Audience at Trinity University

by Joseph M. Knippenberg

I have followed with interest, but thankfully from a distance, the back and forth regarding speakers recently invited to the Trinity campus.  Beginning with last year’s Milo Yiannapoulos extravaganza (not sure what to call it), and extending to this year’s lectures by Ryan Anderson and Dinesh D’Souza, the campus has been roiled by controversy. Should the speakers have been invited in the first place?  Do students have a right to protest them? Does that right extend to shouting them down, as happened to Charles Murray recently at Middlebury College? Or is the appropriate response to listen respectfully to what they have to say, and then challenging them vigorously and rigorously in the question period?

I think you can tell where I’m going by the way I posed my questions, but let me begin by laying my own cards on the table. I’ve been a Trinity parent since 2014, a college professor since 1985, and a campus denizen of one sort or another since 1974. Though I have on a few occasions demonstrated for or against particular points of view, I have never protested a speaker. I have, to be sure, hosted a speaker students regarded as controversial, so I know something of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of student hostility. (To be clear, you couldn’t pay me enough to be in that position day in and day out.  My skin is thick, but not that thick.)

I am committed to a vision of a college as a place of learning that requires the free and full exchange of ideas and opinions. Some—but most emphatically not all—of that goes on in the classroom, which requires that I both encourage students to tell us what’s on their minds and articulate points of view that they may find challenging and sometimes even repugnant. Students in my classes will read and talk about Aristotle’s defense of natural slavery and Thomas Hobbes’s snarky critique of the Greek philosopher’s inegalitarianism, Alexander Stephens’ critique and Abraham Lincoln’s defense of the egalitarian reading of the Declaration of Independence, and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s argument that a right to same-sex marriage is found in the Constitution and the dissenters’ searching criticisms of that position. My approach to teaching requires me to make it difficult for students to take the easy way out. It’s not good for them not to have to wrestle with and respond to serious challenges to the truths they happen to believe are self-evident. Not to confront those challenges as serious alternatives is to hold their views as mere opinions and to be incapable of thoughtfully and articulately defending them. Stated another way, a genuinely liberal education requires that students come to understand, so far as possible, the reasons for the opinions they have. And that requires, as I have said, that they consider the arguments for their opinions as live arguments with serious opponents, not as unchallenged and hence effectively dead dogmas.

But I’m really here to talk about what goes on outside the classroom, which constitutes a very important part of every student’s education. I have some preferences there too, but much less—indeed almost no—control. Leaving aside the dorm room conversations that go on way past my middle-aged bedtime, let’s focus on those pesky invited speakers. Sometimes faculty like me do the inviting, but often it’s the students. I know what I want—smart, articulate, thoughtful speakers who will do from a different point of view and perhaps better what I’m trying to do in the classroom. I’ve been there and done that a lot—both as the organizer of lecture series and conferences that have as their principal audience the college’s undergraduates and as an invited lecturer (offer me a little money and a nice meal, and I’ll think of something more or less edifying and educational to say to your students.)

Students are not educators, so that when they invite someone to campus, it may not be to promote the respectable pedagogical aims of the faculty. They may merely want to be entertained, or they may want to be fed some ideological red meat by someone who vividly and effectively articulates what’s on their minds. The talks may not be intentionally educational, and sometimes they’re not even all that informative, but I’m here to tell you that that’s OK. Your hard-earned tuition dollars are not being wasted.  (Let me hasten to clarify something, lest I be misunderstood: in many cases—indeed, in all the controversial recent Trinity cases, if I’m not mistaken—the funds that pay for the speakers are provided by external organizations.  All that the University is doing is permitting the event to occur on its campus. Your tuition dollars are literally not paying for Milo, or Ryan Anderson, or Dinesh D’Souza.)

So why are these sorts of talks a good thing? First of all, they provide a kind of practical learning experience for our students. They learn how to deal with all the complicated logistical arrangements of hosting an event; they learn how to organize support and/or opposition for the speaker’s point of view; and they may even learn how to manage conflict with friends on the other side of the fence. These are important civic skills that can’t as readily be cultivated in the classroom. Yet if we don’t somehow cultivate them, we risk losing some of what it takes to be a self-governing people.
Second, we faculty aren’t just bystanders here. Because speakers invited and hosted by student groups are (by definition, I suppose) interesting to students, these sorts of events actually engage the students.  They care about them, sometimes quite passionately. And that’s a passion that we teachers can use in the classroom. These are the proverbial teachable moments, when something outside the classroom gets brought inside and becomes the basis for a discussion in which the walls separating the realm of books and ideas from the “real world” are breached. Wow, is that fun!  And, wow, is that important because we don’t have to work all that hard to get our students to care about it! And we can take the material they’ve provided, which they didn’t think of as part of their education, and make it, yes, “educational.”

Let me say one last word about the faculty role. My preference is for hospitable treatment of and respectful engagement with outside speakers. Whatever may happen “on the street” or at a Congressional town hall, the college setting is supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be collegial, cooperating with one another in the search for the truth. This requires civility, which of course requires a kind of self-restraint. We faculty members certainly should require that civility of ourselves and also of our students, who won’t always get it exactly right. (And that’s OK. I prefer a few unintentional missteps to the resentful self-censorship which doesn’t let anyone actually engage with the question and—perish the thought!—actually learn something.)  So we should attend those controversial lectures and provide a kind of model of civil and critical engagement with those with whom we disagree.  That too is a civic skill, one that we need to cultivate if we are to continue to be able to govern ourselves.

If you want more food for thought, let me recommend the following things:
·         Dean Tuttle’s very useful and timely blog post.
·         Pomona Professor John Seery’s wonderful book, America Goes to College
·         My reflections on Seery’s argument in Democracy Reconsidered

About Joe

Joe Knippenberg is a professor of politics at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, where he has taught since 1985. His son, Liam, is a junior at Trinity, majoring (shockingly) in political science, though he has absolutely no intention of following any further in his dad’s footsteps. Father and son chat frequently, mostly about politics. Recently dad has been working his personal network (friends and former students) to find people in the “real world” with whom Liam can speak about career opportunities. And Liam, with dad’s blessing, is applying for internships this summer. Joe’s wife Lee also teaches at Oglethorpe, in the Core Curriculum and the theatre program, and directs the drama ministry at Oak Grove U.M.C. Their daughter, Charlotte, is a freshman at Wingate University in North Carolina, where she is on the swim team and contemplating a psychology major. You can find some of Joe’s essays at www.libertylawsite.orgwww.thefederalist.com, and www.thepublicdiscourse.com.


Trinity University Student Service Project

by Richard and Terri Reusch

An old saying goes, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” Knowing why should be based on a relationship with the environment and its inhabitants. Finding meaning in life is quite simple when a strong relationship awareness is established. Motivation to improve our world is strong when we connect to people and places other than our own.

From a sense of concern grows empathy, compassion, and altruism. Only when we truly appreciate our world and its life can we apply our energies and resources to improving life’s experience. A sense of gratitude for not only the gift of life as an individual, but also for the good fortune through time, should be enough to spur one to “giving back” so that others find a higher meaning and purpose to account.

Our son Ryan grew up as what is affectionately known as a “military brat” since both of us had combined military careers of more than 40 years. Military families understand service to others. They give generously of their time daily. Commitment, sacrifice, and a sense of duty are an important part of their lives in their communities and any part of the world they serve. Providing positive support and making connections can help strengthen your relationship with your family as well as bolster your own self-worth.

Reusch family at Trinity University
Rick, Ryan, and Terri Reusch.


As a parent, developing a child’s character in three essential realms is key. The first realm is self. Praise and reward for positive virtues lays the foundation for confidence; confidence leads to effort; effort moves toward accomplishments; accomplishments produce success; and sustained success brings a level of excellence. This path should not be tied to ego or self-promotion, but to purpose. The second realm is the environment. Awareness of the micro and macro surroundings are gained through experimentation, formal, and informal education. Experience and research builds the required knowledge for responsible actions and decisions. The final realm is found in the value of networking and connecting with others to accomplish significance. The legacy of an individual is often in the hearts and minds of others as well as the deeds.

We are extremely pleased to hear that Ryan is investing his time and energy as a member of the Trinity University Volunteer Action Community (TUVAC). His active participation in a program such as TUVAC demonstrates his character. I look forward to the impact that his service has on his peers, his campus, and how his work with TUVAC changes him. I know he is grateful for the opportunity to serve as the executive coordinator.

About Richard and Terri


Richard “Rick” Reusch is a retired registered nurse from the U.S. Air Force, having served 23 years. He holds an MBA and is employed as a nurse administrator with the Veterans Administration overseeing poly-trauma and spinal cord rehabilitation. He enjoys bike riding and reading. Terri Reusch retired after serving 25 years as a Air Force registered nurse with a master’s degree. She is currently back in school earning an associate degree in culinary arts. She is active in her church and as school board president at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School. She enjoys gardening and traveling.


by Wynona Mobley --

(Editor's note: We shared another family's story about the Kente ceremony in last week's Parent Perspective. Learn more about this mom's "extensive research.")

Trinity always had my vote during the college process. Like most mothers, I did my research – extensive research – and was pleased with what I found. A university that would challenge, encourage, and prepare my daughter for her greatest successes. But what about diversity? While the statistics I found may not have been exactly what I hoped, I understood the reality. I trusted that the low representation of diversity would be relative in relation to the overall population. I hoped.

This hope quickly turned into a confident reality. From the strength of the Black Student Union to the frequency of Diversity Dialogues, Taylor’s comfort in regard to diversity on campus eased my mind and reiterated my initial belief that Trinity was the right decision for her college experience. Each story, each experience, each moment Taylor shared with me touched my heart, but there was one moment that meant the most to me. It was the first annual Kente ceremony that took place the week of her graduation.

When Taylor initially told me that some of her fellow seniors were planning Trinity’s first Kente ceremony, I was skeptical. The Kente ceremony is a rich tradition on most campuses that recognizes African-American seniors for the successes and achievements that led them to graduation. The term Kente comes from the cloth design on the stole that is worn by graduates to act as a visual representation for reaching this milestone. The ceremony is intimate and a family member “dons” the graduate with a beautiful stole. My skepticism did not come from doubts that the students could plan an appropriate ceremony, but rather from a fear of how the university would receive it. To hold dialogues and meetings is one thing, but to support the first Kente ceremony, clearly specific to one racial group, is not only a risk but could be taken the wrong way. I am pleased to say, however, that my doubts went away the minute I arrived.

James, Taylor, and Wynona Mobley at the 2016 Kente ceremony. 
The ceremony exceeded my expectations. As I watched the event unfold, I did not feel as if I was witnessing the first Kente ceremony at Trinity, but rather one that carried on a preceding tradition. It was a proud moment to see a group of young men and women, many of whom I have witnessed grow over their college career, start a legacy that will carry on long after they are gone. Each student introduced the next recipient and invited their family member to don them with the Kente cloth. To see young students of color sing each other’s praises was a moment I won’t soon forget. The bond between them was unbreakable which suggests the environment that fostered their relationships over the past four years was a healthy one.

As an illustration of the University’s inclusiveness, the audience at the ceremony said it all. Attending were the president, the dean of students, and even coordinators of Residential Life. For them to support this ceremony put on by the Black Student Union, Black Male Leadership Initiative, and African Student Association speaks volumes of Trinity and its core values. It was in this moment that I felt my research four years ago was not only true, but it was exemplified right before my eyes. Trinity is forever growing, innovating and trying to be better. Not just academically but socially and, in the midst of it all, I believe diversity is at the forefront of the change. Trinity could have rejected this idea when it was brought to the table, but instead, it was welcomed, supported and well attended.

I am proud of my daughter for being part of this inaugural ceremony at Trinity, but I know this group of students won’t be the last group to take risks and test the limits. Whatever the situation may be, I believe Trinity will be there to offer the same support I witnessed throughout Taylor’s college career. Therefore, if you’re doing extensive research, like I was, and you’re hesitant when it comes to the diversity category, trust that Trinity will make your child feel included and valued, no matter what the statistic says.

About Wynona

Wynona and James Mobley are the parents of Taylor Mobley ’16, who was active in the Admissions Office as a Distinguished Representative, tour guide, and Admissions intern while working with Tiger TV and as a resident assistant.


(Editor's note: In observance of Black History Month, we are sharing a story about Trinity's first Kente ceremony sponsored by the Black Student Union. We will share another family's story next week.)

by Frederick M. Woods --

Kente cloth, known as Nwentoma (woven cloth) in the Ashanti language of Ghana, is a sacred colorful silk cloth worn only in times of extreme importance. The Trinity University Black Student Union (BSU) deemed, as did their parents, that graduation from college is a time of extreme importance. Therefore, to memorialize it in an African tradition warranted the wearing of Kente cloth.

So on May 13, 2016, in a separate pre-graduation ceremony attended by the graduating black students, their family, friends and Trinity University President Danny Anderson, the BSU held its "First Annual Donning of the Kente Ceremony" in Parker Chapel on the Trinity campus. My daughter, Bria M. Woods, a 2016 Trinity graduate, made sure that she and her parents attended.

Celebrating with Bria Woods '16 after the Kente ceremony is her brother Mike and parents Rhonda and Fred Woods.
As her father, it was a high honor to place the beautifully designed Kente cloth around my daughter’s neck following a reading of her bio by one of her graduating peers. It was equally an honor to listen to the bios read about of all the other graduates.

After donning their Kente cloth, there was endless picture taking and heart warming fellowship and bonding with all of the graduates and their families in the picturesque Chapel Meditation Garden. There, the graduates and their families shared stories of times past along with plans and dreams for their future.

It was an outstanding ceremony and should remain a Trinity pre-graduation ceremonial tradition. To BSU members, asante sana, which in Swahili means thank you very much.


About Frederick

Frederick E. Woods is the father of Bria M. Woods '16, who graduated with majors in communication and film studies.


by Robert and Lisa Gain—

“I want to go to Trinity University in San Antonio.” That is what we heard from our graduating senior, Joshua. We had not heard of Trinity before but my first thought was “San Antonio is not too far from Waco; maybe three hours, but not too bad.”

We visited, he loved what he saw, he was accepted, and he chose his classes as a first-year student. I was surprised when he chose the country western dance class as his P.E. credit. In junior high and high school in Waco, he only danced when there was a school or church program that was choreographed. He always did well on those, but the only other times I can remember Joshua dancing is with the Just Dance on the Wii and then at prom. I could tell he had rhythm but was still surprised and happy that he was taking a social dance class.

When Joshua came home at Thanksgiving, I was shocked when he invited us to his Country Western Dance final. He said it was going to be open to the public and he would like to show us his newly learned dance skills. I was very happy because this is the only thing he has invited us to. He had been talking about how well he and his partner have been doing. They were practicing some afternoons and some weekends.

Joshua talked throughout the semester about how much fun and what a good instructor he had. He mentioned the instructor was willing to put in extra time with any of the classes during non-class hours. He told me of stories of some of them meeting at different places to practice dance skills. I could hear the pride and confidence in his voice when he talked about the dances he was learning.



No way were we going to miss this dance final since it was open to the public. He even said other parents might be there too. I asked him, “What if we are the only parents who show up?” He assured me he didn’t care. We had a great time meeting his friends and watching him and his partner dance; they placed first in one of the dances. We took the friends to eat afterward and had a great time getting to know them.

Life is different without Joshua at home. His younger brother often turns to him on the couch and starts a sentence only to realize that Joshua’s spot is empty. I text him often and call him too. He is enjoying his newfound freedom and admits to sleeping too late much to my dismay but that is part of growing up. Joshua is a first generation college student and Trinity seems to be a great fit for him.

About Robert and Lisa

Robert Gain has been in the copier repair business for 21 years with 15 of them being with Parsons Office Systems in Waco. Lisa Gain has been with Central National Bank in Waco for seven years and currently works as a lending assistant after being a stay-at-home mom for 12 years.
by Kay Hazelwood –

Editor's note: In December 2016, we featured a story about a Trinity mom who donated to a school the desk left behind when her daughter arrived at Trinity. Here is another family's story about what happens to a college student's room when parents become empty nesters. 


The last Hazelwood left for college in January 2014, and Tom and I found ourselves empty nesters. The transition, as each child departed, changed and was as varied as their personalities. With Aly, Maddy, and Audrey, their rooms, though, did not undergo many significant changes when they left for school other than the usual removal of odds and ends: unmatched socks, unwanted jeans, clothes they had outgrown.

Marion, on the other hand was an entirely different story.

Marion decided to leave for college a semester early, so her departure coincided with the departure of her older sister Audrey's return to Trinity in January. Before Marion left, I had one requirement, Copper, the rabbit that had occupied her room incognito since its arrival in September, had to be spayed so it could go live with Marion’s best friend, who also had a rabbit. The spaying went off without a hitch, but when it was time to have Copper’s stitches removed, that was another story altogether.

The Hazelwood family includes mom, Kay, center, Trinity class of '82, with daughters who played volleyball at Trinity: Audrey '15, Maddie '13, and Aly '09, and daughter Marion, a volleyball player at Oklahoma.

Since Marion had to be at school a few days before the other students, she enlisted Audrey to take Copper to the vet. Simple enough, right? Copper had other plans. The pet did not want to go and ran under the bed...and we all know how fast rabbits can move. After 45 minutes of hopelessly chasing the rabbit who did not want to be caught, Audrey called me in tears. I suggested she take the mattress and box springs off the bed to make easier access and remove the hiding place. She did and propped them against the wall.

With Marion’s bed tossed, Copper now chose to hide behind the dressers. Too heavy to move, Audrey called again. This time, I suggested enlisting the pet whisperer. Enter Tom, who until I called him had no idea a rabbit had been living upstairs for four months. Here is how our conversation went:

Me: Honey, I need you to go upstairs and help Audrey get Marion’s rabbit into the crate and take it to Dr. Abshier.
Tom: Audrey is already gone. She left an hour ago. . . . . what rabbit?
Me: Marion’s rabbit. Marion got a rabbit in September. Audrey is upstairs trying to catch it because it needs its stitches out. I need you to help her catch it and take to Dr. Abshier.
Tom: D*********, Kay!
Me: It needs to go to the vet, and I need you to catch it. And that wasn’t the plumbing making those weird thumping sounds
Tom: Anything else up there?
Me: Nope, just a rabbit
Tom did catch Copper in his typical whisperer style. He called her name, and she hopped right over to him. Tom, by the way, has whispered a parakeet from our back porch and onto his shoulder, a cockatiel out of a tree, and a duck, Wilson, into its crate.

Since Copper had free rein of Marion’s room, her departure led to a complete makeover. No more nibbled baseboards and shredded carpet; and no more familiar room to return home to. Marion's room is now a beautiful nursery for daughter Aly and her husband Michael’s son, Spencer.

About Kay

Kay Hazelwood sent three daughters to Trinity, and they all played volleyball. The only daughter who didn’t come to Trinity to play volleyball grew up coming to campus to see her older sisters play.



by Leslie Wan—

As I walked into a bedroom in my home recently I stopped in the doorway and reflected on something that was nostalgic but very sweet. I reflected on the fact that my daughter's bedroom, was no longer "her" bedroom, and how that had come to pass. In any transition of parenthood, the time comes when you decide that your children are on their way, and that the room that used to be theirs can serve another purpose. It is a rite of passage and a recognition that they will spend their time now in another place, or planted on a college campus miles away from where they started. A page has turned and it is your decision to make that room, now empty, become something else more useful to YOUR life.

The transition of my daughter’s room, from her room, to "just any bedroom," was a gradual process. For me, her room was a refuge and a reality check. You see, she is our only child, and we live another country away. When she left for college, we knew she would never return permanently to live in her/our island home. We had known THAT from her earliest days. Whenever the reality overcame me that she and I would be separated by an ocean for years and years to come, I would wander into her bedroom among the treasures of her youth and read in her rocking chair. That chair had nurtured her when she was young, and as she grew, became the place where so many of her friends would laugh and chat, as she prepared to leave for college again or go out for an evening. So there it was, when the room changed, I had to acknowledge that the future we had planned for her was NOW, and home, this bedroom which was an ocean away from her, would really never be full of her spirit again. (Another waving goodbye.) That room and that rocking chair gave me peace, a place to read, and to remember that missing her was not about holding on to those youthful days, but about the affirmation that we and she had met the first goal, achieved the first hurdle. All was as it was supposed to be, despite the hole in my heart and the ocean of tears that fell.

Desk of former Trinity student before being donated
Desk once used by a Trinity student was donated to a school for special needs children.


One day a treadmill became a fixture in there, and her tired little desk that had seen many a homework session was sent to a school where we volunteered together, and I still do. Today, it serves as a desk for special needs children so they feel like they are part of a mainstream student classroom experience. It gives me great satisfaction to see those special children working with a teacher on the desk that once had my sweet little girl behind it, books splayed out, doing what she needed to do to transition to Trinity. That little desk is tired now and wheelchair scarred, but it reminds me that we did it, that life blooms again, and that where she sat, continues to nurture children. The bedroom that was, is now the bedroom that is different. It is more about the goal that was achieved and the life plan that came to pass. Oh, and that rocking chair? It still remains, and it still gives me peace.

I suppose I reflected on this as I stood in that doorway recently. As Christmas approaches, so does the season of giving and the return of my daughter home for a few days. I remembered the decision that when that room transition took place, the desk that had served on her road to Trinity, MUST be a gift given to other children so they too, could try and make their dreams happen. Even though she is gone, I still see children circling that desk and KNOW that the room transition didn't have to be about the past, but about futures in the making.

My advice is to make the changes in your home and the transitions of your children’s youth become celebrations of the future because the past may have worked just as planned.


About Leslie


Leslie's daughter graduated from Trinity in 2010, but the mom remains a true ambassador for the University.  Her daughter Christina now works as a university student administration professional, and Leslie continues to pursue special needs work and her passion for personal/professional writing and public speaking. She writes a blog (http://thestepcentre.blogspot.com/), and speaks and volunteers in support of the special needs community in Jamaica.