September 3, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 10, Issue 06–September 3, 2015

 

Annual Report

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

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

 

Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings…

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

 

 

NCAA—Day One!

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

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

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

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Aine McMorrow wins at cross-country

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

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Morgan Bills going for the kill

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

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

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Kristina DiNardo setting the pace

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

 

The Importance of Grants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  

Freedom of Speech (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

On August 24, Dreger wrote in her resignation letter:

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

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

Northwestern University administrators have declined to comment.

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

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

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

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

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

 

  

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

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

 

Here are the correct answers:

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

 

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

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

  1. Huey Lewis & the News song—it make a one man weep, make another man sing.
  2. It took Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder singing together to explain this.
  3. What Robert Palmer might as well face it about.
  4. Peter Gabriel song saying “you could have a stream train, if you’d just lay down your tracks.”
  5. Norwegian group who sang “Take On Me”, which has a very cool animated music videos to go with it.
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August 24, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 10, Issue 05–August 25, 2015

 

Welcome Back!

It’s Monday as I’m writing this and the new semester has officially started.  As I pulled into the campus this morning, the parking lots were satisfyingly full and the sun was shining.  Classes have begun, and the campus is buzzing with students, faculty, and staff.  What more can anyone ask than that?

Last week was full of orientation sessions for new faculty (Monday and Tuesday full time, Thursday part time), new employees (Thursday), and new students (Tuesday and Friday).  The new faculty look like a great bunch—interesting, engaged, and from a variety of backgrounds.  A lot have roots in the North Country, but we also have new faculty from as far away as Colorado, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  Given the cold winters in those locations, they should be fine here, but the new faculty from Florida and Virginia are probably in for a bit of a surprise.

The new student orientations all went very well.  In them, I tell the students the 10 things they can count on the college to provide to them (excellent instruction, strong advising, etc.) and let them know the 5 things that we count on them for (to be engaged in their learning, to get help when they need it, etc.).  I always end with the story of the philosophy professor who fills up a jar with rocks.  If you’ve never heard it, it’s worth coming to a future orientation session for that alone—it makes several important points, is funny, and is uplifting.  Over the years, many students have come up to me at graduation and said they still remembered that story from their orientation, and that it made a big difference in their thinking.  In fact, three of our new students already told me that on Friday, a few hours after I gave the talk.

As I have for many years, I gave the new students my cell phone number, telling them to call me if they ever have a problem they can’t solve any other way.  As has happened the last several times, some students in the audience immediately tested it out to see if my phone actually rang, and were happy to see that it did.  Students never abuse this—I get maybe 6-10 calls a semester, and its pretty much always about something important.  Something new is that students will now text me as well, and I’ve gotten some fun texts as well as serious ones.

On Friday, we had a campus picnic and it was nice to see all the returning faculty and the staff enjoying themselves, as well as students who were moving into their residence halls.  Like many campuses, we have lots of volunteers to help them with their belongings, and its always much appreciated.  I also got a chance to meet some of our new international students from Cameroon, Bangladesh and Brazil.  They were all friendly and happy to be here, ready for classes and new experiences.  And yes, they all said they have heavy coats for when winter comes.

I feel kind of stupid talking about winter so much since it’s been quite warm up here lately.  Warm in the North Country means in the upper 80’s, though a day or two it did cross 90.  We’ve been enjoying going to the various river towns and driving around the small villages that dot the county—they’re all stunningly beautiful this time of year.  Yesterday, Jill felt like going to Ogdensburg to sit by the waterfront and watch the boats go by, so that’s what we did.

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Mark was happy because this gave him a chance to hit the local GameStop and get the newest Skylanders game.  While sitting on the waterfront and reading the newspaper, I noticed that there was a horse show that day in Ogdensburg, sponsored by the St. Lawrence County Equestrian Society, so we drove a few miles there and enjoyed watching it for a while.

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This time of year and basically into November, there’s a ton of outdoor events up here taking advantage of the nice weather and beautiful scenery.  The only problem is deciding which one to go to—not a bad problem to have.

For the Uninitiated

For new faculty and staff who don’t know what the Weekly Blab is, it’s a newsletter I send out on a more or less weekly basis, talking about events on campus, higher education in general, goings on in the North Country, and anything else that happens to cross my mind.  I’ve been doing this for 10 years now as a means of casual communication to let campus, family, and friends know what’s going on.  There’s even a trivia contest for you to test your mettle with, and you can win a prize!  I hope you like it and find it to be informative.  If not, you can always hit the delete key.

 

Paying It Forward

On Thursday evening, I attended the 2015 new member induction ceremony for the Payson-Martin and the Grasse River Leadership Societies down at the Alumni House.  These are two groups for friends and significant donors—you become a member when your lifetime gifts to the College exceed $50,000.  Now that I’ve been at the College for a year, I’m recognizing more and more people and this gathering was no exception—I knew by sight (and by name) more than half the people there—not bad, since I hadn’t met some of the attendees before.  I gave a small speech about how their donations impact our students and faculty, and then got to pose with each inductee for a photograph.  It was a wonderful night and I enjoyed seeing everyone.  As always, the food was delicious.  I also got to enjoy the new patio behind the Alumni House—it really looks nice.

  

The Case for Teaching Ignorance

Given all the craziness that appears in the news lately, my eyes were drawn this morning to an Op-Ed in the New York Times by Jamie Holmes called “The Case for Teaching Ignorance”.  In it, she talks about how so much we teach is covered in a way that makes it sound like everything is definitively settled, when in reality it isn’t.  She quotes Dr. Marlys Witte, a surgery professor at the University of Arizona who said “Textbooks spend 8 to 10 pages on pancreatic cancer without ever telling the student that we just don’t know very much about it.”  She wanted her students to know the limits of knowledge in the surgical field, and to understand that the question asked is often as important as the answer.  She ultimately persuaded the American Medical Association to fund the offering of a class which her students referred to as ‘Ignorance 101’.

There is now a new field that studies ignorance, called ‘agnotology’.  There is even a handbook: the Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies (408 pages, $205), which has the quote “Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge” on its cover.  The author of the Op-Ed is the author of an upcoming book “Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing”.

We all know (or should know, anyway) that while the scientific method has proven to be one of the most reliable ways of obtaining new knowledge, there is still a lot we don’t know.  In fact, we don’t know what we don’t know.  This isn’t the same thing as saying “nothing is certain”—there are some theories that are so strongly supported by experiment and observation that the odds of them being overthrown is miniscule.  Other things are only partially understood, while yet others are only barely hinted at.  Good scientists know the difference, though there are always some who will claim that things are more settled than they really are in order to gain some benefit.

I’ve always been troubled by how textbooks, especially introductory ones, tell the story of scientific discovery.  This is often done to the side of the main information, in a differently colored box with a picture of the scientist in it, and a story that makes it seem like the discovery appeared all at once, full blown, in a sudden bit of inspiration, similar to the mythological story of Athena bursting forth (in full armor yet!) from the head of Zeus.

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While its true that a tiny fraction of discoveries happen that way, the majority occur through tedious and meticulous work, based on the tedious and meticulous work of others.  In my opinion, the myth of the full blown discovery is actually quite harmful to science.  It shuts off curiosity (since the matter is settled, what is there to be curious about?) and it makes many students believe they don’t have what it takes to be scientists (since this all-at-once discovery has never happened to them).

Some of the best questions I have ever asked on exams involve situations where the answer isn’t known.  I remember asking an exam question about whether a particular compound had a metal-metal bond, and giving five pieces of data to help the students decide—two that argued that a metal-metal bond was present, one that argued that it wasn’t, and two that were irrelevant to the question.  When a student asked me after the exam if there was indeed a bond present, I answered “nobody knows—I gave you the true data, and the data is contradictory”.  I pointed out that contradictory situations like this are what research chemists have to handle all the time—you have to analyze each piece of data, point out the contradictions, come to your best conclusion, and understand that you may be disproven at some later point.

My favorite quote on this subject is “It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question” written the Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco—whose work (according to Wikipedia) “often demonstrates a disgust for the tangible world, a distrust of communication, and the subtle sense that a better world lies just beyond our reach.”  Just right for engendering lots of questions.

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt with musical hits from the ‘70’s.  The winner was Greg Kie.  Others with all five right included Alan Gabrielli (from SPSU), Patrick Harrington, Janice Robinson, Julie Parkman, and Christopher Sweeney.

Here are the correct answers:

  1. Bruce Springsteen song about “tramps like us”. Born to Run.
  2. John Lennon #1 about his version of utopia.
  3. “Walk on the Wild Side” was his only big solo hit. Lou Reed, who I’m told once appeared at SUNY Canton!
  4. AC-DC song, but it’s not about Route 11. Highway to Hell.
  5. Dolly Parton song asking a rival to leave her man alone.  Jolene.

 

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

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

  1. Ray Parker Jr. answered “Who’re you gonna call?”
  2. Pink Floyd song, about why “We don’t need no education.”
  3. Kim Carnes’ homage to a great ‘40’s movie star that begins: “Her hair is Harlowe gold, Her lips sweet surprise.”
  4. Song with an amphibian in the title by Culture Club.
  5. Why Stevie Wonder phoned.
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August 12, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 10, Issue 04–August 12, 2015

 

Almost Time…

The summer is rapidly fleeting.  Our faculty will be returning this coming week, and the students the week thereafter.  The last minute sprucing up on campus is underway, and crazy as it seems, I’m even hearing people say that they’re tired of summer and want the fall semester to begin.  As for me, I’m always glad when the students return, but I could stand another six months of summer if it were on offer!

  

Trudy and the Roos Win NCAA Division III Special Olympics Poll

Congratulations to Trudy Davis and the creators of SUNY Canton’s Special Olympics video, for winning the NCAA Division III Special Olympics Spotlight Poll, with an impressive 64% of the votes.  SUNY Canton has hosted the North Country Region Special Olympics for the past three years, and it’s an impressive event with thousands of participants and supporters.  As winners, the Roos get $500 to help with the next Special Olympics event.

 

 

Down on the Farm

Last Wednesday, a bunch of SUNY Canton folks visited the St. Lawrence Power & Equipment Museum in Madrid (pronounced mad-rid), NY.  The museum is a really interesting place, with historic farming implements, very cool old tractors and threshers, historic home “appliances” (swinging butter churn, wringer-style washing machines, etc.), a collection of horse-drawn vehicles, and a reproduction of a small town square, including tailor shop, gas station, and one-room schoolhouse.

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With SUNY Canton developing new degree programs in agriculture, forming a partnership with the museum seems like a natural idea, and we’re investigating some possibilities for students from the College doing project work there.  If you have never been there, it’s worth a trip—just go north on Route 310 to Madrid, and turn right on Route 345.  The Museum is about a mile down the road from there—a total of less than 10 miles from Canton.  A big thanks to Chuck Goolden (who is an emeritus VP of Administration at SUNY Canton and an honorary member of the College’s Foundation Board) for helping organize the visit.

After visiting the Museum, we all went to see Mapleview Dairies, one of the larger dairy farms in the county.  It’s an impressive operation, with multiple cow barns (some using mechatronics technology), and state of the art milking parlor technology.  The Dairy was established in 1946, with the purchase of the Wallace Jones Farm by Flloyd and Millie Fisher.  It has expanded tremendously since then, and now has some 40 employees.  The Fishers are happy that SUNY Canton is reviving programs in agriculture, and look forward to helping in their development.

 

New Cancer Wing at Claxton-Hepburn

Yesterday, I enjoyed attending the dedication of the Dick and Bonnie Winter Wright Cancer Wing at the Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg.  I’ve been to the Medical Center several times in the past, to see its new linear accelerator (one of the most advanced pieces of equipment in cancer therapy), and to talk to its president about how SUNY Canton and the Center can expand our relationship.  It’s an impressive facility, especially when you consider the small size of the city of Ogdensburg.  Before Claxton-Hepburn began developing its advanced cancer facility, patients in the North Country had to travel to Syracuse or Montreal (both 2 hours away).  If you had to have multiple radiation sessions, the necessary travel distance was a major negative factor.

Having such an advanced cancer center in the North Country is a wonderful thing for the region.  The new wing was possible thanks, in part, to the generosity of Dick and Bonnie Winter Wright.  The Wright family have been major benefactors over the years in St. Lawrence County.  I had the pleasure of meeting the Wrights after the ceremony.  I guess I’ve been in the North Country a fair amount of time now, since I knew lots of people at the ceremony, including our own Linda Fay (who was co-chair of the Cancer Center Expansion Project, and is a member of CHMC’s Board of Directors), our Assembly Member Addie Russell, and Jim Reagan representing our Senator, Patty Ritchie.

We’re fortunate to have such fine medical resources as CHMC and Canton-Potsdam Hospital close by to serve this area.

 

 

Building the Kind of World We Want to Live In

As most of you are aware, as a result of the Yik Yak incident on our campus last year, I was asked to serve as the co-chair of the SUNY Social Media Responsibility Task Force.  We’re getting to the end of the process, with our report to the Trustees being drafted as we speak.  The Task Force has gone quite well—the participants have been active and thoughtful, the presentations have been interesting, and I’m confident that the report will be incisive and useful.

As most people are aware, social media cuts multiple ways.  It can be used to build a sense of community, to keep up with family, to find lost friends, and to “rally the troops” when there is a problem.  It can also be used in harmful ways (which is what prompted the establishment of the Task Force).  Social media has been used to send death threats and racial insults, to form cybermobs, to host online attacks against women, to post sex videos (without the permission of the person(s) in them) and many other terrible things, many of which have received lots of press coverage.  What then is the best way to encourage students (and others) to act responsibly online?

I’m not going to give away what will be in the Task Force’s report, but there are a few things that have turned up lately in the press that are worth talking about regarding behavior—the behavior of students AND of faculty and colleges.

A quick glance at any social media platform reveals that the way some people act online is often an exaggerated form of what they do face to face (f2f).  They may use harsher language; make accusations or assumptions based on little or no evidence; act in ways that are racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic, or Islamophobic; and promote one-sided political views and call those who disagree traitors or worse.  People who are appalled by what they see often feel a need to respond with equal or greater venom, lest the other side “win”.  Pretty soon, the conversation (if it is even appropriate to call it one) degenerates into a sequence of insults and threats.

This kind of behavior isn’t restricted to life online—all of these things happen throughout society.  Traditionally, the more disturbing things happen outside of public view.  These are comments that are whispered to a friend or said in a bar while having a drink—the sort of thing that most people were circumspect enough to not want to say too publicly. Today, these kinds of extreme behavior are leaking out more and more into the public f2f sphere.  The most obvious place is in politics, where candidates who think carefully about what they say are accused of being fake or “too PC”, while those who make extreme comments are somehow seen as being more honest and authentic.  Both traditional and online media, always looking for a headline to draw in an audience, prominently features the attacks over actual substance, further encouraging the race to the bottom.

Incivility, both online and f2f, also shows up at colleges.  Almost every college has a code of student behavior that has been adopted, often with significant student input.  In most cases, students are also involved in the judicial process—hearing cases, hearing appeals, and helping decide what penalties to set. When the online offense is parallel to a f2f offense, there is no reason to treat the two differently.  A student posting a threat on a social media site to harm a specific individual should be treated identically to one who makes such a threat verbally or in some other manner.  A student engaging in online hazing of another student should be treated the same as one who physically hazed another student.  Racist comments on anonymous social media sites pose their own challenges in tracking down the perpetrators, but are not really different from anonymous racist graffiti on a rest room wall.

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Some campuses take it several steps further.  Civility codes of one sort of another have been created by campus administrations, often forbidding or restricting various types of speech or behavior.  There’s also a student movement developing to label or remove words, ideas, and subjects that may be sensitive.  Some words or phrases are now being labeled “microaggressions” because they might be offensive.  An example that turns up often is the word “American”, when used to refer to people living in the United States, which is said potentially to be offensive to people living in other countries in North or South America.  [If this is true, referring to the United States might be a microaggression, since we’re not the only “United States”–the official name of Mexico is “Estados Unidos Mexicanos”, i.e., the United States of Mexico.]  Some students are calling for trigger warnings to be given when sensitive topics are to be discussed, and in some cases, “safe spaces” have been created for students who may be traumatized by the sensitive topic.

Civility codes have often been attacked as being violations of free speech.  These codes, as well as proposed policies on microaggressions and trigger warnings, have also been criticized as promoting an infantilized culture where the student body feels it should be protected from anything it might find controversial or offensive, and of harming students’ psychological health and intellectual growth.  An interesting article on these issues, written by Greg Lukianoff (president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) and Jonathan Haidt (a professor of ethical leadership at the NYU-Stern School of Business), appears in the September issue of The Atlantic, entitled The Coddling of the American Mind.

There’s also been a recent spate of articles focused on how civility codes and fear of offending students have affected faculty.  Two recent widely circulated examples can be found at the following links:

There have been a large number of articles in reply as well, from faculty who dispute this.

Whenever I see articles of this type, I wonder how widespread the phenomenon actually is.  I’ve read quite a few such articles, and they mostly cite the same small number of examples.  Yes, a very small number of campuses have responded badly to allegations, and a very small number of faculty have been impacted.  I’m not aware of any faculty member here at SUNY Canton who is afraid of our students (liberal or otherwise), though there well may be some.  Similarly, I’m not aware of any student having alleged microaggressions having taken place, nor advocating for any trigger warnings.  I’d be interested in hearing from any faculty who see things differently.

I don’t have any sort of magic bullet solution here, but the types of issues raised are why I believe we need to take a positive approach.  We can teach students that their online identity should be treated in exactly the same way as their more general identity should be treated.  Learning how to develop and maintain a professional reputation and resume is critically important, and should as a major topic include learning how to maintain that reputation on social media.  While we should certainly inform students of the risks of posting inappropriate comments or pictures—the risk of loss of reputation, losing potential jobs, etc.—we shouldn’t try to make policies that restrict students’ free speech rights, even if that speech is offensive.

Similarly, we shouldn’t try to shield students from the rough and tumble of academic life and intellectual growth.  Students need to learn that arguments can be heated and the topics discussed can be controversial.  Students need to learn that their classmates may well take offense, just as can happen post-graduation with the people you work with.  We need to teach students and to model that the best prescription is still the golden rule:  treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

In short, teaching our students that they have the ability (and opportunity and obligation) to build the kind of world they want to live in, both in the physical world and online, is the best approach.  Asking the questions: “Do actions/comments of this kind make our campus/city/country/world a better place?”; “Would you want to live in a place where everyone acts like this?”; and “Do you like being treated in the way you acted?” can serve as springboards for students to explore their behaviors, hopes and fears in a productive manner.  Will it work in every case and stop objectionable behavior?  Of course not, but a concerted effort can help in building a culture of civility and respect, without having to restrict freedom of speech or shield students from reality.

 

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt with musical hits from the ‘60’s.  The winner (and only entry) was Christina Lesyk. C’mon folks, I know you can do better!

Here are the correct answers:

  1. Anatomical song that was the Beatle’s first #1 hit in the US. Lyrics include “And when I touch you I feel happy inside, it’s such a feeling that my love, I can’t hide.”  I Want to Hold Your Hand.
  2. Rolling Stones hit that they sang a censored version of on Ed Sullivan; they replaced the words “the night” with “some time”. Let’s Spend the Night Together.
  3. Bob Dylan song that asks “How does it feel?” Like a Rolling Stone.
  4. 1963 The Crystals hit that starts “He walked up to me, and he asked me if I wanted to dance/He looked kinda nice, and so I said “I might take a chance”. And Then He Kissed Me.
  5. Top song from 1960, it was recorded by Percy Faith and his orchestra, and was the theme from a movie starring Richard Egan, Dorothy McGuire, Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee. Theme from A Summer Place.

 

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

We continue our move to more recent days in this week’s challenge, which deals with musical hits from the 1970’s.  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. Bruce Springsteen song about “tramps like us”.
  2. John Lennon #1 about his version of utopia.
  3. “Walk on the Wild Side” was his only big solo hit.
  4. AC-DC song, but it’s not about Route 11.
  5. Dolly Parton song asking a rival to leave her man alone.
Posted in Uncategorized

August 5, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 10, Issue 03–August 5, 2015

 

End of July Recap

The weather here in the North Country has been unusual lately, and by that I mean unusually hot.  We had a couple of days where the thermometer was above 90°F and with the humidity it was pretty sticky.  Even though it wasn’t expected to last, I figured “why not?” and went and bought two window air conditioners.  It’s amazing how high-tech everything is these days—for $140, I got a 5,000 BTU unit with the side “accordion” panels that came complete with a remote control that you can program the air conditioner with.  Pretty nice.  We put the first one in one of the windows in the living room and it does a fine job—more than able to keep the room cool, even more so if we close the door.  Where to put the second one was more of a problem—most of the windows in the house are of the “crank and it opens outward” variety, and you can’t put a window air conditioner in them.  Thus, the solarium, music room, and my parent’s bedroom are all out.  We could put it in the upstairs main bedroom (Jill and mine), but it gets cooler in the evening and overnight (which is when we’re there), and with a fan, there’s no need for an air conditioner.  The other choice is to put it in the dining room, which is what we may wind up doing.  Since it has cooled off again, there’s no hurry in deciding.

After living in Georgia for almost 10 years, I feel stupid complaining about the heat when it’s only in the 80’s and only barely touching 90, but your body quickly adjusts itself to the new environment, and boom!  It’s too hot again.  My former president was saying the same thing in her blog—the temperature had reached 75°F (an all time high for that day—it’s usually around 60) up in northern California where she is, and with the humidity, it was unbearable.

On weekends and some evenings, we’ve been enjoying taking a ride over to Ogdensburg, Waddington, or Massena to enjoy driving along the St. Lawrence River.  There are some beautiful homes there at incredibly low prices, so I’m thinking about possibly buying one as a summer place.

 

All About Fish

Anyway, last weekend (July 26th), I attended the Governor’s BassMaster Fishing Challenge up in Massena.  I didn’t actually go fishing, but there was a fishing simulator (built by an MET student at SUNY Canton who has since graduated), so I gave it a try and managed to land a sailfish.  I’m really in no position to judge, but the simulation felt real to me and it took both hands to hold the fishing rod and to reel it in.  Pretty cool!

This past weekend, the National BassMaster Fishing Championship was held in Waddington, a very pretty village on the St. Lawrence River.  My mom, Jill, Mark, and I went up on Saturday and there was a pretty good crowd there–some 30,000 people were expected.  Both SUNY Canton and the upcoming St. Lawrence Film Festival had booths there, so we walked around and checked them out.

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There were lots of other booths selling fishing gear, as well as crafts, food, wine slushies, and other good things.  There were also various bands playing different genres of music, so we had a nice time.  We were going to get together with Melissa Evans (our Director of Admissions) for a boat ride on the river, but at the appointed hour, the sky looked treacherous so we put if off until Sunday.  Good thing too, since there was plenty of rain and lightning just a few minutes later.

We got together on Sunday at 12:45 and the weather couldn’t have been nicer.  Melissa, her mom, and her cousin were already on their boat when we got there.  We all got on, with Melissa taking the helm, Mark taking the co-pilot’s chair, and the rest of us in the back enjoying the ride.

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As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the houses in Waddington and Massena are really nice from the street side, but on the boat, you get to see their river side and some of them are just spectacular!  We all had a great time cruising around for several hours and enjoying each others’ company.

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Trip to Delhi

Speaking of nice places, I was down in Delhi for a presidents meeting of the Colleges of Technology on the 21st.  The drive down to Delhi was quite scenic, and almost all of it was on roads I have never been on before in my life, through little villages I’ve never heard of, despite having grown up in New York.  The route starts off familiarly enough, taking US-11 down to Gouverneur—that’s the road that goes on to Watertown and then to Syracuse.  In Gouverneur, you turn off onto NY 812 south, which goes through Fullerville, Harrisville, and Croghan.  I stopped in Croghan for a bite to eat at a diner.  Continuing on, just after Croghan, you take some local roads to make a short-cut to bypass Lowville, and get on NY 12 south, which goes through Martinsburg, Port Leyden, Boonville, and Remsen down to Utica.   From there, it was I-790 for a minute to get off on NY 8 south until it intersects US 20 east to Richfield Springs.  I’d been on the US 20 part before, since that’s part of the way I used to go from Syracuse to New England, back in the day.  At Richfield Springs, you go south on NY 28 through Cattown, and then NY 205 through Hartwick down to Oneonta (thereby avoiding Cooperstown, which gets very crowded, since that’s where the Baseball Hall of Fame is).  Just outside Oneonta, you pick up NY 28 again, which twists and turns through beautiful hills and valleys through Meredith and then finally arriving in Delhi.  The whole trip takes a bit over 4 hours.

The president of SUNY Delhi, Dr. Candace Vancko, had arranged for very nice guest rooms and parking spots on campus for me and for SUNY Farmingdale’s president Hubert Keen, the two presidents traveling from the greatest distance to Delhi.  The room had a nice welcome basket with cookies, fruit, bottled water, and some other goodies.  The campus is quite attractive, located on two or three levels on a hillside.  There was a fair bit of construction and renovation going on, including in the building we were staying in.  To go from the building I was staying in to the one we were meeting in (which was next door), I had to move one of those temporary fence barricades so that I could slip inside it.  Anyway, the three of us had a very nice dinner at a restaurant that the College runs located by their golf course (Delhi offer a degree in golf course management), and then went up to see the president’s house—very spacious and attractive, overlooking some pretty hills in the back.

The next morning, we all went to breakfast at a pleasant café in town and then went back to the campus for the meeting.  The meeting went well and we discussed a number of interesting points, including some proposals we’re going to submit jointly to SUNY’s Performance Improvement Plan, seamless transfer, and orientation for new presidents.  During the meeting, a very nice lunch was provided by the campus food service.  Dr. Vancko set a wonderful standard as hostess for the meeting.  The COT presidents may be meeting in Canton this fall, and I’m looking forward to returning the favor.

 

And From There, To Albany

The meeting ended at about 2:00 PM and I hopped in the car for a trip to Albany for a meeting of the Social Media Responsibility Task Force that I co-chair.  The ride to Albany was quite nice, following NY 10 east through the little towns of Hobart, Stamford, Jefferson, and Summit, until joining I-88 in Richmondville, and getting on the Thruway at the end.  After checking into the hotel, I had their shuttle take me to my favorite Indian restaurant for dinner.  Unfortunately, it must have been the cook’s night off or something, because while the samosa appetizers were great, the entree (I had ordered a Tandoori mixed grill) was disappointing.  When I got back to the hotel, I watched a little TV and fell asleep.

After breakfast in the hotel the next morning, I walked over to SUNY Central’s Courtroom Building (it’s only about a 5 minute walk, if that) where we were meeting.  The meeting began with a presentation on threat analysis procedures, followed by a discussion on the realities of how to implement them.  After lunch, we discussed how to outline the main points of the report we will be submitting to the Board of Trustees, and took volunteers as to who was going to draft each bullet.  Each person will submit their draft, and the two co-chairs and David Belsky, our SUNY liaison, will put the individual drafts together to form a draft of the full report.  Depending on how the Task Force likes the draft and how much additional work needs to be done, we’ll either handle things online or meet face to face for a final time.

The meeting finished about 2:00 PM and I walked back to the hotel to get the car and took off for home.  As of late, I’ve been taking a different route through the Adirondacks that I like a little better and that’s a little faster.  I go further up I-87 until the Pottersville exit, and go on a local road to Olmstedville.  From there, it’s an easy ride to Long Lake on NY 28N, to NY 30 in Tupper Lake, and NY 56 and NY 68 to Canton, overall about 3.5 hours.  The weather was gorgeous, and I couldn’t resist stopping a few times in Newcomb and Tupper Lake to take some pictures.

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And All Around the North Country

On the 29th, I joined several other members of the North Country Regional Economic Development Commission for a tour of some of the new facilities that are promoting economic growth in our region that were supported by the NCREDC.  The trip started at Jefferson Community College down in Watertown.  We all got on the bus and went over to Fort Drum to see a facility that burns biomass to supply energy to the fort, operated by ReEnergy Holdings.  It is a very interesting operation–trucks come in carrying wood chips and other biomass waste and back onto a “bridge” that can be raised or lowered.  The “bridge” is then raised to more than a 45° incline, where all the biomass falls out onto a conveyor which sifts and sorts and carries it into the furnace.  You can read a little more about the operation here.

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From there, we drove over to see several housing facilities that were built in the Watertown area for soldiers and their families from Fort Drum.  The strong level of support from the city and region are critical elements in maintaining the Fort in the area, which is (of course) critical to the economy.  The good news is in the latest round of military personnel cuts, Fort Drum was largely spared.

Our next stop was in Clayton, NY, where we visited the beautiful 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel.  The Hotel is magnificent–beautiful rooms and facilities, located on a particularly lovely shoreline location on the St. Lawrence River.

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After a brief tour of the hotel, we had lunch in its dining room, followed by a presentation by North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry F. Douglas and Clarkson University president Tony Collins  to a New York state assessment team, about the importance of economic development in the North Country and the progress that has been made.  The assessment team included Secretary of State Cesar Perales, Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito, Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Jerry Boone and Director of Upstate Economic Development Richard Tobe.  You can read more about the presentation here.

 

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt with musical hits from the ‘50’s.  The winner was Bruce Tallon.  Others will all five right included Paul Howley, Christina Lesyk, and Kim Woodard.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Elvis’ first major hit, about a place that’s “Down at the end of lonely street”. Heartbreak Hotel.
  2. His #1 songs from the 1950’s on the R&B chart include “Maybelline”, “School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell)”, “Johnny B. Goode”, and “Sweet Little Sixteen”. Chuck Berry.
  3. Dick Clark hosted this television show that started in 1957. American Bandstand.
  4. Patti Page had the decade’s biggest hit, with a song about her “dancing with her darling”. Tennessee Waltz.
  5. His song, “Poor Little Fool”, was the very first #1 on the newly created Billboard Hot 100 in 1958. His other #1 was “Travelin’ Man”.  Ricky Nelson.

 

  

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

We move to more recent days in this week’s challenge, which deals with musical hits from the 1960’s.  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. Anatomical song that was the Beatle’s first #1 hit in the US. Lyrics include “And when I touch you I feel happy inside, it’s such a feeling that my love, I can’t hide.”
  2. Rolling Stones hit that they sang a censored version of on Ed Sullivan; they replaced the words “the night” with “some time”.
  3. Bob Dylan song that asks “How does it feel?”
  4. 1963 The Crystals hit that starts “He walked up to me, and he asked me if I wanted to dance/He looked kinda nice, and so I said “I might take a chance”.
  5. Top song from 1960, it was recorded by Percy Faith and his orchestra, and was the theme from a movie starring Richard Egan, Dorothy McGuire, Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee.
Posted in Uncategorized

July 21, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 10, Issue 02– July 21, 2015

 

Sixty!

Last Wednesday on July 15, I turned 60. Or as Jack Benny would have put it, I turned 39 for the 21st time. I know that it’s all a state of mind, but 60 years old is an age I never saw myself as becoming (and still don’t think of myself as being). Ah well, it’s over now. I celebrated by getting a haircut at Bob’s, the local barbershop that also sharpens skates. I look younger with short hair, y’see.

On Thursday, the family and I went up to Norwood for the concert on the green, which featured Julie Budd, a “Broadway songs” type singer who is often compared with Barbra Streisand. Julie was in fine voice, and I enjoyed the performance so much I picked up one of her CDs (“The New Classics” and asked her to sign it. Among the members of the band backing Julie up was our own Professor of Mathematics, Dan Gagliardi. Not getting enough of Dan on Thursday, I heard him again on Friday at the synagogue, where Sharon Veigh Williams and he led a musical Shabbat service.

  

SUNY Canton Shout-Outs

We’ve had some good news lately, and that’s always worth sharing.

First up, we just heard that our TRiO Student Support Services grant was renewed by the Department of Education for five years, at a little more than $250,000 per year. There was a whole team of folks that worked very hard on writing the grant, including Joanne Fassinger, Molly Mott, Shawn Miller, Julie Parkman, Katie Kennedy, Michelle Currier, Sarah Todd, Brenda Miller, and no doubt some others I should be mentioning. This money goes to help support more than 200 first-generation economically disadvantaged students to access special services, including academic counseling, tutoring, and other similar resources. Congratulations to all involved! This follows news from a few weeks ago that SUNY Canton was awarded $170,000 from New York’s Education Department to support CSTEP, a program supporting students interested in pursuing careers in STEM related fields.

You’ve probably heard this already, but it’s now official: SUNY Canton has completed its probationary period (one year early!) and is now a full-fledged member of NCAA Division III, effective September 1. The application process was led by our own Athletic Director Randy Sieminski, who said:We are thrilled with the NCAA’s decision to accept us as full members of NCAA Division III. It has been a group effort from our coaches, student-athletes, staff, faculty, administration, College Council and numerous departments campus-wide. This is a huge step for our student-athletes and teams as we now become eligible for NCAA postseason competition during the 2015-16 academic year.” SUNY Canton has added five new sports in the last four years, and has increased the number of student athletes from 150 to about 300. Sieminski also thanked the SUNY Canton leaders who helped start the transition to the NCAA, including College Council Chair Ronald M. O’Neill, Dean of Academic Support Services Molly A. Mott, Vice President of Student Affairs Courtney B. Bish, former President Joseph L. Kennedy, former Vice President for Advancement David M. Gerlach, former Vice President for Student Affairs Daniel J. Sweeney and former Athletic Director Diane J. Para. Great job, everyone!

Congratulations also to Kelley Glasgow, a Canton elementary school counselor who is the winner of SUNY Canton’s 2015 Distinguished Citizen Award. Kelley was recognized for her leadership in bringing together various community resources to assist students and their families who may be struggling financially or emotionally. She created the “Golden Bear Pack” program, which provides take-home meals for about 90 students every week, ensuring that disadvantaged children receive meals during weekends and holiday breaks. Congratulations Kelley! 

 

Marriage Equality

In last week’s issue of the BLAB, I wrote about one of the big items in the news in the past few weeks, the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House in South Carolina. Today, I’d like to say a few words about the recent Supreme Court ruling (Obergefell v. Hodges) about same-sex marriage.

statue-of-liberty-in-love

Here’s a brief history of the issue:

In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered a trial court (in Baehr v. Miike) to consider whether the state’s denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples “furthers compelling state interests and is narrowly drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgments of constitutional rights.” The court determined that the state had not established any compelling interest in denying same-sex couples the right to marry, and even if it had, it had failed to prove that the statute was narrowly tailored enough to avoid abridging state constitutional rights. Voters in Hawaii then passed an amendment to the state constitution “to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples”, thereby invalidating the first ruling. The US Congress then passed the Defense of Marriage Act, denying federal recognition of same-sex marriages (should they be legalized anywhere). Several states passed constitutional amendments restricting marriage to opposite-sex partners, and in some cases, establishing civil unions for same-sex partners.

The first state to legalize same-sex marriage was Massachusetts on November 18, 2003, taking effect on May 17, 2004. The Commonwealth’s Supreme Judicial Court found (in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health) that denying equivalent rights to same-sex couples violated the state constitution, and that the Commonwealth had no compelling reason to do so. I was living just across the border in New Hampshire at the time, and it was interesting to see the reaction to the ruling. Many people there supported the decision, but there was serious opposition from the Catholic Church and from some of the more conservative legislators. Several attempts were made to reverse the decision, all of which failed. More than a dozen states reacted by passing constitutional amendments or other types of laws restricting marriage to opposite-sex partners.

The tide began to turn in 2008, with Connecticut recognizing same-sex marriages, followed by Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia in 2009. New York followed suit in 2011, as did Maine, Washington and Maryland in 2012.

In 2013, in United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, “as a deprivation of the equal liberty…protected by the Fifth Amendment.” This led to several district and circuit courts overturning bans on same-sex marriage, making it legal in most states. Many of the states chose not to appeal, but several did. The Supreme Court ruled directly on the issue in 2015, making same-sex marriage legal in all states.

Some opponents of same-sex marriage ask: “Where in the Constitution does it talk about same-sex marriage?”, but a better question would be: “Where in the Constitution does it talk about marriage at all?” I wonder if it would have been better if the courts ruled that the states should not be in the marriage business at all, but rather only grant civil unions (which would provide the various tax and legal incentives) to those who want them, leaving marriage as a matter to be handled by religious institutions. The advantage to that would be that the civil unions could be granted to any combination of individuals who agreed to take certain legal responsibilities for each other. The combinations might include same-sex or opposite sex partners, but could also include such things as a three unmarried cousins taking mutual responsibility for each other, a child taking responsibility for an elderly parent, a sister taking responsibility for a developmentally challenged brother, etc. In other words, one’s gender preference would be irrelevant to the issue. That ship has sailed, however.

An interesting question is how peoples’ opinions have changed so rapidly on this subject—not so long ago, the idea of same-sex marriage being legal across the United States would have been branded as impossible, and opposed by a broad majority. Today, a majority of Americans favor it.

When Massachusetts first recognized same-sex marriage, all sorts of dire results were predicted. I believe that the change in opinion came because pretty quickly, people there and in other states began to see that their own traditional marriages were unaffected by the ruling, and opposition to it began to die out. As other states allowed same-sex marriage, people began to see their own friends, family, and neighbors coming out and getting married, which made it all the more difficult to be opposed. Additional court rulings saying that the states had no compelling reason to oppose same-sex marriage added to the momentum of change. The Supreme Court followed, albeit by a narrow 5-4 margin, saying that bans were unconstitutional on the basis of violation of the 14th Amendment.

I think this is one of the cases where the Supreme Court majority got things exactly right, especially in tying the right to same-sex marriage to the 14th Amendment. For those who have forgotten their civics classes, the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law to all citizens, and was originally meant to enshrine the rights of newly freed black Americans after the Civil War.

Again, some history:

Following the passage of the 14th Amendment, several Southern states passed various laws requiring segregation. In 1896, in the case Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled that the states were allowed to segregate facilities, so long as the segregated facilities were equal for both races. The reality of the situation, of course, was that the separate facilities were rarely equal, but state courts and the Supreme Court itself in multiple cases twisted and turned in order to find some way to say that they were.

It was only in the 1950s that “separate but equal” began to be struck down. The first major case was Sweatt v. Painter, which dealt with a black Texas student who had applied for admission to the School of Law of the University of Texas. No black students were allowed admittance under state law and there was no black law school, so there wasn’t even a pretense of “separate” in this circumstance. The district court gave the state a six- month continuance, during which it set up a black law school at Texas State University for Negroes (now known as Texas Southern University). The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the establishment of the black law school satisfied the “separate but equal” requirement. When the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, they ruled that the separate school did not pass Constitutional muster, both because it was not equal in resources and facilities, but also because of intangible factors, such as its isolation would mean that students would be denied interaction with (white) lawyers with whom they would ultimately have to work. On the same day, in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, the court ruled that Oklahoma did not provide a “separate but equal” education to a black student pursuing a Doctorate of Education degree who had been required to sit in a hallway outside the classroom door.

The parallel of “separate but equal” to the same-sex marriage issue is easy to see. While several states offered civil unions as an alternative to marriage, it was clearly an attempt to set up a “separate but equal” system for same-sex couples. In some states the civil unions provided all the same state rights as marriage, but in other states they didn’t. In all cases, it was seen as a 2nd class alternative to marriage.

Another argument made against the Supreme Court’s ruling is that the original authors of the 14th Amendment wouldn’t have foreseen it being used to justify same-sex marriage. This doesn’t hold water due to multiple precedents, including the two cases regarding higher education I mentioned above. The original authors of the 14th Amendment wouldn’t have foreseen black citizens being allowed to go to Southern universities and pursue advanced degrees either, and for decades black citizens were denied an equal education in those states. It was a full 82 years after the passage of the 14th Amendment before its “equal protection” was extended to higher education

There are many precedents of courts extending the reach of various laws regarding equality, as the nation’s view of who is truly a full-fledged citizen has expanded. Over varying lengths of time, this expansion has been to the benefit of women, religious minorities, immigrants, and many others. In each case, there has been opposition claiming that there would be dire consequences. In most cases, we are rightly ashamed of the earlier interpretations and decisions that denied rights to these groups. Who today is proud of Plessy v. Ferguson, or sees it as other than a perversion of justice?

The recent Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges is just the latest in a long line of extensions of the principle of “securing the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” [from the Preamble to the Constitution] and extending “equal protection under the law” [from the 14th Amendment] to all citizens. The real shame of it is that due to our own prejudices, the process takes so long and sometimes succeeds only by the narrowest of margins.

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt with summer, with every answer being a song that had the word “summer” in its title. The winner was Kim Woodard from the Registrar’s Office. Others will all five right included Christina Lesyk, and Terri Clemmo.  

Here are the correct answers:

  1. Sam Cooke had a hit with this classic, about “when the living is easy”.  Summertime.
  2. Alice Cooper song about the end of classes. School’s Out For Summer.
  3. Olivia Newton-John sang this to John Travolta in the movie “Grease”. Summer Nights.
  4. Seals and Crofts had a hit with song that dealt with the jasmine in your mind. Summer Breeze.
  5. Summer classic by Eddie Cochran, it has the lines: Every time I call my baby, and try to get a date; My boss says “No dice son, you gotta work late.” Summertime Blues.

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with musical hits from the 1950’s. 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. Elvis’ first major hit, about a place that’s “Down at the end of lonely street”.
  2. His #1 songs from the 1950’s on the R&B chart include “Maybelline”, “School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell)”, “Johnny B. Goode”, and “Sweet Little Sixteen”.
  3. Dick Clark hosted this television show that started in 1957.
  4. Patti Page had the decade’s biggest hit, with a song about her “dancing with her darling”.
  5. His song, “Poor Little Fool”, was the very first #1 on the newly created Billboard Hot 100 in 1958. His other #1 was “Travelin’ Man”.
Posted in Uncategorized

July 13, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 10, Issue 01– July 13, 2015

 

Anniversary Time

For those who follow meaningless minutia, this issue of the BLAB marks the beginning of Volume 10. Yes, that means I’ve been writing this sort of stuff for ten years now. It all started as a way for me (back when I was VPAA at Southern Polytechnic State University) to be able to communicate in a regular, but informal, way with the faculty and academic affairs staff there. I later found out that some people at other colleges, as well as down at the Board of Regents had found out about it and were reading it. As you can imagine, I got a bit more circumspect about what I was saying at that point! Anyway, happy 10th Anniversary to the BLAB, and I hope folks still find it pleasant and useful.

Speaking of anniversaries, this past June 20 was Jill and my anniversary—our 39th. We got married in the Bicentennial year of 1976, and had our honeymoon in Israel, where we were on that special July 4. It was a rather interesting day and not just because it was Bicentennial Day, since it was on that day that the Israeli army rescued more than 100 hostages from Entebbe, Uganda in a rather famous operation. Jill, my grandmother, my uncle Reuven, and I were taking a bus up to Tiberius (on the Sea of Galilee) that day for a little tourist fun, and when the others on the bus heard Jill and me speaking English, they kept interrupting to ask “What do you think of our army? Pretty good, huh?” That evening, in honor of the success of the operation, someone placed an ad in the paper, donating one month’s salary to support the army. The idea went viral, and in the course of the next two weeks, I remember hearing that a billion shekels were raised.

Things were a bit quieter than that for this anniversary. We had a nice drive along the river, and went to the Little Italy in Ogdensburg for dinner. When the waitress heard it was our anniversary (son Mark had to tell her, of course), we got a complimentary dessert.

 

 

Flags and Flags: Norwood, New York and Charleston, South Carolina

 

Norwood

I hope everyone had a good time celebrating the 4th of July with all of its patriotic pageantry. My family and I went up to Norwood, NY, where they have a very nice small town 4th of July Parade, originally held in honor of their volunteer fire department. Firefighters and their engines from around the county all come, and there are floats about other small town things as well. It has grown to be the biggest 4th of July parade in these parts, and it’s America at its best.

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Charleston

In addition to the 4th of July, the past few weeks have focused on a different flag issue as well, starting with the tragedy in a church in Charleston, transforming into a national debate about the Confederate Flag (yes, I know it’s really the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, but everyone thinks it’s the Confederate Flag), and in an astonishing turn, resulting in what I would have thought was impossible.

I know Charleston and South Carolina rather well, having gone to graduate school at the University of South Carolina (USC) to get my doctorate in chemistry. Charleston is an elegant city with beautiful homes along the main waterfronts, where (as the locals tell it) the Ashley and the Cooper rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean. The most beautiful architecture in the city is found at The Battery, which looks out over Fort Sumter, which is where the Civil War began. Charleston architecture is well known for its long side porches that catch the sea breeze on those sultry summer days, and their beautiful wrought iron railings. Among the historical sights are the aforementioned Fort Sumter, the Old Slave Mart, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue (the oldest or 2nd oldest in America in continuous use—from 1740), the historic downtown, and many other things. There’s a lot to see there, lots of excellent restaurants, and it was only a 2-hour drive from Columbia, so we used to go down there for visits all the time.

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The Battery in Charleston

South Carolina was a funny state to live in for a “Yankee” like me. I was there from 1976 to 1981, living in Columbia, the state capitol, where USC is located. When I told people in New England (where I went to college as an undergrad) that I was going to USC, they reacted like I was stepping off the edge of the Earth. Things were beginning to change in South Carolina—the University had moved well beyond token integration in the late 1960’s, and some black politicians had been elected to the state legislature and to county and local offices. While there was still a lot of racism under the surface (and occasionally above it), there was also a veneer of Southern politeness covering it, and some real change beginning to occur.

The Confederate flag flew over the state house in those days, but it was beginning to become controversial and discussions were beginning to take place about possibly moving it. Lots of people thought that it had always flown there since the Civil War, but it actually only went up in 1961. Ostensibly, it was added to commemorate the centennial of the start of the Civil War, but in reality, everyone knew that it was being kept there as a protest against desegregation. While several other southern states removed the Confederate flag from their capitols over time, the South Carolina legislature continuously refused, which resulted in a substantial boycott led by the NAACP.

In the year 2000, state senator Arthur Ravenel made some derogatory remarks that drew national attention, referring to the NAACP as the “National Association of Retarded People”, and then apologized to “retarded people” for associating them with the NAACP. This became a hot campaign issue, with arguments being raised for and against the flag similar to now. A compromise finally was arrived at later that year, with the Confederate flag moved from being over the state house to being over a Confederate memorial nearby on July 1. To ensure that the compromise would go no further, it was also agreed that it would take a 2/3 vote of both houses of the South Carolina legislature to move the flag again.

South Carolina was the last state to make Martin Luther King Day a paid state holiday, which it also did in 2000 (until then, all state employees had a choice between Martin Luther King Day and three Confederate holidays, which I thought was an unusual compromise). Did the compromise on the flag and the move to make Martin Luther King Day a ‘full’ holiday happen, in part, because of the controversy over Ravenel’s remarks? I always thought so. While South Carolina certainly had its irredeemable racists, it also had many people of goodwill and others who could be reached. Perhaps enough people were appalled by Ravenel’s remarks that year that they felt they had to do something significant to distance themselves from them.

Which brings me to the present day. As everyone knows, on June 18, nine black worshipers were murdered at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, by Dylann Roof. Pictures of Roof posing with the Confederate flag were found on his Facebook page, as were other pictures of a racist nature and a rather elaborate racist screed. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this tragedy was the response of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church community—they immediately forgave Roof and prayed that he would find redemption. Forgiveness shouldn’t be confused here with absolution—no one argued he should be let go and not have to pay for his crime. The forgiveness was a spiritual forgiveness—that he should learn the errors of his ways and repent. Lots of articles and editorials were written about the grace shown by the congregation, and how their lack of hatred was such a singular thing.

Immediately after Roof’s connection with the Confederate flag became known, a movement began advocating that the Confederate flag be removed from the capital grounds. It was led by state representative Norman “Doug” Brannon, a conservative republican, who promised to introduce legislation to remove the flag. State Senator Pinckney, one of the worshipers murdered at the church, was a friend of his. Brannon also said that he was ashamed that he hadn’t proposed the legislation sooner, and that it should not have taken the murders of nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for the legislation to be presented. “It’s tragic. [But] it shouldn’t have taken that, and again, I apologize.”

For a short time, other political candidates were reluctant to join in, but a few days later, Nikki Haley, the state’s governor, called for the flag’s removal to a museum, and was quickly joined by both US Senators from South Carolina and many others political leaders. The movement quickly spread to other states—in Virginia, the governor called for removal of the Confederate flag on license plates, and discussion began on removing it from being part of the Mississippi state flag.

The question was, would there be the necessary 2/3 margin of votes to remove the flag in both houses of the SC legislature? The backlash against removing the flag began, and robocalls went out arguing against the removal. What would come next, the call asked? The bill quickly passed the Senate 20-3, and after some delay in the house, with multiple dozens of amendments introduced, passed there by a sufficient margin. Governor Halley signed the bill, and the Confederate flag came down Friday morning, July 10.

What was responsible for this dramatic change in sentiment in South Carolina? A lot of newspapers and TV news reports said it was a result of the murders of the nine worshipers, but I think that may be incorrect. I think it was a result of the grace and forgiveness shown by the survivors and the families of those murdered—a grace and forgiveness that positively screamed for a moral response. I think that the grace that was displayed broke through the defensive wall that a lot of white South Carolinians had surrounded themselves with. Their argument that the flag was about heritage, not hate, no longer mattered. They couldn’t bear to be inside that wall any longer, and had to make an unmistakable moral response.

So often today we make arguments that come down to money or politics. It’s so rare when something happens that transcends—when we see a moral wave that can’t be resisted. There’s a lesson in this, about harnessing the power of grace, forgiveness, kindness, and moral suasion. We need to do it a lot more often, to deal with the issues that divide us. What might we be able to accomplish if we did?

On the Today Show Friday morning, Governor Halley said: “I don’t want this to go away quickly. I want people to remember what today feels like and know that anything is possible with us.”

Anything is possible with us. A good thing to remember.

 

 

Down to New York Again

I took the week of June 29 off for vacation. On Sunday, July 5, it was travel time to go to New York for a meeting of the SUNY Social Media Responsibility Committee that I co-chair. I had procrastinated in booking my travel, always figuring that if worse came to worse, I could drive down to Poughkeepsie, leave my car there, and take local rail into the city. Since it was 4th of July weekend, things were pretty heavily booked, but I lucked out and got the necessary seats.

I left at 6:00 AM to drive to Ogdensburg, where I caught the Cape Air puddle jumper to Albany. The flight was about 90 minutes late, due to a pilot in Nantucket having an ear infection, leading to a cascade of flight changes. I had left 2 hours for the connection in Albany, where I had to take a taxi to the Amtrak station in Rensselaer to catch the train to New York. The late flight made this a tight one, but I caught a taxi right away and got to the train station just as the train was being called. The ride to New York was very pleasant, with some very pretty Hudson River views along the way. I stayed at my sister-in-law Ellen and her partner Etta’s apartment in Greenwich Village, which is one of the nicest locations in the city. They had kindly left some cold beer for me, and I found a nice Thai restaurant nearby for dinner.

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The Social Media Responsibility Committee met the next morning at the SUNY Office in the East 50’s, which was an easy subway ride. The meetings went will, with representatives from Yik Yak, Facebook, and Tumblr giving their views on how safety issues involving their sites should be handled. It was interesting to hear things from their perspective, including examples of positive ways in which their social media sites are used by students. The meeting broke up at about 3:00 PM, and I walked over to the Korean consulate to speak to the consul about forming relations between SUNY Canton and some Korean colleges, and inviting folks from the consulate to the College for a visit and talk. Dinner that night was at a Mediterranean restaurant that was pretty good.

On Tuesday morning, I met with folks from the Institute of International Education about bringing in students from Brazil (of which at least two will be here this coming fall) and other places in South America. After the meetings, I walked over to Grand Central Station, had some lunch, and took the shuttle over to Penn to catch my train home. The train left on time, but due to track work, got into Albany about 50 minutes late. After catching a taxi and getting to the airport, that only gave me about half an hour to get my ticket, go through security, and get to the gate. In Albany, that’s plenty and I was there with 20 minutes to spare. Other than the right engine not wanting to engage for multiple tries (which was a bit disconcerting), the flight was uneventful and I got home right on time.

 

Economic Development

I’m a member of a number of economic development boards for the North Country, and immediately upon returning from New York, it was time for their meetings. On Wednesday evening, the Economic Development Study for St. Lawrence County Advisory Board was meeting in Massena at the NYPA Vistors Center. The next day, it was a quick drive to Lake Placid for a meeting of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. While some of what’s happening is confidential at this point, I can note that the directions we’re moving in as a College are well in tune with the economic development needs of this region, and with the plans from these agencies.

 

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

There wasn’t any.

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with summer—every answer is a song that has the word “summer” 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. Sam Cooke had a hit with this classic, about “when the living is easy”.
  2. Alice Cooper song about the end of classes.
  3. Olivia Newton-John sang this to John Travolta in the movie “Grease”.
  4. Seals and Crofts had a hit with song that dealt with the jasmine in your mind.
  5. Summer classic by Eddie Cochran, it has the lines: Every time I call my baby, and try to get a date; My boss says “No dice son, you gotta work late.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized

June 10, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 37– June 10, 2015

 

 

I’ll Be Off to Las Vegas…

I’m leaving later today to go to Las Vegas. The sad news is that my Uncle Nathan passed away at 90 years old, and I’m going to his funeral. He led a full life, and a eulogy (in part written by my sister, Drorit) is below. Warning: there are some details regarding the Holocaust that are frightening.

 

 Nathan Szafran

My uncle, Nathan Szafran, died in the early hours of Friday June 5, 2015, in Las Vegas, NV at the age of 90. He had gone into the hospital a few days earlier seriously ill but had rallied back, and we hoped all would be back to normal. It was not to be, and while sitting up, seemingly better, a heart attack did him in. He is survived by his loving wife, my Aunt Shirley; his brother Daniel (my father); his daughter Karyne and son Barry; grandchildren Nicole, Jacob, Katie, Joshua, and Kristen; and great grandchildren Damian and Isaiah.

Nathan was born in Strykow, Poland (a small city northeast of Lodz) in 1925. The family was large, consisting of father Hersh Icek Szafran (for whom I am named—Hersh is German for “deer”, and Zvi is Hebrew for “deer”); mother Fayga Riwka Hecht (for whom my sister Drorit is named); and seven children: older brother Barish (for whom my cousin Barry is named); younger sisters Kajla Frymet and Sura Pesa (both of whom my cousin Karyne is named for); and younger brothers Daniel, Shimshon, and Moshe (for whom my son Mark is named).

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Hersh Icek was a metal worker who made milk cans, stoves, pipes, and farming equipment for the local farming population. He was also a roofer. Fayga Rivka helped with the business by going into the large nearby city of Lodz to get metal, had a vegetable garden, and cared for the children. Nathan attended primary school until the fourth grade when he had to leave school to work with his father. A few years later, in 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland, starting World War II.

The Nazis established a small ghetto in Strykow, but people could leave it during the day to work. Eldest brother Barish returned in 1941, having been a prisoner of war. Hersh and the older boys laid roofs for the German barracks and built stoves to heat them. The family was ordered to move to another small ghetto in Bzeziny. Men from 18 to 20 were told they could to go to a camp to work. Barish signed up to go and was never seen again. The Nazis took the younger children Moshe (10) and Shimshon (12), saying that they were going to be sent to a special school to learn a trade. After the war, the truth was discovered—the boys were murdered in mobile vans. The remaining family was transferred to the Lodz ghetto, where they were forced to live in a single room. Hersz, Nathan, and Daniel were forced on a truck, supposedly headed to another work camp. While in motion, Hersh made a commotion to divert attention, and Daniel and Nathan jumped off the truck, probably saving their lives. That was the last time they saw their father.

When the Lodz ghetto was liquidated in 1944, the remaining family was packed into cattle cars and taken to Auschwicz. All were murdered on arrival, except for Nathan and Daniel, who were tattooed (with consecutive numbers) and forced to do slave labor. In the spring of 1945, they were transferred to Sachenhausen. As the Russian Army approached the prisoners were forced to go on a death march to Germany. During the march, they came across some Red Cross volunteers who gave them food and clothing. The Nazi guards ran off and Nathan and Daniel escaped. They made their way to a displaced persons camp behind the American lines. In 2001, Nathan gave testimony at the Shoah Foundation about his experiences during the Holocaust.

Nathan immigrated to the United States in May 1950 and settled in Syracuse, NY. He was drafted into the United States Army and served in Germany during the Korean War period.

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After discharge, Nathan returned to Syracuse where he met his wife, Shirley. They were married on August 24, 1958 and ultimately celebrated 56 years of marriage together.

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Nathan worked multiple jobs to support his family, and then started his own successful business as a home contractor, performing painting services in the Syracuse area. My parents, sister and I moved from Israel to Syracuse in 1959, reuniting the family. Since Nathan was older than my father, he was, in effect, the family patriarch. I always had an especially close relationship with him, from the minute we came to the US and I first met him when I was four.

Nathan and Shirley’s children Karyne and Barry were born in 1959 and 1961, respectively. For many years, we lived two houses apart, getting together several times every day for one thing or another, as one big family. When I was a teenager, I’d work on one of Nathan’s painting crews in the summer to earn money for college. Throughout the years, we’d always get together in the summer, for Thanksgiving, and for the winter holidays. I’d have to be careful about what I’d say when we got together—I remember one time my Aunt Shirley made a Boston cream pie for dessert. When I said that I liked it, for years afterwards, there would be a Boston cream pie waiting for me every time I visited. Uncle Nate arguing about politics, so he, my father, and I would often have three-way debates.

Upon his retirement in 1995, he and Shirley moved to Las Vegas, where my parents joined them a few years later. In later years, Nathan enjoyed traveling to Poland each summer to visit Strykow for several weeks, where he had many wonderful and loving friends. Nathan was always passionate about family, taking his grandchildren on trips and having the family gather for holidays.

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Nathan was loved by all who knew him. He loved life, and lived his own to the fullest. He will be buried at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, on Friday, June 12, 2015. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to honor Nathan’s life and spirit, to the Holocaust Survivors Group of Southern Nevada, P.O Box 371434, Las Vegas, NV 89137.

Rest in peace, Uncle Nate. You will be missed.

 

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with June, but not necessarily the month. Our winner was Bill Prigge, Assistant Dean for Administration at University of Tennessee’s College of Pharmacy. Others getting all five right included Drorit Szafran, Virginia Bennett, Paul Howley, Jamie Sovie, and Julie Cruickshank. Here are the correct answers:

  1. Someone who gets married during the most popular month for weddings. June bride.
  2. Johnny Cash’s second wife. June Carter Cash.
  3. A type of beetle, also a song by the B-52’s. June Bug.
  4. The mother’s name on “Leave it to Beaver”. June Cleaver.
  5. Actress who played Timmy’s mom on “Lassie”, she was also the mom on Lost in Space. June Lockhart.

 

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

No contest this week. The challenge will return next time.

 

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