October 28, 2014


Volume 9, Issue 17 – October 28, 2014


The Difficulty of Decision Making

The past few days were the hardest in my 34 years in higher education. As your president, my most keenly felt responsibility is the safety of our community.

As everyone knows, early last Thursday, someone posted a threat to commit suicide and kill others on our campus on an anonymous social media site called Yik Yak. The message was forwarded to the University Police by both staff and students who saw it, and I was notified soon thereafter. I discussed what to do with our Chief of Police, John Kaplan, and several others. Based on an analysis of the content of the message and several other factors, we decided that the threat, though very serious (i.e., it threatened something dangerous), wasn’t credible or imminent, and decided not to close the college at that point. We decided to contact the SUNY police and multiple other law enforcement agencies to get advice on how to proceed, and if any disagreed with what we were doing, to reconsider. We contacted Yik Yak to try to trace who had posted the message. We also decided that we needed to inform our community and sent out an email at 4:00 AM stating that a threat had been received, but that we didn’t think it was credible.

The Executive Cabinet met at 8:00 in the morning, was updated on what we knew so far, and then decided that the college should remain open. We decided to reconvene at 11:30 AM. We also decided that we should all do a walk around campus, both to show that we thought the campus was safe, and just to be sure we didn’t spot anything suspicious. Our residence hall staff did the same in their halls. Nothing was spotted and the students, faculty, and staff on campus were largely calm, though the number of students in class was down significantly. I contacted various offices at SUNY, telling them what was going on.

At 11:45 AM, we were notified that a second threatening message had been posted. The nature of the second message was different from the first (in ways that I won’t describe for reasons I’ll give below), and we decided to lock down the campus, immediately sending out messages on email and on NY Alert. The police on campus scoured the area, but nothing unusual was observed and no incidents were reported.

At 2:00 PM we decided to begin releasing people from the various academic buildings. Operating with an abundance of caution, teams of police were sent to each building in turn, first to search the building carefully, and then to escort the persons there either to their cars in the parking lots, or to the residence halls if they lived on campus. This was obviously a slow process, but by 5:00 PM, all academic buildings had been emptied. Again, no incidents were reported. During this period, we were joined by SUNY Police Commissioner Bruce McBride, who had driven up from Utica.

As we finished with the academic buildings, we began a room-by-room search of the residence halls, to make sure that all residential students were safe and could be accounted for. St. Lawrence University called, offering any assistance we needed. Since we knew that when we lifted the lockdown we would have lots of hungry students, we asked St. Lawrence’s food service if they could bring some easily transportable meals and assist the staff in Chaney Dining Hall to bring them to the residence halls. By 6:30, the residence halls had all been searched and cleared, and the lockdown was lifted soon thereafter. Food was delivered at 7:00 by Chaney and SLU personnel.

Throughout the lockdown process, we sent out updates by email, NY Alert, and on social media every hour. The Executive Cabinet was in constant meeting, reviewing all new information. When lockdown was lifted, we decided that it was safe for the campus to be open on Friday. Several news media reported what was happening and there were several reporters just off campus waiting for the lockdown to be lifted. At 7:20, we did a brief press conference. Afterwards, several of us walked down to the residence halls to make sure everyone had been fed and was feeling OK, and we were glad to see that everything was fine.

We then went to the University Police Office to thank the officers, both from our campus and from outside, for their fine work. My wife called at this point, totally unaware of what had been happening, and asked how my day had been. I told her I’d call her (she’s still in Georgia finishing up the selling of our house) when I got back home.

We decided to send out one last email for the day at 11:00 PM, expressing our thanks to the campus community for their patience and cooperation during the lockdown and thanking the many police agencies that had helped us, which included the Canton Village Police, the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police, Homeland Security Investigations, the F.B.I., and the Bureau of Criminal Investigations unit of the State Police in addition to our own University Police. We informed everyone that we believed the campus was safe and that classes would resume.

We were concerned that there might be more threat postings on Thursday night, but there weren’t. The Executive Cabinet met again at 8:00 on Friday morning, and were informed that there were no incidents to report. Classes proceeded as normal on Friday, with attendance down, but only by a little. We carefully reviewed the decisions we had made and the actions we took the previous day, to determine if there were any second thoughts or if we could have done anything better. Everyone thought we had gotten all the big decisions right, though there were a few small things that we’ll be looking at more closely.

The rest of the day was uneventful, with no incidents reported. A reporter from WWNY-TV interviewed me at 1:00 PM. We decided to have a series of open forums to update the campus on Monday, one for faculty, one for staff, and one for students.

On Saturday, I arrived at the University Police Office a little after 11 AM, where I was told that the person who had posted the threat had been caught, arraigned, and was now in federal custody. Our campus communication team was quickly assembled, and we sent out an announcement to the campus and to the media.


As you know, I strongly believe in open communication and sharing all information on our campus. The synopsis above only omits some details that could jeopardize the ongoing investigation, and any information that could be used by people who may wish to do similar things in the future.

A few questions have been asked pretty frequently, so I’ll try to address them here for those who couldn’t come to the open forums.

Why didn’t we shut down the campus immediately when the first threat was posted? As we informed the campus community, for various reasons all related to our threat assessment methods, we did not think that the threat was credible or imminent. A posting on Yik Yak has been described by others as having the same level of credibility as graffiti on a wall. While some may think that we should shut down the campus if there’s any possibility whatsoever of a threat, that’s a really bad idea for several reasons, of which I’ll only name a few. First, it could cause a panic that is much more dangerous than the threat itself. Second, if the threat were real, it could cause the perpetrator to move into action more quickly. Third, if we were to shut down the campus for any level of threat this time, it would establish a pattern of behavior where we’d have to do it every time there was any kind of threat, regardless of its credibility. The result would be much more frequent postings of threats (it would have worked, so we’d get more of it). This, in turn, would result in more frequent lockdowns or closings, which would begin to be ignored due to their frequency (as in the “boy who cried wolf”). If there were a real emergency, we would then be in even more serious danger. The path of greatest safety for everyone is to do a proper and thorough risk assessment and then act accordingly, neither over-reacting nor under-reacting. Sadly, no path exists that can absolutely guarantee everyone’s safety.

Why didn’t we take the first threat seriously? In fact, we took the threat extremely seriously. That’s why we took many actions, the most important of which was doing a thorough threat analysis. That’s why we called in help from the various police agencies, including Homeland Security Investigations and the F.B.I. That’s why we contacted Yik Yak to trace the person who posted the threat. There’s a big difference between taking a threat seriously and finding it to be credible.

Why didn’t we close the campus Friday, given that we hadn’t yet caught the person who posted the threat? The entirety of our actions on Thursday, including the continuous updating of our threat analysis, the absence of any incidents, and having thoroughly searched the campus, gave us confidence that our campus was safe. Staying closed until the perpetrator was caught would be a really bad idea for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is that some perpetrators are never caught. Following that standard, any unsolved major crime would cause the permanent closure of wherever that crime occurred. Further, it throws out the idea of making decisions based on a threat analysis, which (as stated above) provides the safest possible path forward.

Are we perfectly safe going forward? Sadly, no. We live in a world where bad things happen, as recent events in Ottawa make all too clear. There will always be a risk that bad things may happen. Each day, we will continue to monitor our situation, gather information, and carry out threat analyses. We will continue to respond accordingly. As your president, my greatest concern and most keenly felt responsibility is for the safety of our community. We are fortunate that we have an extremely effective University Police force, as well as a campus community that knows how to respond, and that combination results in the safest possible environment.


As I said at the beginning of this piece, the past few days were the hardest of my life. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for the support from the Executive Cabinet, our University Police, the various police agencies that provided us with invaluable assistance, and from our entire campus community.




Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word blue. Our winner was Christina Lesyk who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct included Melinda Miller, Rajiv Narula, Julie Parkman, Rhonda Rodriquez, Janel Smith, Patricia Todd, Crystal Simmons, Robin Gittings, Kari McCormick, “Mike Pinkrn” (I only have the email address), Marcia Sullivan-Marin, Chelsea Chase, and Carmela Young.

  1. Nursery rhyme boy that should come blow his horn. Little Boy Blue.
  2. Major US health insurance organization. Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
  3. Beautiful hamlet located in the Adirondacks, at the intersection of NY 28 and 30. Blue Mountain Lake.
  4. The bad guys in the Beatles animated movie Yellow Submarine. Blue Meanies.
  5. The Navy’s flight squadron, known for its aerial acrobatics. Blue Angels.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Staying with our theme of colors, this week’s questions all have to do with the word “gold”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Fairy tale character that spent some time with the three bears.
  2. It’s kept at Fort Knox, in Kentucky.
  3. Someone who marries only to get their spouse’s money.
  4. It happened in California between 1848 and 1855, starting at Sutter’s Mill.
  5. 1981 Movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, set in Squam Lake in New Hampshire!


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October 20, 2014


Volume 9, Issue 16 – October 20, 2014


Fun with Funeral Services Administration

They say that there’s nothing new under the sun, but last Tuesday, I did something for the first time—something that I had never thought about doing before. I joined the students in the Funeral Services Administration program to have them make a life mask of my face.

For those of you who don’t know what this involves, here’s what happens. First, you lie down on a table. Second, they put some petroleum jelly all over your face, especially on your sideburns, eyebrows, and anywhere else you have hair. Third, they put a rubbery green polymer over the petroleum jelly, being careful not to plug your nostrils. Fourth, they add a layer of plaster of Paris on top, again being careful not to plug your nostrils. Fifth, you have to wait for about 20 minutes for everything to dry. At various points, I was asked if everything was OK. Since my mouth was covered, I had to reply by giving a “thumbs up”. It was pretty weird breathing under the mask—I could breathe reasonably well, but the idea of my whole face being covered except for those two small holes was a bit disconcerting.

zvi mask1

Color pictures throughout this issue are by Greg Kie

When everything was dry, I could feel the life mask pulling away from my face. It was very easy for the student to remove in some places, but unfortunately, a big glob of plaster of Paris had gotten onto one of my sideburns and didn’t want to let go. Ultimately, Prof. Pennepent had to get a pair of scissors and cut it loose, taking most of the sideburn with it. The mask came out pretty well and they’re going to give me an impression of it, which will make a pretty strange present for my wife. After it was all over, I was all gunked up from the remaining petroleum jelly. I went to the restroom and tried to wipe and wash it off, but I felt sticky until I got home that night and took a long shower. Bottom line: between the Ice Bucket Challenge and this, no one can say I haven’t given my all for SUNY Canton!

 zvi mask1-2


Departmental Meetings

I’ve been meeting with a number of our departments and schools each week, just to get to know each other, hear what they have to say, and to answer any questions they might have.

On Tuesday, I met with the School of Business and Liberal Arts. The conversation touched on a number of points (my responses are in italics), which included:

  • Some questions related to the engaged/not engaged process that had just been completed. Would there be more such initiatives, and will the faculty have the opportunity to provide input to them? The engaged/not engaged process was time sensitive, since there is only one “start of the year” and not doing it when we did would mean having to wait a year. Any other such initiatives will be done via normal faculty processes with full faculty input. Why wasn’t the term “engaged” defined more specifically? We wanted the faculty to use their own best judgment as to which students were responding effectively in their classes. Since faculty assess in different ways, we thought it would be best to keep the term general. Will advisors get a list of advisees that were marked “unengaged” and by whom? Perhaps in the future. In this pilot stage, since faculty hadn’t agreed to share their engagement grades with anyone, we didn’t think it was appropriate to share them with either students or advisors. Students got an email that either said (in effect) “Congratulations—you were engaged in all your classes. Great start!”, or “You were indicated to be unengaged in one or more of your classes. Here are some support services that you might want to take advantage of.” What will be done with the engagement grades? We are tabulating the results and will compare them with student withdrawals and GPAs. We will see if there is a correlation between the engagement grades and future performance and retention.
  • An issue was raised regarding hiring terminally qualified business faculty vs. faculty with industry professional experience. This is a tough one, because while we are an applied college (and thus, industry professional experience is very important), we are also a college that believes in accreditation as the mark of program quality. We should probably move toward ACBSP accreditation in the near future, while looking at the desirability of moving toward AACSB accreditation in the long term. AACSB requires the majority of faculty to be AQ (academically qualified, in their terminology) or PQ (professionally qualified), which means that they have to have terminal degrees and/or publish.
  • It was noted that a number of the new degree possibilities that had been discussed would include significant elements from the Management program. Was this putting the Management faculty behind the 8-ball? Faculty in the relevant programs will decide which programs make the most sense to go forward with. Even if the faculty like them all, they wouldn’t all be done at once. Additional resources will be provided where appropriate.
  • A question was asked about how we’re going to apply the new tenure and promotion matrices to faculty already at the college. As discussed earlier with our colleagues in UUP, the matrices seek to paint a picture of what credentials a faculty member should have and what a faculty member should be doing in order to be promoted and/or get continuing appointment. They are not black letter law—they are what normally should be the case, but each case will be looked at individually and flexibility will be applied where appropriate.
  • A question was raised about the role of the Liberal Arts in the College’s future. A model that we were developing at my previous college was that of a comprehensive polytechnic—a college that would offer all degrees that you would expect to find at a state university, but all with a technological focus. I’d love to see us move in that direction at SUNY Canton. Specifically for the Humanities, this might involve development of a degree program in Technological Communication, something that was discussed with that department when we met two weeks ago.

Wednesday, it was the science faculty’s turn and we had a very pleasant lunchtime discussion. They wanted to know what kind of new programs I thought they might be able to develop. After discussing current course offerings within the department, we settled on two areas that might be productive to look at: Environmental Science (in the short term) and Biotechnology (in the longer term). Environmental Science would be the easier to implement, since many of the necessary courses are already being offered as part of other programs, and many of the needed labs already exist. For Biotechnology, we would need to develop more new courses and would need additional specialized laboratories. New equipment would also be needed and we discussed how we might be able to acquire it over time through corporate loans and donations, and through grant writing.


Burning Down the House

Last Thursday, there was a really interesting (and somewhat scary) demonstration held on campus about fire safety, sponsored by our Environmental Health and Safety Office. There were various events held throughout the day, but the most impressive was the controlled burning of a model dorm room, built for the occasion by students in the Wood Structures class. The model dorm room was about 10×10 feet in size, and contained a bed and various other things one might find in a typical student residence.

When an outside corner of it was set on fire, the smoke alarm went off immediately—well before any smoke could be seen. This clearly indicated the importance of having a properly working smoke alarm—by the time fire and smoke can be seen, conditions in the room are so dangerous that one may not be able to get out. Early warning is imperative. As the fire spread, the room wasn’t well lit (like on TV)—it quickly filled with smoke, making it almost impossible to escape. The temperature was high too—above 200F at floor level, rising to 800F near the ceiling. Members of the Canton volunteer Fire Department then put the fire out, but the damage was already done—everything in the room had been burnt to a crisp. The goal was to make our students more aware of fire safety and for them to avoid unsafe practices in their residence hall rooms.

After the dorm room demonstration, there was a fire extinguisher demonstration on how to properly put out a fire. After being informed of the right procedure, I took one of the extinguishers, pulled the pin and approached the fire slowly, spraying from side to side with each step, until the fire was out. You can read and watch videos about proper procedures all you want, but there’s nothing like a hands-on use of a fire extinguisher with a real fire to show you what has to be done.

zvi extinguisher

My deepest thanks to everyone who was involved in Fire Safety Day. Your work was critically important and may have saved some lives.


 Coakley Dedication

Later on Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the dedication of the Coakley Student-Athlete Study and Classroom in the CARC. It was great to meet Bill and Carol Coakley, Carol and Ronald Spadaccini, and Tom and Nellie Coakley; as well as their families through several generations, including some very sweet grandchildren, there for the occasion.

zvi - unveil-2

The Coakley family (owners of Coakley Carpet One Ace Hardware) have long been supporters of SUNY Canton. Robert J. Coakley (Tom, Bill, and Carol’s father) filled in as a Construction instructor in the College’s earlier days. Bill was the assistant men’s ice hockey coach for 15 years, during which time the team won numerous championships. Tom has been a member of the College’s Foundation Board of Directors since 1981, and with his wife Nellie, serves on the Service Members Advisory Board. Carol helped design the renovation of the Alumni House.

Also present at the dedication was SUNY Canton’s legendary hockey coach Terry Martin. It was a real thrill to meet him and to hear that he’s still actively involved in cheering our hockey teams on and helping recruit students for the program.

zvi - martin I gave a short speech talking about how there is a connection between athletic and academic success, with the skills needed for athletic success (teamwork, focus, practice) also being skills needed for academic success. Tom Coakley noted: “The relationship between athletics and academics has been absolutely crucial to the success of our family…For us, it was a natural fit to add our family name to a room that contributes to the academic success of student-athletes at SUNY Canton.”

New steel signage is now present on the exterior of the room and a ceremonial plaque hangs by the classroom door.


Living Writers

Later still on Thursday, I dashed over to the Miller Student Center to see the second installment of this year’s Living Writers series. Our guest was Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of the book “She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders”. The book is autobiographical, detailing her journey from being born male, struggling with her increasing realization that she wanted and needed to live as a female, and ultimately undergoing sexual reassignment surgery.


The event was very well attended, with the Theater totally filled by an attentive crowd of students and faculty (including a number from co-sponsor Clarkson University) and many people from the community. I had a chance to speak with Ms. Boylan before her talk, where I asked her if her book’s title had derived from the Zombies’ hit song of the same name. Indeed it had, and two of her other autobiographical books also have song-derived titles (“I’m Looking Through You” and “Stuck in the Middle with You”).

Boylan’s talk was really interesting and included two extended readings from “She’s Not There”. Right at the beginning, she began to sing a few lines from the Zombies’ song and when applause rang out at the end, she looked at me and said “You liked that, didn’t you?” The readings were witty and compelling, describing both her own struggle and the reaction of her family to her changing life. A portion of the talk described the wide range of different sexual identity choices falling under the label of transgender. She ended by taking a number of questions from the audience.

After the event, I joined a number of faculty and their families and friends for dinner with Ms. Boylan at First Crush, a nice bistro in Potsdam. The food and company were wonderful. I had a really nice conversation with several of the people there on topics ranging from the swing period of jazz to the rather interesting question of what it means to be a women’s college in today’s society, when gender is often seen as a fluid thing. Coincidentally, the New York Times took up the very same subject in Sunday’s newspaper. You can read this very interesting article, “When Women Become Men at Wellesley”, here.

The Living Writers series is quite a wonderful labor of love organized by Phil LaMarche of our Humanities Department. The logistics for this particular event were handled by Phil and by Emily Hamilton-Honey (also of the Humanities Department). My congratulations to both, as well as to the others who help support this series. Everyone in the audience thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d encourage everyone to attend the next Living Writers event, featuring short story writer Patrick Lawler, on November 19. You won’t be sorry.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word away. Our winner was Rajiv Narula who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct? This must have been a hard challenge, because there weren’t any! The closest runner up was Jamie Garrett (from SPSU) with four correct.

  1. If it’s not a home game. It’s an away game.
  2. Popular Christmas carol. Away in a Manger.
  3. What the Lone Ranger said as he rode off into the sunset. Hi-Yo Silver, Away.
  4. Lousy 2002 movie about a snooty socialite (Madonna) stranded on an island with a communist sailor (Adrianno Giannini). Swept Away.
  5. Phrase inscribed at the bottom of Jackie Gleason’s sarcophagus in Miami. And Away We Go.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Since some folks are feeling those mid-term blues, this week’s trivia contest has answers all associated with the word “blue”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Nursery rhyme boy that should come blow his horn.
  2. Major US health insurance organization.
  3. Beautiful hamlet located in the Adirondacks, at the intersection of NY 28 and 30.
  4. The bad guys in the Beatles animated movie Yellow Submarine.
  5. The Navy’s flight squadron, known for its aerial acrobatics.
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October 13, 2014


Volume 9, Issue 15 – October 13, 2014

Open Forum Coming Up

As a follow-up to the meeting we had with our colleagues on the leadership team of the UUP (see the previous BLAB for details), we will be cosponsoring a Faculty Open Forum on Wednesday, October 22 from 4:00-6:00 PM in the Theatre. The two main topics will be:

  • Discussion about the current Student Course Comment Instrument. It is my understanding that many faculty have issues with the current instrument. We’d like to give you an opportunity to raise those concerns, and to suggest what might be done to address them.
  • Discussion on possible implementation of a mentor or advocate program to help faculty through the reappointment/continuing appointment/promotion process. We’d like all of our faculty to fully understand R/CA/P process and to be able to put their best possible case forward.

I hope this Faculty Open Forum will be a good way of having collegial dialogue on these important issues. Assuming it is useful to all, we’ll have more in the future, and will solicit possible topics to be discussed. [Similarly, if there are issues of interest to our staff that would benefit from having such an Open Forum, let me know.] I hope to see you all there!


Time for a Diversion

During our last Deans Cabinet meeting, some of the Deans mentioned that folks were getting a little antsy due to lack of a fall break this year (we combined the fall break into Thanksgiving to give a week-long vacation then). Well—we can’t have that, can we? We decided we needed a cure—a Mid-Semester Diversion! What’s that, you ask? It’s a party to blow off a little steam and just have a good time. It will be on Thursday, October 16, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM and all faculty and staff are invited. There will be hors d’oeuvres and perhaps a bit more for the party. What bit more? Well, you’ll just have to come to find out. Please RSVP to youngm@canton.edu or call 7204 if you’re coming, so we’ll know how much food we’ll need.

Career Fair

SUNY Canton held a Career Fair last Tuesday, and by all measures it was a great success. The number of participating companies was so large that we held it in two different locations—one group met in the Miller Center (CC 212-214), and the other in the Auto Lab in Neveldine. I gave a brief welcome at both locations and had the pleasure of meeting with several of the companies that were present. In our chats, they all had the same thing to say—they were very happy with the Canton graduates that they had previously hired, finding them to be well educated and able to add value to the company right from the beginning, and that they were looking forward to hiring more of our graduates in the future. In fact, several of the companies had brought SUNY Canton graduates to staff their tables. The student turnout also was good to take advantage of the Fair.

Congratulations to Julie Parkman (Asst. Director of Career Services), Terri Clemmo (Career Services Office), and work study student Mackeba Campbell for their fine work on this event.

Bringing on the Band at Open House

Last Friday, SUNY Canton held its first Open House of the season. When I first got to Canton, I had discussed some of the things that we used to do at SPSU, where our open house was very cool indeed. Molly Mott heard that I had been part of a band called “Fridays at Five” that played at our open houses and related events, so she decided that we needed to do that here. So, we quickly put together a trio consisting of Lenore VanderZee (vocals, guitar), Dan Gagliardi (vocals, bass), and me (rhythm guitar) to play. We had a single rehearsal on Thursday afternoon, since that was the only time we could all get together, and it was “on with the show” on Friday morning.


l-r:  Lenore VanderZee, me, and Dan Gagliardi

The Open House began at 8:30 with the band playing while students and their parents went through registration and looked at some of the display tables. The band finished at about 9:15 and at about 10:00, I gave a welcome speech to the 250 or so people who had come. We had all decided to wear T-shirts while we played, so I when it was time for me to talk, I walked over to the podium in my T-shirt, put on a tie, put on a suit coat, and said: “Now I’m ready”, and launched into the talk. I spoke about the top reasons people go to college, and how SUNY Canton fits all of the reasons very well. I asked: “Is it possible for one college to fill the academic needs of every single student in this room? — YES! SUNY Canton can.” I ended by telling a funny story about a SUNY Canton graduate who died and went to heaven, but got an unfortunate surprise there. Want to hear the story? Come to the next Open House!

My talk was followed by Melissa Evans (Director of Admissions) giving out some prizes for the family that had come the farthest (Long Island), and giving a Canton T-shirt to a woman who had come in a Syracuse University shirt. The students were then dismissed by major, to speak with the faculty. There were several events in the afternoon that families could participate in, including getting their pictures taken with Rudy by the covered bridges.

It was a great event, and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it. Several people came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed themselves (including the band!), and others heard similar comments. Congratulations to Molly, Melissa, and the entire group from Admissions for all their hard work.

In case you’re wondering what the band’s name is, we don’t have one yet. Molly was calling us Open House Jive, but I know we can do better than that, so it’s time for a contest. The best suggestion will win a cool prize.

SEFA and SUNY Canton Foundation

We’ll soon be starting our annual campaign for contributions to SEFA (the State Employee Federated Appeal) and to the SUNY Canton Foundation. I’m told that our faculty and staff have been very generous over the past years, and that’s something to be very proud of.

SEFA benefits local, national, and international charitable organizations. If you gave $1 per pay period (which would be giving up a cup of coffee every two weeks), that would amount to an annual contribution of $26, which can do a tremendous amount of good. Obviously, if you can afford to give more, you should. If everyone at SUNY Canton participated, we would break all previous records.

Similarly, if everyone were to donate at least $1 per pay period to the Foundation, the money could be used to support scholarships for our students and other worthwhile endeavors that would make our College stronger. Lots of outside donors ask what the College’s participation rate is when they’re deciding who to support.

I’d like to challenge the campus to bring our participation rate up to 100% for both SEFA and for the Foundation.   Stay tuned for the official start up of the campaigns.

Flaming Leaves

On Saturday morning, Dave Gerlach (VP for Development) and I drove down to Lake Placid for the Flaming Leaves Festival, where SUNY Canton was holding an alumni event. The weather was a bit cold and wet, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the 200 or so alumni and their friends and family who came. SUNY Canton had a registration table at the Festival and we held drawings for some cool swag every hour, with the big prize being a pair of tickets to ride the bobsled.

During the Festival, I got to meet lots of alumni and hear what they and their families had been up to since graduating from Canton. During the Festival, there was a ski-jumping competition (no snow—they were doing their jumps onto a slippery artificial turf surface) which included several national champions.


There was lots of good food and beer at the Festival, and one of the vendors was staffed by lots of SUNY Canton volunteers from our Veterinary Science student organization.  This was another great alumni event, put on by Dave, Peggy Sue Lovato, Jamie Burgess, and Kelly Obermayer.   Excellent job!

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word home. Our winner was Lenor VanderZee who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct (and there were a lot of them!) included Jesse Clark-Stone, Bill Prigge (Asst. Dean for Administration at U. Tennessee College of Pharmacy), Alan Gabrielli (SPSU Director of UTeach), Rajiv Narula, Renee Campbell, Jamie Weber, Patricia Todd, Kathryn Kennedy, Rhonda Rodriguez, Janel Smith, Tiffany Dailey-Faulkner, Farren Lobdell, Anne Williams, Chelsea Chase, Jennifer Jones, Amanda Rowley, and DianeMarie Collins.

  1. Where the deer and the antelope play. Home on the range.
  2. A four-bag hit in baseball. Home run.
  3. Long running TV show starring Tim Allen. Home Improvement.
  4. 1990 Christmas movie with several sequels. The original starred Macaulay Culkin. Home Alone.
  5. What Dorothy learned at the end of the Wizard of Oz. “There’s No Place Like Home.”


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Just to keep things balanced, this week’s trivia contest has answers all associated with the word “away”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. If it’s not a home game.
  2. Popular Christmas carol.
  3. What the Lone Ranger said as he rode off into the sunset.
  4. Lousy 2002 movie about a snooty socialite (Madonna) stranded on an island with a communist sailor (Adrianno Giannini).
  5. Phrase inscribed at the bottom of Jackie Gleason’s sarcophagus in Miami.
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October 6, 2014


Volume 9, Issue 14 – October 6, 2014


Reunion Time

As mentioned in the last BLAB, Jill (my wife) and Mark (my son) came up for a visit after us being separated for almost three months while she was getting the house in Georgia ready to sell. They got here on the 24th, and left earlier today.

It’s been a great visit in many ways. First, the weather more than cooperated—it has been beautiful almost every day, with temperatures from the high 60’s to the high 70’s and sunshine almost every day. Saturday was intermittently rainy, but we also had beautiful rainbows as the sun set.


Second, they got a chance to meet lots of people in Canton, all of whom they found to be wonderful and friendly. Molly Mott (Dean of Academic Support Services and Instructional Technologies) was especially kind, showing them around and taking Mark to see the shelter animals in our Veterinary Technology program, which he especially enjoyed. The folks at the synagogue were also very welcoming, all wanting to meet Jill and Mark. Sylvia, at Josie’s Pizza, gave Mark a “welcome” pizza (he likes pizza with no sauce) that had him wanting to eat there every night. He also loved the Game Stop in Massena, the Wal-Mart on the way to Potsdam, and the local McDonalds and Dollar General store.

Third, we had lots of nice events on and off campus for them to enjoy, more about which below. We had dinner with the Alpha Theta Gamma fraternity, enjoyed High Holiday services at Temple Beth El, and went to several Homecoming Weekend activities. They met lots of students, all of whom were extremely welcoming. Finally, they both really liked the new house.

All in all, Jill and Mark have discovered that Canton is a wonderful place to live, and that they can really enjoy life in a small town. They’ll be back in Georgia for a few weeks to finish things up, and plans are for them to move here permanently in late November. My biggest personal thanks to everyone who was so kind and friendly to them this past week—you’re all the best.


 Selfie of Jill and Me


Greek Life

As mentioned above, last Tuesday, Courtney Bish, Amanda Deckert, Jill, Mark, and I had dinner with the brothers of Alpha Theta Gamma fraternity at their house on Court Street. The Alphas are SUNY Canton’s oldest fraternity, being founded in 1909. I had been to their house in July, getting the grand tour of their rooms, rooftop patios, and basement party room. They’ve put a lot of sweat into the place and it looks quite good, though they tell me that there’s still a fair bit to do. It’s a big old house that was formerly owned by James Payson, who was one of the founding fathers of the college, working there for 22 years. He was the Director [which was the highest ranking position at the time] from 1917-1918. The house, obtained by the fraternity in 1946, still has the hitching post on the side, as well as the stepping stones in the front that were used to get down off horses.


The dinner was very nice, consisting of chicken, baked potatoes, and salad. One of the brothers did the cooking, and I think he has a great future in the hospitality industry if he wants to go in that direction, because it was delicious. Jill thought the place was very cool, and Mark especially liked their big screen TV.

Later in the week on Thursday, I met with the Greek Council. They were having their regular business meeting, so I got to hear about some events they were planning. I said a few words about all the positive things fraternities and sororities can add to a campus, so long as they keep things under reasonable control. We all like to have fun, but it has to be responsible fun. They asked me if I had ever belonged to a fraternity (no—fraternities existed, but weren’t very big at WPI when I was an undergrad) and was I familiar with Greek organizations on my previous campuses (yes—my graduate school, the University of South Carolina had very strong fraternities and sororities that did lots of good things on campus, and SPSU had some good (though relatively small) Greek organizations as well). I wound up my remarks by telling them that since I’ve never belonged to a fraternity or sorority, I was available to be recruited. We’ll see if any of them take me up on it.


More Pictures and Interviews

Last week saw several interviews with the local press.

The Watertown Daily Times talked to me and the other North Country SUNY presidents about Governor Cuomo’s new statewide policy proposal to combat sexual assaults on campus. The Governor had met with the SUNY Board of Regents, who voted to establish the policies across the SUNY system. He will also work to get the policies adopted at the private colleges in the state. In my weekly blog to the students, I had written about a policy known as “Yes Means Yes”, meaning you can only engage in sexual activity with a partner when they had said “yes”, and that only a sober individual can say “yes”. Governor Cuomo’s policy was also a “Yes Means Yes” policy. You can read about my own support for the Governor’s policy in the Watertown Daily Times article here.

As loyal readers of the BLAB will already be aware, I had represented the SUNY presidents at a news conference earlier this summer where New York’s Senator Gillibrand had announced a Senate bill designed to support victims of sexual violence on campuses. Also last week, President Obama had announced a program to publicize the fight against sexual violence on campuses called “It’s On Us”. SUNY Canton is participating in the “It’s On Us” campaign through social media and by sponsoring a selfie contest on this theme. It’s a very good thing when SUNY, our governor, our senator, and our president all are speaking with one voice on this important issue.

On Tuesday, I was interviewed on Yes-FM in Ogdensburg about being a new president, what has changed at universities and what my plans were for the college. If you have nothing better to do, you may want to see the YouTube video of the interview, below.



Meeting with Labor

On Monday, September 29, I had my first official Labor/Management meeting. Unlike my previous campuses, SUNY Canton is unionized. Way back in the day when I was earning money for college working at Greyhound, I was a union member of Amalgamated Transit. Salary and benefits were much better at Greyhound than they were at non-union bus companies located in the same terminal in Syracuse, and I was very appreciative of that! Of course, I also had to pay union dues, but it was well worth it. That had been pretty much the totality of my union experience, so I was looking at this meeting with some level of anticipation. Still, I’ve always believed that everyone, union or not, wants the same thing—a place at the table where their concerns would be seriously listened to and considered.   My view is that everyone is entitled to that.

I believe that the Union will be sending out their minutes from the meeting. I’d like to say a few words about some of the issues that came up just to amplify a few points. The first few items were requests for information about enrollment and the budget. I suggested that in the future (beginning this month), we would be happy to make a report on these items at the Faculty Assembly, and that this should be a regular occurrence. There was general agreement that this would be a good idea. The timeliness of responses to reappointments, promotions, and salary increase requests was brought up, noting that in some (hopefully) rare cases, this had taken six months. We committed to a two week turnaround at each level, unless otherwise specified in the contract.

Perhaps the “biggest” issue discussed was a change that had been made last year regarding student course comments. Before, tenured faculty could opt out of doing student course comments (though few actually did, because most faculty find them useful and want to know what their students are thinking). The procedure was changed to that tenured faculty had to provide a compelling reason to opt out. The Union felt that this was a unilateral change, and it should have been negotiated. We had a fairly lengthy discussion about this, with me arguing that student course comments provide valuable information that pretty much every faculty member needs. There were several concerns raised about the student course comments instrument, and that it asked questions that students were in no position to answer. It was pointed out that only a handful of tenured faculty had opted out, and that there were other remedies in those circumstances—the president can call for a Section-12 Review in cases that seem particularly of concern. We agreed to go back to the previous policy (tenured faculty can opt out), with us strongly encouraging tenured faculty to participate and monitoring the response rate. If the fraction opting out increases, we agreed we would take the issue up again.

The meeting went very well, from my point of view and I hope the Union’s. Our union colleagues expressed their views in a clear and straightforward manner, and made many reasonable points.   When I asked several questions, I got answers that I found to be clear and accurate. Our union colleagues listened to my point of view, as well as that of other administrators, and I believe we had a genuine dialogue.

We plan on holding an open forum in the near future to discuss the student course comment form, and perhaps some other issues related to the reappointment, promotion, and continuing appointment process.


Friday and Saturday were Homecoming weekend. I wanted to attend all the events, but couldn’t due to Homecoming overlapping almost exactly with Yom Kippur, one of the Jewish high holidays. Jill, Mark, and I went to the synagogue on Friday night and Saturday day but then ended our fast after sundown at the Homecoming Weekend buffet (great food, and was I hungry!) and then went to the Canton’s Got Talent show.

The show began with the crowning of our Homecoming King and Queen, Vernon Hicks and Nafie Cisse. [The following three pictures are all by Greg Kie.]

King, Queen and Zvi

This was followed by all sorts of cool acts—some singing, some dancing, some poetry, and some rap. In between, there was a lot of humor by the emcees.

GammasGo Gammas!

In the middle of the show, all the attendees participated in the launch of SUNY Canton’s “It’s On Us” publicity campaign.

itsonusThe event was extremely well attended, with some 400-500 people there, all having a good time. It was a most enjoyable evening, and the ‘Roo Royalty T-shirts were very cool! There’s no doubt about it—Canton does have talent!

After the show, we went over to Miller Student Center to see the cardboard village assembled by the Habitat for Humanity student organization. It was great to see so many students involved with the critically important issue of homelessness. I was pleased to here that our students had been involved over the years in building multiple homes all over the country. Special thanks to JoAnne and Will Fassinger, the advisors to the group, for their fine work.



Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word college or campus. Our winner was Jesse Clarke-Stone who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct included Carmela Young and Patricia Todd.

  1. Games are played in the fall, usually on Saturday. College football or College bowl.
  2. What BMOC stands for. Big Man on Campus.
  3. Giving it a strong attempt. Giving it the Ol’ College Try.
  4. Movie starring John Belushi, set at fictional Faber College. Animal House.
  5. “Boola Boola”, and “The Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech”. College Fight (or Drinking) Songs.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Since Jill and Mark will be making their new home in Canton, this week’s trivia contest has answers all associated with the word “home”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Where the deer and the antelope play.
  2. A four-bag hit in baseball.
  3. Long running TV show starring Tim Allen.
  4. 1990 Christmas movie with several sequels. The original starred Macaulay Culkin.
  5. What Dorothy learned at the end of the Wizard of Oz.
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September 29, 2014


Volume 9, Issue 13 – September 29, 2014


A Short One This Week

Between the Jewish High Holidays, unpacking, and my wife and son trying to come up to Canton, it’s been an incredibly busy week. As a result, this week’s BLAB is going to be relatively short.

As mentioned in last week’s BLAB, the moving van carrying the first batch of my belongings arrived on Monday. Much of Tuesday and Wednesday was spent unpacking. I decided to start with the Jazz CDs, and I had three large bookshelves, each of which hold some 1000 discs, ready to move the discs into. The shifting is made somewhat complicated by the fact that I put the discs in the boxes alphabetically, but the earlier discs are therefore at the bottom of the box and the later ones therefore have to be taken out first. Also, the main group of discs are in one set of boxes, but the ones I had upstairs (because I had run out of room downstairs) were in a separate set of boxes, and I wanted to merge them together. Many boxes later, I had totally filled two of the bookshelves and half the third, and only gotten up to the letter “I” in the alphabet. I’m not sure how far I’ll actually be able to get before having to go into another room—I don’t think all the Jazz will fit in one place!

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, started Wednesday night. It’s the beginning of a month of holidays of various levels of importance, including two of the most important, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement—a day on which you do a total fast). My parents and I went to the synagogue in Potsdam for services, which were led by a visiting rabbi from San Francisco and a Cantor who was a graduate of the Crane School of Music at Potsdam, but now lives in New Hampshire. The evening services were very nice, with a larger turnout than normally comes to the synagogue, including several students from SUNY Potsdam. Services continued on Thursday morning. Morning services are much longer than those in the evening—they started at 9:45 AM and didn’t finish until about 1:00 PM. We were going to go back for the Tashlich (forgiveness) services at 4:00, but instead, I got a pleasant surprise.

Jill (my wife) and Mark (my son) were supposed to come up on Sunday, September 21. Mark wouldn’t get on the plane, so they had to go back home. I called the airline and they were kind enough to reschedule them onto a flight on Thursday afternoon. This time, Mark wouldn’t even go to the airport. I resigned myself to having to drive down to get them over Thanksgiving, but to my surprise, Jill called at 2:00 and said Mark had decided to go after all, and could I try to rebook them later that night? Amazingly, I got right through when I called Delta and they were able to rebook them onto the 8:50PM flight to Syracuse.

I held off driving to Syracuse until Jill called around 7:00 PM and said that they had gone through security and all was fine. I got in the car at 8:00 and drove down to the airport, getting there at 10:30. The flight came in on time at 11:10 and we picked up the baggage and drove back to Canton, getting in at 2:30 AM. Needless to say, we zonked out completely at this point, and didn’t wake up until 10:00 AM.

After eating breakfast, I showed Jill and Mark the Alumni House, and then drove out to our new house. My father had a good time showing the place off to them, and fortunately, Jill really liked it—she had only seen it in pictures to this point. Friday evening it was back to the synagogue for Sabbath services, followed by morning services on Saturday. Everyone was happy to meet Jill and Mark, and they enjoyed meeting the other members of the congregation. Saturday’s services were followed by a lunch, after which we made a stop at the Wal-Mart (Mark needed to buy some DVDs after all) and then went to the Remington Arts Festival in the park.

The Festival was great—within one minute of arriving, we ran into three people we had seen at the synagogue, and multiple others from SUNY Canton. Lenore VanderZee and Camilla Ammirati were playing and singing (see last week’s BLAB for a short review of a concert they were part of last week), the weather was as gorgeous as is possible, and there were lots of stands of attractive local crafts for sale. We looked through the displays and then walked over to the ice cream stand. The line was mighty long, since most folks figured that we wouldn’t be getting weather this nice anytime soon, so they should take advantage of it and get some ice cream. Since it was so late in the season, the stand was down to just four flavors of hard ice cream and only vanilla soft serve. Since any kind of ice cream is good, we still indulged. We walked back through the Festival, visited a bit more, listened to Lenore and Camilla sing a request from me (a song Camilla had written that I really like called “Catbird”), and went back to the Alumni House. Later, we went to Ogdensburg to see the waterfront and have dinner at the Little Italy to close out the day.

photo 8

We took Sunday easy, but at 5:00, Jill, Mark and I went to the welcome reception for the new faculty for all four associated colleges here in the North Country. The reception was held at the St. Lawrence Brewery here in Canton, and there was a huge turnout. I guess the old expression is true—“If you brew it, they will come.” The beer was excellent, as were the various munchies, and it was a pleasure to meet the new faculty from the other colleges (several of whom I had already met in other ways), as well as to see our own new faculty again.




Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word holiday. Our winner was Renee Campbell who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct included Rajiv Narula and Virginia Bennett.  Here are the correct answers:


  1. Annual football game played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. Holiday Bowl.
  2. Classic movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, also a chain of motels. Holiday Inn.
  3. Song sung by Lindsey Buckingham, it was featured in the movie “National Lampoon Vacation” and is now the Chicago Blackhawks victory song. Holiday Road.
  4. Audrey Hepburn movie set in Italy, it’s one of the best romantic comedy films ever. Roman Holiday.
  5. Largest touring company of professional skaters. Holiday on Ice.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s trivia contest has answers all associated with the words “college” or in one case, “campus” As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Games are played in the fall, usually on Saturday.
  2. What BMOC stands for.
  3. Giving it a strong attempt.
  4. Movie starring John Belushi, set at fictional Faber College.
  5. “Boola Boola”, and “The Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech”.


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September 22, 2014


Volume 9, Issue 12 – September 22, 2014


New House

Friday a week ago, we closed on our new house in Canton, NY. About half my stuff from Georgia arrived today, including the comic books, CD’s, DVD’s, and various other things I collect. It’s been tough being without them, but not quite as tough as I thought it would due to how fully booked my time is.  Unfortunately, the moving van was so high, when he pulled forward on our street, he took down a major branch from one of our trees and split the trunk.  We’ll have to see if the tree can be saved.

When you live in a small town, everyone knows everyone and everyone knows their house too. The house we bought had only one previous set of owners: John and Shirley Wells. John was the head of SUNY Canton’s Construction Management program for many years and was a master craftsman. The house shows it everywhere you look. Several times a day, someone asks me if we’ve settled in yet. When I tell them we just closed on a house, they want to know where it is. When I tell them “Judson Street Road” (no, I don’t know why it is both a street and a road), they all say “You mean the Wells house?” When I answer yes, they say either “Oh—I love that house” or “That’s my dream house”. I’ve heard those things over and over.

photo 1

The house is a pretty red cape with a breezeway/porch to an attached two-car garage. The driveway is made of red brick pavers, perfectly laid out by hand. Going into the garage, there’s a set of pull down stairs that leads to a large overhead storage area, more than high enough to stand up in, with a finished floor. The back of the garage doors are a work of art, made of beautiful stained wood. They were the first thing that struck me about the house—who bothers to make the back of a garage door attractive? Well, John Wells did.

Walking in the breezeway door, you find yourself in a little hallway. Right in front of you there’s a set of pegs in the wall to hang jackets or hats, as well as a stained glass window, shared with the kitchen on the other side. There’s also a set of wooden drawers in the wall, to hold mail or keys or what have you. To the left of the door, there’s a small cedar coat closet.

Walking down the hallway, you come to a door with a knocker on it. Inside, you go down one step to the master bedroom, which has two large closets, taking up one wall. There’s a small bay window on the other side, with a lovely wood inside ledge. The third wall has an alcove with a large mirror. Adjacent to the master bedroom there’s a bathroom with a whirlpool tub as well as a laundry room with hookups for a washer and dryer and a sink. The laundry room has an outside door, so collectively, the master bedroom/bathroom/washroom make up an in-law suite. My parents are going to live with us during the warm months, so this will be their place.

Going back through the hallway, directly in front of the breezeway door is the kitchen. It has red formica countertops which my father likes, though I’m thinking we might replace them with granite. I’ll let my wife cast the deciding vote on that. There’s a double sink, an electric range (which both Jill and my father prefer to gas), and a refrigerator. There’s also a built in half-hutch in the corner.   There are beautiful wooden cabinets along the left wall and the wall with the sink. I’m not talking about the thin pressboard sort of wood you often find today—this is beautifully finished solid wood. Also on the left wall is a walk-in lighted pantry, with nicely cut inside shelves going around its perimeter. The wall with the sink has an opening, lined on the outside with stained glass, serving as a pass-through window to the next room, which we call the solarium.

photo 2

One long wall of the solarium has a built in bookcase at one end, a built in hutch at the other, and a bricked wall area in between with a very nice woodstove. Right next to the woodstove is a small door, behind which is a wood storage area (there’s a door on the opposite side of the storage area to load it from). Above the woodstove/bricked area is a large mantle, where I’ll put a big-screen HDTV. The other two walls of the solarium have rows of windows to the back yard. There’s also a set of sliding doors to the yard. Each of the windows and the doors have beautiful pull-down accordion shades. The ceiling of the solarium is arched with wooden ribs, and there’s a high mantle on two walls for knick-knacks.

To the left of the breezeway door, there’s a small hallway that goes to a room that could either be used as a bedroom or as a bonus room. I’m going to make it a music listening room. Again, there’s a small bay window with an inside ledge. There’s also a door to the cellar, which is quite large, but unfinished. We’ll probably finish at least part of it in the next few weeks. Also along the hall is a half-bathroom and another closet.

Opposite that hallway is the dining room. The first thing you notice is the beautiful wide-plank hand-pegged floor, which is just magnificent. There’s an antique glass lamp hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room. Along the long wall, there is a set of built in long drawers for dishes or linens, with a row of apothecary drawers above them. There are also two built-in corner hutches.


Going through the dining room, you come to the front hallway and the front door. There’s a coat closet to the left of the front door, a stairway going up to the second floor (which has three steps up straight, a small landing, three steps up to the right, a small landing, and six steps up straight) with a beautiful banister. There’s another cedar closet to the right of the steps.

Continuing through the front hallway, you enter the living room. The interior long wall is all wood, with a beautiful fireplace in the center. There are windows on the two opposite shorter walls, and another bay window and ledge on the outside long wall.

Upstairs, there is a large bedroom with a fireplace (which will be Jill and my bedroom), a smaller bedroom for Mark, and a small bedroom which will serve as my office. All have nice wooden floors. The office bedroom has a nice long cedar closet along its long wall, and a little closet opposite it. There’s a door in the back of the room that leads to a walk through cedar closet.

Walking through the closet, there’s a door on the opposite side, which leads you into a storage room, behind which is another storage room. We’re going to get a door cut through the far wall, because that will connect that storage room with the storage area above the garage.

The most amazing thing about the house is that there’s yet another door on the left side of the first storage room. If you go through it, you come to a 14×20’ beautiful all wood paneled room, with a large platform along the inside long wall, with shelves along the whole length all the way up. The chimney and a wood stove are in the middle, and there are windows on the other two walls. We call this room “the man cave”, and everyone who’s seen it has been staggered. There’s also a fairly steep stairway to another room downstairs, which is used for wood storage and also encloses the house’s well.

photo 3

The house also has a beautiful front lawn, and nice backyard, and a huge side yard to the right—big enough for a football field. Once we get the first half of our stuff unboxed, we’ll have an open house or a party and invite everyone by for a look see. It’ll still be only partly done, since the other half of my stuff from Georgia, including much of the furniture, will be coming up a few weeks later.


And Speaking of Beautiful Homes…

Other than my own beautiful house, I had the pleasure of attending three events this past week in really beautiful homes.

Last Saturday (the 13th), I drove to Morristown to the annual party given by Preston Carlisle, a friend of the College. President Kennedy, the former president at SUNY Canton, had attended every year during his presidency, so I had a legacy to live up to.   The house was simply gorgeous, with beautiful landscaping all around and terrific views of the St. Lawrence River along its long axis. Especially impressive was the boat house, which not only has beautiful river views but also projects out onto the river, so that the river actually runs under it. The party was wonderful and I met lots of new friends. Preston took the time to introduce me to several people, and also gave me a personal tour of the boathouse. Who did I see there? President Kennedy and his wife, who therefore still hasn’t missed one of his parties.

On Thursday afternoon, I drove up to Hogansburg (a little past Massena) for an alumni gathering at Gil White’s (’68) house. The house sits at the end of a small peninsula. You drive in through a set of gates, just like you would for a house in Hollywood. The grounds are beautiful, with fantastic views of the St. Lawrence River. The house itself is impressive, with a bedroom with three walk-in closets, with sliders out to an outdoor patio overlooking the river. There’s a large kitchen and bar area, as well as a dining area and a beautiful living room with great river views. There is a projection room that would make any movie mogul happy, with seating for eight. Perhaps the most fun space in the house is a 1950’s room, complete with bar area, jukebox, men’s and ladies rooms, old fashioned slot machines, Elvis Presley gold records, and lots more.

Foundation Reception September 18, 2014-2The party was really nice and I had a chance to meet several alumni and their spouses, several of whom are also on the SUNY Canton Foundation. President Kennedy and his wife were also there, and we had some fun toasting each other.

On Saturday evening, I attended a potluck party way out in Hermon. The party was at a beautiful two-story house with big windows all around, made of natural wood. The first floor was open-concept, heated with a large adobe oven. There was an inside garden and about 20 chairs laid out to listen to a musical performance. I love houses that are reflective of the personality and interests of their owners and this was a really interesting one.

The potluck (delicious food!) was followed by a performance by a quartet of bluegrass performers, consisting of two from SUNY Canton (Lenore VanderZee on guitar/vocals and Rosemary Philips on mandolin/vocals), one from St. Lawrence University (Catherine Jahncke on bass and guitar), and one from the TAUNY Center (Camilla Ammirati on banjo/guitar/vocals). The group sang a number of old bluegrass and country songs, as well as some original compositions by Camilla. The group was absolutely wonderful, and I’d recommend that they do some recording immediately—I’d buy a cd by them anytime.



Some Events from Last Week

Last week was filled with an interesting range of meetings, and I’ll provide a recap of a few of them.

I had the chance to meet with the faculty from two of our departments—Mathematics on Tuesday morning and Criminal Justice on Wednesday afternoon. The math faculty wanted to talk about MATH 106, College Algebra. They had run some test sections of MATH 106 with four contact hours of meetings (it’s still a 3 credit course), and the student success rate (% of students getting an A, B, or C) shot up to almost 75% from well below 50% the old way. Math 106 is a critical gateway course that has hitherto been a bottleneck for students in many of our degree programs. As is the case at many colleges, students had real problems passing it, resulting in the low success rates. The math faculty wanted to know if I would support making the course four contact hours permanently. I plan on bringing this to the next Deans Council meeting to make sure there’s support for this, but at first blush, it seems like a really good idea. While any class would probably benefit from the extra time, the difficulty most students have with math makes investing some resources in this area a sound proposition.

The Criminal Justice faculty wanted to discuss a proposal to convert their program from BTech to BS degrees. Since the current BTech programs were attracting students and were of high quality, they asked: “why change them?” Conversion to a BS would allow for more liberal arts in the degree, giving students a broader and more flexible background, which would provide more context for what they are learning. In order to stay under the 120 credit hour cap, though, some of the technical courses in the major would have to go, or become part of a basket of courses that students could choose among. After some discussion, we all agreed that it might be desirable to offer both the BTech and a BS version of the Criminal Justice degree, as both had attractive features and the addition of the BS would engender almost no costs, since all the courses in it would likely already be being offered. The department will generate a draft version of the new degree to submit to the faculty by November.

I also met with the CO and the XC of the Associated College’s ROTC chapter on Tuesday. They described the program, which is largely based at Clarkson University but has students in it from Clarkson, Potsdam, St. Lawrence, and Canton. It sounds like a great program, and they will be doing some of their physical education work on our campus in the near future.

Also on Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting and giving a welcome to our international students for a reception and dinner. About 40 of the 50 international students were there, and I met folks from Canada, China, Gambia, Latvia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and Venezuela there. We talked about a lot of things, but quickly moved on to the most important thing of all—soccer! Of course, the Canadian and Latvian students argued it was hockey, so I’m going to have to acquire that taste in the near future.

After the reception, I had to dash off to Clarkson University because I was being interviewed by Donna Seymour (from the St. Lawrence branch of the American Association of University Women) for a Cable TV show they produce called North Country Matters. The interview was quite enjoyable, and those of you with insomnia can cure it by watching the video below.

Wednesday, I served as a judge at a business communications course taught by Dr. Fenner. He had given the students a Kobayashi Maru scenario (a nod to Star Trek—this is a test given to Star Fleet cadets to see how they’d handle an impossible situation) regarding a pharmaceutical company that manufactured a profitable drug that was found to likely cause 40-50 deaths per year by the FDA, and was in line to be banned. The students had to decide what to do, write a press release, and then take questions from reporters (him, me, Greg Kie, and J.D. Delong). It was interesting to see how the students reacted to the questions—some were quite poised and handled themselves well, whereas others could have used a bit more practice.

Also on Wednesday, I was interviewed by a reporter for NNY Business, followed by speaking with the students at the SGA Senate Meeting. After the meeting with the CJ faculty, I dashed home for a bite of dinner, and then back to campus for the big event of the week.

At seven that evening, I went to Heritage Hall, one of our residence halls, for the 2014 Foosball Tournament! In each of the six residence halls, they had held a tournament to identify the top student team. They got to participate in the tournament, taking on a team composed of their dorm director and me. Student teams that beat me and their RA won a green T-shirt that said “I beat Prez Szafran—Foosball Tournament 2014”, with a picture of a foosball man (with my face!) in the middle.



So how did the old man do? My record was a respectable 3 wins and 3 losses. Two of the losses were pretty close too, though I have to admit that one student team (made up of two of our soccer players) pretty much blew us out of the water. It was lots of fun, and the student winners should wear their T-shirts proudly!




Friday morning featured the Foundation Board meeting. I gave an update that was similar to the State of the College Address. The Foundation is doing well and does a splendid job in supporting the College, especially in the critical area of scholarships. At noon, the annual scholarship luncheon was held, with the largest number of participants every—over 350. It was a pleasure to meet former interim president Robert Fraser (he served in between presidents MacArthur and Kennedy), and to see so many alumni, scholarship donors, and well-dressed students.

In the afternoon, the Executive Cabinet met. Some of the items discussed included how we might increase support for faculty development, and starting a review of some of our administrative policies toward students.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word cool. Our winner was Alan Gabrielli from SPSU, who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct included Sean O’Brien, and Terri Clemmo. Lot’s of folks got one or another of them wrong this week. Here are the correct answers:

  1. Stop! Take it easy! Cool it! or Cool your jets!
  2. Slang for “jail”. The cooler.
  3. Vegetable-based phrase meaning “in complete control of his emotions”.   Cool as a cucumber.
  4. Movie where the sheriff told Paul Newman, the lead character, that they were having “a failure to communicate”. Cool Hand Luke.
  5. Classic jazz album by Miles Davis, featuring recordings by his nonet from 1949 and 1950. Birth of the Cool.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Since the holidays of Rosh Hashana, Eid al-Adha, Columbus Day, and Diwali are almost upon us, this week’s trivia contest has answers all associated with the word “holiday”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Annual football game played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.
  2. Classic movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, also a chain of motels.
  3. Song sung by Lindsey Buckingham, it was featured in the movie “National Lampoon Vacation” and is now the Chicago Blackhawks victory song.
  4. Audrey Hepburn movie set in Italy, it’s one of the best romantic comedy films ever.
  5. Largest touring company of professional skaters.
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September 15, 2014


Volume 9, Issue 11 – September 15, 2014


This ‘n’ That

A college president’s life is filled with meetings, taking up more than half the time in an average week. Some meetings are with groups (Deans Council, Executive Council, College Council), others are with individual faculty, staff, or students who want to discuss something that is affecting them, and some are to meet people from the community who might want to work (or who we might want to work) with the College in one capacity or another. This past week was no exception. Here are some highlights.


Monday began with a meeting with SUNY Canton’s UUP President and Vice President, who wanted to talk about some changes that had been made in the faculty evaluation process and on the forms that we use. Changes in these areas tend to be closely scrutinized, since they affect faculty in very important ways—how they are evaluated, promoted, and tenured. The particular changes had been made before I came to Canton, and involved a policy requiring faculty with continuing appointments to provide a compelling reason if they didn’t want to participate in student evaluations, and involved the new departmental matrices that indicate what is expected for promotion and tenure. After some discussion, we collectively decided that we will hold an Open Forum for faculty to be able to discuss all issues related to evaluation, promotion, and continuing appointment. I’m sure we’ll have a vigorous discussion, and hopefully will come to consensus on key issues. We’ll then take appropriate action and make any necessary changes so that we’ll wind up with a process that we can all stand behind.

Later in the day, I met with the Faculty Senate’s Continuing Appointment Appeals Committee. President Hoffman had suggested that they broaden their scope to include making recommendations on all matters related to Promotion and Continuing Appointment. Two particular issues came up. The first, once again, had to do with the new departmental matrices, specifically, what was to be the process for making changes in them? After some discussion, we decided that the Committee would draft some legislation on this for consideration by the Senate, who would then forward a recommendation to me.

The other issue had to do with how to distribute discretionary salary funds when the College gets them from SUNY. Once again, we decided that the Committee draft some legislation, after getting input from both faculty and non-faculty professionals who are eligible to receive such funds. The legislation would then be considered by an expanded Faculty Senate, inviting the non-faculty professionals to participate.  The final recommendation would be made to me as well. The only proviso that I gave the committee was to not recommend that the funds be equally distributed across the board. My opinion here is that since the funds are discretionary, we need to come up with criteria of what should be rewarded and how it should be evaluated. Across-the-board awards are by definition non-discretionary.

Tuesday began with my first meeting with the College Council. The College Council is essentially a Board of Trustees for the College, whose charge is to make sure we’re moving in appropriate directions and to raise any issues of concern. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with several of its members in one-on-one meetings earlier in the year, and know about the deep care and affection they have for our College. The main topic on the agenda was for me and several others in the campus leadership to update the Council on what had been happening for the past few months, and to let them know about some of the new directions we were planning to go in. Something I hadn’t quite expected was that several of the Council’s members said that they were aware of many of the updates, since they read THE WEEKLY BLAB! Anyway, the upshot of the meeting was that we concluded that SUNY Canton was in an excellent position to move forward, and that we all had confidence in our leadership team and in our faculty and staff to accomplish our ambitious goals.

This was followed by a meeting of the Foundation’s Audit Committee, which has a charge of ensuring that the College Foundation’s financials are in order. We reviewed the recent outside audit, which gave the College Foundation a clean bill of health. The audit was then recommended for approval at the next Foundation Board Meeting, which is on September 19.

The Deans Cabinet met later in the day. Among the issues taken up was international programs, and some measures we are taking to increase the number of international students at SUNY Canton. A former colleague of mine, Dr. Raj Sashti, will be on campus this week talking to faculty and staff about how we might expand our international programs, including assisting faculty to get Fulbright grants, developing summer programs, recruiting students from Brazil, and making SUNY Canton more of an international hub for the North Country. Raj is a nice guy with an excellent track record of accomplishment, and is doing this for us on a pro bono basis. I hope you’ll all have a chance to meet him. The Deans Cabinet also discussed Wave 2 of the Open SUNY online initiative (we’re participating and have submitted several of our online programs for inclusion), and how we might simplify the math leveling process used in admissions decisions.

On Wednesday morning at 8:00, I met with the St. Lawrence County Workforce Investment Board for the first time. As its name implies, the WIB is focused on improving job skills and opportunities for people in the county. The main topic of the discussion was recent changes in the Federal Act providing funding for these efforts.

At 9:30, I met with the Foundation’s Finance and Investment Committee. We received a report on how the Foundation’s assets are invested, how those investments are balanced, and what the returns have been. The Committee concluded that we are receiving a good return on our investments, and that things are going well. This will also be reported at the September 19 Foundation Board Meeting.

At noon, I hopped into the car and took off for Albany for a meeting of all the SUNY presidents. The trip was pleasant and uneventful, especially since I figured out how to use the car’s cruise control. I checked into the Holiday Inn Express, which is located really close to SUNY Central, and is thus really convenient. The meeting began with a reception and dinner, held in the former federal courthouse which has been given to SUNY and beautifully rehabbed. About 45 of the 64 presidents were there. Since we were seated by geographic region, I was at the table with the various SUNY presidents from the North Country. After a nice dinner, we were all asked to introduce ourselves, say how long we had served as president, and give a sound bite about how our College supported “systemness”—a phrase meaning working together with the rest of SUNY as a system. We were also asked to give some input into how the SUNY system helps us as individual Colleges, and what the system might do better. It probably won’t surprise anyone to know that the top issues were to communicate better and sooner, before decisions were already made. The one bad thing that took place at the party was that I asked Kristin Esterberg, the president of SUNY Potsdam, if she knew what the score had been in the Canton-Potsdam men’s soccer match. She checked, and they had beaten us 4-0. Oh well, we’ll get ‘em next time.

Thursday, we had various meetings on some major issues affecting the system, including Start-Up New York (which we’re approved for, and have started to work with some companies for) and Open SUNY. I had been asked to say a few words about my views on online education, so I spoke about converged instruction (when a course is offered simultaneously in multiple modalities, allowing students to switch back and forth) and how SUNY Canton has been a leader in online degree offerings. An interesting statistic is that 75% of students surveyed see no significant difference between the quality of online and face-to-face courses. Another was that most students are unaware that tuition is much lower for online courses through SUNY than it is for the University of Phoenix and other pure online providers. Both indicate that there are some opportunities for us. The meeting broke up at about 1:00. I got the car and drove home to Canton. The weather looked a bit threatening, but it never got worse than a few sprinkles, and I got home about 6:00.

On Friday, the big event was closing on a house in Canton. I’m now the proud owner of the former Wells House on Judson Street Road, which has a strong connection with the College. More on the house in the next issue. Now I’m waiting for my furniture to come up, in two phases. When we get settled, I’ll have an open house.


No Comments on Pre-Testing?

In last week’s BLAB, I wrote an opinion piece on an article that appeared in the New York Times on pre-testing. I was interested in hearing any SUNY Canton faculty views on the subject, but the only person I heard from was a faculty member from SPSU. So, I’ll ask again—I’d like to hear from our faculty about what they think of pretesting, and if they’ve ever tried it in their classes. Use the “Leave a Comment” box at the bottom of the blog. C’mon—I know you’ve got some thoughts about this…


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word rain. Our winner was Rhonda Rodriguez. Others getting all five right included:  Misty York, Carmela Young, Laura Richards, Anne WIlliams, Renee Campbell, Janet Livingston, Melinda Miller, Rajiv Narula, and my sister, Drorit Szafran.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. It precedes “Come Again Some Other Day”. Rain, rain, go away.
  2. Someone stupid forgets to do this. Come in out of the rain or Save for a rainy day.
  3. According to both Longfellow and the Ink Spots, “Into Each Life” this happens. Some rain must fall.
  4. What always gets the Carpenters down. Rainy Days and Mondays.
  5. Movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise about Charlie Babbit’s savant brother, Raymond. Rain Man.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Staying with our weather theme a little bit longer, things have turned cool as of late. Thus, this week’s trivia contest has answers all associated with the word “cool”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Stop! Take it easy!
  2. Slang for “jail”.
  3. Vegetable-based phrase meaning “in complete control of his emotions”.
  4. Movie where the sheriff told Paul Newman, the lead character, that they were having “a failure to communicate”.
  5. Classic jazz album by Miles Davis, featuring recordings by his nonet from 1949 and 1950.
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