October 31, 2012

The Weekly Blob

Volume 7, Issue 11—October 31, 2012


Happy Halloween to everyone!  My son Mark loves giving out candy on Halloween.  He’s so disappointed when the last trick-or-treater comes by the house (which happened at 9 PM)—he’s still in the living room, hoping one more will come.

Trick or Treat

Soccer is the greatest of all sports, but it can sure drive you crazy.  The big game of the year in the English Premiere League was this past Sunday, with beloved Chelsea playing the evil Manchester United.  Such games never go quietly—there’s always something bizarre that happens, and this year it was true with a vengeance.

The game began badly for the faithful, with Manchester United’s Robin van Persie blasting a shot four minutes in.  He hit the crossbar and the ball bounced out, hitting Chelsea’s David Luiz and ricocheting into the goal.  An own goal.  Eight minutes later, van Persie collected a pass and belted another one, this time going in.  So, in the first 12 minutes, Chelsea was down 2-0.  Chelsea settled down at this point, making several scoring attempts that came close, putting a lot of pressure on Man U, and finally scoring one minute before the half on a beautiful free kick by Mata.

The momentum was with Chelsea, and eight minutes into the second half, they tied it up on a Ramires header.  That’s when things got weird.  Man U’s Young was making a run for the goal, and Chelsea’s Ivanovich tried to catch him and unintentially brought him down.  Interfering with someone with a clear chance for goal can get you a red card (meaning that you’re thrown out of the game and not replaced), and that’s just what happened.  While it was a bit harsh (many refs would have just given a yellow or a free kick or penalty kick), the rules do call for it, so there was really nothing to complain about.   That is, until six minutes later.  Chelsea’s Torres had the ball and was heading for goal, and got tripped by Man U’s Evans.  Out came the yellow card—for Evans, I thought.  Nope—referee Mark Clattenburg gave it to Torres for diving (meaning—faking a fall).  The replay clearly showed Torres had been tripped, but no avail—and since this was his second yellow card of the game, the second yellow became a red card, and Torres was out.  Making this stranger still, Chelsea was about to substitute Torres out at the time, and he would have been replaced as soon as the play was over.  All the Chelsea coaches were screaming at the off-field referee to do something, but as usual, nothing was done.  To put this in American terms, this was about as strange a thing as the calling of the infield fly rule for a ball in the outfield in the Brave’s last game this season.

I know it’s tough to be a ref and you can’t really expect them to get every call right, but in a big game and a red card situation, is it really too much to get them to be sure they got the call right?  Making matters worse, Man U scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 75th minute on a tap in by Javier Hernandez, who was offside at the time.  And of course, the referee and the linesman didn’t call the offside.  The replay clearly showed it was offside, and in a surprising bit of honesty, Hernandez accepted he had probably been offside, but added: “I don’t care…the referee counted it.”  Manchester United won, 3-2, cutting Chelsea’s lead in the league to a single point.

You’d think the story would be over (with perhaps a lot of grumbling), but you’d be wrong.  Chelsea then made an accusation that Clattenburg had racially abused one of its black players, John Obi Mikel.  Clattenburg denies it, but the matter is now in front of the FA association, and the London Metropolitan Police are also launching an inquiry.

OK—this brings us to today, when Chelsea was playing in another competition—the League Cup (one of the three major England soccer trophies, involving a total of 92 teams)—against guess who?  Yep, Manchester United.  Chelsea trailed three times during the game, scratching back to even the score each time, the last at the last moment on a penalty kick in stoppage time by Eden Hazard.  In extra time, Ramires and Daniel Sturridge both scored (as did Man U once), giving Chelsea a down-to-the-wire 5-4 win, and taking them to the quarter-finals.  While this doesn’t count in the English Premier League standings, it was still sweet revenge.

When discussing the upcoming games with fellow soccer fan Andrew McMorran, I had predicted that the two teams would split the two games.  What I didn’t predict was the strange way they did it.

RACAA Report

For the second week in a row, I just got back from spending the day in Macon, this time for the USG’s Regents Advisory Committee on Academic Affairs (RACAA) meeting.  I am Chair of RACAA this year, and this was the first meeting I got to lead.

I got on the road at 7:45, and just like last week, shot through downtown Atlanta with no delays whatever.  I arrived in Macon at 9:15 and after downing two cranberry muffins and a container of grapefruit juice, it was time to start the meeting.  The goal this year is for RACAA to have meetings that have more discussion and openness in them, and today was a good start.

First up was Senior Vice Chancellor Houston Davis, who provided some specifics about what it looks like the new funding formula will contain.  As everyone should be aware, there is going to be a shift from giving new funds based on increases in the number of new students to giving new funds based on increases in the number of graduates.  Initial indications are that “credit” will be given to universities for increases in the percentages of their students reaching milestones of 30, 60, 90, and 120 credits, and larger amounts of credit for students graduating.  The formula will be based on improvements compared to the institution’s baseline, meaning that universities whose graduation rate isn’t great but who improve will enjoy increased funding.  The new formula should be finalized and implemented this spring, but it will be a phase in over 4-5 years.  The new formula affects new funding—not our current funding, which will become a baseline.  The devil is in the details as they say, but all of this seems to be pretty good news for SPSU, since our graduation rates have been rising over the past several years as have our number of graduates.

A task force (chaired by KSU’s Ken Harmon) will be looking at BoR policy issues that may be deterring graduation rates, so some changes may be forthcoming there.

Other topics included that massive open online courses (moocs) are being looked at in terms of what the USG’s involvement with them might/should be.  On a related note, two USG institutions have linked up with online course consortia.

With regard to budgets, things will be good if we don’t get hit with another budget cut this year.  At the Faculty Advisory Council meeting held recently, the big topic was (no surprise here) the lack of raises for the past five years, and that this was making it hard for campuses to keep their best faculty.  One of my colleagues mentioned that his university (and this wasn’t a small one) had lost 20% of their faculty over the past year in this way—an all-time high.  Money is very tight, a 1% salary increase for the public sector in Georgia would cost $130 Million, and meeting healthcare obligations for the state will cost around $500M.

Next up was a discussion of Complete College Georgia by Lynn Weisenbach, who reported that the plans developed in the USG have attracted nationwide attention.  There’s a high hill to climb—of every 100 students in Georgia entering the 9th grade, only 29 go on to start at a 4-year college (12 more go to a 2-year college), 21 become sophomores, and 14 graduate within six years (3 more from 2-year colleges).  We have to do better.  Upcoming focus areas are concentrating on completion for adult learners who already have some college credit but never graduated, scale-up of effective learning support policies, improving completion rates for Latino students, and further engaging with our national partners.  Another CCG summit will be held February 18-19, with the overall theme of “Pursuing Peoples’ Potential/Reaching Georgia’s Potential”.

Linda Noble reported that there will be some changes in the new degree program application process (emphasizing program demand, addressing program duplication, and asking for more information about budget and facilities).

Several campuses in the first round of migration to Desire to Learn (D2L, the USG’s new learning management system) reported on how things had gone, and the news was good.  The transition has gone well, with faculty saying good things about the new system and students finding it easy to use.  Some nice features are that D2L can be accessed from iPhones and iPads, and that something called “intelligence agents” are built in, which check on student progress with assignments and send reports to the faculty.  There are also a number of aspects of D2L that aren’t immediately obvious to faculty, making participation in the training sessions very important, and making waiting for the term break before looking at migrated courses a very bad idea—many faculty are finding that they need more time than they thought to “clean up” their course sites.

Some other short discussions centered around the requirements to license online courses in other state and a few other such things.

One thing that’s nice about RACAA meetings is running into some friends who formerly had connections to SPSU.  They included Al Panu (Gainesville State College, who was my ELI job shadow a few years back), Jo Galle (who worked at SPSU back on our last SACS reaffirmation and is now Associate VPAA at Georgia Gwinett), and Sandra Stone (who worked at SPSU in extended university, and is now VPAA at Dalton State College).

Short Reports

Last week had a couple of great events that there’s not really room to cover in detail this issue, but that I still wanted to mention.  The Pumpkin Launch was great, with more than 20 trebuchets competing on a beautiful sunny Thursday afternoon in front of a very large crowd.

That evening, the Scholarship Dinner was also great, with almost twice as many students (and scholarships!) as last year.  I was the emcee for the event and can personally attest that the list of names of scholarship winners to be read was very long!  Congratulations to the many people involved in planning and carrying out these two important events.  Saturday afternoon,

SPSU’s men’s soccer team lost a tough home game to Lee University (Cleveland, TN), 1-0.  Playing one man down due to a red card, SPSU almost tied it up on a penalty kick deep into the second half but the ball went wide.  Sadly, it was a harbinger of what was to come in the Chelsea game, described earlier.



Since the WEEKLY BLAB is now a BLOG on WordPress, I now have some statistics on readership.  For those who are interested, the heaviest single day of readership so far came on October 25—the day the last issue was posted—with 139 accessing it.  Readers come from four countries—the US (of course), Israel (some members of my family, no doubt), New Zealand (since there was an item about NZ last issue), and Germany (for no reason I can think of).

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest had questions all having to do with women.  Only a few entries were received, and the winner was Stephanie McCartney, with an excellent four correct.  Stephanie wins the usual jazz CD.  Here are the answers:

  1. Book by Louisa May Alcott.  Little Women.
  2. Became law in the United States on August 18, 1920, but not ratified in Georgia until February 20, 1970.  Women’s Right to Vote.
  3. Edith Wharton, for The Age of InnocenceFirst woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
  4. She was the second female member of ASME, the first honorary member of the Society of Women Engineers, and the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering.  Along the way, she also had 12 children.  Lillian Gilbreth.
  5. Jeannette Rankin, in 1916.  First woman elected to congress (representing Montana).   Note that this happened before women had the right to vote in federal elections.

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

With the election coming up, this week’s trivia contest deals with presidents.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO zszafran@spsu.edu, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Only president to be elected to four terms.
  2. Music they play when the president enters a room.
  3. Who becomes president if BOTH the president and vice president can’t serve.
  4. Only president to serve two terms, but not consecutively
  5. First woman president of a republic (also the first to be ousted from office by a coup).
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