THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 9, Issue 16 – October 20, 2014
Fun with Funeral Services Administration
They say that there’s nothing new under the sun, but last Tuesday, I did something for the first time—something that I had never thought about doing before. I joined the students in the Funeral Services Administration program to have them make a life mask of my face.
For those of you who don’t know what this involves, here’s what happens. First, you lie down on a table. Second, they put some petroleum jelly all over your face, especially on your sideburns, eyebrows, and anywhere else you have hair. Third, they put a rubbery green polymer over the petroleum jelly, being careful not to plug your nostrils. Fourth, they add a layer of plaster of Paris on top, again being careful not to plug your nostrils. Fifth, you have to wait for about 20 minutes for everything to dry. At various points, I was asked if everything was OK. Since my mouth was covered, I had to reply by giving a “thumbs up”. It was pretty weird breathing under the mask—I could breathe reasonably well, but the idea of my whole face being covered except for those two small holes was a bit disconcerting.
Color pictures throughout this issue are by Greg Kie
When everything was dry, I could feel the life mask pulling away from my face. It was very easy for the student to remove in some places, but unfortunately, a big glob of plaster of Paris had gotten onto one of my sideburns and didn’t want to let go. Ultimately, Prof. Pennepent had to get a pair of scissors and cut it loose, taking most of the sideburn with it. The mask came out pretty well and they’re going to give me an impression of it, which will make a pretty strange present for my wife. After it was all over, I was all gunked up from the remaining petroleum jelly. I went to the restroom and tried to wipe and wash it off, but I felt sticky until I got home that night and took a long shower. Bottom line: between the Ice Bucket Challenge and this, no one can say I haven’t given my all for SUNY Canton!
I’ve been meeting with a number of our departments and schools each week, just to get to know each other, hear what they have to say, and to answer any questions they might have.
On Tuesday, I met with the School of Business and Liberal Arts. The conversation touched on a number of points (my responses are in italics), which included:
- Some questions related to the engaged/not engaged process that had just been completed. Would there be more such initiatives, and will the faculty have the opportunity to provide input to them? The engaged/not engaged process was time sensitive, since there is only one “start of the year” and not doing it when we did would mean having to wait a year. Any other such initiatives will be done via normal faculty processes with full faculty input. Why wasn’t the term “engaged” defined more specifically? We wanted the faculty to use their own best judgment as to which students were responding effectively in their classes. Since faculty assess in different ways, we thought it would be best to keep the term general. Will advisors get a list of advisees that were marked “unengaged” and by whom? Perhaps in the future. In this pilot stage, since faculty hadn’t agreed to share their engagement grades with anyone, we didn’t think it was appropriate to share them with either students or advisors. Students got an email that either said (in effect) “Congratulations—you were engaged in all your classes. Great start!”, or “You were indicated to be unengaged in one or more of your classes. Here are some support services that you might want to take advantage of.” What will be done with the engagement grades? We are tabulating the results and will compare them with student withdrawals and GPAs. We will see if there is a correlation between the engagement grades and future performance and retention.
- An issue was raised regarding hiring terminally qualified business faculty vs. faculty with industry professional experience. This is a tough one, because while we are an applied college (and thus, industry professional experience is very important), we are also a college that believes in accreditation as the mark of program quality. We should probably move toward ACBSP accreditation in the near future, while looking at the desirability of moving toward AACSB accreditation in the long term. AACSB requires the majority of faculty to be AQ (academically qualified, in their terminology) or PQ (professionally qualified), which means that they have to have terminal degrees and/or publish.
- It was noted that a number of the new degree possibilities that had been discussed would include significant elements from the Management program. Was this putting the Management faculty behind the 8-ball? Faculty in the relevant programs will decide which programs make the most sense to go forward with. Even if the faculty like them all, they wouldn’t all be done at once. Additional resources will be provided where appropriate.
- A question was asked about how we’re going to apply the new tenure and promotion matrices to faculty already at the college. As discussed earlier with our colleagues in UUP, the matrices seek to paint a picture of what credentials a faculty member should have and what a faculty member should be doing in order to be promoted and/or get continuing appointment. They are not black letter law—they are what normally should be the case, but each case will be looked at individually and flexibility will be applied where appropriate.
- A question was raised about the role of the Liberal Arts in the College’s future. A model that we were developing at my previous college was that of a comprehensive polytechnic—a college that would offer all degrees that you would expect to find at a state university, but all with a technological focus. I’d love to see us move in that direction at SUNY Canton. Specifically for the Humanities, this might involve development of a degree program in Technological Communication, something that was discussed with that department when we met two weeks ago.
Wednesday, it was the science faculty’s turn and we had a very pleasant lunchtime discussion. They wanted to know what kind of new programs I thought they might be able to develop. After discussing current course offerings within the department, we settled on two areas that might be productive to look at: Environmental Science (in the short term) and Biotechnology (in the longer term). Environmental Science would be the easier to implement, since many of the necessary courses are already being offered as part of other programs, and many of the needed labs already exist. For Biotechnology, we would need to develop more new courses and would need additional specialized laboratories. New equipment would also be needed and we discussed how we might be able to acquire it over time through corporate loans and donations, and through grant writing.
Burning Down the House
Last Thursday, there was a really interesting (and somewhat scary) demonstration held on campus about fire safety, sponsored by our Environmental Health and Safety Office. There were various events held throughout the day, but the most impressive was the controlled burning of a model dorm room, built for the occasion by students in the Wood Structures class. The model dorm room was about 10×10 feet in size, and contained a bed and various other things one might find in a typical student residence.
When an outside corner of it was set on fire, the smoke alarm went off immediately—well before any smoke could be seen. This clearly indicated the importance of having a properly working smoke alarm—by the time fire and smoke can be seen, conditions in the room are so dangerous that one may not be able to get out. Early warning is imperative. As the fire spread, the room wasn’t well lit (like on TV)—it quickly filled with smoke, making it almost impossible to escape. The temperature was high too—above 200F at floor level, rising to 800F near the ceiling. Members of the Canton volunteer Fire Department then put the fire out, but the damage was already done—everything in the room had been burnt to a crisp. The goal was to make our students more aware of fire safety and for them to avoid unsafe practices in their residence hall rooms.
After the dorm room demonstration, there was a fire extinguisher demonstration on how to properly put out a fire. After being informed of the right procedure, I took one of the extinguishers, pulled the pin and approached the fire slowly, spraying from side to side with each step, until the fire was out. You can read and watch videos about proper procedures all you want, but there’s nothing like a hands-on use of a fire extinguisher with a real fire to show you what has to be done.
My deepest thanks to everyone who was involved in Fire Safety Day. Your work was critically important and may have saved some lives.
Later on Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the dedication of the Coakley Student-Athlete Study and Classroom in the CARC. It was great to meet Bill and Carol Coakley, Carol and Ronald Spadaccini, and Tom and Nellie Coakley; as well as their families through several generations, including some very sweet grandchildren, there for the occasion.
The Coakley family (owners of Coakley Carpet One Ace Hardware) have long been supporters of SUNY Canton. Robert J. Coakley (Tom, Bill, and Carol’s father) filled in as a Construction instructor in the College’s earlier days. Bill was the assistant men’s ice hockey coach for 15 years, during which time the team won numerous championships. Tom has been a member of the College’s Foundation Board of Directors since 1981, and with his wife Nellie, serves on the Service Members Advisory Board. Carol helped design the renovation of the Alumni House.
Also present at the dedication was SUNY Canton’s legendary hockey coach Terry Martin. It was a real thrill to meet him and to hear that he’s still actively involved in cheering our hockey teams on and helping recruit students for the program.
I gave a short speech talking about how there is a connection between athletic and academic success, with the skills needed for athletic success (teamwork, focus, practice) also being skills needed for academic success. Tom Coakley noted: “The relationship between athletics and academics has been absolutely crucial to the success of our family…For us, it was a natural fit to add our family name to a room that contributes to the academic success of student-athletes at SUNY Canton.”
New steel signage is now present on the exterior of the room and a ceremonial plaque hangs by the classroom door.
Later still on Thursday, I dashed over to the Miller Student Center to see the second installment of this year’s Living Writers series. Our guest was Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of the book “She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders”. The book is autobiographical, detailing her journey from being born male, struggling with her increasing realization that she wanted and needed to live as a female, and ultimately undergoing sexual reassignment surgery.
The event was very well attended, with the Theater totally filled by an attentive crowd of students and faculty (including a number from co-sponsor Clarkson University) and many people from the community. I had a chance to speak with Ms. Boylan before her talk, where I asked her if her book’s title had derived from the Zombies’ hit song of the same name. Indeed it had, and two of her other autobiographical books also have song-derived titles (“I’m Looking Through You” and “Stuck in the Middle with You”).
Boylan’s talk was really interesting and included two extended readings from “She’s Not There”. Right at the beginning, she began to sing a few lines from the Zombies’ song and when applause rang out at the end, she looked at me and said “You liked that, didn’t you?” The readings were witty and compelling, describing both her own struggle and the reaction of her family to her changing life. A portion of the talk described the wide range of different sexual identity choices falling under the label of transgender. She ended by taking a number of questions from the audience.
After the event, I joined a number of faculty and their families and friends for dinner with Ms. Boylan at First Crush, a nice bistro in Potsdam. The food and company were wonderful. I had a really nice conversation with several of the people there on topics ranging from the swing period of jazz to the rather interesting question of what it means to be a women’s college in today’s society, when gender is often seen as a fluid thing. Coincidentally, the New York Times took up the very same subject in Sunday’s newspaper. You can read this very interesting article, “When Women Become Men at Wellesley”, here.
The Living Writers series is quite a wonderful labor of love organized by Phil LaMarche of our Humanities Department. The logistics for this particular event were handled by Phil and by Emily Hamilton-Honey (also of the Humanities Department). My congratulations to both, as well as to the others who help support this series. Everyone in the audience thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d encourage everyone to attend the next Living Writers event, featuring short story writer Patrick Lawler, on November 19. You won’t be sorry.
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word away. Our winner was Rajiv Narula who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct? This must have been a hard challenge, because there weren’t any! The closest runner up was Jamie Garrett (from SPSU) with four correct.
- If it’s not a home game. It’s an away game.
- Popular Christmas carol. Away in a Manger.
- What the Lone Ranger said as he rode off into the sunset. Hi-Yo Silver, Away.
- Lousy 2002 movie about a snooty socialite (Madonna) stranded on an island with a communist sailor (Adrianno Giannini). Swept Away.
- Phrase inscribed at the bottom of Jackie Gleason’s sarcophagus in Miami. And Away We Go.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
Since some folks are feeling those mid-term blues, this week’s trivia contest has answers all associated with the word “blue”. 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!
- Nursery rhyme boy that should come blow his horn.
- Major US health insurance organization.
- Beautiful hamlet located in the Adirondacks, at the intersection of NY 28 and 30.
- The bad guys in the Beatles animated movie Yellow Submarine.
- The Navy’s flight squadron, known for its aerial acrobatics.