April 17, 2015


Volume 9, Issue 33– April 17, 2015

It Was the Best of Times…

Last week was as fantastic a week as I’ve ever experienced. Naturally, a major part of the appeal is that the events were done in honor of my inauguration, but I’ve attended many inaugurations in the past and there is no question in my mind that this was the very best of them. And it’s not just me saying that—I’ve heard the same comment from lots of other folks.  


Inauguration week began on Monday (April 6) with a Campus Kick-Off, held in the Underground Lounge. There was beautiful singing and playing by Kasey Cunningham, one of our students, wonderful food from our College Association, and a blessing for the week of activities by Rabbi Rappaport. Something many people know is that my inauguration was held during Passover, which added a few complications. First, I couldn’t eat any bread or similar product that rises when cooked, since such foods are forbidden on Passover. As a result, Steve and Sue from our food service had to provide some food that was kosher for Passover, as well as regular food. Not everyone who’s Jewish follows these food restrictions for the entire eight days of the holiday, but I thought it was important that we allowed for people who do follow them. Second, the first two days and the seventh and eighth days of Passover are full religious holidays, meaning (among other things) that you’re not supposed to travel on them. Since the inauguration ceremony itself was on Friday, April 10, the seventh day of Passover, no rabbi could travel to Canton to do the benediction. That’s why we had the blessing at the beginning of the week at the kick-off. Rabbi Rappaport, who is the rabbi for Syracuse University’s Hillel (Jewish student’s organization), was kind enough to travel all the way from there to our campus to give the blessing and say a few words, and I can’t thank him enough for doing it.

inauguration kickoff April 06, 2015[1]

That evening, Mr. Sung Lee, Director of Business Operations at Welch Allyn (an international manufacturer of high-quality medical instruments headquartered in Skaneateles Falls, NY) gave an excellent presentation as part of our Leadership Lecture Series that I described in last week’s BLAB.  


On Tuesday, I got a chance to look at some of the History Timelines that various departments and offices placed all around campus. I’ve seen at least five different versions, focusing in on different areas and perhaps there were others. They were all very cool and informative. At noon, I attended the Faculty/Staff Publication Displays in the Library, which also included research presentations by our students and faculty. The librarians had prepared notebooks with our faculty/staff’s pictures on their covers, which contained journal articles that they had written. Books that our faculty/staff had written were displayed alongside. I’m not sure how they did it, but as a surprise for me, alongside my notebook of publications, our librarians had managed to turn up a hardcopy of my PhD thesis—probably the only copy in existence that isn’t on my own bookshelf. I know that you’ll all take advantage of the opportunity to go and read it! The research presentations were wonderful, and when I asked them some questions related to their work, they were well prepared to answer them. I’m told that the faculty/staff publications display will become permanent, so if all of your work didn’t appear, please get the library copies so that they can be proudly shown to our community. I know I’ll be doing that.

Inauguration Week 6x4-2

I then went on a walking tour of the campus, where several programs had presentations and displays. Unfortunately, I only had two hours before the next event, and there were so many presentations that I couldn’t get to some of them. First up was the Early Childhood Education program, who had a wonderful display of children’s educational games that our students had developed. Each student had a large display about the theme and learning aspects of their game, as well as a sample of the game itself.


Next was the Sports Management program, which did a mock television broadcast, showing off their excellent production facilities in Wicks Hall. Also in Wicks Hall, I saw the laboratories associated with our Physical Therapy Assistant program. I have to admit that while I knew we had programs in these two areas, I had (up until then) never seen their facilities. I was extremely impressed with the high-quality resources that our students get to use.


Down in Neveldine Hall, I saw a very nice display produced by our Graphic and Multimedia Design program students. Our students in the program are doing some very cool things, among which were creating a greeting card company (including the cards themselves as well as advertising and marketing materials), creating a comic book (a copy of which is now in my collection) and creating a set of superheroes based on SUNY Canton students, designing hats and caps, creating a photographic collection and starting up a photography business, and creating a video about their program.


Also in Neveldine, I saw the Auto Engineering lab, where students were working on restoring a 1955 Lincoln Premiere (see the March 5 BLAB for details, here), among many other things. It’s a fantastic facility, far beyond anything we’ve had on any of my previous campuses.


I had to cut off my tour at this point, because it was time for the Roos Rising Parade. I got to ride in one of the campus GEM cars as it went around campus, past the residence halls as large groups of students joined in, all carrying banners and wearing special T-shirts.

Inauguration Week 6x4-6

As the parade went by Chaney Dining Hall, my wife Jill and my parents (who had arrived slightly late) jumped into other GEM cars and off we went, down to our athletics field for a Women’s Lacrosse game against Clarkson. Our mascot Rudy was there to encourage the crowd. It obviously worked, since SUNY Canton beat Clarkson 13-11 (though my father said it was because he was there).

Inauguration Week 6x4-14

At the game, the athletics staff gave me one of the greatest gifts ever—a bobblehead doll with my face and soccer jersey on it!   That evening, I attended a Scholarly Activities Celebration in Cook Hall. There were so many presentations (by both faculty and students) that there had to be two parallel sessions, which was too bad since I wanted to see them all. I bounced back and forth between the two and thoroughly enjoyed all the talks.


Wednesday was “Pay it Forward”, a day of service for the campus. Students, faculty, and staff were all engaged in various activities to serve our community. My own contribution was doing a chemistry magic show for Canton pre-K through 4th graders. The show was held at the high school’s auditorium and there were about 500 children present. While the children loved all the experiments, which included making fireballs, exploding some hydrogen balloons, starting a fire with water (and then putting it out with the same water), clock reactions, and freezing lots of things in liquid nitrogen (-400°F! That’s cold!), their favorite reaction was one of the simplest: an oxidation-reduction reaction where a liquid changes from colorless to blue (and back) when you shake it. I told them my favorite color was blue and shook the bottle, turning the liquid blue, and then told them “The chemicals don’t always behave, so let me know if the blue color goes away.” Every time it did, the children would start to yell, and I’d invite one of them onto the stage to shake it and make it blue again. Everyone wanted to be chosen. After a few times, I invited our mascot Rudy to try, saying “Even a kangaroo can do chemistry!” After that, the principal of the elementary school gave it a try. We had tons of fun, and I’m sure that at least a few of the children will want to become chemists in the future.


There were lots of other outreach activities. One of my favorites was done by our Criminal Justice student organization, whose contribution was to fingerprint children (I got mine done too), and later in the day, to present a K-9 bullet-proof vest to one of our local police forces—the ninth such vest that they’ve raised money to donate. Pretty cool!

K-9 Vest April 08, 2015-4

That evening, the mayor of Canton Mary Ann Ashley and the village board held a reception for me at the TAUNY (Traditional Arts of Upstate New York) Center. The big surprise was that they arranged for four students from the theatre program at the high school to appear dressed as the major Archie comic book characters: Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead, in honor of my once-upon-a-time appearance in an Archie comic book many years ago. The reception was wonderful, with excellent deserts all prepared by the culinary arts students from BOCES. A second big surprise was that we got a little snowstorm that evening, dropping 2-3 inches of very heavy, wet snow in about two hours. By 8:00 PM, though, it turned to rain and by the next evening, most of it was gone.  



On Thursday, I was asked to come visit the Development Office to see one of the College’s major benefactors, John Halford. I found out that he was making a leadership gift to the College in honor of my inauguration and challenging our alumni to match it. How great is that? Afterwards, I called my parents (who are friends with Mr. Halford) to join us at the Cascade Diner for breakfast with several of the folks from the Development Office. About half an hour later, it was time to eat again, since I was having lunch with the Student Government Association Executive Committee, where we honored students and staff. First up was the student who did the preliminary design for my presidential medallion, Austin Rdzanek. The design was contributed to by Lorette Murray, from our P.R. Office. Next up were the two students who won the Dr. James M. Payson Speaking Prize Competition, Pierre Nzuah and Rachel (Nikki) Zeitzmann.   I also met with the students who are running for SGA leadership positions next year.

medallion award April 09, 2015 Pierre award April 09, 2015 Nikki award April 09, 2015

After a quick meeting with Liz Erickson about our upcoming Strategic Planning effort, it was down to the Field House for a walk-through of the inauguration proceedings and a sound check. I got home a little early, because guests were beginning to arrive—my sister Drorit was coming up from Texas; Jill’s sister Ellen and her partner Etta from New York City; Jill’s cousins Meryl and Mark and Meryl’s son Joshua from Massachusetts; SPSU colleagues Nikki Palamiotis, Raj Sashti, and Dianne Summey from Georgia; and Merrimack colleague Ted Long (he was the VPAA when I was the Dean of Science and Engineering there) from Maine all came by. It was absolutely great to see them all, and our College Association had absolutely filled the house with food so that we could stuff them all!


Things started well on Friday, with me being able to sleep a little later than normal. I had planned on dropping into the office for a few minutes to handle some last minute details, but after showering and getting dressed, things began to go wrong. First, all the water in the house shut off. We thought it was because everyone in the place had been taking showers and the tank was empty, but after half an hour, we still had no water. I called Grants Plumbing and they said they’d send someone over as soon as possible. I went outside to look by our well head, and then noticed that the floor was wet in the outside room where our septic system head is. So, we had to call to get the septic system pumped out. When the plumber came, it turned out to be a clogged filter. When he changed it, the water came on, including the upstairs shower that had never been turned off when the water went off. The hot water went on the bathroom floor, and the steam set off the smoke detector (which was good, since it immediately told us something was going on). Due to strong support from Peggy Sue Levato, we were able to get all the stuff addressed that morning.

I was finally able to go over to the breakfast that had been arranged for my long-distance and family guests. In addition to the folks who had come by the house on Thursday night, I was happy to see some of my longest-term colleagues—Mohan Singh, Diane Rigos, and K.C. Swallow, all members of the Chemistry department I had hired and worked with for many years at Merrimack College (my first college); Bob Brown and David Stone, both SPSU colleagues; and Alan Gabrielli, who I had gone to graduate school with in South Carolina and who in the ultimate “small world” scenario, went on to become the Dean of Arts & Sciences at Southern Polytechnic. Breakfast was wonderful, but afterwards I had to run back to the house to make sure that everything was all right.


I then dashed back to the College to meet with reporters from Watertown Channel 7 and Time Warner Cable. I ran in to say hello to the faculty and staff who were representing other colleges in the procession. These included our former Acting President Joseph Hoffman, President Esterberg from SUNY Potsdam, President Fox from St. Lawrence (Tony Collins from Clarkson also attended the inauguration, but knew he would arrive too late to march), Joe Petrick (the Student Life VP when I was at New England College), and several others representing various SUNY campuses.

Hoffman - Szafran[1]

Chancellor Nancy Zimpher arrived at that point, and we both went up to the Mezzanine to prepare to march, joining several others who were already there. We then all got into line in our appropriate places for the inaugural procession. There were about 600 people in the audience, and as everyone took their seats, I was the last one to march onto the stage

Lenore VanderZee did a great job as emcee, and all the speeches went really well—the invocation by Mayor Ashley, the welcome from Ron O’Neill (chair of our College Council and the Search Committee), Liz Erickson speaking for our faculty, the two fabulous student speeches by Pierre Nzuah and Nikki Zeitzmann, and Dale Major (representing our alumni), and Chloe Ann O’Neil (representing our College Council). My wife Jill, who had been wrestling with all the issues that plagued us in the morning as well as son Mark’s panic attack because of the big crowd, was able to rush in at the last moment to give her remarks. She was really nervous, but did very well and got a huge round of applause.


My longtime friend (and former president of Elizabethtown College) Ted Long gave a great keynote speech—it meshed with my speech perfectly, which was remarkable considering that we had done nothing in advance to coordinate them. It’s always been that way—we have a similar view of the academic world and have always worked very well together. There were several musical interludes during the proceedings, courtesy of jazz combo A Fine Line, consisting of Bill Vitek (a faculty member from Clarkson University) and Dan Gagliardi (a Math faculty member at SUNY Canton). The songs were chosen to tie in with me in various ways, including a fine jazz version of the Ray Charles classic “Georgia”, and a personal favorite, “Mr. Ghost Goes to Town” with the words modified at the end to say “When Zvi Szafran Comes to Town”. I’ve seen A Fine Line many times, and they’re always fantastic.

The Chancellor then gave her speech (also great!) about the importance of higher education and how SUNY Canton can play a leadership role in the Technology sector and across SUNY. She then called me to the podium to formally inaugurate me as the fourth president of SUNY Canton. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I have to say that it was quite a thrill when she put the medallion of office around my neck and made it official.


It was then time for me to speak. The first thing I wanted to do was to thank the three co-chairs of the Inauguration Committee, Michaela Young, DianeMarie Collins, and Julie Parkman, who were called up to the stage and given small gifts. I also thanked the other members of the Inauguration Committee, everyone else who had participated in the week’s activities, my fellow Associated College presidents, and Ron O’Neill and Chancellor Zimpher, who were responsible for hiring me.


Starting the speech, I pointed out that inaugurations had an interesting duality—everything about them comes in twos. We look to the future, but also back to the past. Keeping with this “comes in twos” themes, I quoted from Dickens’ famous novel A Tale of Two Cities (saying that these are the best of times and also the worst of times for higher education) and from C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures (saying that SUNY Canton needs to be the College that can bridge between the sciences/technologies and the liberal arts to provide an applied education that also has context).

Focusing on how SUNY Canton is the type of college that makes a real difference to our graduates, our current students, to our community, and to the future of our region, I closed with a modified verse from a song by the group Timbuk 3:

We go to SUNY Canton, we love our classes,

We have these crazy teachers, they wear dark glasses.

Things are looking great, and they’re only getting better.

We study real hard, get good grades.

The future’s so bright, (and at this point, everyone in the platform party put on sunglasses) We gotta wear shades!

After a lot of applause, the recessional began. I walked through an honor guard of student athletes, shaking hands with all of them, and then welcomed the faculty procession as it came out. Lots of folks congratulated me and commented on how wonderful the inauguration had been.

I caught my breath, and it was then time for RooFest—the party after. The food was absolutely great, the music provided by Ben Amatucci, a student, A Fine Line, and Impromptu was fantastic, and I had a wonderful time shaking hands, having selfies and official pictures taken, and meeting everyone. After about two hours, the party closed with us forming the no-name band that plays at orientations, made up of Lenore VanderZee, Dan Gagliardi, and me, with Bill Vitek sitting in, playing a few numbers. The last number was our version of the full song The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades with SUNY Canton lyrics.



Saturday morning brought an Admitted Student Day event, where the no-name band played again, and I gave a welcome speech. Through the rest of the weekend, it was time to say goodbye to everyone who had come, and to think back on the previous week’s activities.  

Thanks a Million!

I don’t even know where to begin to thank everyone who did so much to make last week’s inauguration activities so wonderful. I’ll try to thank everyone below, but please forgive me if I’ve missed someone—it wasn’t intentional. My greatest thanks to:

  • The Inauguration Committee co-chairs, Michaela Young, DianeMarie Collins, and Julie Parkman
  • The other Inauguration Committee members: Theresa Corbine, Melissa Cummins, Daron Ellis, Emily Hamilton-Honey, Pat Hanss, Feng Hong, Sue Law, Priscilla Leggette, Pam McDonald-LaChance, Al Mulkin, Lorette Murray, Nancy Rowledge, Randy Sieminski, Lenore VanderZee, John Vandevere, Anne Williams
  • The Inauguration Honorary Committee members: Betty Connolly, Joan Eurto, Linda Fay, Pauline Graveline, Art Hurlbut, Deb Lowry, Ron and June O’Neill, Linda Pellett, Senator Ritchie, Wes and Janet Stitt, and Josephine Swift
  • Matt Mulkin, for many things but especially designing the program and timeline
  • Our PR Team – for designing the invitation, and taking care of press releases, promotion of events, media coordination
  • Theresa Corbine and the entire IT Staff
  • Pat Hanss, Walt Holmes, and the entire M&O Staff
  • Our fabulous Grounds Crew
  • Steve Maiocco, Sue Law, and Food Service Staff
  • John Vandevere and Staff
  • Randy Sieminski, the Athletics Staff, and our student athletes
  • Priscilla Leggette, the SGA, CAB, and all our students who participated in the events
  • Jim Hamilton – my fantastic assistant for the chemistry magic show
  • Chief Alan Mulkin and all the UP Officers
  • Nafeesa Johnson and our Student Ambassadors: Devine Pearson, Julian Shaw, Cole Tallerman, Steven Gonzalez, Jordan Edwards, Bessida Ouedraogo, and Shaquille Longford
  • Michelle Currier, Mike Magilligan, and the Library Staff for the great faculty/staff research exhibition and coordination of the events in the Library
  • The Scholarly Activities Celebration Committee
  • Raj Sashti, for organizing the Leadership Series.
  • Julie Parkman, Katie Kennedy, and Terri Clemmo for coordinated the Payson Speech Contest
  • Our Vice Presidents (Courtney Bish, Dave Gerlach, and Shawn Miller), Provost (Karen Spellacy) and Deans (J.D. DeLong, Ken Erickson, Mike Newtown, and Molly Mott), for supporting all of the activities
  • So many volunteers for so many things – Nancy Rowledge, Tina Flanagan, Terry Waldruff, Erin Voisin, Christina Martin, Natasha Flanagan, Karen McAuliffe, Renee Campbell, Rebecca Blackmon, Colleen Sheridan, Amanda Rowley, Tammy Harradine, Brenda Mullaney, Janet Livingston, Anne Williams, Julie Parkman, Will Fassinger, Lashawanda Ingram, Chad Delosh, Al Mulkin, Amanda Deckert, Nafeesa Johnson, Julia Radley, Scott Quinell, and David Rourke
  • Nick Kocher, Priscilla Leggette, and Patty Todd
  • Mayor Ashley and the Village Board for the Community Reception
  • Our Color Guard: Laura Difrenza, Shannon Perham, and Thomas Sanford
  • Dan Fay for serving as Macebearer
  • Lenore VanderZee for fantastic emceeing
  • Tony Beane for his great version of the alma mater
  • Moriah Cody for her wonderful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner
  • Dan Gagliardi and Bill Vitek from A Fine Line
  • Impromptu (Bruce Hanson, Richard Todd, Mark Darou, and Chris Riordan)
  • Ben Amatucci for his wonderful playing and singing during the RooFest
  • Our Great Speakers: Ron O’Neill, Mayor Mary Ann Ashley, Liz Erickson, Pierre Nzuah, Rachel Zeitzmann, Dale Major, Chloe Ann O’Neil, Jill Szafran, and Ted Long
  • Our other College Council Members – Tom Sauter, Joe Rich, Marie Regan, Roger Sharlow, and Melissa Cummins
  • Chancellor Nancy Zimpher
  • Rabbi Rappaport, for the blessing at the Inauguration Kick-Off
  • The College Association
  • The College Foundation
  • Our Fabulous Faculty and Staff

Wow! That’s a lot of people!    

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

There wasn’t one!  

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with dogs and cats. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Seuss classic about trouble at Sally and her brother’s house, first published in 1957.
  2. Song by Baha Men, it won the Grammy in 2001 for Best Dance Recording.
  3. A particularly stealthy thief, especially one that gains entry undetected.
  4. Rock band named for what indigenous Australians do on freezing cold nights. Songs include Eli’s Coming, Mama Told Me (Not to Come), and Joy to the World.
  5. 1965 comedy western starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin.


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April 8, 2015


Volume 9, Issue 32– April 8, 2015



It’s Sometimes Tough…

It’s sometimes tough to get the BLAB out on a weekly basis, since so very much is going on. As almost everyone knows, this week is my inauguration week, so I’m going to wait until next week to reflect on that and tell about everything that went on, for those who couldn’t make it in person. For now, I’d like to encourage everyone who can to participate in the many great activities that are taking place, and to come to the inauguration ceremony itself on Friday (April 10) at 2:00 PM, and to the big party and RooFest that starts at 4:00 PM. And at the very end of it, at 5:30, our four-person band will play a few numbers, including one that’s a surprise and will tie in to the end of my inaugural speech. Now who’d want to miss that? Hope to see you there!



Leadership Lectures

We’ve been hosting a Leadership Lecture Series, bringing business leaders on campus periodically this semester. Raj Sashti identifies these leaders and coordinates their coming here, and has also done some fundraising to help pay for the costs—dinner with the speaker, accommodations (when needed), gifts, etc. On March 24, we hosted Mike Hawthorne, president of New York Air Brake, an international company in the railroad industry, headquartered in Watertown, NY, who gave a great talk.


On April 6, our guest was Sung Lee, Director of Business Operations at Welch Allyn, an international manufacturer of high quality medical instruments headquartered in Skaneateles Falls NY, whose presentation was also excellent.


At these talks, the business leaders tell us a bit about their own company, but the main part is where they talk about the path they took to reach their leadership positions, and the main attributes a leader should have—their formula for success. It’s interesting that the paths taken by the three business leaders we’ve hosted so far have been quite different—it’s obviously true that the adage “There are many paths to success” is accurate. All the talks have been well attended, and our students have shown a lot of interest in how to succeed in business.



Go West, Old Man

Much of my time the past 10 days has been taken up by travel—I was away for a week, during which I went to Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Albany. My trip began at 5:30 AM on March 25th, when I left Canton for Ogdensburg to catch a flight to Albany. I needed to get some money (I only had about $12 in my wallet), so I stopped at the bank. Unfortunately, the ATM in the drive through wasn’t working (it had a software problem), and my card wouldn’t open the door for the ATM in the front. I figured it really wasn’t a problem—these days, I hardly ever use cash, because you can charge anything.

The flight from Ogdensburg to Albany was fine. While the plane is a little bitty eight-seater, it’s still reasonably comfortable—so much so that the last three times I’ve flown this route (including this trip), I’ve fallen asleep for almost the entire flight. I got breakfast in the terminal, got onto a USAir flight to Philadelphia, and then caught another flight to Las Vegas.

The purpose of the Las Vegas trip was two-fold: my parents (part of the year) and my uncle, aunt, and a cousin (all year) all live there, and I wanted to see them, especially since my Uncle Nathan had just celebrated his 90th birthday. The second reason is that I was also doing a few visits to SUNY Canton alumni in Nevada. A friend of my father’s picked me up at the airport, and a few minutes later I was in my parents’ apartment. The next day, we all went out for dinner to re-celebrate my Uncle’s birthday.


L-R:  My Uncle Nathan, my father Daniel

On March 27th, I got together with Geoffrey VanderWoude, a member of our development office, and went to see Barbara Wilson (’81), Theresa Witherell (’92), and Robert Witherell (’91) at the Cheesecake Factory. We had a nice conversation and a nice dinner, talking about their time at SUNY Canton and about what’s going on at the college now. As a fan of the Big Bang Theory TV show, it felt a little funny eating at the Cheesecake Factory (believe it or not, it was my first time there ever), given that’s where the character Penny works. No, I didn’t see her there!


L-R:  Geoffrey VanderWoude, Barbara Wilson (’81), me, Theresa Witherell (’92), and Robert Witherell (’91).

The next day, Geoffrey and I met with Michael Janssen (’91) and his partner Michelle at Delmonico’s restaurant at the Venetian Casino on the strip. We had gotten there a fair bit early, thinking that finding a parking spot would be difficult, but as usual when you give yourself enough time, we found one right away. On our way through the casino, a well-dressed man walked up to me, shook my hand, and said it was really nice to see me. I said “It’s nice to see you too”, and after we parted, Geoffrey asked me who the man was. “I have no idea,” I said. After finding the restaurant, we sat down and people-watched for a little while, and talked to a Canadian couple who sat down a little later because they were tired. They were surprised to find out I knew where Sudbury (their home town) was. I’ve never been there, but I came within a few miles of there on a drive from Las Vegas to New Hampshire ten years earlier. Michael and Michelle came a few minutes later, and dinner at Delmonico’s was great. The restaurant is world-famous for steak, so of course that’s what we had. They’re a lovely couple and a lot of fun to talk to, and strong supporters of the our Steel Bridge Team.


Saturday was a day with the family, and we all had dinner at my cousin Karen’s house. She has a nice Spanish type house that you see all over Las Vegas, complete with an enclosed back yard with pool and outdoor barbeque area—very nice.

Sunday, it was time to leave and fly to Phoenix. Peggy Sue Levato met me at the airport, and we went to the hotel, a Marriott not far from there. After checking in and washing up a little, Peggy, Geoffrey (who had flown there a day earlier), and I went to visit Bobbie Burnham (’46) and her partner, Richard Randol at their home. They’re a great couple and Bobbie was just delightful and full of energy. They showed us their beautiful home and showed us some lemons they had grown, one the size of a softball. We went out to dinner nearby at an Italian restaurant, and had a great time reminiscing and talking.


Monday began with breakfast with Dean Rowland (’66), a SUNY Canton grad who majored in hotel management. Dean is an interesting guy, who has also acted in some shows and is a good singer.


Peggy, Geoffrey, and I hit the outlet malls that afternoon, all doing our share to stimulate the Arizona economy! Dinner that night was in Sun City with Barbara Wilder (’53) and her husband Fred (who is an SLU grad). Barbara made us dinner (a delicious chicken piccata), after showing us around their lovely home with beautiful cacti in the back yard. Lots of homes in metro-Phoenix have dispensed with lawns, going for colored gravel and beautiful cacti and other desert flowers and trees instead. We had a really pleasant conversation, and Fred told me he was a history buff, especially about Vermont’s role in the Civil War.


Lunch on Tuesday was with Wayne Barkley (’50) and his wife Barbara, Bob Styring (’70) and Jon Richardson (’67), all interesting people, two of whom are now in the real estate game in Phoenix. Jon used to work for the Atlanta Braves and their farm teams and the Baltimore Orioles (including when they won their world series in 1983) , and is interested in helping with our Sports Management program.


L-R:  Peggy Levato, Barbara, Wayne Barkley (’50), me, Bob Styring (’70), Jon Richardson (’67) and Geoffrey VanderWoude.

That evening, we went to a really beautiful and interesting place called the WigWam Resort, where we had dinner with Jon Richardson and Chuck and Linda Goolden. Chuck, as many of you know, is a member of our Foundation Board, and has done tremendous service for the college, helping us grow our endowment.


L-R: Geoffrey VanderWoude, Jon Richardson (’67), me, Chuck & Linda Goolden, and Peggy Levato.

Wednesday, April 1, it was off to the airport early, for a flight to Charlotte, NC and a very tight (30 minutes) connection to Albany. Fortunately, I was able to sleep much of the way on the Charlotte flight, where I might have gotten one of those snack packs, but they were sold out by the time the cart got to me. After landing in Albany, I took a taxi to the Hilton, where I was staying. It’s a nice hotel, located downtown, which was good because I was absolutely starving—I had left before anyone was serving breakfast, and had no time to get anything to eat when changing planes. I took a quick walk down to Jack’s Oyster House, an Albany restaurant institution, and had a nice meal.

The next morning, it was off to the Egg Performing Arts Center in Albany for the Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence. I met up with our own two winners, Pierre Nzuah, and Danielle St. Denis, and we took our assigned seats at the staging area (alphabetically by college name) among the 250 or so students and campus representatives there for the ceremony. We all then filed into the main hall for the event, filling in the seats in the same order as had been in the staging area. After a presentation and some introductory remarks from Chancellor Zimpher, each row was called in turn to go onto the stage, where an announcer read the name of the each college’s campus representative (me for SUNY Canton). The students were then called to be congratulated by the Chancellor and the representative.


When the last SUNY was called (Westchester!), the ceremony was done and there was a buffet lunch, where the award winners were able to get together with their family and friends.

I had to dash off at noon to go back to the hotel, and take a shuttle to the airport. The driver of the shuttle was kind enough to make a special trip for me, but when I went into my wallet to give him a tip, I saw that I had spent every cent of US currency—I had nothing left! I apologized, but fortunately, I had some Canadian bills, so I apologized again, gave him a nice tip in Canadian dollars, and told him he needed to visit the North Country so he could cross the border and spend it. I caught the 2:30 PM flight back to Ogdensburg, and was back on the campus by 4:30 PM. Whew!

The trip was great, and it was wonderful seeing family, meeting so many alumni, and seeing our students get their awards. My only regret is that I had to miss the Living Writers Series talk by Bill McKibben that was held on Thursday, while I was in Albany. I’ve heard that it was just fantastic, drawing a huge crowd of 700. Mr. McKibben, an environmental activist and author spoke about the dangers of global warming to a packed house in the CARC.



Friday was an all-meeting day, trying to catch up on everything since I was away, and trying to finish by 4:30, since Passover began that evening, and we were all invited to a Seder (the formal meal one eats for the holiday) at a friend’s house.



Tweet, Tweet

Here’s a reminder that in case you have nothing better to do, I’m also now on Twitter. If you want to follow my posts, you can find them at @SUNYCantonPrez.




Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with children’s rhymes. Our winner was John Jodice, from our help desk. Others getting all five right included Rajiv Narula, Marcie Sullivan-Marin, Nancy Rowledge, Rhonda Rodriguez, Janel Smith, Christina Lesyk, my sister Drorit, and Brett Furnia. Here are the correct answers:

  1. Why Jack and Jill went up the hill. Too Fetch a Pail of Water.
  2. It keeps (or sends) the doctor away, according to the rhyme. An Apple a Day.
  3. What Little Miss Muffet ate. Curds and Whey.
  4. The boy who kissed the girls and made them cry. Georgie Porgie.
  5. They “Sailed off in a wooden shoe—Sailed on a river of crystal light, Into a sea of dew”. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

I’m too tired to write one! The Trivia Contest will return next issue.



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

March 22, 2015


Volume 9, Issue 31– March 22, 2015



Tweet, Tweet

In case you have nothing better to do, I’m also now on Twitter. If you want to follow my posts, you can find them at @SUNYCantonPrez.


CONTEST! Why SUNY Canton is the Greatest Place on Earth

Since the last BLAB was during spring break, I thought I’d repeat this item in case you missed it. We’re starting a contest called “Why SUNY Canton is the Greatest Place on Earth”. It’s obvious to all of us that SUNY Canton is the greatest, but we need to capture the story to prove it to the rest of the world!

I’m sure you’ve seen multiple examples of this—a great student project. A transcendent moment in the classroom or lab. A beautiful spot on campus. A great on-campus event. A winning moment in athletics. Cool students, faculty, and staff. Something funny or touching that captures the SUNY Canton spirit.

We want you to submit a picture (or short video clip) capturing part of our story, along with a suggested caption. We’ll number and post the good ones, credited to the people who submitted them, on our new website at http://canton.edu/greatest/. You can see a few samples there now to give you an idea of what we’re looking for. The very best submissions will be saved for “milestone” numbers (#50, #100, and so on) and will win big prizes. There’s no limit to the number of pictures and ideas you can submit.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there with your camera and your imagination and start submitting. Just click on “submit a photo” to learn how, and you’re ready to be a part of history.


Save Students Money–Consider Open Textbooks

In these times of rising tuitions and stagnant salaries, it’s always a good idea to think about ways that can save our students some money.  One way is to consider using an open textbook.  SUNY maintains a list of open textbooks which can be found here.  A much larger list can be found at MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching).  To access MERLOT’s list, click here, and scroll down to the section with the headline “How Can I Find Open Textbooks? Easy!”.  More than 2500 open textbooks are available in every discipline.

You will, of course, want to review the quality of the open textbook in exactly the same way you’d review a commercial text.  So give it a look, and perhaps you can help our students make college a little more affordable.


ACE Conference

Last week was a busy one, as it involved a lot of travel and meetings. It started on Friday, March 13, when I flew down to Washington DC for the American Council on Education (ACE) conference. I know lots of first-rate people who are ACE members (and a few who became ACE fellows), and they had a series of sessions for new presidents, so I decided it was high time I attended one of their conferences. I was glad I did. The conference started on Saturday and I was there until Monday.

I got to DC without incident at a little after noon and took a taxi to my hotel. On the drive in, I noticed a very nice Indian restaurant, so after checking in, I took a walk there and had lunch. The weather was so nice that I took a walk to the National Zoo, where I enjoyed seeing the pandas and various other exhibits.


One session dealt with the major education initiatives from the federal government:

  • The Department of Education plans to implement a Ratings Project, which would give ratings to every college in the country on access, affordability, and outcomes.  Whether there will there be three ratings or a composite rating for each college is unclear.  The target date for implementation is August, and no commitment has been given that there will by any peer review of the proposal.  There is some possibility Congress will block this project.  There is a risk to colleges that a bad rating might harm their reputation, based on flawed data and a poor process.
  • The President wants to make community colleges free across the country, based on a model implemented in Tennessee.  Questions have been raised about “why not fund first two years of 4 year colleges”? It’s thought that the proposal won’t get far in Congress, since it will cost $70B over 5 years.
  • Work is also being carried out regarding teacher preparation regulations. The idea is to have states figure out how to do this, basing it on how students progress using a pre-test, post-test model.  How well teacher did (“the value added”) would be used to rate the education program at the college the teacher graduated from.  Final regulations have not yet been issued and will phase in. It would be 4-5 years before there are any consequences.

A session dealt with the Campus as a Safe Learning Environment. Among the major points raised were:

  • Colleges have to be intentional about diversity and embed it in the classroom.  Faculty should be given training on how to teach diverse students.
  • Sexual assault and binge drinking are not problems to be solved—we can’t make them go away.  They are issues to be managed.  We need to be prepared to answer the question “What have you done to manage this, and need a campus plan.
  • Anything bad that happens on our campuses is immediately amplified by social media, often before we’re ready to begin talking.  We need a rapid response plan.  We must have good relations with religious leaders in our community.
  • Have Community Forums to get diverse opinions and to engage the community. Use social media to bring in the community.
  • In every communication, say what you’re trying to achieve.  You can’t communicate enough.  There’s a perception in the public that college presidents only react to crises—they don’t expect you to be ahead of issues.  There’s skepticism about what we say, and that we only tell half-truths.

Another session discussed the Next Generation of Equity. Major points raised there included:

  • Defining equity is complex, and should depend on what’s important to the institution defining it.  Institutions must grapple with what it means to them.  It depends, in part, on institutional mission.
  • Campuses should have metrics that measures progress, broken down by individual groups. Equality is different from equity—you can have same outcomes, but not everyone starts in the same place.
  • Lots of communities have a precise definition of equity, only it’s not always the same one.  One school developed an equity scorecard as a way to start. This allowed looking at measures without tightly defining equity. Belief follows practice.
  • Equity has to be something that everyone owns and has to operationalize.  Too often, diversity and equity are little checkboxes that are off in some corner and don’t really affect the institution as a whole.
  • Too much focus is given to avoidance of risk, rather than achievement of equity.  What else is a presidency for except to take some risks to do the right things?

A really interesting session dealt with the Presidency in the 21st Century. I’m out of room, so I’ll try to talk a bit about it in the next issue of the BLAB. 


Mike Hawthorne of New York Air Brake to Speak

Mike Hawthorne, the president of New York Air Brake, will visit SUNY Canton on Tuesday, March 24. He will be speaking from 5:45-7:15 PM in Neveldine North, room 102. All faculty and staff are invited to attend, and should encourage their students to attend as well. In addition to providing an overview of his company and its products and services, Mr. Hawthorne will describe his career path and the challenges and opportunities he encountered in becoming President.


Prior to becoming the President and CEO in July 2012, Mr. Hawthorne was responsible for all technical and operational functions of the company in Watertown, NY, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ontario.  He joined NYAB in 1995 as an Electronic Control System Engineer, advancing to Managing Team Leader for LEADER Products in 1996 and TDS Division Director in 2001. He was named Vice President and General Manager of NYAB in January 2012.  Aside from his 18 years at NYAB, Mr. Hawthorne has also worked as a Control System Engineer at Raytheon in Boston, where he was a Miccioli Scholar and member of the Seeker Design Team.  He is innovator with an established track record of identifying opportunities and converting concepts into profitable product offerings.  He is also the recipient of the 2012 Knorr Excellence Award.

Mr. Hawthorne received a B. S. in Electrical Engineering from Clarkson University, an M.S. in Control Systems/Singal Processing from R.P.I., and the M.B.A. from Syracuse University.  He holds more than 23 patents in train control and simulation.


The SUNY Canton Shout-Outs Continue!

Mock Trial

For the past two weeks (March 2-18), SUNY Canton’s Legal Studies program hosted area high school students competing in the St. Lawrence County Mock Trial Tournament. Six St. Lawrence County schools, coached by local attorneys, argued a civil case involving the alleged embezzlement of funds. Participating local high schools included Hammond Central School, Heuvelton Central School, Madrid-Waddington Central School, Morristown Central School, Ogdensburg Free Academy, and Potsdam High School.

Professors Alex and Christina Lesyk organized the event with the assistance of Professor Bill Jones. Dean J.D. DeLong judged the first night of the competition and other attorneys and judges from the local legal community served as judges for the other nights of the competition. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in this rather large effort. I can hear Sam Waterston applauding from here!


Roo-preneurship at Its Best!

Our Business Department recently hosted the 1st Annual Roo-preneur competition at SUNY Canton.  The contest, organized and facilitated by Professor Charles Fenner, drew seven teams and consisted of a redesign of the Raquette River Gift Company’s website, and recommendations for further expansion of the company.  In addition to team prizes, one student, Andrew Lang, was designated as the competition’s best speaker and will represent SUNY Canton in the individual speak-off competition at the 3rd Annual Free Enterprise Marathon at SUNY Plattsburgh on March 6th. The best students from the competition will form SUNY Canton’s team along with Andrew to the Free Enterprise Marathon Product Redesign Competition.


SUNY Canton Wins Award

SUNY Canton received an award last week for increased giving in the State Employees Federated Appeal (SEFA) campaign. Over the past year, we raised $8,013 vs. a little over $5,000 last year.  A breakfast was held at The Best Western Inn for area agencies, and Nancy Rowledge, Associate Director of Human Resources, accepted the plaque for SUNY Canton.  Tina Flanagan was also present and will be working on the SEFA program in the future.  A big THANK YOU to everyone who contributed!


Don’t Forget the Social

Don’t forget to sign up for the wine and cheese social on April 29, from 4:30 to 6:30 PM, in the Mezzanine of the Roo’s House. It’s a chance for faculty and staff to have a casual chat on any issue with me and Presiding Officer of the Faculty Assembly Liz Erickson, or just to hang out! It’s limited to 25 people, so please contact Colleen Sheridan at sheridanc@canton.edu or at x7870 as soon as possible (not later than April 24).


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with words that start with the letter “Z”. Our winner was Renee Campbell. Others getting all five right included Robin Gittings, Christina Lesyk, my sister Drorit Szafran, Rhonda Rodriguez, Janel Smith, Anne Williams, Barry Walch, and Brett Furnia. Here are the correct answers:

  1. They’re actually black with white stripes, not the other way around. Zebras.
  2. Introduced in 1963, they replaced zones in addresses for mail. Zip Codes.
  3. There are twelve, including Gemini, Cancer, and Pisces. Signs of the Zodiac.
  4. Song from the Disney movie “Song of the South”, the second line is “My, oh my, what a wonderful day.” Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.
  5. African country formerly known as South Rhodesia, its president is Robert Mugabe. (No credit for Zambia, which was formerly Northern Rhodesia).


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with children’s rhymes. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Why Jack and Jill went up the hill.
  2. It keeps (or sends) the doctor away, according to the rhyme.
  3. What Little Miss Muffet ate.
  4. The boy who kissed the girls and made them cry.
  5. They “Sailed off in a wooden shoe—Sailed on a river of crystal light, Into a sea of dew”.


Posted in Uncategorized

March 12, 2015


Volume 9, Issue 30– March 12, 2015


Faculty Member Wins Chancellor’s Award

Congratulations to our own Jill L. Martin, who has won the 2014-2015 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching. Jill teaches English and has been at SUNY Canton since 2000. While she has had many successes, one of the more interesting things she has done is to incorporate volunteer service components in her courses, giving students the opportunity to learn through community engagement. There is plenty of research indicating that being able to apply what one has learned through community engagement leads to deeper learning and greater engagement than classwork by itself.


Jill and Terry Martin

Prior to coming to SUNY Canton, Jill taught high school for 34 years, giving her a firm understanding of the students’ high school to college transition needs. She also created an Adjunct Mentorship Program and authored the College’s first adjunct handbook to help new adjuncts acclimate to our campus.

The Chancellor’s Awards are recognition for “consistently superior professional achievement and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence”. Chancellor Zimpher, during the announcement ceremony, said: “Adjunct teachers across the SUNY campuses provide consistently excellent instruction and are a key component of our faculty as we seek to increase access, completion, and success among students. Those honored with this year’s award have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to their students and an exceptional commitment to quality teaching.

Congratulations, Jill!


CONTEST! Why SUNY Canton is the Greatest Place on Earth

As mentioned in the BLAB two weeks ago, we’re starting a contest called “Why SUNY Canton is the Greatest Place on Earth”. It’s obvious to all of us that SUNY Canton is the greatest, but we need to capture the story to prove it to the rest of the world!

I’m sure you’ve seen multiple examples of this—a great student project. A transcendent moment in the classroom or lab. A beautiful spot on campus. A great on-campus event. A winning moment in athletics. Cool students, faculty, and staff. Something funny or touching that captures the SUNY Canton spirit.

We want you to submit a picture (or short video clip) capturing part of our story, along with a suggested caption. We’ll number and post the good ones, credited to the people who submitted them, on our new website at http://canton.edu/greatest/. You can see a few samples there now to give you an idea of what we’re looking for. The very best submissions will be saved for “milestone” numbers (#50, #100, and so on) and will win big prizes. There’s no limit to the number of pictures and ideas you can submit.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there with your camera and your imagination and start submitting. Just click on “submit a photo” to learn how, and you’re ready to be a part of history.


SUNY Canton Now Part of Coast Guard’s Auxiliary University Program

Students at SUNY Canton can now gain nautical education, operational training experiences, aviation studies training, leadership development opportunities, advanced maritime safety studies training, and homeland security training by participating in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Auxiliary University Program (AUP).

Coast Guard Auxiliary (2)

This non-credit bearing course of study will provide SUNY Canton students with service learning, internship, training, and Officer Candidate School opportunities with the active duty U.S. Coast Guard. Students who participate in this program will have no service obligation, but will receive free training while adhering to the U.S. Coast Guard core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty. Those who successfully complete the program will be designated as Auxiliary University Program (AUP) graduates.

Congratulations to Dr. Brian Harte for helping establish this program at SUNY Canton. Want more information? Just contact Dr. Harte at harteb@canton.edu.


Invest in SUNY


As many of you are aware, March is heavy budget time for our state government. Governor Cuomo has released his proposed state budget, and it’s now time for the State Assembly and Senate to weigh in with their proposals. Negotiations ensue, resulting in a final budget being passed, ideally by March 31. As a result, March is also the time that agencies, organizations, and individuals, all try to speak to members of the legislature and to the press regarding their needs and wants.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in editorial writing, press conferences, and meetings with key legislators to tell the SUNY Canton story, including our role in supporting economic growth in the North Country (and beyond), our students’ successes, and our needs going forward. My fellow SUNY presidents and I have also been advocating for the state to Invest in SUNY, to provide the necessary additional funding for us to meet ambitious goals of increasing both graduation rates and the number of SUNY graduates (from 90,000 to 150,000 annually by 2020).

The main points of Invest in SUNY are:

  • Establishing a SUNY Investment Fund, which would include a five-year performance funding plan, allowing SUNY to support evidence-based programs such as:
  • “Finish in Four” completion guarantee programs
  • Expansion of online programs through Open SUNY
  • Improved remedial pathways
  • Improved coordination and advisement in high school and college
  • Increased opportunities for applied learning and internships
  • Expansion of the Educational Opportunity Program, where we have 30,000 applicants annually for only 2,500 available seats
  • Establishing a Master Innovators Program, which would enable SUNY to successfully recruit and retain high-profile professors who generate the greatest research, development, and commercialization opportunities.
  • Extending the Rational Tuition program to 2020.
  • Providing additional capital dollars to build and maintain infrastructure, as part of a multi-year capital plan.
  • Providing adequate support for the State’s teaching hospitals.

To support the Invest in SUNY effort, I wrote an editorial titled “State Must Invest More in SUNY, Students” that was published as a letter to the editor in the Watertown Daily Times and in North Country This Week (you can see it here). On March 5, several of us traveled to Watertown for a press conference. I joined Jefferson Community College’s president Carol McCoy and Jefferson County Local Development Corp.’s David Zembiec in advocating for Invest in SUNY, and we received a lot of press: in newspapers (here), on TV (here), and on the radio (here). SUNY Canton has also established a website to support Invest in SUNY (which can be found here).


Trip to Albany

From Monday to Wednesday, Lenore VanderZee (our Executive Director of University Relations) and I were down in Albany, talking to key members of the Assembly and Senate and their staff about Invest in SUNY and about SUNY Canton’s major needs. Our needs include renovation of Dana Hall, supporting the development of critical new majors in Agriculture and Mechatronics, and increased funding for TAP (so that the “TAP Gap” can be eliminated).

The trip started at 11:00 on Monday, with us driving down to Albany through the Adirondacks. It was a beautiful day, sunny and relatively warm (28°F, warmer than it has been) and the roads were almost totally empty. After a stop for a bite and to gas up midway, we got to Albany about 3 PM and checked in to the hotel. We were at the airport Hampton Inn, because all the hotels downtown were booked solid by other people down to see the legislature. It’s about 7 miles from there to the legislative office building and the capitol with no simple route going there, so going back and forth to the hotel was a little bit of a pain.

Our first meeting was with John Bojnowski, Legislative Director for Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie, at 4:30 PM. It was a very pleasant meeting, telling him about our college in general and that many of our students come from the Speaker’s home district in the Bronx. Speaker Heastie has recently advanced a new initiative to help students from needy backgrounds be able to afford to go to college. Many SUNY college presidents (including me) signed on to support this initiative.

After the meeting, we went to dinner. I drove over to my favorite Indian restaurant in Albany, but couldn’t find a parking place anywhere near it. I finally found a place a few blocks away and as it turned out, there were two other Indian restaurants just across the street. One was named Lazeez, and since VanderZee, Szafran, and Zvi all have z’s in them, I decided it was an omen and we should go there instead. As it turned out, the food was great and it was a good choice.


On Tuesday, we saw our own Assemblymember Addie Russell (Chair of the Task Force on Food, Farm, and Nutrition Policy) and had an interesting discussion about stronger linkages between the high schools, BOCES, and the college; and creating career pathways as a way of improving graduation rates.  Addie is a strong supporter of SUNY and its role in the economic development of the North Country.


Lenore VanderZee, Assemblymember Addie Russell, and Me

We also saw Assemblymember Deborah Glick (Chair of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee), and Franklin Esson (Director of the Higher Education Committee for Senator Kenneth LaValle, Chair of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee).   Both were very familiar with SUNY Canton and supportive in our discussion.  That evening, we attended the SUNY Legislative Reception, held at The Egg, where it was a pleasure to see Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and lots of people we know from the SUNY central office, from the Board of Regents, and from other SUNY campuses, as well as several other legislators.

On Wednesday, we saw out our own Senate member Pattie Ritchie (Chair of the Agriculture Committee).  Senator Richie is a strong supporter of SUNY Canton, and was very interested in the Agriculture programs we are developing and the important role they could play in supporting the economy in the North Country.


Me, Senator Pattie Ritchie, and Lenore VanderZee

Our final meeting was with Robert Mujica (Chief of Staff for Senator Robert Skelos, the Majority Leader of the Senate) who we were pleased to see was already familiar with SUNY Canton and what we are trying to accomplish.  It was extremely gratifying to see the strong support SUNY Canton (and SUNY in general) has in the Legislature—everyone was aware of the  high quality of our graduates and was supportive of our role in the economic development of our region.

On Wednesday, I also represented the Technology College sector in the Chancellor’s Invest in SUNY press conference on Wednesday, which you can read about here.  The Chancellor, several members of the Board of Trustees, and several SUNY presidents all made the case for why investing in SUNY is a smart move for the future of our students and for the state, and that we can do even more great things with some additional funding in key areas.

We finished up at about 12:00, and drove back up to Lark Street to make another attempt at the original Indian restaurant, the Jewel of India. This time I found a parking place right on State St. a little before Lark. When we got out of the car, there was a big protest going on involving hundreds of young schoolchildren, carrying signs and chanting for better school funding. The restaurant was excellent as usual, and we got onto the highway at about 1:30, reaching Canton at 5:30 after another beautiful ride on a sunny day in the Adirondacks.

This morning, I traveled to Ogdensburg for a 7:30 AM interview on YES-FM about (you guessed it) Invest in SUNY. You can hear the interview in all its splendor here.


Adirondack Challenge

Last Sunday (March 8), Jill, Mark and I headed down to Lake Placid to enjoy Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Adirondack Winter Challenge.  I had previously attended last summer’s Adirondack Challenge, so I knew that it was going to be a good time.  The trip to Lake Placid was a little iffy with snow squall breaking out periodically and NY 458 needing a bit of repair from this past winter.  Nonetheless, we persevered, arriving in Lake Placid in the early afternoon.

There were lots of people participating in winter sports–bobsledding, downhill skiing, ice fishing, the luge, and many others.  Lake Placid is a pretty town with lots of nice stores too–I only wish we had gotten there earlier to get in some shopping time!

The festivities ended with a cocktail party and a dinner.  As soon as we went into the social hall, I was happy to see Joe Rich and his lovely wife Carol.  Joe is a member of SUNY Canton’s College Council, and he and Carol are among the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.  We all sat down for dinner and after finishing, the program began.  Governor Cuomo talked about the importance of tourism in the North Country economy, and posed for pictures with the winners of the various Adirondack Challenge events.


Afterwards, Governor Cuomo shook hands with the crowd.  My son Mark shook his hand and then offered him a bottle of Coke.  The Governor smiled, and then handed it back saying “I think you’d like this better”.  It was clear that Mark had become a lifelong Cuomo supporter!


Receiver, Redux

Thanks to Amazon and its two-day free shipping (if you’re an Amazon Prime member, which I am), the new receiver arrived Wednesday and upon returning from Albany (see above) I immediately installed it. It’s another Onkyo and this one comes complete with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so one can stream internet radio and sync an iPhone to it. With all that, it doesn’t cost more than the previous one did—amazing! I immediately put in an SACD and sat back to enjoy the great sound. There’s nothing like great music in SACD format on a good system. Ahhhhhhh…


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with “capitals” or words that sound similar. Our winner was Lenore VanderZee and there was only one other entrant–my sister Drorit.  What happened to everyone else?  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Albany.  Capital of New York.
  2. Building in Washington DC that the Senate and House of Representatives are in. Capitol Building.
  3. Founded by Johnny Mercer, its stars included Nat King Cole, the Beatles, and Katy Perry. Capitol Records.
  4. If you make a profit on selling a stock or other asset, you have to pay this on your taxes. Capital Gains Tax.
  5. Book written by Karl Marx, laying the foundation for communism. Das Kapital.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

In honor of the Albany Indian restaurant, this week’s challenge deals with words starting with the letter “Z”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. They’re actually black with white stripes, not the other way around.
  2. Introduced in 1963, they replaced zones in addresses for mail.
  3. There are twelve, including Gemini, Cancer, and Pisces.
  4. Song from the Disney movie “Song of the South”, the second line is “My, oh my, what a wonderful day.”
  5. African country formerly known as South Rhodesia, its president is Robert Mugabe.
Posted in Uncategorized

March 5, 2015


Volume 9, Issue 29– March 5, 2015



Receiver, RIP

So what happened to the Onkyo receiver that had water drip on it from our ice dam (see last week’s BLAB for details)? Despite heroic attempts by our EET faculty and staff to revive it, was too far gone. Two circuit boards needed replacement and there was no guarantee that it would work even then. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I get to buy a new receiver, which will no doubt have all kinds of new things I can’t live without.


Say Ni Hao to Sugar

Sheng Tang, a visiting scholar from Guangdong Women’s Polytechnic College in Guangzhou, China, is here at SUNY Canton, co-teaching courses in the business communications area in our School of Business and Liberal Arts. Sugar (as she likes to be called) is also doing all kinds of interesting kinds of outreach to the community, including sharing Chinese traditions with two 3rd grade classes up in Norwood and Norfolk. You can read an article about it here. She will soon be presenting at the Canton Rotary Club, as well as at the Canton Free Library.

On our own campus, Sugar will be giving a cultural presentation called “Mysterious China” on March 17, from 12-1 PM in the Campus Center, Room 218. Light refreshments will be served. When you see Sugar on campus, be sure to say “Ni Hao” and “Huan Ying” to her—that’s “hello” and “welcome” in Chinese.

Sheng Hong-Tang_ 


The SUNY Canton Shout-Outs Continue!

There have been lots of good things happening involving SUNY Canton faculty, staff, and students. Here are just some of them:


Cool Donation

SUNY Canton graduate Gil White (Class of ’68) donated a 1956 Lincoln Premiere 2-door coupe to our Automotive Technology program last week. Peggy Sue Lovato, Keith Rosser and Brandon Baldwin went to Gils’s house to get it, and a cool car it is. I love the black color and art deco look, not to mention the white sidewall tires. Gil is a strong supporter of the college. I had the pleasure of visiting his house a few months back and quite a house it is, with its own movie viewing studio, not to mention a room that replicates a ‘50’s style soda shop. Gil and I share a taste for various types of music, so we’ll be getting together at some point soon to enjoy some vintage tunes.

What’s going to happen to the car? We’ll probably auction it off for the benefit of the Automotive Technology program, so get your money ready because you know you want it! Thanks Gil, you’re the coolest.


l-r: Keith Rosser, Gil White, Brandon Baldwin


Criminal Caught, Cow Identified

I’m pretty sure you won’t read this story anywhere else. Criminal Justice students at SUNY Canton do a lot of interesting things in their degree program. For example, every so often, you’ll see yellow tape around a “crime scene” on campus, with our CJ students clustered around it trying to analyze what happened and solve a murder.

OK—students in lots of CJ programs probably do that. Well here’s a different one. Not only do students in JUST 301, Latent Prints and Impressions learn to take fingerprints and the like under all kinds of situations, but they also learn to take muzzle-prints of cows. You see, just like no two persons’ fingerprints are identical, no two cows muzzle-prints are identical either. Who knew that? Anyway, the real point is to show that there are lots of different ways to use physical evidence to identify either a perpetrator or (if you’re a farmer or rancher) your property . So, if you’re ever suspicious that a cow may have been behind a crime, or if your cow has been stolen and you want to identify it, you know what to do. Congratulations to Liz Erickson (the prof in this course), Mary Loomis (for letting us use her space) and Julie Parkman (for bringing the calf to campus).



Rotary Vocational Award Winner

At the Rotary Club meeting on Monday, I had the pleasure of joining with the Club to give a vocational award to Serena Cline, a high school sophomore. Serena is currently taking and enjoying courses in culinary science, and is interested in pursuing a career in the health professions. I didn’t fail to mention that she could find several excellent examples of such programs at SUNY Canton. Congratulations Serena!


l-r: Lance Rudiger (President, Rotary), William Gregory (Canton Central School Superintendant), Diane Guyette (grandmother), Tessa Guyette (mother), Serena Cline, Janet Favro (Vocational Comm. Chair), me, and Suzanne Creurer (Vocational Teacher).


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with the word “sun”. Our winner was John Jodice. Others getting all five right included Andre Lynch, Christina Lesyk, Kerrie Cooper, my sister Drorit Szafran, and Brett Furnia. Here are the correct answers:

  1. According to the saying, there’s nothing new there. Under the Sun.
  2. Huge song hit for the Animals, about a place in New Orleans that’s been the ruin of many a poor boy. House of the Rising Sun.
  3. Film festival started by Robert Redford, located in Utah. Sundance Film Festival.
  4. Major petroleum company, headquartered in Philadelphia.  Sunoco.
  5. Romantic comedy set in Italy, it starred Diane Lane as a writer whose life takes a turn when she finds her husband has been cheating on her. Under the Tuscan Sun.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with capitals (or words that sound similar). As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Albany.
  2. Building in Washington DC that the Senate and House of Representatives are in.
  3. Founded by Johnny Mercer, it’s stars included Nat King Cole, the Beatles, and Katy Perry.
  4. If you make a profit on selling a stock or other asset, you have to pay this on your taxes.
  5. Book written by Karl Marx, laying the foundation for communism.
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February 26, 2015


Volume 9, Issue 28– February 26, 2015


 Officially a Northerner

On Sunday, we drove down to Watertown to do some shopping. It was a nice sunny day in Canton with a temperature of 30°. It’s amazing how quickly your mindset changes so that 30° is now warm. Anyway, we did our shopping and drove home, and when I went into the jazz music room in the house, I heard a dripping noise. I thought I had left my stereo receiver on, and when I looked to see what was causing the noise, I saw we had a leak. The room has a nice bay window, and the stereo system sits on its ledge. The leak was coming from the “ceiling” of the bay window and dripping right into the receiver and also all over the ledge and onto the floor.

We quickly got a small bucket to catch the drops and I took the receiver off the ledge and put it on the floor upside down, hoping it would drain out. I suspected that the leak was from an ice dam on the roof a story above the bay window. For you non-northerners, this is caused when the ice on the roof (formed from the heat of the house melting the bottom layer of snow) is blocked from being able to expand, and goes under the shingles. When it melts again, it now leaks into the house. I went outside with my snow rake, and knocked as much snow and ice from the roof as I could, even going into the bathroom on our second floor, taking out the screen, opening the window and leaning out, and using a hammer to get rid of as much ice as I could.

That, and perhaps the dropping temperature, caused the leak to slow down and after about an hour, stop entirely. We called a roofing company who came by this morning and went on the roof, shoveled it out and removed the ice dams. When I set the stereo up again, the receiver wouldn’t power on, so the water may have killed it. I’ll try to fix it (and may ask our EET folks to see if there’s anything they can do), but it may be dead. I hope not—I really liked that Onkyo, though this may be an opportunity to upgrade the next new thing, whatever that is.



Contest Coming Up!

It’s obvious that SUNY Canton is the greatest, but we need to capture the story and prove it to ourselves and to the rest of the world. I’m sure you’ve seen multiple examples of this—a great student project. A transcendent moment in the classroom. A beautiful spot on campus. A great on-campus event. A winning moment in athletics. Cool students, faculty, and staff. Something funny or touching that captures the SUNY Canton spirit.

We’re working out the details of a contest we’re going to run, called “Why SUNY Canton is the greatest place on Earth”. Basically, how it’s going to work is we’ll invite members of our campus community (faculty, staff, students, alumni, everybody) to send in a picture (or short video clip) that illustrates some aspect of what makes us great along with a caption of a few words. We’ll post the good ones and award prizes for the very best ones. Obviously, the more people who participate and the more pictures that are sent in, the better the outcome and the more prizes will be awarded.

So, start thinking about what makes us great and how you can capture the story in a picture or short video clip. Start capturing the story. We’ll be sending out information on how to submit them and what the prizes will be in the next few weeks.



More SUNY Canton Shout-Outs

There have been lots of good things happening involving SUNY Canton faculty, staff, and students. Here are just some of them:


Student Athletes Get Great Grades

At the Faculty Meeting last Thursday, our Director of Athletics, Randy Sieminski, announced that our student athletes had an average GPA of 2.99, which is quite excellent. The men’s team with the highest GPA was Ice Hockey, with an impressive 3.181.


The highest women’s team was also Ice Hockey, with an unbelievable 3.350.


Congratulations to the students on both teams, and to all our student athletes for their fine academic performance.


Engineers Week

This week is Engineers Week and to celebrate, our engineering and physics faculty held a series of events showcasing what they do, in the various labs in Neveldine Hall on Tuesday, February 24. The events began at noon, with a CEO Panel Discussion, followed by a Career Fair from 1 to 5 PM. At 5, the Open House began, open to the entire community. The Panel Discussion drew an enthusiastic crowd of 75 students, and the Open House drew well over 100 participants, who got to see very cool demonstrations that included our award winning steel bridge team, Lego Mindstorm robots, 3D topographical mapping, a massive wood splitter, smashing concrete cylinders, digital wrenches, using strobes to measure rotational speeds, laser communicators, and many other great things. As a chemist, I have to give a nod to the excellent water chemistry lab demonstrations that were done by CET students, though the Van de Graaf accelerator and various power-sport vehicles were definitely cool as well. Our mascot, Rudy ‘Roo, was there adding to the fun.

Engineers Day 2015-5

Our cool Power Sports lab

The big event for the Open House was a competition to see who could build the tallest free-standing structure out of spaghetti and tape, with a marshmallow at the top. There were some 20 teams with kids from 5-17 years old competing. The highest structure was a 28” tall, winning a $500 scholarship to Canton for everyone on the team. There were lots of other prizes, and all participants got a T-shirt and a water bottle.

Engineers Day 2015-10

This was a great event, and congratulations go to Dean Mike Newtown, our engineering and physics faculty, and the many student volunteers who staffed the exhibits, registered the visitors, and helped watch the youngest children.


Road Trip to Massena

OK—Massena isn’t the farthest place I’ve traveled to, but last Thursday, I went on a road trip there to be at an alumni gathering along with VP of Advancement David Gerlach and Destiny Petty, the new Advancement intern. Alumni Development Associate Joe Carbone was already there doing the setup at Coach’s Corner, a pretty cool pub where the gathering was held. I got a chance to meet a number of alums and tell them about what’s new at the college, as well as hear about their own experiences when they were students. Even though it’s only been a few days, several of the alums have already volunteered to work with the college in several ways that will be very beneficial.


Canton Idol!

After the alumni visit to Massena, we had to rush back to Canton so I could pick up wife Jill and son Mark to go to the Canton Idol Finals Competition. We got there just in time! Just like American Idol on TV (though ours was better!), the four top contestants competed in two rounds of finals, judged by a panel of faculty, staff, and student judges. The two emcees (Amanda DaCosta and Devine Pearson) were great, and the judges (Mike McGilligan, Katie Kennedy, Nikki Zeitmann, and Danesha Williams) offered good advice and encouragement.


The four finalists were quite excellent, with the winner slated to go head to head with SUNY Potsdam’s winner in the near future.


The four finalists were:

Grand Prize Winner: Noelle Murray (3d from left)

2nd Place Winner: Moriah Cody (left)

3rd Place Winner: Kasey Cunningham (2nd from left)

4th Place Winner: Daniel Neuroth (right)

Congratulations to everyone who participated and to our winners!



Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with weather—each answer had a weather word in it. Our winner was Rosemary Phillips. Others getting all five right included Christina Lesyk, Jesse Clark-Stone, Rhonda Rodriguez, Patricia Todd, and Ron O’Neill. Lots of others got four correct, but question #3 did them in. Here are the correct answers:

  1. What you save for. A Rainy Day.
  2. Someone who only supports you when things are going well. Fair-Weather Friend.
  3. Buried by too much work. Snowed under (or snowed in).
  4. What the band plays when the President walks in. Hail to the Chief.
  5. In Carly Simon’s song “You’re so Vain”, what follows the lines: But you gave away the things you loved, and one of them was me. I had some dreams, they were . Clouds in my coffee.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with the sun—each answer has the word “sun” somewhere in it. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. According to the saying, there’s nothing new there.
  2. Huge song hit for the Animals, about a place in New Orleans that’s been the ruin of many a poor boy.
  3. Film festival started by Robert Redford, located in Utah.
  4. Major petroleum company, headquartered in Philadelphia.
  5. Romantic comedy set in Italy, it starred Diane Lane as a writer whose life takes a turn when she finds her husband has been cheating on her.
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February 19, 2015


Volume 9, Issue 27 – February 19, 2015



I was looking on Facebook on Sunday and was amused to see a video taken in Marietta, GA. It seems they just had a dusting of snow there and the video showed some parents pulling children around on plastic sleds. School was cancelled due to the weather Monday in many parts of Georgia, though I don’t know why—the forecast was for a high of 48°F with rain. Ever since the ice storm last winter (which shut everything down for three days), politicians have been very antsy about the weather and close everything down at the drop of a hat. To be fair, they really don’t have the means for dealing with cold weather, with only a relative few snowplows and the like. One thing that has impressed me up here in the North Country is how quickly and effectively they clean the roads—even while the snowfall is occurring.

For those who live outside the area, we apparently had the coldest weather in the country here from Sunday into Monday—the low was -18°F here, with a wind-chill of more like -35°F. Some locations with wind-chill reached the point where the Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures are the same (I remember solving for that on an engineering exam when I was a freshman—it’s a favorite problem for engineering professors). In case you want to know how to solve for that, remember that the conversion formula from °F to °C is

°C = (°F -32)(5/9).

Since we’re looking for the point at which the two temperatures are equal, °C = °F, and:

°F = (°F – 32)(5/9)

(9/5) °F = °F – 32

(9/5) °F – °F = -32

4/5 °F = -32

°F = (5/4)(-32) = -40


Get Involved in This Effort to Save Financial Aid

Perkins Student Loans have been an important part of student financial aid for 57 years. Unless Congress acts quickly, the student loan program will expire, and it will be much harder for students to finance their educations. Perkins loans are really useful to students because they don’t have to be paid back until 9 months after leaving school. You don’t need a credit history to qualify for them, and the loans can be forgiven under certain circumstances. About 500,000 students benefit from Perkins loans every year. At SUNY Canton, 450 students get Perkins loans, to the tune of $450,000 each year. Please watch the video below, and if you agree with it, sign the “Save Perkins Now” petition at www.change.org. Share the video with your friends—this is something we want to go viral.

SUNY Canton Shout-Outs

There have been lots of good things happening involving SUNY Canton faculty, staff, and students. Here are just some of them:

SUNY Canton Senior’s Clothing Line is a Hit in the Hip-Hop Community!

Danesha Williams, a senior in Graphic and Multimedia Design, is the cofounder of the clothing line Riotte Latimore with SUNY Canton grad Christina Thomas. Currently working out of her off-campus apartment, Danesha is producing cut-and-sew designs on hooded sweatshirts, shirts, and pants, which are then manufactured in China. An article on her success recently appeared in the Watertown Daily Times, and can be seen here. Her clothing was recently worn by hip-hop artist Dej Loaf at her concert in Toronto, and a number of items on her website (here) are sold out. Danesha is also managing Michael Wallace, a SUNY Canton senior who recently won a rap music competition and is flying to Los Angeles, under her independent record label Empire the Nation Records. Clearly, SUNY Canton students and graduates are taking over the fashion and music industries, which is obviously as things should be.


SUNY Canton athletes have been active in supporting several worthy causes during half-time of their games. On February 6, during halftime of the men’s ice hockey game against Cortland (which we lost 6-5 in an overtime heartbreaker), the women’s ice hockey team played a challenging game of sled hockey against members of the Wounded Warriors.

On February 7, on their way to beating Albany Pharmacy 82-46, our men’s basketball team hosted the North Country Region Special Olympics Shamrocks basketball team. Coached by Lesley Thompson, the Shamrocks played a well-received exhibition at half-time.

Also on February 7, our women’s basketball team hosted the Canton modified 7/8th grade girls basketball team for a 4 on 4 game to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day. At both games that evening, members of the seven different SUNY Canton women’s teams (basketball, cross-country, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, and volleyball) were honored.


Congratulations to all who were involved in these activities, and especially to our female athletes!


On January 31, several SUNY Canton students attended the Annual CSTEP Regional Career Exploration Symposium, hosted this year at Clarkson University and attended by CSTEP students from all four of the Associated Colleges.  The two keynote speakers were Calvin Mackey and Don Asher.

Dr. Calvin Mackie is an award-winning mentor, acclaimed author and motivational speaker, and a successful entrepreneur. He has won numerous awards including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, which was presented in a White House ceremony. Donald Asher is a nationally known speaker and writer on the topics of careers and higher education and the author of 12 books, including “Cracking the Hidden Job Market”, “Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why” and “From College to Career”.  He is also a contributing writer for The Wall Street Journal.

The Symposium also offered various workshops and panels in several of the STEM, Health and Licensed professions. Pierre Nzuah, a senior Engineering student, represented SUNY Canton as our Senior Speaker this year.  Pierre told his story about growing up with 15 siblings in a poor family in Africa, to becoming a successful Engineering student who’ll be attending Clarkson’s Master’s program next year.

It was a fun and educational day for all who attended.  The students enjoyed the speakers, the workshops, the dinner, and especially networking with CSTEP students from the other universities.

Love Your Library Day

Thursday, February 12 was “Love Your Library” day, with heart-shaped cookies, punch, and a drawing for an iPad on feature at SUNY Canton’s Southworth Library. Students were asked to fill out a brief survey on what they thought the library’s most useful features were, as well as what they’d like to see added. They could also double their chances of winning by doing a brief library search to find a particular book. Adding to the festivities, Dean Mollie Mott was dressed for the occasion as the Queen of Hearts, posing for pictures with the many folks stopping by. This is just one of the many cool outreach efforts by our library, which is a fantastic student-centered resource for our entire community.



Title IX Poster Competition

I was one of four guest judges in a poster competition by Canton Central High School students to design a poster to celebrate Title IX and how it has led to more equal gender participation in sports. The winner of the contest was Hailey Leonard, a student in Grade 12. The winning poster is below. Congratulations Hailey!


Me, Amanda Rowley, and the winning entry

Firing Faculty Over a Blog

There was an interesting article recently in Inside Higher Education about how Marquette University is moving to revoke a professor’s tenure and fire him stemming from comments he made in his blog. You can see the full article here. An earlier article (before Marquette decided to fire him) provided more detail in the sequence of events that happened and can be found here. While this has nothing whatsoever to do with anything at SUNY Canton, the situation has attracted in a lot of attention nationally, as it touches on issues of freedom of speech, unfair use of power (in more than one way), academic freedom, and gay marriage.

Bear with me here as I lay out the background, because the story is complicated. The more or less undisputed parts are as follows.

  • A graduate teaching assistant, Cheryl Abbate, was teaching a philosophy course, “Theory of Ethics” and talking about philosopher John Rawls’ equal liberty principle (which states that everyone has the right to all basic liberties that don’t conflict with another’s liberties). She asked students to name any violations of this principle that they were aware of. A student named the ban against gay marriage as an example.
  • Abbate listed the example on the blackboard and went on to discuss other examples. A second student (or perhaps it was the same one—the accounts don’t make this clear) approached Abbate after class (and taped their conversation without telling her he was doing so), telling her he was upset that she hadn’t considered the gay marriage example more carefully. He had seen data suggesting that the children of gay parents do worse in life and said that the topic was worth discussing further.
  • Abbate questioned the data, and noted that gay marriage and parenting are two different things. As reported in Inside Higher Education (which says they have a copy of the tape), the student said “It’s still wrong for the teacher of a class to completely discredit one person’s opinion when they may have different opinions”. Abbate said “There are opinions that are not appropriate, that are harmful, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions, and quite honestly, do you know if someone in the class is homosexual? And do you not think it would be offensive to them, if you were to raise your hand and challenge this?” When the student said it was his “right as an American citizen” to challenge the idea, Abbate said he didn’t “have the right, especially [in an ethics class], to make homophobic comments or racist comments.
  • Abbate said the student could have whatever opinions he liked, but that her policy was that homophobic, racist, and sexist comments wouldn’t be tolerated in her class. She said he could drop the class if he disagreed with her policy. She then asked the student if he was recording the conversation. At first the student said “no”, but admitted he was when Abbate asked to see his cell phone. Their conversation ended at that point. The student subsequently dropped the class.
  • A tenured political science professor, John McAdams, wrote a post in his blog ‘Marquette Warrior’ based on the student’s recording, accusing Abbate of shutting down the conversation in class on the basis of her own political beliefs. McAdams said that Abbate was “using a tactic typical among liberals,” in which opinions they disagree with “are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.” He wrote that Abbate “invited the student to drop the class”.
  • McAdams’ blog was picked up by several other conservative blogs. Some of the comments on those blogs made threats against Abbate and she received a number of emails harshly criticizing and threatening her, as well as some supporting her.
  • Abbate decided to discuss the gay marriage issue the next class period, noted that the article saying that children of gay parents do worse in life had been largely discredited, and said that there wasn’t time in a class to discuss every controversy of interest.

Whew! Got all that?

As the story spread, Marquette University decided to review the situation and concluded that McAdams had acted in an unprofessional manner and had misled the public about what happened. A letter was sent to McAdams from his dean, Richard C. Holz, saying the university was initiating a process to fire him. Holz wrote:

Tenure and academic freedom carry not only great privileges but also vital responsibilities and obligations…In order to endure, a scholar-teacher’s academic freedom must be grounded on competence and integrity, including accuracy ‘at all times,’ a respect for others’ opinions, and the exercise of appropriate restraint. Without adherence to these standards, those such as yourself invested with tenure’s power can carelessly and arrogantly intimidate and silence the less-powerful and then raise the shields of academic freedom and free expression against all attempts to stop such abuse.

Holz went on to say that graduate student instructors:

“…should expect appropriate and constructive feedback in order to improve their teaching skills. Multiple internal avenues of review were available to you if you believed a situation had occurred between a graduate student instructor and an undergraduate student that called for a corrective response. Instead, you chose to shame and intimidate with an Internet story that was incompetent, inaccurate, and lacking in integrity, respect for other’s opinions, and appropriate restraint.”

With regard to the student dropping the class, Holz wrote:

As you knew or should have known…, the student told the university three days after withdrawing that he had done so because he was getting an ‘F’ at mid-term. He further specifically agreed that his grade fairly reflected his performance and had nothing to do with his political or personal beliefs. Similarly, by leaving out any reference to Ms. Abbate’s follow-up class discussion in which she acknowledged and addressed the student’s objection to gay marriage, you created a false impression of her conduct and an inaccurate account of what occurred. You either were recklessly unaware of what happened in the follow-up class, or you elected not to include these facts in your Internet story.”

McAdams is fighting the firing and disputes the university’s account of what happened. He’s written several postings on the subject, the most relevant of which can be found here and here. He argues that the graduate student was the faculty member of record in the course and thus isn’t immune from criticism, and the university has no right to restrict his free speech:

Campus bureaucrats hate controversy, since it makes trouble for them. Thus the most ‘valuable’ faculty members are the ones who avoid controversy, and especially avoid criticizing administrators. In real universities, administrators understand (or more likely grudgingly accept) that faculty will say controversial things, will criticize them and each other, and that people will complain about it. They understand that putting up with the complaints is part of the job, and assuaging those who complain the loudest is not the best policy. That sort of university is becoming rarer and rarer. Based on Holz’ actions, Marquette is certainly not such a place.”

Abbate has now left Marquette and is pursuing her graduate degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She writes her own blog and has written two responses to the situation (which can be seen here), and believes that McAdams is at least partially responsible for the threatening emails she has received. She disputes McAdams’ version of events, and views him as a bully. She says that the articles that have characterized McAdams as being fired over a single blog post are untrue:

The attempt to fire McAdams is not about a “one time act of misconduct” on his part. From what I can tell (from reading the Dean’s letter), the attempt to fire McAdams is about his history of attacking vulnerable members of the Marquette community and his repeated lies about me on his blog (that he has also repeated, on a number of occasions, to various news sources).

What can one make of this complex story? I think there are problems aplenty throughout this whole scenario, not least of which is that the usual political players have responded to the blogs on the expected sides, though there have been some thoughtful comments too.

Let’s start with the student who taped his conversation with Abbate. Most people would agree that it is morally wrong to record a conversation without someone’s knowledge (a police sting, properly executed, being an exception). Why did this student do it? Judging by subsequent actions, the student wanted to catch Abbate in a “gotcha”. He subsequently went to the department chair and dean on this issue and after getting no satisfaction there (from his perspective), brought the matter to McAdams’ attention. McAdams is identified in some articles on this subject as the students’ advisor (and McAdams is accused of hiding that). That Abbate listed the example on the blackboard but then chose to move on to other points hardly seems like a motive or justification for surreptitious taping. The most obvious explanation is essentially “conservative student wanted to trap liberal professor as being too politically correct”.

Moving on to Abbate, it seems that she fell into the trap. The snippets of the conversation available online do seem to imply that she wouldn’t have welcomed a conversation opposing gay marriage in her class. Several reasons are offered by her supporters—that it would be off-topic, that her conversation was completely misconstrued, or that she was trying to live up to (or enforce) Marquette’s anti-harassment policies. I haven’t read those anti-harassment policies, but I would hope that they wouldn’t restrict any speech that might possibly offend someone—I can’t think of any debate on a controversial subject that wouldn’t offend at least someone. While she was clearly uncomfortable discussing the issue of gay marriage in her class, she ultimately did discuss it the next class period. The real point here is that while she was in charge of the class, she was still also a graduate student learning her craft. Part of learning is making mistakes and learning from them.

As to McAdams, despite his (correct) point that Abbate was the instructor in charge of the class and was therefore functioning as a teacher and not a student, he was well aware that she was a graduate student, not yet having been awarded her degree and never having been appointed even as a part-time faculty member. If McAdams thought Abbate’s actions were inappropriate, he could have alerted her department chair. Even if he thought that it was necessary to blog about her to make some larger political point, calling her out by name in his blog was not only highly inappropriate, but also unnecessary. Exactly the same political points he made in his blog could have been made by identifying her as simply “a graduate instructor teaching a philosophy course”. Some posts called what he wrote a form of cyberbullying, given the power differential between Abbate and himself. McAdams’ willingness to use the tape is also highly questionable—did he ask the student if she knew she was being taped and if the student had Abbate’s permission to use it? Even if McAdams asked and the student lied, McAdams could have easily contacted Abbate and confirmed that it was OK, and asked her for her side of the story. McAdams says that he did contact her (via email on a Sunday), but when she didn’t reply, he posted the blog nine hours later. Do I really need to say that giving someone nine hours to reply, on a Sunday, is hardly a sufficient attempt to verify facts or to get the other side?

Finally, we come to Marquette’s response. Taking each of Dean Holz’s main points, did McAdams act irresponsibly? Certainly. Did he breach academic norms by publically criticizing a graduate student by name in a blog? Yes. Did he misrepresent what happened in the classroom and subsequent discussion? That seems to be debatable—his account and Abbate’s differ, but the available evidence doesn’t significantly contradict McAdams’ blogged version of events. Did McAdams try to “shame and intimidate” Abbate and act with a “lack of restraint”? I’d say so. From the looks of things, McAdams is one of those people who is so filled with the righteousness of their cause, he can’t see where he himself crosses the bounds of propriety and is guilty of the very things of which he accuses others.

The ultimate question, though, is whether McAdams deserves to be fired for what he did. While I don’t pretend to have all the information that Marquette has, based on the charges in Holz’s letters and the facts presented in the articles I don’t see how the answer could be “yes”. McAdams’ blog, whatever you may think of it, says clearly in its masthead: “This site has no official connection with Marquette University. Indeed, when University officials find out about it, they will doubtless want it shut down” indicating he is clearly blogging as an individual, not as a representative of the university. This, of course, doesn’t remove his obligation to observe academic norms, protect the privacy of a graduate student who was still learning the ropes, and to not act like a bully. While some form of sanction might be appropriate, not all crimes are capital crimes. Many people have questioned Marquette’s seeming lack of due process in this case, as well as the lack of documentation regarding the alleged other prior acts that Holz alludes to. By moving for removal of tenure and firing, Marquette seems to be guilty of the same “lack of restraint” they accuse McAdams of and give credence to his claim that what they actually want is to get rid of an annoying critic.

I’d be interested in hearing other people’s opinions on this case.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with advertising slogans. Our winner was Nellie Lucas. Others getting all five right included Rhonda Curtis, Christina Lesyk, Stacia Dutton, Marcia Sullivan-Marin, Will Fassinger, Rajiv Narula, Terri Clemmo, and my sister, Drorit Szafran. Here are the correct answers:

  1. Things go better with ________. Coca Cola.
  2. Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz. Oh what a relief it is. Alka-Seltzer.
  3. The quicker picker upper.  Bounty.
  4. Let your fingers do the walking. The Yellow Pages.
  5. Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t. Almond Joy and Mounds.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with weather—each answer has a weather word in it. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. What you save for.
  2. Someone who only supports you when things are going well.
  3. Buried by too much work.
  4. What the band plays when the President walks in.
  5. In Carly Simon’s song “You’re so Vain”, what follows the lines: But you gave away the things you loved, and one of them was me. I had some dreams, they were _________.
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