November 18, 2015


Volume 10, Issue 12–November 18, 2015



Looking Good in Admissions…

Admissions for next fall at SUNY Canton are looking quite healthy at this point, with applications running well ahead of last year—freshman applicants are up 10.7%, and transfers up 30.4%.  While we have to keep pushing because it’s still early in the game, the attendance at the open houses has been excellent and the prospective students seem very interested in what we offer.  As you can see below, the most recent open house (last Friday) was packed!


Our admissions staff does an outstanding job of recruiting and hosting students.  Our many thanks to all in the admissions area.



Meet the President!

No, not me—he’s met me before.  But last week on November 5, SUNY Canton student Brayden White, a member of the Akwesasne St. Regis Mohawk Nation (Bear Clan), served as a youth delegate at the 7th annual White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., and took part in a panel discussion with President Barack Obama.


Braden is the fourth from the left.

It all happened very quickly—Braden heard about the opportunity, applied, and was selected.  He flew down to Washington, staying with a relative who lives there.  “The President was very laid-back,” said Braden.  “He’s always so serious on television, but when I met him, we even talked about basketball.”  Braden was one of 24 native youth delegates to attend the conference, and was chosen by the White House to be on a panel to discuss issues with the President.

During the panel, Braden asked President Obama how his administration intends to work with tribal education departments to empower low-income Native Americans to pursue a college degree.  President Obama pledged to work on better communicating federal grant and student loan opportunities to high schools through a collaboration with the Depts. of Education and of the Interior and local school districts. 

The panel was a part of a conference where leaders from 567 federally recognized tribes met with government officials and the White House Council on Native American Affairs. The conference aimed to strengthen relationships with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes.

Braden says that the food was terrific, with people hovering around to make sure everyone had everything they needed.  When it was time to shake hands with the President, Obama leaned in and gave everyone a hug.  This was actually the second time Braden met one of the Obamas—the first was this past summer, when he met First Lady Michelle Obama at the President’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative.




Meet Another President

On November 7th, it was time to get on the road and go to Lincoln, IL for the inauguration of David Gerlach as the new president at Lincoln College.  Dave was the Vice President for Advancement at SUNY Canton for many years, and served the College in many other positions before that, ranging from being in charge of admissions, resident life, and athletics at various times, to his humble beginnings as the guy who filled up the milk dispensers at Chaney way back when he was a student.  In all, he worked at SUNY Canton for more than 30 years.

After a reception for the Children’s Museum on Saturday evening at SUNY Potsdam’s president Kristin Esterberg’s house, I dropped Jill and Mark off at home and drove up to Ottawa.  I was spending the night there because my flight to Chicago took off at 6:30 AM.  I talked the folks at the hotel into letting me leave my car there, and at 4:15 AM took the hotel shuttle to the airport.  When I tried to check onto my flight, the kiosk read “see agent”.  When I went to speak to her, she asked for my passport.  I gave her my enhanced New York driver’s license, and she said “You can’t get on the plane with that—you need a passport.”  I asked if there was anything I could do, and she said “No”.  So, I asked when the next flight was (10:30 AM, but you’d have to be at the airport by 9:30 AM), asked if they could change me onto it (they did), and I called the shuttle to take me back to the hotel, got in my car, and drove back to Canton.

After I crossed the international bridge back into Ogdensburg, I called Jill to find my passport and be waiting at the door with it.  She was, and I took the passport, kissed her goodbye and drove back to Ottawa.  I got to the airport at about 7:30 AM, went through immigration (they do US immigration in Ottawa—weird!), and asked the customs agent why my enhanced license wasn’t good on a flight.  “It was,” he said.  “That’s not what the airline told me,” I replied.  His supervisor then came by and confirmed that what the airline had said was right, but I felt a little better since I wasn’t the only person who didn’t know that.  I had enough time to eat a little breakfast, and at 10:30, was on the flight to Chicago.

The flight was fine and even landed a little early, at 11:15 AM.  I ran out of the airport, caught the rental car shuttle, got my car, and was on the road before 11:45 AM.  It’s a long way to Lincoln from Chicago—173 miles—most of it on ultra-boring I-55, which at least has a speed limit of 70.  I was probably doing a little better than that, because I reached Lincoln at 2:07, just a hair late for the inauguration.  I walked into the theatre where the ceremony was being held, took an empty seat, and found myself sitting next to Michael Perry and his daughter Katy, who in turn were sitting next to Lisa, Dave Gerlach’s wife.

The ceremony was wonderful, and both Dave and his principle speaker, our former president Joseph Kennedy, did a fine job with their speeches.  Other SUNY Canton folks at the inauguration included Anne Williams (and her husband Greg), and Dale Major (and his wife Shelley).  Musical interludes were provided by the college chorus, and there was a nice reception afterwards with punch and cake.  Everyone was amazed that I had made it, given my travel complications.

That evening, I was invited to dinner at Dave’s house, which is the college’s president’s house.  The house is quite old and beautiful, with lots of big formal rooms, but also lots of very cool nooks and crannies.  Dave and I had a good time going through it floor by floor and imagining things one could do with various spaces.  I’m sure Dave and Lisa will have a great time putting their own touches on it.

Dave is having a great time at Lincoln College, and from all appearances and comments, is doing a great job as president.  The students already seem to love him and appreciate the changes he is bringing to the college.


After a nice dinner and conversation with Dave and Lisa’s families, I went to the hotel, and hit the pillow early.  The next morning, it was up at 4:00 to leave by 4:30 AM, to try to hit Chicago before the traffic got too bad.  Sure enough, when I got to Chicago, it was  bumper to bumper, but I was able to drop off the car and get to O’Hare airport by 8:30 for my 10:30 flight.

It was a good thing that I had some time, because when I got to the ticket counter, the folks at Delta told me that I had no value left on my ticket—the folks at United had used the return flight to pay for the later flight the previous day.  I went over to the United counter, where they told me I should have known they would do that, since I had a ticket that couldn’t be changed.  I pointed out that they had changed the ticket, and should have told me they were going to use my return flight to pay for it.  The agent said “You should have read the rules.”  I said, “Are you kidding?  There are like 900 pages of rules.”  The agent smiled, said “That’s true…” and then reestablished my ticket.  I went back to Delta, and fortunately they still had seats on the flights I needed, so at 4:00 PM, I was back in Ottawa after changing planes in Detroit.  I hopped in the car, drove back to Canton yet again, and was home by 6:00 PM.



Cross-Country National Champion!

SUNY Canton first-year student Àine McMorrow closed out her rookie season in thrilling fashion as she finished in first place out of the 120-runner field on Friday at the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) National Championships, hosted by Florida College.


Àine covered the 6-kilometer course in 23:34, a full 25 seconds faster than any other runner in the field, to earn SUNY Canton’s first cross country individual national champion. She joins Zach Meade as the only other ‘Roo to earn a national championship (he won the 2014 USCAA Golf national title).

Keara Byrne was the second SUNY Canton runner to cross the line in 46th place (28:03), Jess Nagy the 3rd  ‘Roo in 70th place (30:03), Schnyia Petteys was the 4th Roo in 79th place (31:27), while Kim McCarthy was the 5th, finishing in 82nd place (31:49).

On the men’s side Brandon McCreery led the ‘Roos, finishing 46th (31:20) over the 8-kilometer course.  Luke Ducharme was the 2nd ‘Roo in 77th place (33:25), Matt Fortin in 90th place (34:29), Shawn Deibel 4th for the team in 95th place (34:59), and Ryan Teal 5th for the ‘Roos in 109th place (38:12).

Patti Carpenter and Rachel Youngers were named to the 2015 USCAA All-Academic Team for being sophomore standing or older and carrying a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.



Other Sports News


In other news from SUNY Canton’s student athletes, Hannah Christiansen was recognized as a First Team Academic All-District 3 honoree by the Division III College Sports Information Directors of America.  She is now under consideration for the Women’s Soccer Academic All-America honors as well.  Hannah is a Funeral Services Administration major and has a 3.95 gpa.




SUNY Canton also hosted the USCAA Women’s Volleyball national championship once again, with its annual banquet held on November 4.  It was a pleasure to be there at the banquet.

Six of our student athletes were honored at the banquet.  Morgan Bills and Robyn Carroll were named USCAA First Team All-Americans, and Kelsy Cornish was named as a Second Team all American.  Morgan averaged 3.41 kills per set while hitting .389 on 669 attempts this season. She ranks second in the USCAA in hitting percentage and fifth in kills per set. She posted a career-high 23 kills with just two errors and a .488 hitting percentage in a thrilling five set win v. Alfred State College on October 25th.  Robyn has been a force defensively for the Roos posting double digit digs in 29 of the Roo’s matches. She was named the USCAA Player of the Week on October 13th and ranks third in the USCAA in total digs (620).  Kelsy led the team with 336 kills averaging 2.78 per set. She has also been equally effective defensive posting 342 digs, 1st in the USCAA in total digs. She is a two-time USCAA Player of the Week earning the honor on September 8th and September 22nd.

Also honored were the four members of the Women’s Volleyball team who were named to the USCAA All Academic Team:  Kiana Archer, Lindsay Bryer, Jenea Shoemaker, and Kelsy Cornish.  Each had a cumulative gpa of 3.5 or higher.


During the nationals, the ‘Roos split on the first day, losing to Carlow University in the opener (25-15, 19-25, 15-17) and beating Berea College (25-22, 25-21).  On day two, they bested New Hampshire Technical College (25-14, 25-14), but lost to Rochester College (18-25, 25-21, 15-17) in an incredibly tight final.  They were eliminated in the quarterfinals after losing to St. Mary of the Woods in a five-game thriller.  The team’s achievements are even more remarkable when considering they played the entire tournament without First-Team All-American Morgan Bills, due to injury, and lost Jenea Shoemaker to an injury during the match with St. Mary’s.  Congratulations to all!



Art at Canton

On Thursday (November 12), the GMMD program had its annual Juried Art Show at the library.  You can still see it—the artwork will be up for a number of weeks.  It was great seeing how artistic so many of our students are—there were excellent drawings, paintings, photographs, sculptures, and videos.  I had a chance to meet most of the award winners, including my own personal favorite, Katelynn Gebo, who had created a beautiful portrait on her computer, winning an Honorable Mention.


Congratulations to all the faculty and students participating—it was a great show!




Congratulations also to SUNY Canton sorority Delta Sigma Tau for the classy and moving way they supported the anti-racism efforts at the University of Missouri, by reading a solidarity statement (that they will share with the students in Missouri), and then holding a silent march around campus.  It was an honor to march with them.





Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt songs with words starting with the letter “c”. Our winner was  Terri Clemmo.  Your prize can be picked up from my office.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. It keeps vampires away. A Cross.
  2. In the song, it “came back, the very next day.” The Cat.
  3. Eniac was the first electronic, general purpose one.  Computer.
  4. Mythical creature with only one eye.  Cyclops.
  5. Car that was unsafe at any speed, according to Ralph Nader.  Corvair.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “f”.  The first five winners win a CD, DVD, or whatever else I come up with from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates or good stuff I want to get rid of.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Don’t let it guard your henhouse.
  2. Its capital is Tallahassee.
  3. Movie monster played by Boris Karloff, it was from a book by Mary Shelley.
  4. Lots of people have plastic lawn ornaments of these pink birds.
  5. High bouncing material invented by Fred MacMurray in two Disney movies (or later, by Robin Williams in a third movie).


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November 6, 2015


Volume 10, Issue 11–November 6, 2015



November in the North Country

It’s hard to believe that November is here and that the temperature is supposed to hit 70 today once again.  In response to lots of comments I have received, yes, I am responsible for bringing this up from Georgia.  And yes, you’re welcome.

More seriously, the warm temperatures are supposedly the result of a strong El Nino current in the Pacific, which will result in more rain for California (good!) and warmer temperatures and less snow for us (even better!).  We’ll see if it actually works out that way—it seems that every long term weather prediction turns out to be very wrong.  Except when it’s not.


Semper Paratus

Our own Brian Harte shared a copy of “The Eastwind”, the official publication of the 9th District Eastern Region of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, with me.  The Eastwind is a rather interesting publication, and I mean to more than just those in the Coast Guard.  This particular issue also had an article on winter on an ice cutter, a short piece on Jack Dempsey (one of the most famous boxers of all time) and his role in the Coast Guard during World War II.

The most interesting article, however, was written by Brian himself, about a new flotilla detachment of the Coast Guard Auxiliary being formed at SUNY Canton, as part of the Auxiliary University Program.  Students get a chance to gain education in nautical, aviation, operational training, and homeland security areas.  We’re the 20th AUP established nationally, and possibly the first in New York.  Known as the Spearhead Detachment, the unit provides an opportunity to gain leadership skills while performing safety patrols, teaching boating safety, and conduction vessel safety checks for the public.  Students who participate in this program (which is free!) can also participate in internships and apply for officer candidate school opportunities.  The unit has 22 student members, and Brian is the Unit Officer.

What’s more, Auxiliary Flotilla 092-01-01 (the one Brian is in, which is based in Massena NY) just earned the Coast Guard’s Meritorious Team Commendation, for its “exceptionally meritorious service from August 2014 through March 2015” in establishing the flotilla detachment at SUNY Canton.  The commendation ended by noting: “The detachment effectively bolstered Flotilla 092-01-01’s roster by 147 percent and reflects great credit upon U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Coast Guard.”  Congratulations to Brian, and our 22 student members!  By the way, semper paratus is Latin for “always ready”.


Game Jam!

On October 23rd and 24th, SUNY Canton’s English Department participated as a base camp in the Global Game Jam.  The jam lasted over 15 hours (all evening Friday and all day Saturday) and was held in the Library. Participating students built mobile games in a GPS-based mobile media game platform called ARIS (Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling).

Game Jam (build in ARIS)

They also, as you might expect, ate lots of pizza and bagels, and interacted (on a video platform called Blue Jean) with base camps all over the world that were building games at the same time.  SUNY Canton’s Game Jam was organized by Laini Kavaloski, a new faculty member in our English/Humanities Department, and Kelly Woosely from IT.


South African Exchange

Last week, SUNY Canton hosted Dean Maurice Ndege, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology at Vaal University of Technology. Vaal UT has 16,000 students, studying in the areas of applied and computer science, engineering and technology, humanities, and management sciences, and is located in Vanderbijlpark, about 50 miles south of Johannesburg, and home to the major iron and steel industry in South Africa.  Vaal UT is part of the South African Technology Network (SATN), which also includes Cape Peninsula UT in Cape Town, Central UT in Bloemfontein, Durban UT in Durban, Tshwane UT in Pretoria, Mangosuthu UT in Durban, and the Polytechnic of Namibia in Windhoek, Namibia.


L-R:  J.D. DeLong, Molly Mott, Maurice Ndege, Mike Newtown, Doug Scheidt, me, and Ken Erickson

Dean Ndege was here to explore some possibilities about Vaal UT partnering with SUNY Canton, including conducting joint research, faculty exchange, and student exchange.  Our goal is to explore exchanging 5-10 students per year in engineering and technology, opening up a fascinating study abroad option for our students.  The meetings went very well, and we will be investigating next steps.


Terminal Degree Lunch

Something new we’ve started is to have an annual lunch for people on campus who are pursuing advanced degrees.  This was a tradition inaugurated by President Rossbacher on my previous campus, so I decided to bring it up north, and we had the first on on October 27th.  There were more than 20 people there, each of which told what degree they were pursuing and why, and how far they had gotten.  I also asked what the College could do to make their path a little smoother.  The most common answer was to allow for some release time, especially toward the end of the degree.  We’ll see what we can do to help.


Around the World

A little later on the 27th, I was one of the judges (with Doug Scheidt, Molly Mott, and Maurice Ndege) for the All Around the World event, where students decorated various spaces on campus to resemble other countries.  Some were more elaborate than others, with students dressed in costumes from those countries, and most even served appropriate food.  Countries represented included Senegal, Jamaica, Greece, Romania, China, Japan, and one other that I’m afraid I’ve forgotten.  It was lots of fun to go around from one to another, and it was tough to pick the winner.  The really hard part was to eat dinner after nibbling at all of the exhibits.



Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt songs with colors in their names. The fastest winner was Debbie Flack.  Other winners include Terri Clemmo, DianeMarie Collins, Alan Gabrielli (from SPSU), Greg Kie, and Rebecca Blackmon.   All win prizes that can be picked up from my office.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Beatles song about an underwater vehicle. Yellow Submarine.
  2. Song about Elvis’ footwear. Blue Suede Shoes.
  3. Prince song about precipitation. Purple Rain.
  4. Fats Domino found his thrill there. Blueberry Hill.
  5. Van Morrison remembers when he used to sing sha-la-la with her. Brown-eyed Girl.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “c”.  The first five winners win a CD, DVD, or whatever else I come up with from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates or good stuff I want to get rid of.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. It keeps vampires away.
  2. In the song, it “came back, the very next day.”
  3. Eniac was the first electronic, general purpose one.
  4. Mythical creature with only one eye.
  5. Car that was unsafe at any speed, according to Ralph Nader.


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October 27, 2015


Volume 10, Issue 10–October 27, 2015


Back to Back

This is the time of year that everything gets backed up.  No one wants to schedule anything around Thanksgiving, and Christmas comes soon after that.  As a result, the end of October and the beginning of November are the weeks when everything happens all at once, and it’s a struggle to get it all to fit in.  Fortunately, I have the intrepid Michaela Young working with me to make it all happen as smoothly as humanly possible, and she does a fantastic job.


On Campus…

There’s been a lot going on.  On Tuesday, October 13, we had the Fall Career Fair on our campus.  As usual, it was so large, it needed two spaces to hold it—in the Campus Center, and in the Automotive Lab in Neveldine.  I dropped in at both locations, and the businesses visiting were all happy to be there and all wanted to hire our graduates.  It’s always great to hear from companies that have hired our students because that’s the true mark of success—have the students been well prepared for their chosen avocations?  The universal answer I get when I talk to our visitors is “Yes—your graduates are great.  You need to produce more of them, because we ant to hire more.”  Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to make the Fair happen.


Speaking of graduates, that evening, I had dinner with Ken Stanton (Class of ’97).  Ken graduated with a degree in Engineering Science and went on to Clarkson for his B.S. in Engineering and to Virginia Polytechnic Institute for his Ph.D. in Engineering Education.  He has helped design some cool engines, taught at Colorado State, and now runs his own business out there.  When I asked Ken what he attributed his success to, he answered “the foundation I got at SUNY Canton”—a response I hear all the time from our alumni.  I spoke to Ken about our proposed Mechatronics Engineering program, and also talked about how he might be part of it in the future.

On October 14th, we tried something new—instead of the wine and cheese receptions we had been doing the past few years, we switched to P3—Pizza with the president, provost, and presiding officer of the faculty.  We tried to keep what P3 stood for secret for a while, but by the time we held it, everyone knew.  We had a decent turnout of about 15, and had a chance to enjoy each other’s company, eat some good pizza, and then discuss some issues of concern (such as the need for expanded facilities for GMMD and for Physics; that the Automotive program would like to expand, but is maxed out in its facilities; and that some faculty though we need a break between the start of classes and Thanksgiving).  On the latter topic, hey—we had a discussion and vote on that last year, with the majority deciding to leave things as they were.  There is a way to keep the week-long Thanksgiving and still have a short spring break by starting two days earlier.  If folks want to take that one up again, we can certainly look at it.

After the P3, I went home to get Jill and Mark and we came back to campus to participate in the Diverse Discussion “Integration & Culture Shock”.  It was a pleasure to talk with many of our international students and to hear how well they were reacting to our American ways, and if they felt welcomed on campus.  They all commented on how friendly they found our campus environment to be, and how this friendliness (in some cases) contradicted the stereotype they had back home that Americans were standoffish.  We talked about what they missed from home and what they liked over here, and told stories about strange occurrences we had all encountered when traveling.  Jill and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and are looking to more opportunities to interact with our international students

On Thursday night (October 15), I went to SUNY Potsdam for the St. Lawrence County Democratic Dinner.  As a state employee, I can only attend political events as president if I’m comped, which I was.  It was nice to see several friends there, including Tony Collins (president of Clarkson) and June O’Neill (Chair of SUNY Potsdam’s College Council and wife of Ron O’Neill, our own College Council Chair).  The event was very interesting, and both SUNY Canton and Clarkson got a few shout-outs during the remarks.  A few weeks ago, I was sorry to miss the St. Lawrence County Republican Dinner due to a schedule conflict, but I hope to attend next year.

I had to leave the dinner a little early, because the next morning, I had to come back to SUNY Potsdam again for Chemtoberfest, an annual celebration of chemistry they put on for middle, and high school students.  I gave a short talk on sources of color in inorganic chemistry, but had to modify it from my original plans because I thought that the audience was going to be mostly high school students who had taken high school chemistry, but it turned out to be mostly middle school students and high schoolers who hadn’t taken chem yet.  Still, I had a good time, and it was wonderful to see so many students who were interested in chemistry.

Later on the 16th, I hopped in the car for the drive to Saratoga Springs, where the annual Association of Council Members & College Trustees (ACT) conference was being held at the Gideon Putnam resort, a really beautiful place.  The conference mainly focused on how college presidents, college councils, and college foundations can work effectively together.  The panel discussions and presentations (including one on “Stand Up with SUNY” from the Chancellor and one on diversity from Board of Trustees Chair H. Carl McCall) were quite interesting and useful.  I spoke on a panel about the hiring process for college presidents (representing new presidents going through the process, of course).  On the 17th, there was no scheduled dinner, so several of us went downtown to a jazz bistro, where the food and music were both great.

Leaving Saratoga on Sunday morning (the 18th), I headed into Albany and had lunch at my favorite Indian restaurant.  I drove to the airport, parked the car, and managed to get on an earlier flight to Philadelphia and then to Indianapolis, arriving at about 10PM.  I headed downtown the next morning, to meet up with David Penepent for the final visit with the accreditation commission for our Funeral Services Administration program.  I flew out of Indianapolis at 2PM, changing planes in Philadelphia and arriving in Albany at 7PM.  I hopped in the car and drove home to Canton, on nearly empty roads once I entered the Adirondacks.  It was a beautiful and clear night, and I got home at about 11PM.  Whew!

On Tuesday the 20th, we had a meeting with architects on the first stage of redoing Dana Hall.  This stage will consist of changing the building envelope, i.e., the walls, windows, and entryways.  The architects proposed several possible types of materials and some schematics.  We told them which ones we preferred, and asked that they lay out three potential designs, so that we can share them and get some input from the campus community.

On Wednesday, it was in an out day in Albany for the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s report to the Governor’s taskforce.  I took the 7:30 AM flight from Ogdensburg to Albany, grabbed a taxi, and went to Empire State Plaza, where the presentations were made.  Our region’s presentation was at 11AM, and Tony Collins and Garry Douglas did a fine job of making the North Country’s case.  After hobnobbing a little with folks from the taskforce and from the Research Foundation, I grabbed a taxi and headed back to the airport to catch my 2:20 flight.  Going through security, the agent told me they would have to check my stomach and my right knee.  After running his hands over me there and being told all was OK, I headed to the conveyor belt to pick up my shoes when a woman came over to me laughing, and asked “can I rub your stomach too?”  I told her “yes, if you think it will bring you some luck!”

That evening, I had the pleasure of attending the latest installment of our Living Writers Series, featuring Rahul Mehta.  Rahul read a portion of a short story from his book Quarantine, which is a book of stories exploring the emotions and conflicts associated with being an Indian-American gay man—having cosmopolitan views and trying to reconcile them with a conservative culture.  The reading was engaging, as were his responses to the various questions raised by the audience.  Phil LaMarche does a great job with this series.  If you haven’t attended one yet, you’ve been missing out.



The Big Event—St. Lawrence International Film Festival

Of course, the big event for the past few days has been the inaugural year of the St. Lawrence International Film Festival.  SUNY Canton is one of the cosponsors of the Festival, with many from the college volunteering their time, presenting talks, submitting films, and lots of other such things.

The Festival began Thursday afternoon, with Canton folks meeting at Josie’s for a pizza buffet and to get on buses to Ottawa, Canada, where the opening gala was being held.  It’s less than a two-hour ride, including crossing the border, and having left at about 3PM, we were in Ottawa a little after 5PM.  On the way up, I sat next to Amanda Homi, a singer who specializes in world music, who will be performing at the Festival’s finale on Sunday.  We had a nice time talking about various types of music, and she was kind enough to give me a copy of her CD (“Till I Reach Bombay”), more about which below.

The gala was being held at the Canadian Museum of History, a beautiful location with great views of Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.


After a little time for drinks and hors d’oeuvres, in came special guest celebrity Dan Aykroyd, who was interviewed, posed for pictures, and mingled with the guests.


We then went into a larger social room for more drinks and mingling, and then into the theatre for a screening of the 35th anniversary cut of the movie “The Blues Brothers”.  The movie was preceded by an interview with Aykroyd, which was very interesting.  Among lots of other things, he revealed that his favorite character to play was the father in the Coneheads.  I hadn’t seen the movie in about 10 years, so I’d forgotten some parts of it, and got to enjoy them as if it were the first time.


The audience had a great time, and after the movie, we were all invited to another location in the museum for some snacks and a blues concert.  Dan Aykroyd sat in on a few numbers, proving he still has his chops.  The party broke up at about 11:45, and after boarding our buses home, we got back to Canton at about 2:00 AM.


I had to wake up early on Friday, because I was giving the welcome at the open house.  We had an excellent crowd of prospective students (especially for a Friday).  Our admissions folks did their usual excellent job in welcoming the parents and students, as did the many faculty and student participants.  After doing some paperwork, I joined Doug Scheidt to get some lunch from Curry-Q, a NYC based West-Indian cooking company, whose owner’s son is a member of our Delta Omega Epsilon fraternity, who were sponsoring the lunch as a fund-raiser.  The food was excellent and I hope they saved me any left-overs!  I then went down to the American Theatre to catch Sean O’Brien’s talk on James Bond and Empire, which was very enlightening.

That evening, SUNY Canton hosted the Film Festival’s Block Party, which lasted from 6PM to about 10PM.  The party was held at TAUNY’s (the Traditional Arts of Upstate New York) location on Main Street, and the food, music, and fun were all fabulous.  The main entertainment was provided by uprooted, a bluegrass band made up of Lenore VanderZee, Rosemary Phillips (both from SUNY Canton), Camilla Ammirati, and C.J. Jahnke, who started with cool versions of both Canada’s and the US’s national anthems.


After excellent performances by several SUNY Canton students,


Uprooted took up again and played a nice range of bluegrass music.  The food, provided by SUNY Canton’s food service, earned raves from everyone—excellent sausage and peppers, pulled chicken, chili, and macaroni, not to mention a wide range of deserts including fabulous maple flavored cannoli!  Everything was just about perfect, with about 300 people coming by and having a good time.


As a film festival, there were lots of cool movie premieres and showings each day.  Saturday also featured the annual Canton Phantoms in the Park Halloween parade and party.  It was lots of fun seeing just about every child in Canton dressed up in a cute Halloween costume and marching through town collecting candy.


Sunday began with the Film Festival’s awards brunch at the Best Western Hotel.  We got there a little late and every seat was taken, but the folks were nice enough to bring us a few extra chairs to sit in the back and enjoy the food and proceedings.  In the afternoon, we headed over to SUNY Potsdam for the short film “For the Love of Mambo”, followed by a live performance by Mambo Legends Orchestra leaders John ‘Dandy’ Rodriguez, Mitch Frohman and Jose Madera, each who spent over 25 years working with Tito Puente.  The music was absolutely great!


The Festival concluded with a great closing night party sponsored by SUNY Potsdam.


The St. Lawrence International Film Festival was just great, and I can’t say enough good things about Adam Paul, who organized the Festival and did so many things to pull it together.  I’m really looking forward to next year’s edition.  If  you didn’t come, you missed plenty—make plans now to attend the 2nd Annual Festival next year.



Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt with College Team nicknames. The winners?  There weren’t any.   What happened folks?  Here are the correct answers:

  1. SUNY Canton  Kangaroos.
  2. Syracuse University  Orange.
  3. University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
  4. Duke University Blue Devils.
  5. Yale University Elis or Bulldogs.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge will be about song titles with colors in them.  The first five winners win a CD, DVD, or whatever else I come up with from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates or good stuff I want to get rid of.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Beatles song about an underwater vehicle.
  2. Song about Elvis’ footwear.
  3. Prince song about precipitation.
  4. Fats Domino found his thrill there.
  5. Van Morrison remembers when he used to sing sha-la-la with her.
Posted in Uncategorized

October 14, 2015


Volume 10, Issue 09–October 14, 2015


Some Unfortunate Events

Everyone who knows anything knows that we have a great bunch of students at SUNY Canton.  Within any large group, of course, there will always be a few who get into trouble by doing improper things.  We’ve had a small number of incidents occur recently, carried out by a small number of students.  The students responsible have been students of color from New York City, which has prompted a number of nasty anonymous comments to the newspaper articles that have appeared, attacking all our New York City students and students of color.  I felt I needed to respond, so I wrote an editorial letter, which has appeared in North Country Now, the Watertown Daily Times, and the Daily Courier-Observer.  Here’s the letter in its entirety:


To The Editor:

As has been reported, there have been a small number of unfortunate incidents that have taken place involving students from SUNY Canton. Two bicycles were stolen. A pizza delivery man was robbed and assaulted. A taxi driver had the fare taken from him. These actions are repugnant, and the College is pursuing judicial sanctions on campus while fully cooperating with Village Police investigations.

In these three cases, the students who were arrested were from the New York City area, and were persons of color. This has led to a number of anonymous comments that can only be described as appalling. I am a bit shaken to see what some of our neighbors apparently believe. Let me set the record straight.

SUNY Canton is home to 3,200 students who engage in some of the most challenging academic fields, study and work hard, graduate, and get great jobs.  They win national competitions, earn scholarships, excel at athletics, and spend thousands of hours volunteering in our community.  

We are a diverse community. About 35 percent of SUNY Canton students come from metropolitan New York City. Some 30 percent are African-American, and about 7 percent are Latino. Our theme this year is “Everyone Is Welcome Here.” Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if that were everybody’s theme?

The vast majority of our students are doing amazing things every day. In any community, there are a few who do not reflect the good of the whole. That should not obscure the intelligence, compassion, and ambition that more than 99 percent of our students exemplify.

The next time you see a SUNY Canton student, go up to them, ask what they are doing at college, and prepare to be amazed. I know I am, every single day.

Dr. Zvi Szafran, President

SUNY Canton
Canton, NY



Grant Update

Lots of us in the administration have been busy writing the full version of our grants to SUNY.  You may recall that the process this year took part in two steps: first, a two-page “white paper” was submitted.  SUNY Canton submitted eight.  These were reviewed by various folks in and out of Albany, and the top “white papers” were invited to submit a full proposal to SUNY.  Well, all eight of ours were invited to submit, so we’ve all been busy racing to write them all by the October 7 deadline.  Joanne Fassinger said “I’ve never submitted so many on the same day before!”, because we go all eight in on time, even with an hour or so to spare.  Decisions will be made in early December, with the money to be disbursed soon after that.  Of course, we have no idea how we’ll do at this point, but SUNY says that the proposals amount to about three times the amount of money available, so that means all things being equal, we’ll get about 1/3 of them.  We’ll keep you informed.  A huge thank you to everyone who was involved in writing these grants, including  (hope I haven’t left anyone out!) Molly Mott, Doug Scheidt, J.D. DeLong, Lenore VanderZee, Joanne Fassinger, Mike Newtown, Kathleen Mahoney, Kamal Turner, and David Zhang, Michaela Young, and Renee Campbell.



Meetings, Meetings, Meetings…

There have been lots of meetings lately.  I’ll give a brief recap on some that are of general interest.

On Monday, September 28, Doug, the deans, Molly, Melissa Evans, Patrick Massaro, and I met with President Carole McCoy and Terrence Harris (Dean of Continuing Education) from Jefferson Community College.  We discussed several ways JCC and SUNY Canton might work together in the future, including some programs that we might offer at the Jefferson Higher Education Center.  The conversation went very well, and I’m looking forward to several things that may happen as a result.

Later that same day, Doug, the VP’s, Michaela, me, and our union counterparts had a Labor Management Meeting.  The meeting was candid and informative.  Some issues that will come out of it include some legislation better defining the rank of Lecturer (and perhaps the introduction of a new rank of Senior Lecturer).  Any such legislation will be shared with the faculty assembly in the usual way for their input.  Some discussion also took place about the discretionary raises that are awarded by SUNY from time to time, and whether they might be used to address salary inequities.  The answer was “yes”, but that the most likely path to being able to address salary matters was by getting more campus resources through enrollment growth.

There will be a ½ percent discretionary award (not added to the base salary) being given in the near future.  Given the small size of the award, the Executive Cabinet has decided to award it “across the board”, meaning that no one needs to apply or be nominated for it.  Supervisors do retain the right to not give the award if the person’s work has been judged to be below satisfactory levels.

On Wednesday September 30, several folks from the New York Power Authority came down to talk to Shawn Miller, Mike McCormick, and me about their plans with regard to the power lines that run through campus.  The great news is that new plan, which will upgrade and replace the power lines, also includes moving them to the woods on the left side of campus (relative to Cornell Drive), away from the CARC.  Construction should take place around 2017-18.

Also on September 30, Molly, Chris Sweeney and I had lunch with Caroline McCaw, a Fulbright Scholar from New Zealand who was visiting our campus.  We have submitted a proposal to Fulbright for Caroline to come to SUNY Canton as a visiting scholar for next year.  If it is successful, she will be working with the faculty and students in GMMD.

 Caroline McCaw September 29, 2015

Caroline McCaw

Caroline McCaw September 30, 2015-2

l-r:  Molly Mott, Chris Sweeney, Caroline McCoy, and me

The first Campus Leadership meeting of the fall was on Monday, October 5.  The format used to be that everyone would sit around a big rectangular table and give updates about their respective areas.  While some say you can’t communicate too much, for many, this was the fifth time they were hearing the reports.  We switched the format so that now, people are sitting at staggered 8 person tables and there is a theme for each meeting.  The theme for this one was “admission”, and Melissa and Mollie went over how things had gone last year and their plans for the coming year.  The presentation was well received, and after some discussion, we then turned to discussion things that had gone well since the start of the term (and hence, that we want to do more of).  It was quite a list, involving staff and faculty from all over the campus’ accomplishments, and especially our students’ achievements.

We had a meeting of the SUNY Excels Group on Tuesday, October 6.  Doug, Liz Erickson, Sarah Todd, and I incorporated suggestions from our Enrollment Management Task Force and finalized the draft we’d send to the faculty for review.  You should have all received the draft by now, and need to respond by Wednesday if you have any input.

Wednesday, October 7 was officially Crazy Day, as we were all running around trying to get last minute issues fixed in the eight grant proposals, and get the grants in on time.  By the end of the day, everyone was—well, you know.

Thursday, October 8 began with a St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce CEO Breakfast.  This particular one was held at SUNY Potsdam, in their new Performing Arts Center.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s quite a wonderful facility with several dance studios and three theatres.  President Kristin Esterberg gave an update on what Potsdam is working on, which included a number of items we’re doing with them. 

Later on Thursday, I had lunch with our Union Representatives.  We discussed a number of issues, including things like equality of police retirement issues that we’d like to see happen down in Albany.

On Friday, I met with Veigh Mehan Lee, Patricia Endres, and Heather Lauzon, our colleagues in the Accommodative Disability Services Office.  In many ways, they’re the unsung heroes of the campus, working with students with a wide variety of disabilities to help them successfully complete their educations.  They provide a wide variety of services with a very small staff, and do wonderful work.


Lots of Other Events, Too!

Saturday, September 26 was Homecoming and Family Weekend, and it was a lot of fun.  I couldn’t attend the Friday events since I was at the SUNY President’s Meeting in Saratoga, but I’m sure they were great.  On Saturday, I attended several women’s volleyball games—against RIT and Rochester.  The ‘Roos did very well, losing a close one to St. Lawrence (who we had beaten earlier in the term) and beating everyone else.  There were also lots of other events—a classic car exhibit, a sundae bar, being able to get your picture taken with lots of weird props, being able to design your own sign, and much more.


Me and Jill about to sing a German Opera

There were lots of folks there, and our Student Life staff and volunteers did a great job managing everything.  That evening, the big event was “Canton’s Got Talent”, a night of excellent singing, dancing, crowning the homecoming court, and other fun stuff.  The sound system was a bit wonky at times, but it didn’t stop the enthusiasm and excellence of our student talent.  If you’ve never seen one of these, you’ve missed a lot!  Congratulations to all who participated!




The Homecoming Court and me:  Kevin Legare (King), Noelle Murray (Queen), Malaysia Talley (Princess), Gloria Kodua Junior (Princess), Jeremy Baez (Prince)

On Tuesday September 29, Jill, Mark, and I attended the College Council Fall Barbeque at the alumni house.  It was a very nice event, with wonderful food as always, but the weather was terrible—it rained nearly the whole time, making us eat and stay indoors.  Still, it was a lot of fun, and always nice to get together with our College Council colleagues.

Friday, October 2 was Fire Safety Day.  A very informative (and scary!) exhibit of a typical student dorm room was set on fire, to show how quickly the normal material in it burns.  The room was entirely engulfed in flames in about 1:30 minutes, making it clear: be extremely careful with open flames or anything that can cause a fire, and when you hear the fire alarm, get out FAST! IMG_1419

On Sunday, October 4, the brothers of Alpha Theta Gamma held their annual barbeque, and Jill, Mark, and I were happy to attend.  It was an absolutely perfect day weather-wise, so we all enjoyed sitting outside, eating the food, and watching the brothers play Can-Jam.  They’re a great bunch of guys, representing the College well in the community.


On Thursday evening, October 8, SUNY Canton hosted the honorable Yunju Ko, Consul from the Korean Consulate General in New York City.  Consul Ko discussed the Korea-U.S. military partnership, Korea’s miraculous economic recovery after the Korean War, as well as trade issues affecting the U.S., Korea, and China.  His visit is part of an ongoing Leadership lecture series held on our campus, bringing in industry, government, and international leaders to speak to our students and faculty.  Turnout was excellent with about 75 students, 10 faculty, and several business leaders there, and many insightful questions were answered.  We hope to explore some potential relationships with Korean universities, and Consul Ko promised to help us make connections with them.


Korean Consul Yunju Ko’s Presentation

Saturday, October 10 was the first big Open House of the season.  The weather was quite nice and the turnout was excellent—we had a packed house.  The house band, “The Roo Crew” (or “President’s People”, take your choice—we haven’t decided yet), consisting of Dan Gagliardi, Lenore VanderZee and I played for about 40 minutes as visitors checked out our major programs and student organizations, and then it was time to start the official program.  Our Admissions Office does a wonderful job with these open houses, aided by a huge number of volunteers from the deans and faculty, students, and staff.

Right after the Open House, I hopped into the car and drove down to Lake Placid for the Flaming Leaves Festival, where our Advancement Office was holding an alumni gathering.


Both pictures are of Colton, NY


The weather couldn’t have been better and the leaves were at their peak, so both the village and the Festival were CROWDED.  It was a lot of fun meeting alumni, checking out the booths, and watching ski jumpers tackle the big hill.  At the end of the day, we had an Alumni Board meeting, and then a quick trip back to Canton, getting home about 8:30.


SUNY Canton Booth at Flaming Leaves Festival 



Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt with popular kids’ toys of the past. The fastest winner was Dianne-Marie Collins.  Other winners include Janel Smith, Amanda Rowley, Alan Gabrielli (from SPSU), and Terri Clemmo.   All win prizes that can be picked up from my office.

Here are the correct answers:

  1. Most popular of dolls, the clothes and accessories cost more than the doll did.  Barbie.
  2. You spin around your hips while doing a “hula-like” dance. Of course, more talented people can spin it around other parts of their body too.  Hula hoop.
  3. Made of a spiral of wire, you can make it “walk” down the stairs.
  4. Each reel has seven 3-D pictures you could see. View-master.
  5. Usually red and square, you can draw any picture and then erase it by shaking it. Etch-a-Sketch.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge will be about College team nicknames—name the given team’s nickname.  The first five winners win a CD, DVD, or whatever else I come up with from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates or good stuff I want to get rid of.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. SUNY Canton
  2. Syracuse University
  3. University of Alabama
  4. Duke University
  5. Yale University
Posted in Uncategorized

September 24, 2015


Volume 10, Issue 08–September 24, 2015


Great Student Opinion Survey Results

The 2014 Student Opinion Survey is out from SUNY, and SUNY Canton did very well indeed.  Of the 27 SUNY institutions surveyed, we scored in the top five for the following 22 questions:

  • Academic advising in your major
  • General academic advising
  • Job search assistance (#3)
  • Career planning services (#2, #1 in our sector)
  • College help in finding part-time job (#2, #1 in our sector)
  • Parking
  • Course-related laboratories (#2, #1 in our sector)
  • Athletic and recreational facilities (#3, #1 in our sector)
  • College tutoring services (#1 in SUNY)
  • Quality of instruction
  • Availability of general education courses
  • Availability of courses in your major (#3)
  • Course registration process
  • Availability of online courses (#2, #1 in our sector)
  • Availability of internships (#3)
  • Computing support services
  • Library resources (#1 in SUNY)
  • Library services (#1 in SUNY)
  • Student health services (#2, #1 in our sector)
  • Personal counseling services (#3)
  • Health and wellness programs (#2, #1 in our sector)
  • Sexual assault prevention programs

It’s amazing the wide scope of questions we did well with, including all the really important ones such as instruction, online courses, course availability, advising, job search assistance, internships, labs, computing resources, library, health services, and counseling.  Coming in first in SUNY in three categories, and first in the colleges of technology in ten categories is obviously something to be very proud of.  Special congratulations to our colleagues in tutoring services and in the library—#1 in SUNY—how cool is that?

Did we come in last in anything?  I’m glad to say no, but we were in the bottom five in three categories, where we’ll be having some discussion of how we can do better.  Stay tuned.


Scholarship Luncheon

SUNY Canton’s annual Scholarship Luncheon was held last Friday, September 18, and as always, it was a great event.  More than 300 people were there to thank our many benefactors and to honor our students.

Scholarship-2Over $450,000 in scholarships will be paid out this year, benefitting more than 300 students.  This includes ten new fully funded endowments.

I really like the idea of endowments.  Contributions totaling $10,000 over five years will fully fund an endowment (i.e., $77 each pay period).  The really cool thing is that an endowment pays out a scholarship (or it can be money for your favorite campus program) each year, every year, forever, since the principle is never touched.  It’s a form of academic immortality, funding whatever is most important to the donor.  I like the idea so much that I started two endowments last year.  Of course, there are other effective ways to give as well.  Many of our benefactors have established scholarship funds, and many give to the Canton Fund.

President Kennedy said it just about perfectly, back in 1962:

No task before our nation is more important than expanding and improving the educational opportunities of all our people. The concept that every American deserves the opportunity to attain the highest level of education of which he is capable is not new to this Administration – it is a traditional ideal of democracy. But it is time that we moved toward the fulfillment of this ideal with more vigor and less delay. For education is both the foundation and the unifying force of our democratic way of life — it is the mainspring of our economic and social progress — it is the highest expression of achievement in our society, ennobling and enriching human life. In short, it is at the same time the most profitable investment society can make and the richest reward it can offer.

If you would like to donate to support student scholarships or to support the college, please contact our Advancement Office at 315-386-7127 (or 800-811-6727).

Constitution Day

I very much regret that my schedule didn’t allow me to attend any of the fine Constitution Day events, but I’ve heard that they went very well and were well attended.  Special thanks to Assemblywoman Addie Russell for speaking last Tuesday.  A voter registration drive, trivia contest, and poster contest were also part of the Constitution Day festivities, and were covered by Watertown’s WWNY channel 7 news.  Some famous people were also present at Constitution Day events, most notably Martha Washington, who looked very good for someone who’s 284 years old.



SUNY Canton Shout-Outs

On Monday September 14, the men’s soccer team hosted a skills clinic for the Pee Wee teams from Canton Central School District on our turf field. They worked each team through many soccer skill drills, each staffed by at least two men’s team athletes.  Roody joined the activities and mingled with the children. Our athletes were totally engaged with the kids and it was a great experience for them.  Of course, the local children all love Roody!  The men’s soccer team also served ice cream at a social at Canton School on the 16th.  The Women’s Soccer team will sponsor a similar skills clinic on the 23rd.

Saturday (September 19), was Mascot Day and the Men’s Soccer team asked Pee Wee Players to attend the game, and escort both college teams onto the field and stand with them for the National Anthem. At half time, the Pee Wee teams scrimmaged on our turf field.  Congratulations on the fine outreach to our soccer teams!

Unfortunately, the ‘Roo’s men lost 3-0 to Hamilton in pretty dreary weather.  That’s OK—we’ll get ‘em next time.


The members of Alpha Theta Gamma recently painted the St. Lawrence County Historical Association fence. Lance Rudiger, a local community member, stopped by and said that the members were awesome and did a great job.  The members of Upsilon Zeta Iota helped spread a tractor trailer load of mulch on the playground of St. Mary’s School.  Both community service events were featured in the St. Lawrence Plaindealer.  Great job, Greeks!



Basketball in Brazil

SUNY Canton basketball players Sam Annorh and Romario Fletcher (both of Queens, NY) were two of 10 players that represented Team USA in a four game tour of Brazil in late July.  The two, along with the rest of their teammates, traveled to Orlando where they took part in orientation and practice on July 21st and 22nd. They departed for Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 22nd. The men’s and women’s teams played doubleheaders on the 23rd, 24th and 25th in Sao Paulo vs. selected teams from the region before traveling to Rio de Janeiro for a game on the 27th. The teams then got to take part in some sightseeing before returning to Orlando on the 30th.

AnnorhFletcherTeamUSA“The competition in Brazil was tough,” Fletcher said. “It was different from the U.S. There were no foul calls, you had to play through everything.”  “I played with guys from all over – Chicago, Minnesota, Iowa, Massachusetts. They were all on Division III ranked teams in the NCAA,” Annorh noted. “They all made the NCAA Tournament, so it was really fun.”

Outside of their practices and games the players got the opportunity to travel and sightsee in Brazil and gain a greater understanding of a different culture.

“The culture in Brazil was awesome,” Fletcher said. “Everybody was friendly, they would come up and talk to us. They were happy to see young, educated men in a different country trying to do something to better themselves in life. They thought we were actual NBA players, so it was pretty cool. We visited the Christ Statue, which is one of the seven wonders in the World.”

SUNY Canton Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jim Bechtel helped Annorh and Fletcher facilitate the trip and even flew down to Orlando to see his guys practice in Orlando before they took off for Brazil.

“This was a tremendous opportunity for Sam and Romario to represent our country and travel to Brazil,” Bechtel said. “They had a fantastic experience both on and off the court. I look forward to them bringing those experiences back to the team. It is great exposure for our institution and program to have two players selected to the team and get to play with some of the top players in the country.”


Freedom of Speech (Yet More)

It’s very interesting that after finishing discussing a group of free speech issues at universities, two more interesting ones have turned up.

Right here within SUNY, there’s been a bunch of articles about an incident at SUNY-Buffalo.  Students, faculty and staff walking into various buildings on campus were greeted with signs saying “white only” and “black only” alongside bathrooms and water fountains.  As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of outcry.  After some investigation, it came out that the signs were part of a 400-level art lab class, “Installation: Urban Space”, and put up by Ashley Powell, an African-American graduate student in fine arts.  Powell said she put the signs up to “get a reaction out of people…I apologize for hurting people, but I won’t apologize for what I did.”  This has triggered a range of commentary and controversy about “is this art?”, similar to the situation at Columbia University with Emma Sulkowicz’s project “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight)” discussed in last week’s issue of the BLAB.

You will recall that at Duke University, several students tried to opt out of a summer reading, claiming that it had sexual content that they found to be offensive.  Well, American University’s Faculty Senate has unanimously passed a resolution rejecting the use of “trigger warnings” to warn students about course content that they may find to be disturbing.  The resolution says that the Senate “does not endorse offering ‘trigger warnings’ or otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to ‘opt out’ of engaging with texts or concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries.”    Is this the beginning of a new trend?  Time will tell.




Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt with musical hits from the ‘90’s, and was guest written by Greg Kie. The winner was Terry Clemmo .  Prizes can be picked up from my office.

Here are the correct answers:

  1. This band named after a stage of sleep had the 1991 hit “Losing my Religion”. E.M.
  2. This group of business-savvy rappers had a hit in 1994 with “Sabotage”. Beastie Boys.
  3. Ricky Martin chose to live like this in 1997. Livin’ la Vida Loca.
  4. Ace of Base saw this and it opened up their eyes. The Sign.
  5. There is an ongoing debate to this day which of two grunge bands was the better example of the “Seattle Sound” label during the 1990’s. Who were they? Nirvana and Pearl Jam.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge will be about popular kids’ toys of the past.  To celebrate the new academic year, from this point on, all winners win a CD, DVD, or whatever else I come up with from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates or good stuff I want to get rid of.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Most popular of dolls, the clothes and accessories cost more than the doll did.
  2. You spin around your hips while doing a “hula-like” dance. Of course, more talented people can spin it around other parts of their body too.
  3. Made of a spiral of wire, you can make it “walk” down the stairs.
  4. Each reel has seven 3-D pictures you could see.
  5. Usually red and square, you can draw any picture and then erase it by shaking it.


Posted in Uncategorized

September 17, 2015


Volume 10, Issue 07–September 17, 2015



This Just In…

In the last issue of the BLAB (click here to see it), I mentioned that lots of people on campus had been involved in writing “White Papers” to submit to SUNY to secure funding for projects supporting (among other things) retention and graduation rates on our campus.  The process for getting the funds this year takes place in two parts—first, the “White Paper”, which is a two-page compelling synopsis of the project.  If it is successful and gets chosen, part two is a follow-up full proposal.  Given that there are 64 SUNY campuses and each campus was able to submit multiple proposals, we noted that only a fraction would make it through to the second round, and only about half the full proposals would ultimately get funded.


Well, we now know how many of our proposals made it to the second round:  out of the eight we submitted or partnered on, [drum roll please] – ALL EIGHT got through to the second round, which is just fantastic.  The full proposals are due October 7, so we’re going to be busy, busy, busy!  We’ll keep you posted as to what happens next.



Happy New Year

For those who don’t know, Rosh HaShana (the Jewish New Year) began at sundown on Sunday, lasting for two days. I saw a quote in the prayer-book that I particularly liked and thought I’d share:

Creation is not something which happened only once.  Creation is an ongoing process…There is still much to be done: disease to be conquered, injustice and poverty to be overcome, hatred and war to be eliminated.  There is truth to be discovered, beauty to be fashioned, freedom to be achieved, peace and righteousness to be established.  There is a great need to dedicate all the creative power which a creating G-d has given us, so that we may join G-d in “the continuing work of Creation.”

I also got a text from Rajiv Narula, who shared a Rosh HaShana prayer he liked that was read several years ago at the Unitarian Universalist Church, with words adapted from Rabbi Harold Kushner [author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People].  With all the trouble in the world right now, it is particularly apt:

Many prayers conclude with “May G-d who made peace in the heavens grant peace to us on earth.”  But what does it mean to create peace in the heavens?  The ancient ones looked up and saw the sun and the rain clouds, and wondered “How can sun and rain, fire and water, coexist in the same sky?  It must be a miracle.”  But if the sun dried up the rain clouds, the world would die of thirst, and if the rain clouds extinguished the sun, the world would perish in cold.  So the fire and water made peace, realizing that if either of them achieved total victory, the world could not endure.  When we pray for the sort of peace ordained in the heavens, this is the miracle we ask for.  Not for the total victory of one side over the other, but for a way to live together in peace…Only by making room for everyone, even for our enemies, can our world survive.  It is the miracle of peace, making room for each other and giving up the illusion of total victory—on earth as it is in the heavens.  May we be part of the miracle of peace, making room for each other in our hearts, in our community, and in our world.



Moving On Up


U.S. News & World Report just issued its annual rankings on colleges and universities in the US, and SUNY Canton has moved up quite a bit.  Last year, we were #61 on the list of Best Regional Colleges—North.  This year, in the 2016 edition, we’ve moved up seventeen clicks to #44.  Schools are ranked on up to 16 measures of academic excellence, with outcome-related measures, such as graduation and retention rates, being the most heavily weighted factors in the methodology.

SUNY Canton also made their national list for best online programs in 2016, coming in 58th in the country, and 2nd in SUNY, the same as last year.

Lookin’ good, folks!




9-11 Memorial


On September 11th, SUNY Canton marked the 14th anniversary of the 9-11-2001 attack with a remembrance ceremony at the end of Payson Hall, hosted by our Criminal Justice program.  The ceremony was brief and moving, and began with a color guard, followed by Prof. Tony Bean singing the national anthem, Father Douglas Lucia giving a beautiful invocation.  I said a few words about the importance of memory, and Provost Doug Schiedt gave a short keynote speech.  Prof. William Fassinger spoke about the heroism of the police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. The ceremony concluded with bagpiper (and Engineering Technology lecturer) Robert House playing “Amazing Grace”.  I’m not sure how many colleges and universities have held a remembrance ceremony every year since 2001, but I’m sure proud that we have.



Report from Albany

Last Wednesday evening, I flew down to Albany from Ogdensburg for the SUNY Board of Trustees meeting the next day.  The flight was uneventful, though it got a bit windy for the last five minutes and just as we were landing, there was a gust of wind that made us hit the ground with a clunk.

After breakfast the next morning, I walked over to the law offices where the BoT meeting was being held, and met up with David Belsky and Rachel Haot, who were my co-presenters of the report from the Social Media Responsibility Task Force that Rachel and I co-chaired.  The presentation went well, and the eight recommendations from the Task Force were well received.  The report will be circulated for comments from the SUNY campuses and the public in the near future, with a final vote on adoption planned for November.


Sports News 


Roos Sports Media

A recently formed student group on campus called Roos Sports Media has created and edited some impressive videos highlighting our student-athletes. Check out their videos below!


Opening Week Awards

Seven different SUNY Canton student-athletes earned awards from either the ECAC or USCAA for their efforts in their respective sports during opening week.  Congratulations to all on their  hard work!

  • Àine McMorrow – ECAC Upstate Women’s Cross Country Rookie Runner of the Week – STORY
  • Kelsi Gilbert – ECAC Upstate Women’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Week – STORY
  • Robyn Carroll – ECAC Metro/Upstate Women’s Volleyball Libero of the Week – STORY
  • Peyton Robinson – ECAC Metro/Upstate Women’s Volleyball Rookie of the Week – STORY
  • Kristina DiNardo – USCAA Women’s Soccer Player of the Week – STORY
  • Kelsy Cornish – USCAA Women’s Volleyball Player of the Week – STORY
  • Nolan Reid – USCAA Men’s Golfer Player of the Week – STORY



Freedom of Speech (Part 2)

The first part of this item on Freedom of Speech appeared in last week’s WEEKLY BLAB, in which two cases were reviewed—the response at Old Dominion University to the hanging of some offensive signs at a fraternity, and the response at Northwestern University to a faculty-produced, college sponsored journal that had some sexual content.  If you missed it, you can find it by clicking here.  Here in part two, two additional cases that have some interesting complications will be discussed.


At Duke University, students were assigned to read “Fun Home”, a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, as a summer reading.  A number of students refused to do so, saying that its sexual themes created a conflict with their religious beliefs and moral standards.  The situation was reviewed in the Christian Science Monitor.  Reporter Kevin Truong reported that this conflict is similar to those seen on other campuses, where students seem to have an expectation “that they have a right not to read or hear ideas that differ from their worldview or make them uncomfortable.”

The conflict, as reported in the Duke Chronicle, began when freshman Brian Grasso posted a message on Duke’s Class of 2019 Facebook page, saying he would not read the “Fun Home” “because of the graphic visual depictions of sexuality…I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.”  Grasso felt that the book choice was insensitive to people with conservative beliefs.

So what kind of book is “Fun Home”?  It was certainly well received, winning “Best Book of the Year” reviews from Time, Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Times of London, and many others.  On the “controversial” end of things, it contains some drawings (well less than 1% of the panels) depicting nudity and sex; it tells the story of a father who becomes a bisexual and ultimately commits suicide; and tells of his daughter who comes out as a lesbian at age 12.  The committee that chose “Fun Home” as the summer reading noted that it also talked about mental health, interpersonal relationships, and human rights.  It was intended to start arguments and discussions, and in that, it has succeeded.  Some parents have demanded that this book be dropped as a mandatory summer reading, and at least in one case, state legislators passed a bill to cut a state university budget by the cost of buying this book for its students.

On this same general issue, in an article appearing in the September 2015 issue of The Atlantic entitled “The Coddling of the American Mind”, authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt wrote: “A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense…This new climate is slowly being institutionalized, and is affecting what can be said in the classroom, even as a basis for discussion.

So—should students have the right to be able to avoid seeing or reading things that make them uncomfortable?  I remember this coming up in two different ways at my second college:

  • The college required all students to take a course called “The Way of Science” which had a major portion devoted to evolution. Every so often, a student (or parent) would come by, objecting to having to take the course due to their religious beliefs.  There wasn’t a lot of sympathy for that view, since we did not require the student to believe in evolution, only to understand and be able to explain the major tenets of evolution.  I thought that this was a reasonable viewpoint and upheld it when the appeals came to me.
  • The other instance was regarding a play that students in a particular course were required to see. The play contained nudity and a student objected to having to see it.  I talked to the department chair about giving the student an alternative assignment of similar difficulty.  The chair refused. I remember having sympathy for the student, but asked myself would I have had any if the reason that the student objected to seeing the play had been some other one?  What if the play contained violence, or was overtly anti-gun control? Should religious objections to content be privileged over other kinds?

At the end of the day I’m with Duke on this one, but I have to admit I’m at least a little bit uncomfortable about it.  I’m with Duke because if students can “opt out” of this book because of some nudity, what reasoned argument stops Art majors from being able to opt out of a class requiring the viewing of Renaissance Art (with its many nudes) or drawing from a live model?  If students can opt out of this book because its discussion of homosexuality offends their morals, what reasoned argument stops History majors from opting out of a class requiring students to read Southern rationalizations for their actions in the Civil War?  Students are free to disagree with with the views expressed by Alison Bechdel, and I suppose can skip over any panels with offending drawings.  Still, I admit to having some sympathy for the position “why not give them an alternative assignment” as a reasonable accommodation to religious belief.



The final case took place at Columbia University, where a student, Emma Sulkowicz, accused another student, Paul Nungesser, of having raped her in her dorm some months earlier, in a relationship that had hitherto been consensual.  The case went through Columbia’s judicial procedure, where a school panel heard both give testimony and ultimately cleared Nungesser of the accusation.  Sulkowicz argued that the case was badly handled, and developed a performance art project that was also her senior thesis project called “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight)” where she would carry a mattress around for a year (including to graduation) drawing attention to her claims against Nungesser and protesting that Columbia hadn’t expelled him.  She received course credit for this project.

At various events, Sulkowicz called Nungesser a “serial rapist”.  He was indeed brought up on charges in several other cases, one from an ex-girlfriend who accused him of “intimate partner violence” [dropped by the University when the accuser stopped answering emails], one by an anonymous accuser accusing him of closing her and himself in a room and grabbing her [originally found responsible, cleared on appeal when the accuser declined to participate further], and one for sexually assaulting a male victim [found not responsible].  An interesting and thoughtful summary of these events was written by Michelle Goldberg in “Benefit of the Doubt”, which appeared in the May 22 The Nation.  A review of how cases like this catch colleges in the middle, “Have We Learned Anything from the Columbia Rape Case?”, appeared in the May 29 New York Times.

Nungesser sued Columbia University, saying that the school’s inaction (to stop Sulkowicz) caused him damages from gender discrimination and defamation, thereby harming his job prospects.  His suit was described in detail in an article in the Columbia Spectator.  He argued that Columbia would never have let a male student carry out a vendetta against a female student in the way he had been targeted.  Columbia has asked that the case (still under consideration at this moment) be dismissed as a matter of free speech.  They argue, as reported in the Huffington Post, that Nungesser’s case amounts to obligating them “to silence Ms. Sulkowicz, preventing her from speaking publicly on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses – an issue of national concern.

As a freedom of speech issue, this case has some disturbing elements.  Nungesser’s suit is based on the premise that Columbia had a duty to stop Sulkowicz from defaming him, and not only did not do so, but aided her by granting her credit and letting her carry out the project.  The University clearly did allow the project (where a central element of the project was that she would carry the mattress until either Nungesser left Columbia or they both graduated) and gave it credit.  Did Columbia have another choice?  Once the project was approved as credit-worthy by the faculty in her home department, how could Columbia have stopped her without being guilty of censorship?  While the granting of credit may give the appearance of agreement with her premise, it’s actually quite a common thing for academic credit to be given for all kinds of academic products that a university’s administration may disagree with (a thesis that takes a controversial position on a political issue, for example).

Once the University found Nungesser not responsible, were there University policies that precluded Sulkowicz from making further accusations?  Nungesser’s suit says yes, arguing that Columbia University violated Title IX when it allowed Sulkowicz to breach its confidentiality policies surrounding her accusation.  While Columbia University is certainly correct in saying that they shouldn’t be expected to silence Sulkowicz from speaking on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, didn’t their own confidentiality policies indicate that they shouldn’t have allowed her to name Nungesser as a serial rapist once he was found “not responsible”?

Are Columbia’s confidentiality policies themselves a problem?  It appears that they may be.  As a citizen, Sulkowicz should be free to say anything she pleases, including making accusations against Nungesser.  Similarly, Nungesser should be free to bring suit against Sulkowicz for defamation, loss of income, or any of the other charges he brings against Columbia.  Lots of problems arise when the university is put in the position of restricting one or the other’s speech.




Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt with musical hits from the second half of the ‘80’s.  The winners are Misty York (from SPSU), my sister Drorit, and Christina Lesyk.  Prizes can be picked up from my office.

Here are the correct answers:

  1. Huey Lewis & the News song—it make a one man weep, make another man sing. The Power of Love.
  2. It took Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder singing together to explain this. That’s What Friends are For.
  3. What Robert Palmer might as well face it about. Addicted to Love.
  4. Peter Gabriel song saying “you could have a stream train, if you’d just lay down your tracks.”  Sledgehammer.
  5. Norwegian group who sang “Take On Me”, which has a very cool animated music videos to go with it. A-Ha, who just put our a new album that has been well received.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Since I have basically tuned out of popular music since the 90’s, today’s Trivia Challenge was written by a much younger compatriot, Greg Kie.  Feel free to submit your own trivia challenge.  Any one that I use will win a prize.

To celebrate the new academic year, from this point on, all winners win a CD, DVD, or whatever else I come up with from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates or good stuff I want to get rid of.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. This band named after a stage of sleep had the 1991 hit “Losing my Religion”.
  2. This group of business-savvy rappers had a hit in 1994 with “Sabotage”.
  3. Ricky Martin chose to live like this in 1997.
  4. Ace of Base saw this and it opened up their eyes.
  5. There is an ongoing debate to this day which of two grunge bands was the better example of the “Seattle Sound” label during the 1990’s. Who were they?
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September 3, 2015


Volume 10, Issue 06–September 3, 2015


Annual Report

I hope everyone knows what a fine public relations staff we have—they’ve done great videos about our academic programs and students, there’s excellent photography of all manner of events and people, and the write-ups that go to the press and that appear on the college website are all first-class.  The latest product from our team is the SUNY Canton Annual Report, which went down to Albany on Tuesday.  The online version is available by clicking here, and it’s a thing of beauty.  Starting with a sensational photo from last year’s graduation, filled with information, featuring a lot of active graphics, the Annual Report is a wonderful encapsulation of so much of what makes SUNY Canton great.  Please note that the online version and the print version have some differences, so to get the whole picture, you have to look at both!

Congratulations to Travis Smith, Greg Kie, Lorette Murray, Matt Mulkin, and Morgan Elliot for their excellent work making us all look so good.


Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings…

As the term begins, the number of meetings increases, and this past week was no exception.  For those who don’t know, I meet with most of the folks on the executive cabinet on a regular basis—weekly with some, biweekly with others.  The purpose of the meetings is to hear what’s going on, help with any problems that may be occurring, and offer some (hopefully useful) suggestions.   At the same time, the people on the executive cabinet are having yet other meetings with their own staffs and whomever else they may be dealing with, and I’m having meetings with students, people involved in economic development for the North Country, various SUNY groups, and people who want to partner with us in various ways.  Often, there are follow-up meetings deriving from the originals, in order to make decisions on how to move forward.  The real difficult job is held by Michaela Young, who has to keep track of all of these things, make sure I have the necessary information, point me in the right direction, and push me out the door.



NCAA—Day One!

September 1 was SUNY Canton’s opening day as a member of NCAA Division III, and a fine day it was.

It began with the men’s cross country race, with Jacob Erdman winning for powerhouse Clarkson. Top SUNY Canton finisher was Shawn Diebel (20th overall), followed close behind by Ryan Teal (21st overall).

SUNY Canton’s first D3 win came in the women’s cross country, with freshman Aine McMorrow winning in 20:56:78.  Great job Aine!  Aine was quoted by the Watertown Daily Times as saying “I wouldn’t have been here today if it wasn’t for my teammates. I didn’t really realize how big of a race it would have been. All the work and practice really pays off. I love everyone here. Everyone is so welcoming. They are always so interested that I’m from Ireland. I love teaching them about the culture back home and stuff.”  Finishing second and third for the roos were Samantha Smith and Keara Byrne.


Aine McMorrow wins at cross-country

It didn’t take long for SUNY Canton to get its second Division III win, defeating St. Lawrence University 3:1 in women’s volleyball, with the sets going 25-19, 17-25, 25-18, and 25-18.  Coach Carol LaMarche said: “The way they bounced back after the second set shows a lot of mental strength. Half the team is new or don’t have as much court experience. It was the cross-town rival St. Lawrence. It’s just nice to start off the season with a win.”  Morgan Bills got 28 kills, with Rachel Lowther adding another 27.  Robyn Carroll led the defense with 20 digs.


Morgan Bills going for the kill

Closing out the day, SUNY Canton’s men’s soccer team lost 2-1 against Potsdam, despite taking a 1-0 halftime lead on a goal by Nick Escalante.  It was a tough loss, with even Potsdam’s coach saying “To be honest they were much more dynamic and we were just kind of lucky to get the two goals in the second half.”  Goalie Austin Lamay blocked 5 Potsdam attempts.

In an away game, our women’s soccer team got our third Division III win by beating Wells College 3-2 in their season opener.  Kristina DiNardo scored twice for the roos, including the winning goal.  Also scoring was Caitlin Grimshaw.  Our goalie, Kelsi Gilbert, played a fantastic defensive game, stopping 13 shots.


Kristina DiNardo setting the pace

Great opening day, and congratulations to all our fine athletes.


The Importance of Grants

Many of us were involved in writing “White Papers” these past few weeks, to secure funds from SUNY for projects on our campus.  These were all due last Friday.  As I mentioned earlier in the year, SUNY bundled together several of the annual funds (including a new $18M investment fund) to make up a $100M Investment and Performance fund.  The process for getting the funds this year takes place in two parts—first, a “White Paper”, which is a two-page compelling synopsis of the project.  If it is successful and gets chosen, part two is a follow-up full proposal.  Given that there are 64 SUNY campuses and each campus was able to submit multiple proposals, only a fraction will make it through to the second round, and only about half the full proposals will ultimately get funded.


I’d love to give everyone details about what we submitted, but since this is a competitive process, and since we may also want to take our grants to other potential funders, I’d rather not give other folks our ideas.  I can tell you that we submitted 8 proposals, some of them solely from SUNY Canton, and some of them with other SUNY partners.  We’d obviously like them all to be selected, but reality tells us that won’t be the case—we’ll be doing well if one or two of them make the second round. The decision points are around September 10 to let us know who gets into the second round and then September 30 to submit the full proposals. If any of ours are selected, we’ll have to write quickly!

While this may seem like a lot of work without a guarantee of getting any funding, it’s well worthwhile.  Even if the project isn’t funded by SUNY, it’s still a good thing to have a portfolio of projects to describe to potential donors who may be interested.  Some of the projects also may be competitive for grants from other sources.  Last year alone, more than $1.5M in grant funds have been secured by various people on campus writing successful grants (and there are still a few we’re waiting to hear about), which is really crucial in these times of limited state funding.

Back in the day, when I was a young faculty member, I had never written a grant.  The closest I had come was helping to collate and staple a last minute grant when I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina.  When I started teaching at my first college, the Chemistry Department’s total capital budget was $6,000, and the basic pieces of equipment I wanted to use in my research cost $50,000 (for a Fourier-transform Infrared Spectrometer, FTIR for short) and $150,000+ (for a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer, NMR).  Needless to say, even if the department devoted its entire budget to me, you can do the math—it would have been 9 or 25 years before I could purchase one.  That’s when I had to learn about grants.

Working with some of my colleagues in the department, we started to submit grant proposals to various foundations—some local, some state, and some national.  In most cases, our first try wasn’t successful.  This is normal—you need to see what the reviewers say to see what thing you needed to include but didn’t, or where you messed something up, or if your idea is even within the range of things that might be funded, since foundations change their priorities from time to time.  That’s why lots of successful grant-writers will tell you that the first try is to see what you did wrong.  If you listen to the reviewers, do your research about the foundation, and have a reasonably good idea, the second attempt is much more likely to be funded.  Of course, sometimes you get lucky on the first shot, and sometimes even your second or third attempt fails.  The important thing is to keep trying.

The first grant I got funded was from a local foundation that gave us $30,000 or so.  That was a good day.  Then there was the one time that my two primary grant writing colleagues and I received positive results from three submissions in the same week—two from the National Science Foundation and one from a national private foundation.  That was a great week!  Overall at my first college (which was a small liberal arts college without much of a track record in grant writing) I wrote or co-wrote more than $3M in successful grants to support my research and my department, and even did a few for other departments.

So, a big thanks to everyone who was involved in writing the White Papers.  Also, if you’ve got a great project that you’d like to see happen, but your department or school don’t have the funds to support, writing grants may be your best path.  Yes, it can be a lot of work, but the rewards can be really good too—support for your project, summer pay, and providing better resources for our students.  JoAnne Fassinger provides tremendous help to novice (and not so novice) grant writers on our campus and can help you identify potential sources of support.  Your more senior colleagues, department chairs, deans, and provost are also potential sources of help.  And, if I’m not tied up in some meeting somewhere, I’d also enjoy talking to you about how we can make your idea become a reality.



Freedom of Speech (Part 1)

It may be because it was the first week of classes, but there were a lot of articles this past week about various freedom of speech issues on campuses around the country.  I’ll give a brief synopsis of four campus’ issues, but rest assured there were many more.


Let’s start with Old Dominion University, where students in an off-campus fraternity hung some sheets from their balcony on move-in day that said the following: “Rowdy and Fun—Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time…”, “Freshman daughter drop off”, and “Go ahead and drop off mom too…”  Needless to say, the campus leadership and many folks on campus were not amused.  The administration sent out a warning, stating in part: “[m]essages like the ones displayed yesterday by a few students on the balcony of their private residence are not and will not be tolerated” and “[a]ny student found to have violated the code of conduct will be subject to disciplinary action.”

While this kind of response from a college administration may seem reasonable under the circumstances, college students have the right of free speech, even when that speech may be viewed as offensive or controversial.  As noted on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) website in an article by Sarah McLaughlin:

“In Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri (1973), the Supreme Court held that students cannot be punished simply because their speech contradicts a university’s “conventions of decency.” And in Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason University (1993), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the jurisdiction of which includes ODU, ruled that even crude student speech enjoys First Amendment protection. In these rulings, the courts held that the University of Missouri and George Mason University could not punish students simply because others were offended by their speech.” 

Hmm…so what is the right response?  At ODU, cooler heads prevailed and the president sent out a letter to the campus, writing:

“A young lady I talked to earlier today courageously described the true meaning of the hurt this caused. She thought seriously about going back home.  But she was heartened, she explained, when she saw how fellow students were reacting to this incident on social media. She realized this callous and senseless act did not reflect the Old Dominion she has come to love.”

In other words, the best response to the offensive speech wasn’t censorship—it was more speech from reasonable and responsible people in the campus community, supporting the college’s standards and criticizing the loutish behavior.  The banners disappeared quickly.


Unknown In a very different kind of free speech issue also described in FIRE, Professor Katie Watson, editor of a faculty-produced bioethics journal called Atrium, ran into trouble at Northwestern University, where the journal is published.  The journal had published an issue called “Bad Girls”, guest-edited by Alice Dreger (a clinical professor in the Medical Humanities & Bioethics program at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine) in which an essay by Syracuse University professor William J. Peace appeared.  In that essay, Peace described a past sexual encounter with a nurse while he was undergoing rehabilitation after paralysis at age 18.

The sexual content of the essay led to some controversy, which in turn led to Northwestern removing the offending issue of Atrium from its website.  After Dreger threatened to go public about the censorship, the University restored access to the journal, but moved to set up an oversight committee to review future issues of the journal before publication.  While Northwestern characterized the committee as “an editorial board of faculty members and others, as is customary for academic journals”, Prof. Watson said that the committee included medical school administrators and a member of the medical school’s communications department.

Watson began looking into ways of making Atrium an independent journal, finding another publisher, or cancelling it.  As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dreger has now resigned from Northwestern over the issue.  Ironically, Dreger is the author of a recent book titled Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, “a book about academic freedom focusing on researchers who got in trouble for putting forth challenging ideas about sex.”

On August 24, Dreger wrote in her resignation letter:

… my most recent book, on academic freedom, was made possible because I came to Northwestern University. It happened because, as I took on one controversial issue after another—first the Bailey transsexualism controversy, then the Chagnon/Tierney fiasco in American anthropology, then the prenatal dexamethasone intervention disaster—university leaders defended my academic freedom when they received often sharp criticisms of my work. Time and again, my academic freedom was protected by Northwestern University. Northwestern University enabled me to work effectively and confidently, for a full decade, in the service of the disempowered and the wronged. For that, I am deeply grateful.

But I no longer work at that institution. I no longer work at a university that fearlessly defends academic freedom in the face of criticism, controversy, and calls for censorship. Now, I work at a university at which my own dean thinks he has the authority to censor my work. An institution in which the faculty are afraid to offend the dean is not an institution where I can in good conscience do my work. Such an institution is not a “university,” in the truest sense of that word.

Northwestern University administrators have declined to comment.

This particular freedom of speech issue is a more complicated one.  As the publisher and financial supporter of the journal, it is not unreasonable for Northwestern to insist on particular editorial standards for the articles published in it.  As an example, if one of the journal’s editorial standards is “no obscenity”, the university has every right to expect that the editor will uphold those standards, and that authors of articles abide by them.  The author has the choices of removing the obscenity or submitting the article elsewhere.  The imposition of editorial standards is not censorship—editors and publishers are under no obligation to publish anything that violates their stated standards.

In this case, however, no deviation from editorial standards was alleged by the university.  The article in question met the journal’s editorial standards, and was accepted and published.  Due to the controversy, the university engaged in censorship by removal of the issue from their website.  This was clearly wrong, as the university seems tacitly to agree, by having restored access to the journal.  When Dreger called on the university to apologize, however, “what happened was denial, avoidance, blame-shifting, and evasion. To this day, the university has not admitted its mistake, and it has not affirmed its commitment to academic freedom in a way that makes clear that similar incidents will not occur in the future.

Does the university have the right to change its editorial standards by imposing an oversight board?  That depends on its purpose.  If the university establishes a clear set of guidelines and the oversight board determines if the articles being submitted follow them, there is no censorship.  If, however, the oversight board’s purpose is to determine whether publishing an article might embarrass the university (due to being controversial in some way), that’s censorship.

Dreger is clearly one of those people who have a “bright red ethical line” that they will never cross, no matter what the cost.  It would be a better world if there were more people like her.

More to come in Part 2, next issue.  Other opinions and counter-arguments are invited.



Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt with musical hits from the ‘80’s.  As the music gets more recent, the number of entries has increased.  Perhaps that we’re now giving a prize has also helped!  The winner was Thomas Rotnem, a professor of political science at the former SPSU (I can’t bring myself to type its new name).  Others with all five right included Alan Gabrielli (also from SPSU), Rosemary Philips, Renee Campbell, Scott Quinell, DianeMarie Collins, Carmela Young, Rebecca Blackmon, Greg Kie, Marianne DiMarco-Temkin, Christina Lesyk, Bill Prigge (off in Tennessee), Barry Birckhead (also SPSU), and Drorit Szafran (my sister).  Each one wins a prize, and you have to come to my office (6th floor, MacArthur Hall) to get it.  Prizes will be available as of Friday.  If the out of state winners want me to mail them a prize, please email me with your current address.


Here are the correct answers:

  1. Ray Parker Jr. answered “Who’re you gonna call?”  Ghostbusters.
  2. Pink Floyd song, about why “We don’t need no education.” Another Brick in the Wall.
  3. Kim Carnes’ homage to a great ‘40’s movie star that begins: “Her hair is Harlowe gold, Her lips sweet surprise.” Bette Davis Eyes.
  4. Song with an amphibian in the title by Culture Club. Karma Chameleon.  Several people reminded me as to why I became a chemist, rather than a biologist—a chameleon isn’t an amphibian, it’s a reptile!  I hang my head in taxonomic shame. Alan Gabrielli and Ken Erickson were the first to hang me out to dry.
  5. Why Stevie Wonder phoned. (I Just Called) To say I love You.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

We continue our move to more recent days in this week’s challenge, which deals with musical hits from the second half of the 1980’s.  To celebrate the new academic year, from this point on, all winners win a CD, DVD, or whatever else I come up with from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates or good stuff I want to get rid of.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Huey Lewis & the News song—it make a one man weep, make another man sing.
  2. It took Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder singing together to explain this.
  3. What Robert Palmer might as well face it about.
  4. Peter Gabriel song saying “you could have a stream train, if you’d just lay down your tracks.”
  5. Norwegian group who sang “Take On Me”, which has a very cool animated music videos to go with it.
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