THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 11, Issue 2–September 6, 2016
The Semester Begins!
Fall semester has begun and it looks like we’re off to a good start. The new faculty arrived for orientation on Monday August 22nd and Tuesday August 23rd. I gave a brief introduction to the College at the first session, and got to meet them at several events, mostly involving food! Our new faculty look like a great bunch—friendly, interesting, and well-prepared with interesting backgrounds.
The first new student orientation session was on August 22nd as well, and was aimed at transfer students. I give the introduction at these sessions, letting the students know the ten things they can count on us for (our “Ten Commitments”) and the five things we are counting on them for. I end by telling them a story about the Philosophy professor who filled a jar with rocks in his classroom. Some of you may have heard this story before, but I give it a SUNY Canton twist.
The orientation for new first-time students was on Friday August 26th, and WOW! It was beyond a full house. I got there about 45 minutes early and the lines, dividing up the students by the first letter of their last name were already very long. When I went into the field house, the bleachers were already more than half full. I quickly spotted some of the staff working the orientation and asked if we had some folding chairs to put out, because we were going to need them! Ultimately, we had full bleachers and about 150 students in the chairs.
The students were very engaged and attentive, and when I gave them my phone number to call in the event they had a problem they couldn’t solve any other way, my phone started ringing as several students tried the number to see what would happen. Everyone laughed as I told them to stop calling so I could finish my speech.
On Wednesday August 24th, the senior staff at the College and I gave the annual State of the College Address. If you missed it, you can see the PowerPoint presentation here. While this will be a tight year budget-wise (since there is no tuition increase, and there will likely be a pay raise that the campuses have to pay for—no additional state money for this), the College is in strong fiscal shape. We went over last year’s successes and some of our plans for the coming year. I thought the presentation went very well, and I hope you all agree. A reception for our new faculty followed the orientation.
Later that evening, there was an awards dinner for the students in our Jump Start program. I sat at a table with several young ladies, mostly from New York City, and we had a nice chat about the program, their college plans, and what they liked to do in their spare time. Afterwards, awards were given—some serious, some more humorous. The students were very nice and friendly, and I’ve run into several of them since then at other programs.
Classes began on Monday, August 29th and everything seems to be going very smoothly. Everyone is commenting on how nice this year’s group of students are, and how engaged they are in their studies.
On Tuesday, August 30th, Art Garno (Director of the CREST Center), Doug Scheidt (Provost) and I went down to Fort Drum in Watertown for the graduation ceremony for the 4th cohort of the Solar Ready Vets program we are running there. I think we’re the largest site for this national program—we’ve had almost 100 graduates so far, and the total number across the whole country is about 300. The ceremony was very nice and the graduates were mostly in their full dress uniforms, complete with ribbons and medals. I chatted with a few of the graduates and they were unanimous about how good the program was, and how great the instructor, Kevin McAdoo, was. There’s one more cohort to go, which is just about to start up and already has a large number of enrollees.
Our new co-Chief Diversity Officers and folks from our Student Affairs area worked together to have three vigils on campus, one each on August 30th, September 1st, and September 2nd. The first was in memory of those who lost their lives in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub shootings on June 12th. The second was in memory of black citizens who were killed in several terrible incidents this past summer. The third was in memory of police officers who were killed in several terrible incidents that followed, also this past summer.
All three vigils were held at the Memorial Rock near French Hall, and drew large, respectful groups of students, faculty, and staff. Lashawanda Ingram, one of our co-Chief Diversity Officers, thanked the participants for coming, and introduced what the various parts of the vigils were going to be. The first part in each case was a prayer from one of our campus ministers (Rev. Brian Drury and Rev. Fred Sykes). This was followed up by short talks by me and by Prof. Bill Jones, our other co-Chief Diversity Officer. Lashawanda then invited the participants to share with the group by saying a single word describing their feelings about the event being remembered. The words ranged from anger to fear to sadness to anguish. The group then shared a moment of silence for healing. The program for the vigils ended with a closing prayer. Many of the participants also stayed behind a few minutes longer to talk with each other.
It’s really hard to know what to say at events like these. Words seem insufficient to capture the feelings and emotions associated with such tragedies. On the first day, to answer the questions of why we held the vigils, I told the story of the woman in ancient Greece who had died after a difficult life and was being ferried to the afterlife. Charon, the ferryman, moved by the woman’s sad story, offered to let her drink a cup of water from the River Lethe, the river of forgetfulness—the last river crossed before entering heaven. The woman asked if she would forget her pains from life, and Charon answered “yes, but also your joys”. She asked if she would forget her failures, and Charon answered “yes, but also your successes”. She asked if she would forget those who had betrayed her, and Charon answered “yes, but also those who loved you and who you loved in return”. In final understanding, she declined the drink and said “I choose to remember everything”. We must all be like this woman and choose to remember everything—to learn, to pay respect to the dead, and to do what we can to ensure that such tragedies never happen again.
SUNY Canton in the News
As many of you know, SUNY Canton has been named one of the top ten pet-friendly colleges in America. The demand for space in the pet wing of our residence halls has been increasing, so this year we designated a second pet wing. All 140 spots in the two wings have filled. Well, the Syracuse Post-Standard picked up on this news, and published a very nice article entitled “What’s it Like to Live in a College Dorm That Has 100 Cats?” on August 29, which featured Syracuse-area resident Christina Romanoski, who is majoring in Veterinary Technology at SUNY Canton and is also a resident assistant in the hall, and our Director of Housing John Kennedy. You can see the full article here.
Speaking of Syracuse, the New York State Fair was held there this week. No, I didn’t go this year, but SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher did on SUNY Day, September 1, and gave a short talk about the high quality and low cost of the SUNY system. During the talk, she mentioned that at various locations at the fair, you could pick up some swag from the various SUNY colleges, and then held up a pair of SUNY Canton sunglasses! You can see that historic moment here—it’s at about 2:30 into the video.
Articles Worth Considering
Each issue of the BLAB, I’ll try to include a link to an article that I’ve read recently that makes an interesting point that I think is worth considering. If you have an opinion about the article, positive or negative, I’d love to hear it.
Here’s this week’s article, from a blog called ‘Cult of Pedagogy’ by Jennifer Gonzales. The article is called “The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies” and it talks about lots of good ways to get more out of discussions in your classroom. Some of the strategies will be familiar, but there were definitely some I hadn’t heard of before, so it’s worth a look. There are lots of other articles on the blog for teachers. The advice is for all levels—elementary, middle, and high school as well as college. You can see the article here.
Last Time’s Trivia Contest
Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “j”. Our fastest responder with all five correct was Janel Smith. Others with all five correct included David Penepent, my sister Drorit, and a colleague from SPSU, Alan Gabrielli. Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prizes—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository. Here are the correct answers:
- It starts the year. January.
- Two atom bombs were dropped there to end World War II. Japan.
- Superman’s cub reporter friend. Jimmy Olsen.
- He started on Welcome Back Carter, and later moved on to Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction, and Get Shorty. John Travolta.
- Dolly Parton begged her: “Please don’t take my man…Please don’t take him even though you can.” Jolene.
This Time’s Trivia Challenge
Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “k”. Everyone with all five correct wins a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, or whatever else I’ve dredged up as a 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.
- Our mascot Roody is one.
- Superman was born there.
- They say the grass is blue there, but they drink a lot of bourbon there too.
- Based in Rochester, it was once the biggest manufacturer of film.
- According to the Glenn Miller song, “I got a gal” there.