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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.