THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 11, Issue 9–December 6, 2016
It’s December Already?
How can it be December already? It seems like the semester just started and yet, in another two weeks it will be over. I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, ate lots of turkey, and is feeling invigorated to make the final end-of-semester push.
We stayed around the area for Thanksgiving, and after a little discussion (OK, argument), decided that we’d stay traditional again this year and get a turkey. Jill had the nice folks at Price Chopper look around the back to find the smallest possible turkey since it’s just the three of us, and she really doesn’t like turkey all that much. They found a nice 12 pounder, and after thawing it out, washing it, adding some stuffing, and rubbing the outside with some seasoning, it was quite delicious. One of the best inventions of all time is the oven cooking bag—it keeps the turkey moist, requires no basting, retains the gravy inside, and even makes the bird cook faster. What more can you ask for less than a dollar? Anyway, after gorging on the turkey, stuffing, and rice for a few days, we had all had enough and dumped the little bit that was left.
This year, Chanukah comes on the same day as Christmas. Since Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar, they float relative to the “normal” calendar. Chanukah can come as early as November 28 or as late as December 27, so this year it is an unusually late one. We have a number of Chanukah menorahs (candelabras) that we’ve picked up over the years. Our favorite is one we got for Mark’s first Chanukah—it has Mickey and Minnie Mouse lying on the floor in front of a fireplace, playing with dreidels (little spinning tops).
Another one I like has eight different rabbis all doing various things, with the candle holder on top of each one’s head. I’ve wanted an electric menorah that we could put in the window for a while now (you don’t want lit candles there, right?), but never seen one that I liked. We finally found an acrylic one yesterday at the food festival at the synagogue in Potsdam, where by moving a pair of sliding panels in the back, each of the arms can be lit up in different colors, one by one. It’s pretty nice, so look for it when you drive by my house this year.
Back on November 8, Jill and I went to the Canton Fire Department to vote at about 6:45 AM, because I was heading out of town for a pair of diversity conferences. The lines weren’t long at that hour, so finding a parking space and voting only took a few minutes. Something I hadn’t run into before was that the lines were divided by district—since I live in the Town of Canton just outside the Village of Canton, there were a few village positions we weren’t eligible to vote on, so my ballot would be a little different from that of someone who lives in the village. Everybody who’s not a New Yorker follow that?
After dropping Jill back at home, I turned around and picked up Provost Doug Scheidt for a drive down to Saratoga Springs to attend the Cultural Competency and Inclusive Excellence Institute for Senior SUNY Leadership (CCIEI, November 8) and the SUNY Diversity Conference (November 9-11). The trip down was quite nice—a crisp fall day through the Adirondack Mountains. There are several choices of ways to get there that are all about the same distance and time, but I usually go through Newcomb and Minerva on Route 28N toward Olmstedsville, and pick up I-87 in Pottersville. This time I noticed a sign for Olmstedsville a bit earlier and turned off to go there, only to find myself on a road that I had never been on before (I think we were on County Road 24), in an area where there was no GPS signal. I knew we’d be fine if we kept heading east, since we’d eventually run into either US 9 or I-87, and sure enough we did at Schroon Lake, which turned out to be quite beautiful. Anyway, we got to Saratoga Springs just in time for the conferences.
The CCIEI was good, with a very interesting session on how we’re wired to see and do certain things in a particular way. The speaker, Howard Ross, showed a series of words representing colors that were the same color as the word (i.e., the word “red” was colored red), and had us read them as quickly as we could. No one had any problem with that. He then showed a similar series of words representing colors, but this time, the word was colored in a different color (i.e., the word “red” was colored blue), and asked us to say what color each word was (blue in this example). This caused a mental “disconnect”, since our minds are trained to read the word, not its color, and it was much harder to do it. This phenomenon, Doug tells me, is called the Stroop Effect.
Ross then showed it wasn’t just our minds that work that way—our bodies do too. He showed a film clip with people riding a bicycle that had been modified so that when the handlebars were turned in one direction, the bicycle would turn in the opposite direction. People were offered $50 if they could ride the bicycle about 20 feet without falling off, and no one could do it, because we’re conditioned when we learn to ride a bicycle that it will react only in one way.
Both things illustrated that it’s really hard to see or do things in new ways, because we’re so conditioned to doing them in the way we’re used to.
In the same way, our prior experiences give us biases. If you got ill after eating carrots when you were young, you might avoid carrots from that point forward. The bias could be conscious (you remember the earlier bad experience) or unconscious (you’ve forgotten why you don’t like carrots but you still avoid them, or you may even shy away from all orange foods because you associated the bad experience with orange-colored foods in general). There’s no particular harm to this kind of bias, since we all have individual preferences in food, style of clothing, and so on.
However, through their upbringing or experiences, some people associate negative traits with whole groups of people. If one person from Potsdam treated you meanly, you may associate meanness (and other negative traits) with all people from Potsdam, and avoid going there, hiring someone from there, or simply being fearful of someone from there, without even being conscious that you are doing this. This type of bias, even when unconscious, results in discrimination, since fear quickly triggers the more primitive part of the brain, whereas the intellectual part of our brain reacts more slowly. Harvard University has a website where you can take a test to see if you have an unconscious bias (they call it implicit bias) in a number of areas. If you want to give it a try, you can click here.
Since everyone has unconscious biases, that’s part of the reason it is important to make sure that decision-making groups are diverse. A diverse group will be less likely to have all had the same experiences or unconscious biases, and if group members are willing to speak up, less likely to arrive at discriminatory outcomes. Also, when one is aware of unconscious biases in general, and one’s own biases in particular, it is easier to avoid acting in ways that result from them.
The SUNY Diversity Conference featured of a number of keynote speakers as well as parallel sessions of individual presentations. A number of the speakers made last-minute changes in their talks to editorialize about the election outcome, with several expressing concern about what the future Trump administration might do regarding issues related to diversity, and resolved to fight anything that would push back on recent social gains.
As is always the case, some of the talks were more interesting than others. I personally would have liked more talks to have focused on strategies that had been found to be successful and how they were implemented and fewer on advocacy, but on the whole, the conference was quite worthwhile.
At the very end of the conference, I was part of a panel of four presidents talking about how they were implementing the Board of Regents’ Diversity Agenda on their campuses. I presented a PowerPoint on what we have done at SUNY Canton. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences in the various campus’ approaches, and I was able to get a few ideas of new things that might be worth trying.
So what was the most interesting talk at the conference? Other than mine (of course), I’d have to say it was the speaker who ended his talk on how to implement a strong diversity program with “The Wisdom of Yoda”, which he delivered in a very good vocal imitation of Yoda. I’ll let you read the five bullet points for yourself and decide how accurate they are.
The Conference ended at about 1:30, so we hopped back in the car, had a nice ride back through the Adirondacks, and made it back to Canton at about 5:30, just in time for dinner.
Congratulations to our Health Care Management program, which was just listed among the Top 10 Low Cost Online Degree Programs 2016 by bestdegreeprograms.org.
The website praised the degree, saying “SUNY Canton rivals even the most accommodating online colleges with its B.S. in Health Care Management, which allows students to select any combination of online, hybrid and face-to-face courses.” Health Care Management (part of the general category of Health Administration) is a high demand field. The website goes on to say “If you graduate with a B.S. in Health Administration, you’ll find yourself gazing into a future with explosive career opportunities. The BLS anticipates an immense 17% growth in health management positions before 2024 – that’s more than 56,000 new jobs…the data indicates that a degree in this discipline could be your ticket to a reliable future with high ROI and room to grow.”
Kudos to DianeMarie Collins for her good work with the SUNY Canton’s new electronic sign.
It’s a harder job than you may think—DianeMarie often stays late to create signs for events, rearranges the order of events to accommodate requests, and diplomatically fields requests or addresses complaints about submissions that don’t fit the agreed upon criteria. The sign looks great, and I enjoy reading it as I drive in each morning!
Congratulations to Emily Hamilton-Honey (English) who recently won the St. Lawrence County Chapter of the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) Research Award for her in-depth study of young women’s serial novels.
She is the author of a book in progress titled Girls to the Rescue: Mixed Messages From American Girls’ Series Fiction in World War I. Her research is based on series books including The Red Cross Girls, The Khaki Girls, and the Ruth Fielding novels. The book is slated to be published next year.
If you liked the chocolates that my office sent out as a small holiday appreciation for your efforts all year, the people to really thank are the good elves that distributed them to everyone on campus.
Here’s a list of Santa’s helpers: Brenda Mullaney, Lisa Perry, Memorie Shampine, Aimee Felt, Ellie Prashaw, Tammy Carr, Dianne Chappell, Karen McAuliffe, Toni Besio, Tina Demo, Mary Loomis, Linda LaParr, Brienne Rose, Patrick Harrington, Lisa St. Germain, Art Garno, Brenda Dean, Jennifer Jones, Michael Smith, Gisele Fleury, Penny Ames, Pat Hanss, Marty Avery, Nancy Rowledge, DianeMarie Collins, and Debbie Flack.
Last Time’s Trivia Contest
Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “P”. Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Megan Warren, Jacob Yaeger, Patrick Hanss, Renee Campbell, and Anne Williams. Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prizes—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository. Others getting all five right included Mary Rishe, Kevin Elliott, Jennifer McCluskey, Geoffrey VanderWoude, Drorit Szafran, and Doug Scheidt. Here are the correct answers:
- Head of the Catholic Church. The Pope.
- Flightless bird found in the Antarctic. Penguin.
- Germany invaded this country in September 1939. Poland.
- Poet who wrote “The Raven”. Edgar Allan Poe.
- Someone who does something exceptionally well, often at a young age. Prodigy.
This Time’s Trivia Challenge
Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “Q”, which should certainly test your vocabulary! The first five 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.
- Sound a duck makes.
- The current one in England has set a record for the longest reign of any monarch.
- The number of members that must be present in order to vote on something.
- Religious group also known as the Society of Friends, who refuse to participate in war or take oaths. The oats company has nothing to do with them.
- Formula that lets you calculate the solutions for any equation in the form ax2+bx+c = 0.