THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 9, Issue 14 – October 6, 2014
As mentioned in the last BLAB, Jill (my wife) and Mark (my son) came up for a visit after us being separated for almost three months while she was getting the house in Georgia ready to sell. They got here on the 24th, and left earlier today.
It’s been a great visit in many ways. First, the weather more than cooperated—it has been beautiful almost every day, with temperatures from the high 60’s to the high 70’s and sunshine almost every day. Saturday was intermittently rainy, but we also had beautiful rainbows as the sun set.
Second, they got a chance to meet lots of people in Canton, all of whom they found to be wonderful and friendly. Molly Mott (Dean of Academic Support Services and Instructional Technologies) was especially kind, showing them around and taking Mark to see the shelter animals in our Veterinary Technology program, which he especially enjoyed. The folks at the synagogue were also very welcoming, all wanting to meet Jill and Mark. Sylvia, at Josie’s Pizza, gave Mark a “welcome” pizza (he likes pizza with no sauce) that had him wanting to eat there every night. He also loved the Game Stop in Massena, the Wal-Mart on the way to Potsdam, and the local McDonalds and Dollar General store.
Third, we had lots of nice events on and off campus for them to enjoy, more about which below. We had dinner with the Alpha Theta Gamma fraternity, enjoyed High Holiday services at Temple Beth El, and went to several Homecoming Weekend activities. They met lots of students, all of whom were extremely welcoming. Finally, they both really liked the new house.
All in all, Jill and Mark have discovered that Canton is a wonderful place to live, and that they can really enjoy life in a small town. They’ll be back in Georgia for a few weeks to finish things up, and plans are for them to move here permanently in late November. My biggest personal thanks to everyone who was so kind and friendly to them this past week—you’re all the best.
Selfie of Jill and Me
As mentioned above, last Tuesday, Courtney Bish, Amanda Deckert, Jill, Mark, and I had dinner with the brothers of Alpha Theta Gamma fraternity at their house on Court Street. The Alphas are SUNY Canton’s oldest fraternity, being founded in 1909. I had been to their house in July, getting the grand tour of their rooms, rooftop patios, and basement party room. They’ve put a lot of sweat into the place and it looks quite good, though they tell me that there’s still a fair bit to do. It’s a big old house that was formerly owned by James Payson, who was one of the founding fathers of the college, working there for 22 years. He was the Director [which was the highest ranking position at the time] from 1917-1918. The house, obtained by the fraternity in 1946, still has the hitching post on the side, as well as the stepping stones in the front that were used to get down off horses.
The dinner was very nice, consisting of chicken, baked potatoes, and salad. One of the brothers did the cooking, and I think he has a great future in the hospitality industry if he wants to go in that direction, because it was delicious. Jill thought the place was very cool, and Mark especially liked their big screen TV.
Later in the week on Thursday, I met with the Greek Council. They were having their regular business meeting, so I got to hear about some events they were planning. I said a few words about all the positive things fraternities and sororities can add to a campus, so long as they keep things under reasonable control. We all like to have fun, but it has to be responsible fun. They asked me if I had ever belonged to a fraternity (no—fraternities existed, but weren’t very big at WPI when I was an undergrad) and was I familiar with Greek organizations on my previous campuses (yes—my graduate school, the University of South Carolina had very strong fraternities and sororities that did lots of good things on campus, and SPSU had some good (though relatively small) Greek organizations as well). I wound up my remarks by telling them that since I’ve never belonged to a fraternity or sorority, I was available to be recruited. We’ll see if any of them take me up on it.
More Pictures and Interviews
Last week saw several interviews with the local press.
The Watertown Daily Times talked to me and the other North Country SUNY presidents about Governor Cuomo’s new statewide policy proposal to combat sexual assaults on campus. The Governor had met with the SUNY Board of Regents, who voted to establish the policies across the SUNY system. He will also work to get the policies adopted at the private colleges in the state. In my weekly blog to the students, I had written about a policy known as “Yes Means Yes”, meaning you can only engage in sexual activity with a partner when they had said “yes”, and that only a sober individual can say “yes”. Governor Cuomo’s policy was also a “Yes Means Yes” policy. You can read about my own support for the Governor’s policy in the Watertown Daily Times article here.
As loyal readers of the BLAB will already be aware, I had represented the SUNY presidents at a news conference earlier this summer where New York’s Senator Gillibrand had announced a Senate bill designed to support victims of sexual violence on campuses. Also last week, President Obama had announced a program to publicize the fight against sexual violence on campuses called “It’s On Us”. SUNY Canton is participating in the “It’s On Us” campaign through social media and by sponsoring a selfie contest on this theme. It’s a very good thing when SUNY, our governor, our senator, and our president all are speaking with one voice on this important issue.
On Tuesday, I was interviewed on Yes-FM in Ogdensburg about being a new president, what has changed at universities and what my plans were for the college. If you have nothing better to do, you may want to see the YouTube video of the interview, below.
Meeting with Labor
On Monday, September 29, I had my first official Labor/Management meeting. Unlike my previous campuses, SUNY Canton is unionized. Way back in the day when I was earning money for college working at Greyhound, I was a union member of Amalgamated Transit. Salary and benefits were much better at Greyhound than they were at non-union bus companies located in the same terminal in Syracuse, and I was very appreciative of that! Of course, I also had to pay union dues, but it was well worth it. That had been pretty much the totality of my union experience, so I was looking at this meeting with some level of anticipation. Still, I’ve always believed that everyone, union or not, wants the same thing—a place at the table where their concerns would be seriously listened to and considered. My view is that everyone is entitled to that.
I believe that the Union will be sending out their minutes from the meeting. I’d like to say a few words about some of the issues that came up just to amplify a few points. The first few items were requests for information about enrollment and the budget. I suggested that in the future (beginning this month), we would be happy to make a report on these items at the Faculty Assembly, and that this should be a regular occurrence. There was general agreement that this would be a good idea. The timeliness of responses to reappointments, promotions, and salary increase requests was brought up, noting that in some (hopefully) rare cases, this had taken six months. We committed to a two week turnaround at each level, unless otherwise specified in the contract.
Perhaps the “biggest” issue discussed was a change that had been made last year regarding student course comments. Before, tenured faculty could opt out of doing student course comments (though few actually did, because most faculty find them useful and want to know what their students are thinking). The procedure was changed to that tenured faculty had to provide a compelling reason to opt out. The Union felt that this was a unilateral change, and it should have been negotiated. We had a fairly lengthy discussion about this, with me arguing that student course comments provide valuable information that pretty much every faculty member needs. There were several concerns raised about the student course comments instrument, and that it asked questions that students were in no position to answer. It was pointed out that only a handful of tenured faculty had opted out, and that there were other remedies in those circumstances—the president can call for a Section-12 Review in cases that seem particularly of concern. We agreed to go back to the previous policy (tenured faculty can opt out), with us strongly encouraging tenured faculty to participate and monitoring the response rate. If the fraction opting out increases, we agreed we would take the issue up again.
The meeting went very well, from my point of view and I hope the Union’s. Our union colleagues expressed their views in a clear and straightforward manner, and made many reasonable points. When I asked several questions, I got answers that I found to be clear and accurate. Our union colleagues listened to my point of view, as well as that of other administrators, and I believe we had a genuine dialogue.
We plan on holding an open forum in the near future to discuss the student course comment form, and perhaps some other issues related to the reappointment, promotion, and continuing appointment process.
Friday and Saturday were Homecoming weekend. I wanted to attend all the events, but couldn’t due to Homecoming overlapping almost exactly with Yom Kippur, one of the Jewish high holidays. Jill, Mark, and I went to the synagogue on Friday night and Saturday day but then ended our fast after sundown at the Homecoming Weekend buffet (great food, and was I hungry!) and then went to the Canton’s Got Talent show.
The show began with the crowning of our Homecoming King and Queen, Vernon Hicks and Nafie Cisse. [The following three pictures are all by Greg Kie.]
This was followed by all sorts of cool acts—some singing, some dancing, some poetry, and some rap. In between, there was a lot of humor by the emcees.
In the middle of the show, all the attendees participated in the launch of SUNY Canton’s “It’s On Us” publicity campaign.
The event was extremely well attended, with some 400-500 people there, all having a good time. It was a most enjoyable evening, and the ‘Roo Royalty T-shirts were very cool! There’s no doubt about it—Canton does have talent!
After the show, we went over to Miller Student Center to see the cardboard village assembled by the Habitat for Humanity student organization. It was great to see so many students involved with the critically important issue of homelessness. I was pleased to here that our students had been involved over the years in building multiple homes all over the country. Special thanks to JoAnne and Will Fassinger, the advisors to the group, for their fine work.
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word college or campus. Our winner was Jesse Clarke-Stone who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct included Carmela Young and Patricia Todd.
- Games are played in the fall, usually on Saturday. College football or College bowl.
- What BMOC stands for. Big Man on Campus.
- Giving it a strong attempt. Giving it the Ol’ College Try.
- Movie starring John Belushi, set at fictional Faber College. Animal House.
- “Boola Boola”, and “The Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech”. College Fight (or Drinking) Songs.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
Since Jill and Mark will be making their new home in Canton, this week’s trivia contest has answers all associated with the word “home”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- Where the deer and the antelope play.
- A four-bag hit in baseball.
- Long running TV show starring Tim Allen.
- 1990 Christmas movie with several sequels. The original starred Macaulay Culkin.
- What Dorothy learned at the end of the Wizard of Oz.