fresh Start: In Living Color

Michael Yancey, Resident Mentor, gives the new year a big thumbs up!

Members of the Residential Life Student staff and Orientation Team spend time in a session on August 10, 2012 in preparation for the Class of 2016 and the return of older students. Since I became Associate VP and relinquished my Director of Residential Life responsibilities, last year, I have to say, August is a lot less stressful and much more enjoyable and energizing. It helps remind me just how hard the Residential Life staff works to prepare for the new year. Everyone knows how hard Ben Newhouse and his O-Team work as well.

That is true for everyone who returns early to kick-off the year, whether it is the great Trinitonian staff preparing their first issue under a lot of time pressure or Team Trinity students, who help our new students move-in. The move-in crew of students, faculty, and staff, received LOTS of kudos from the families and students they helped move in. I tip my hat to all of you!

With the new year, it is time to start posting on the blog again. I have changed the look a little bit just for kicks. Welcome, and welcome back everyone!

Team trinity, looking like Skittles, goes piranha on a U-Haul.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Carrying on


Carry on...
Ah summer. In education, you get to stop and take a breather once a year. This is often a good thing. But we are working. Don't think otherwise. I'll tell you.

Carry on...

Welcome Week takes planning. The first modern era big Welcome Back concert took place about ten years ago. Since then, we have seen the likes of Cory Morrow, Sister Hazel, Sugar Cult, Reel Big Fish, Rooney, Jack Ingram, and others. But the first was the best. I know, because the organizer, alumnus Jake Walker, usually calls me every September to remind me, and see if we topped Pat Green yet. We never have. Anyways. It went something like this.

Carry on...

A few years ago a faculty colleague asked me what I do all summer. Actually, it was over a decade ago. Good question. With students mostly gone, doesn't the work take a break too? To be sure, late-night emergencies, weeknight and weekend programs and events, and unanticipated controversies give way to a more routine work schedule. But it is the fool that doesn't take advantage of the more regular summer schedule - which is also light on meetings. Summer is a time to catch up... and get ahead. I encourage my staff to think of the summer in three distinct periods. These don't have to be linear, but serve as a nice guide:

Process
The first month of the summer allows staff members to put the previous year to bed. That generally means things like closing budgets; wrapping up residence hall damage billing; preparing annual reports; cleansing and updating Web pages; conducting staff evaluations; circling back on e-mails; purging files; preparing assessment reports; and updating strategic planning initiatives. At Trinity we do a mini-conference with the whole staff the Monday after graduation. This is a chance to share successes and challenges, to discuss opportunities, and identify preliminary themes that may be emerging. And to eat donuts.

Plan
All of the departments in Student Affairs start to turn their attention to the year ahead very quickly. That usually means one thing: Retreats. These aren't fun retreats on ropes courses and swinging out over the river on tire swings. Just imagine. Usually, these are one-day planning meetings to set goals for the year ahead. The staff can take information from the processing time and start to look to the future.

You think this post is dull? Try cleaning out storage rooms. Thank you Michael Leach.
In addition to goals, there are calendars that need to be set, budgets lined up, new furniture to be installed, newsletter schedules created, and the training and orientation of new staff and interns. This is a time to rebuild programs, create new ones, and improve administrative processes. Stay awake here.

Prepare
In truth, the preparation for the year ahead starts in the spring: Team Trinity move-in crew; RA/Orientation Team/Conduct Board/Campus Publications training and orientation; items for student rooms; early arrival arrangements; room assignments; Welcome Week and NSO scheduling and preparation; summer parent and student newsletters; and much, much more.

Carry on...
The summer allows us to think about things we don't get to think about during the year. This summer, that included thinking about carrying my stuff. I don't like having a lot of stuff. But nowadays I have to generally have with me the following items: keys, money, business cards, glasses, sunglasses, my lucky anvil, iPhone, iPad, laptop, my Father's day gift, camera, ear buds, shark repellent Bat spray, and an array of medications age-specific to 50-year-old men. My kind staff and colleagues, and family all gave me grief about my very practical and somewhat styling touring bag. I could take it. And I did. To most places. But my new iPad changed all that. I needed an alternative carrying item. So my laptop backpack became my new purse. Er, touring bag.

Carry on...
To blather on and on about nothing. Or... to blog.

Carry on...
So. Back to my stuff. I decided I needed something to carry my things without looking like I was touring Europe. And then it hit me. My old briefcase. I know. Leather. But the statute of limitations on that expired long ago. My wife gave it to me in 1994. The cow would surely be dead now anyway. The only problem is that I can't carry my briefcase on my bike. It shifts my balance and keeps me from braking. I learned the hard way. BUT, I have decided to use it anyways. I am on a one-man mission to make retro briefcases cool again.

So there you have it...
Carry On.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fourth Annual: The Year in Review - 2011-2012


Personally, I will always remember this as the year of the dog (see The Dog Jurgens, above). As always, one can never anticipate in August what will transpire in the year ahead. So here it is, a review of the hits, misses, and unexpected that happened over the past academic year. This is the 200th post of The Dean's List blog. Seems appropriate to be the last post of the academic year before (more or less) shutting it (the blog) down heading into the summer.

Top Stories
1. CSI
Not a crime show, but the opening of the new Center for Science and Innovation opened amid rave reviews in January. Several phases remain in this project, but in addition to the Dicke-Smith Art and Music buildings, this makes Trinity a great destination for students who want facilities to match the caliber of their instruction. Bravo to all involved.

2. Mabee Hall gets a make-over

With much planning and input, ARAMARK and Trinity made bold moves in renovating Mabee Dining Hall and changing the dining format from a la carte to all-you-care-to-eat. Reviews were mixed. Hardest hit were sophomores, who were required to participate in the new plan, but missed the old one. Juniors and seniors had a seniority-based option. New students had fewer adjustments.

3. Fraternity and sorority suspensions
Following several anonymous reports, several fraternities and sororities were suspended, initially, for two to three years. As with the dining changes, there were many opinions and concerns shared from many angles. The University has been, and will remain, committed to fraternity and sorority life. Look for changes, though, in monitoring of club orientation events and for an increase in alumni involvement.

4. Curricular review and strategic planning

For faculty and staff, the excitement of a comprehensive review of who we are, our mission, and how to best deliver it, has consumed much of the past year. A building master plan will also be included. This deliberative, methodical, and comprehensive process has been guided with great professionalism by Lisa Jasinski, Nancy Mills, and others. From this perch - it all seems right on.

5. Monte Vista

Our friends next door are trying to preserve the integrity and feel of the historically significant and quaint atmosphere that makes Monte Vista a perfect neighbor for us. Unfortunately, Trinity's use of university-owned homes became a flashpoint between these longstanding neighbors. It looks like things have largely been resolved. We can get along. 

6. The Dog Jurgens
The best thing about The Dog Jurgens, besides that she literally is a hugger AND has a sense of humor, is that this TSA bomb sniffing dog reminds us of the personal toll of 911, which hit the ten-year milestone this past September. Named for hero Paul Jurgens, we have connected with his family and hope to get them to campus in the fall.

7. Construction
The Big Trench was a major part of campus life over much of the year. The heating and cooling plants, formerly in three locations, have been consolidated down to two. One is dedicated for heating and one for cooling.

8. VP exodus
The two most recently hired vice presidents moved on for various reasons. They were important members of the president's team and they have yet to be replaced. Who steps in next will be important to the future direction of our campus.


Hits
Einstein Brothers Bagels sustained popularity throughout the year. The idea of a non-ARAMARK brand appealed to students looking for a change of pace. The POD in Mabee was also a success.

Class newsletters, from Student Affairs, saw a dramatic increase in actual hits. These newsletters are set-up to be specific to the here and now for students and are based on a 48 month calendar. The new format finally allows the Residential Life Coordinators, Class Marshals and Alumni Sponsors to offer cohesive, tailored, and scheduled messages to students.

The Senior Year Experience committee made great strides in developing and offering structure and direction during this critical time for our graduating students. Melissa Flowers in Residential Life was involved in both this and the newsletter initiatives.

A late entry, but the Adirondack chairs that have been placed all around campus seem to be in use all the time. Too bad they don't come in red brick.

Our student talent continues to amaze. Whether it is in athletic competition, on the stage, in musical performances, or our students are performing for Trinity Idol, Spotlight, or in the Trinitones and Acabellas.

Misses (things we didn't want)
The backlash against the Mabee Hall changes was actually a real surprise. The facility opened to rave reviews in its first week. The biggest complaint from students was that meals in this new format can't be taken as to-go food. From there, nearly every change was evaluated through critical eyes. But I would never take that personally.

Hosting Ward Churchill on campus was not a high point. He did bring attention to the issue of free speech, which sometimes gets confused with who has the loudest voice. Civility in general took a step backwards with the TU gossip Facebook and twitter pages. Anonymity creates for boldness among the weak.

The all-campus retreat day was scheduled during Austin City Limits, possibly affecting student attendance. Who knew...

Wild Dogs versus Feral Cats. Guess who wins. A blow to the heart of the Cat Alliance, which does great work on campus. Even if it is about cats.

Power outages related to construction were inconvenient to say the least. Perspective is a fickle lady.

The DVD kiosk in Coates never quite took off. The owners of the vending site cut their losses in late spring. Online seems the way to go...

Under the Radar
ASR worked hard on the mind-numbing task of bolstering the student activity fee. This will be really good for our students in the long run.

Edwin Blanton continues to put Trinity on the map as a Community Volunteer and for his work in continuing our tradition in being honored with the Presidential Community Service Award.

In case you don't know it, the Trinitonian is fantastic. Another great year for a very professional team. Shout out to the Mirage staff too!

Earth Week shows that a few care a lot about so much.

Hertz cars on campus, led by Hertz Girl Alana Ramos offer students transportation options without the expense and hassle of having their own cars on campus.

Tower lights, a personal pet project, are up and shining. Pink for Valentine's Day, green for St. Patty's day, blue/green for earth day, and more to follow.

Dave Mansen and Angela Breidenstein, the Alumni Sponsor and Class Marshal for the Class of 2012 will be the first duo to have seen the program all the way through. They have been terrific guides for our students from welcoming them on move-in day through the conclusion of their duties at commencement.

Big Hurts
The most gut wrenching loss of the year took place when junior Alex Reinis passed away while studying abroad in London on November 23, 2011. His wonderful friends and family have honored Alex and his memory in so many ways, including with the memorial near Miller Hall. He left a big void.

Catharine Found, senior volleyball player, lost her mom and sister within a month over the summer. The Trinity community embraced her warmly at a fall volleyball game where the team and campus honored Catharine with the Team Found tribute. Such a wonderful young woman who had to endure too much in a short period of time.

Yolanda from Mabee passed away this spring. She will be missed.

On the Horizon
ASR has hit the ground running. Under the leadership of Joe Moore and Sean Solis, the organization is looking to quickly build on the foundation set by this year's group.

Freshiis is tentatively slated to be opened as the Science Cafe in CSI sometime next year.

Hope Hall will launch and should serve as a model for living and learning communities. This one will combine academic, volunteer, and leadership components around the topic of homelessness.

Parking may finally get the attention it deserves under the new ASR.

The Skyline Room is slated for a summer renovation that should be a win for all stakeholders. Unless everyone hates it and sends me hundreds of emails about the massive failure that is my vision.

The strategic plan should come to some conclusion next year, as well as the proposed new curriculum. This should be exciting for our campus and shape our future significantly.

The Student Handbook will cease to exist. We have a new one. It is called the Internet.

Archives
Year Three
Year Two
Year One


Friday, March 30, 2012

Grieving Yolanda

Today, Yolanda Rengel, serving our students with love and care.
When a student emailed me last weekend about the death of ARAMARK worker Yolanda I was shocked. Shock gave way, quickly, to confusion: WHICH Yolanda? I emailed back but never received a response. Nor did I hear from my ARAMARK contact who was out-of-town. You can't grieve someone who has a 50% chance of being alive. You can grieve two people halfway though, which is what I did. I was in the dubious position of pulling for each of the two Yolanda's to be alive. It was a lose-lose situation.

The lovely Yolanda Hernandez passed away after succumbing to ongoing health issues. I enjoyed her a lot. She was always friendly to me. She liked to comment on my blog, what she read in the Trinitonian, and about my running with students. I was sad to finally learn of her passing and had no idea she had been so sick.

Yolanda Rengel lives. Of the two Yolanda's, she  was probably better known by students. Indeed, she was mentioned in the commencement address in May 2012 by speaker Daniel Lubetzky as one part of campus life students reflected on warmly as he researched his speech. That's saying something. It's the professors, and coaches, and a Dean or two who often get the attention. But many times it is the unsung members of the staff, quietly and cheerfully performing their duties, who often make huge differences in the day-to-day life of our students.

Yolanda's reputation is deserved. As she told me, "They are close friends," she says of students, "knowing they are so far away from home." It makes her feel good when students tell her that seeing her "makes their day." She is especially close to our student athletes, as she works concessions at all of the campus sporting events when not at her usual cashier post in Mabee Dining Hall.

Yolanda, 43, is no stranger to her own grief of late, having lost her husband on November 10 and her brother several weeks later. She is now raising her eight-year-old, Nicholas herself, though an older daughter has moved back in to help. Yolanda admits it is tough. It is when she gets home from work that she can let down her guard a bit. It's empty at home, she told me. But at work, with the students, she tries to keep a smile on her face and be the persona she has built with the students.

When I finally saw Yolanda early this week, after having learned she was the surviving one, I gave her a small hug and told her I was glad she was alive. I would have done the same for the other Yolanda. She offered a tearful smile. Apparently I wasn't the first to welcome her back from her demise. About a half dozen students had learned of Yolanda's passing, and either didn't know there were two, or as with me, didn't know which one passed away.

It's weird, she admits. "It's scary." She says it has given her goosebumps. Students were worried about her because after Yolanda passed away, this Yolanda was mostly working sporting events, and was away from her daytime Mabee post, fueling student fears.

After ten years here, Yolanda has built up quite a following. When alumni come back and see her "they say 'you're still here?' I tell them - I'm not going anywhere." After this past week, nothing sounds better.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Over time

Trinity was recognized in 1998 for 10 Spurs Nights
I was probably more forlorn about receiving this hard copy anonymous letter than I should have been. So I did what any mature person would do. (No, I didn't let it go.) I posted it on my Dean of Students Facebook page. I think the writer assumed I wasn't sitting with students at the Res Life sponsored Trinity Night at the Spurs game. Or should have made more tickets available. I actually didn't attend as the tickets sold out before I could buy mine.

I have a deep connection to the Trinity Night at the Spurs program, as I started it in 1989 - probably before my accuser was born. That first program was also met with unhappiness from a Trinitonian reviewer at the time. After 23 years and three arenas, I think the program is safe and sound. And maybe that's why this is one of those times I want to box out, if you will.

The first couple years of the program students paid $3 for tickets to games at the old Hemisfair Arena. I think the first three opponents we played were the Bucks, Hawks, and Cavaliers. I loved that old arena and the teams were not very good yet, but there was optimism on the horizon as the city awaited the arrival of David Robinson. The program board and Residence Halls Office planned a pre-game tailgate (hot dog, chips, and lemonade) and offered transportation to and from the arena. We rented double-decker buses and the Coyote even came to campus for the pre-game activities.

When the Spurs moved to the Alamodome the program reached its peak. One year we sold over 1,000 tickets at a cost of $5-$10. The upper deck of the Alamodome was opened for several games each year, allowing Trinity access to such a large block of nose-bleed seats. This also allowed us to sell tickets to the faculty and staff at the same discount. The Coyote (Tim Derk, a Trinity grad) was provided a different Trinity t-shirt each year that he would wear under his warm-up and then flash at mid-court at some point in the game. He would also come to the upper-deck to cheer on the Trinity crowd. The penultimate game was a 1999 nationally televised game against the Houston Rockets, won on a last-second Mario Elie three-pointer. Incidentally, that was the year the Spurs won their first of four titles.

I became a huge Spurs fan from the second I arrived in San Antonio in 1987. It was always important to me to find ways to share the Spurs love with our students. In the early years there were incentives for those who coordinated group sales. I still have an autographed ball from the first time I did the program. They also used to give lower level seats for a certain number of tickets sold. Those were always shared with the RAs who sold the most tickets.

Now, in the smaller AT&T Center, we can't get those mega groups. Gone are the days of bus transportation and tailgates (students wanted to just go on their own). We do a small fall and spring program when possible - selling around 200 tickets each time. That's the highest number we can get. To accommodate our fans from the Houston and Dallas areas, we try to schedule those teams when possible. it was dumb luck that we scheduled the New York Knicks - and Jeremy Lin - this spring. Residential Life sold the tickets and announced the sales through table tents, banners, LeeRoy and more.


So why someone called foul on me is beyond me, really. Over time, I have probably earned the privilege to some decent seats. But that isn't the point of the program. It's more about the thousands of students who have had access to see an exceptional franchise, in some great games, in some exciting venues. As we head into our 24th year of the program next year,that should be the focus. It will be for me - regardless of where I sit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Parked in Neutral: Does Anyone Care?

I am not in charge of parking. And frankly, I have never wanted to write about it. But when students are unhappy about things I do want them to come to me. This year I have heard from more students with parking concerns than in the past. This may be because of the limited parking to construction. It may also be because we stopped notifying students in the fall when we hosted community events - and the associated parking - on campus. That was done to reduce email clutter, but we have since resumed notifying students. But there doesn't seem to be any particularly good place to complain about parking on campus. That's because no one is in charge of parking, really - and no one wants to be.

TUPD, of course, is charged with formally managing parking through their Parking Services area. They do a terrific job. But just as Residential Life manages a residency requirement it doesn't own, TUPD is saddled with responding to parking concerns they don't control. Clearly they oversee traffic issues, issuing parking permits, and writing tickets. When it comes to enforcing parking policies, writing tickets is really done on behalf of those who have permits. When non-students park on campus students want them ticketed, which means our own students without permits will also be ticketed.

There is apathy from the staff and faculty about student parking. These groups are here to enlighten and broaden the minds of students, not worry about parking. Besides, most went to schools where parking was scarcer and cost more. I went to a school where you had to take a bus to the parking lot. Add to it our reasonable fees, generally enough availability, and decent proximity, and this issue just doesn't get traction. Plus, faculty don't always feel the love for students who park in their spaces.

The student worker in my office, Mai, researched some urban schools to see what students are paying elsewhere. (Here it's $73 per year.) That is similar to TCU in Forth Worth and Rollins in Orlando, and $20 less than Georgetown in DC. At American University, also in DC, students pay $988. Other annual rates include Wash U in St. Louis at $480, Marquette in Milwaukee is $452, SMU is $270, and on the higher end, Penn in Philly costs $1,725. Ouch. In Chicago at Northwestern, Loyola, and the University of Chicago, you can expect to pay about $500 per year or more. UT dorm garages are $743 per year and commuters pay $602.

Some commuting students are especially consumed by parking issues, particularly when outsiders take their spaces. The naturalization ceremonies here, as well of the hosting of schools for educational programs and commencements in Laurie Auditorium, are ways for us to be part of the community. We want to not be insular, but a handful of times each year there is a cost to breaking the bubble. It is important in terms of community relations. While they sometimes claim in exasperation that they pay $40K per year to park here, students, in reality, pay at most the $73 fee. But in paying their tuition they reason, convincingly, that they should be able to get to class.

For off-campus students, paying $38 a semester seems pretty reasonable. But students try to save money, and most days Alamo Stadium offers a free and convenient alternative. There was a piece about this in the Trinitonian this week and Pete Perez of TUPD did a nice job explaining that this is a privilege. In fact, use of the Alamo Stadium lot was painstakingly negotiated with the San Antonio Independent School District.  TUPD is in charge of making sure the lot is cleared by the agreed upon times. The arrangement allows for free, easy parking, but with a few restrictions (during football games and track meets). But it is their property, not ours.

Millsaps in Jackson and Rhodes in Memphis don't charge for parking. The costs are likely buried somewhere in the operating budget, but it does show there are different ways to do this. Where students do pay, such as here at Trinity, the revenue from permits and tickets goes, in part, to pay the people who give out the permits and tickets. So why do it? Well, it is more than that. Paving and striping lots comes from these revenues.

But we don't even know who should discuss such options here.

Perhaps as close as we come to having an entity that oversees traffic and parking is the committee, aptly named the Traffic and Parking Committee. That committee mainly hears ticket appeals. The committee has student, faculty, and staff representation. They probably don't want to be the heavies, though, when it comes to parking. Likewise, if ASR addresses parking with the administration they may get eye-rolling. But maybe the Faculty Senate, the Staff Engagement Committee, ASR, and the Traffic Committee need to come together to discuss issues and make recommendations, or at least decide to whom people should complain.

Again, I am happily not in charge of addressing campus parking concerns. No one is, it appears, and no one wants to be. It is a no-win, uninteresting, and tedious undertaking that makes people crazy. And there-in lies the problem.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

WWPD?

Paige. What would she do?
I was already starting to get a little uncomfortable with the ease of the off-color language at the recent Senior Roast. Then I saw Paige, a sophomore I know well, two people over. From what I know of her, I would assume she is more conservative with her language. But if she were at the microphone, would she talk this way? Would it be so natural and acceptable as it seemed to the roasters and the crowd? After all, the two ladies at the microphone seemed like Paige to me too. I had mostly seen them singing with the Acabellas, including many sweet songs, including Christmas Carols.

I am not judging by the way. At least I don’t think I am. I try not to be a big curser, especially in public, or in front of my kids. Or anyone’s kids. I regretted a phrase that resulted in being called out by a parent in a recent post, though I still maintain it was more figurative than literal. Something about a bird and flipping. And you can’t watch the Spurs and Packers as much as I do and not help but let a few bad words fly once in awhile. Plus, I don’t think of myself as prudish. I am not offended by foul language in films either, unless it is gratuitous. Which it usually is.

I love Jon Stewart and have no trouble with his swearing on The Daily Show. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t bleeped out, but actually, knowing what he is saying and not having to hear it just feels better to me. My favorite comedian, BrianRegan never curses. Tony Dungy may be one of the only non-cursing coaches ever to win a Super Bowl.

Some of my favorite people swear though. I won’t name the past and present administrators at Trinity who swear. Except for former VP Felicia Lee. She is a master of cursing and it seems hilarious coming from her. This brings up the first issue. Is there any relationship between swearing and character? Well, I don’t really think so. Some of my favorite people swear, including Felicia. But there are other favorites, such as Wanda Olson, who have never sworn in front of me. It would be really odd if she ever did. My wife doesn't swear, but she listens to hip-hop music that sends me straight to confession.

The second issue is about the setting. I recently watched a Conan O’Brien documentary and wasn’t surprised that he swore a lot. But I didn’t expect it based on his network persona. I guess in hindsight, I didn’t expect those angels from the Acabellas to swear either. But I shouldn’t be shocked. When it spills over into public settings though, I wonder why we should simply accept it. I first felt this way when my kids were little and we went to Trinity sporting events and students, in casual conversation, were dropping the f-bombs without any regard for the setting. I think every parent eventually faces their entrance into being a fuddy-duddy. This was mine. A student recently relayed to me that when hosting a prospective student and family in Mabee she had to apologize for the language being used the next table over. Have we lost awareness? Civility?

And finally, the issue settles on whether or not cursing is necessary. Swearing is so commonplace that it really holds no meaning for most people. It is used for emphasis and humor. But imagine Humphrey Bogart saying "Of all the f***ing gin joints in the world, that sl** walks into mine..." Sometimes there is more power without the bad language. I remember trying to explain to an old girlfriend's father that the language in films was just reflecting reality. He challenged me, asking, "is it really?" Needless to say I broke up with his daughter. But I see his wisdom now. It really is only reality if we make it that way. And it isn't everyone's.

As for Paige, I know her, from among other things, for being a member of my running group. One day during a run she turned to the side and spit like a major league baseball player. My goodness, I didn’t expect that. But why not? And it isn’t just because I can’t spit. (Which is very embarrassing, by the way.) I think of Paige as quite elegant and classy. Then I found out she was also teaching student Katie Ogawa to spit. Now that I expect. Does Paige swear like everyone else seems to?  In the end, I don’t think I really want to know. And I'm not sure that it really matters.

Weigh in on the poll, upper right.