Trinity University students at study session

(Editor's note: Associate Vice President Michael Soto shared this letter with first year students. For parents with students in the Class of 2021, or in any other class, these tips can be of value if and when students encounter difficulties on campus. He encourages students, and all of us, to be mindful of grit, the willingness to learn from and work hard to overcome setbacks.)

by Michael Soto-


I truly hope that your first semester at Trinity University is off to an amazing start. I also get that not all of you will consider the beginning of your college career amazing. When I was in your shoes—overwhelmed with newness and thrilled about the possibilities—I wasn’t really sure how things were going with my classes until I received back from my professors a paper (A-minus: “Yay!”) and a midterm exam (D: “Uh oh.”)

There’s a lot of talk on college campuses these days about “grit,” which the psychologist Angela Duckworth defines as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” Grit is the willingness to learn from and work hard to overcome setbacks. Grit is something I want you to be mindful about. But how?

Take time to reflect. Turn off the computer and silence the phone before asking, "How am I doing here academically, emotionally, and physically?" Be honest, and realize that it’s OK not to be completely happy or satisfied all of the time. It’s OK to fail—just be ready to learn from it.
Trinity University professor Michael Soto
Trinity University professor Michael Soto
There’s only one you. You’ve seen the catchy Trinity slogan, “Discover. Grow. Become.” One of the ironies of the slogan is that while we’re all committed to a similar experience, none of us will live out the slogan in quite the same way. Don’t measure success by any one result, good or bad; follow your own intellectual and spiritual compass to find your way.

You will get better at this. My sons enjoy video games, so when they’re frustrated by a new challenge, I often ask, “How good were you at FIFA when you first started playing, and how much better are you now?” If writing is your Achilles heel, I can assure you that you will be a better writer for being here. If you’re worried about physics, you will get better with time and effort.

We’re here to help. You’ll get better because you’re surrounded by world-class faculty who want you to succeed. You also have the support of our Student Success Center if you should need counseling, accessibility, health, or academic services. In fact, you can find many of these resources under one roof at the new Tiger Learning Commons. Our Student Life team is second to none. And if I can ever help you navigate your way through Trinity, don’t hesitate to be in touch.

I hope you won’t experience an academic setback in the comings days and weeks, but if you do, know that you’re here because you possess remarkable gifts. With a little grit, those gifts will take you very, very far.


About Michael
Michael Soto is associate vice president for Academic Affairs for Student Academic Issues and Retention. He also is a professor of English.


Trinity University students at concert

by David Tuttle –

Most residential universities face challenges in managing campus cultures involving alcohol use and abuse. Trinity University has adopted a very intentional harm-reduction model. We are guided by these three tenets: we acknowledge students will drink; care deeply about student health and safety; and we enforce policies as required by law.

Our efforts around policy development, enforcement, and education are all guided by those principles.

  • We acknowledge use when we permit beer and wine at tailgate parties, as we serve students alcohol at several senior functions, and through our national award-winning Optimal Buzz program that teaches responsible drinking over binge drinking.
  • We demonstrate our commitment to student safety through the "responsible friend" component of our alcohol policy and though the SPIn policy (Safer Party Initiative) and guidelines. The latter assign accountability to off-campus hosts when they put students at risk when hosting parties.
  • And we enforce violations in the residence halls an off campus. A review of our conduct summaries show that staff members are not turning away when they face infractions.

This can all be difficult to balance. For example, while we would fully acknowledge student drinking by permitting hard alcohol, we also know that consuming shots leads more quickly to alcohol poisoning. So hard alcohol is prohibited because we have put health and safety first.

The B'Low Optimal program includes policy enforcement, but offers reduced sanctions for those in violation, but who are drinking at safe levels.

And last year, more than 100 students were trained through the TiPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) social host program to identify and intervene in situations related to problematic alcohol use. More training sessions are planned for the future.

Parents and family members are asked to support us as partners as we manage this difficult issue. We have chosen our harm-reduction approach because there is no evidence that rigid enforcement and denying the realities of student drinking are effective. Students, faculty, staff, and parents all want the same thing: an academic and social environment that puts safety and educational pursuits at its core.

Please visit our Alcohol Webpage to see a slide show explaining our approach to alcohol and videos on the Optimal Buzz and B'Low Optimal programs.

Trinity University students at concert
Trinity's dean of students recommends cultivating friends who aren't obsessed with drinking alcohol.
In a newsletter to new students this summer, we sent the following tips. Please consider reinforcing this information with your students:


Freedom can be intoxicating

For students who go away to college, perceptions of college drinking may lead to lots of alcohol consumption early. Approaching college like it is one big party can lead to a very short collegiate experience.

Tip to students: Remember why you are at school (and how much it costs). Prioritize!

Alcohol is not a finite resource

Often, new students feel that they can't get enough alcohol quick enough.

Tip to students: Pace yourself! Alcohol will still be there for the rest of your life. The first six weeks of school are known as the red zone. That's when bad things often happen: injury, alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, hazing, and sexual assault, for example.


Everyone is partying (except for the other two-thirds of students.)

Generally, about one-third of the students on a campus do the heavy lifting with drinking. It SEEMS like everyone else is because drinkers draw attention to themselves, in not so flattering ways.

Tip to students: Cultivate friends that aren't obsessed with drinking. You can find many of them in clubs and organizations and at the recreation center.

Safety is the MOST important thing

You might think you are invincible. Parents and staff members know better.

Tip to students: Try to drink reasonable amounts. Alternate water and beer. Try to consume less than a drink an hour. Drink on a somewhat of a full stomach. Avoid drinking games and shots. Go out with others and come back with them. Look out for others and ask them to do the same for you.

Know the landscape related to alcohol policies


By law, schools are supposed to enforce their alcohol policies. Some are more rigid than others. But all schools have policies, especially for on campus students.

Tips to students: If you are going to drink on campus, usually noise and brewery-like smells get the attention of the staff. If you do get written up, be cooperative and move on. You aren't going to win, and boorish behavior will increase sanctions and just really, just be a decent person to the staff.

The Dean of Students Office will conduct a thorough review of programs this semester. Please also see the 2016 Trinity Drug Free Schools & Communities Act report.


About David

David M. Tuttle is an associate vice president and Dean of Students at Trinity University. You can read his blog, The Dean's List, here.


by Barrie Page Hill --

I feel The Tug before it happens.

Like a boat, bobbing on the water, the vessel straining to break free of its moorings.

I feel The Tug before it happens.

A bouquet of bright balloons fighting for freedom; A gust of wind sending them skyward, dancing, just out of reach.

Yes, I feel The Tug before it happens.

A magnet pulled toward another; A force too strong to fight.

I’m sitting behind the steering wheel, and feel my daughter slip just a little farther away with each mile marker. We are on a road trip across this big, beautiful state of ours. The car trunk is crammed; the backseat, a mishmashed mound of clothes, tangled hangars and a wrought iron chandelier adorned with multi-colored prisms that flash colored rainbows across the car. When we saw it on our back-to-school shopping foray, my daughter declared it “perfection,” and we carted it home, adding it to the growing pile of Dorm Room Essentials. Now, it’s stowed alongside the monogrammed laundry bag, spiral notebooks, new comforter and framed pictures of friends, waiting to be hung in some place of honor, befitting this marvel of dorm room chic. I fear I have exposed my daughter to too many episodes of HGTV.

We’ve had a marvelous summer, me and this kid of mine. I am grateful to share a special relationship with her that only moms with daughters will completely understand. She is my only daughter — My only child. She has been both blessed – and cursed – to be doted on by parents who marvel at her compassion, intelligence and Old Soul maturity. Like all parents, we are proud of our child’s accomplishments, her responsible nature and her choice of colleges. Like all parents, it’s still hard to let go.

I’ve seen – and felt – this inevitable Tug gradually over the last few days. My daughter had the car gassed up, packed up and ready to roll by the time I got off work. She was ready to put miles – and home – in the rear view window. Yes, this road trip has been full of laughs and travel tales, pit stops and rest stops, and I’m glad I’m the one taking my kid to college instead of her Dad. I’m glad I’m the one getting to share these special memories before she slams the car door shut on summer.

I feel the shift though — this Tug that takes her, claiming her like the tide. The closer we get to her college, the stronger this invisible pull becomes. My daughter becomes less enamored of our road trip shenanigans, more impatient. She wants to stop less, get there quicker. Conversations are less animated, more stilted. She is distracted, distant. Mile by mile, The Tug is taking her.

She is texting more — her college chums already letting her know what she is missing, who is going to dinner with whom, what parties are planned for the short hours before classes begin. I feel The Tug before it happens.

I know, too, that this is how it should be. This is natural, normal, and — rationally — I know we will both survive this rite of passage that takes my daughter far from home. She is growing up; becoming her own self, apart from being our daughter, my baby. This is as it should be, and I am proud of the person my daughter is becoming; I know I have to let go and let her live the life she is meant to have.

As her mom, I worry, and my heart aches at the dangers yet to come. She will make mistakes. She will stumble and fall. She will meet kind people and mean people and — though we warn her — we cannot protect her from all that life will fling at her. I feel like I did when my daughter learned to ride her bike. Reluctantly, I let go of the bike seat and watch her wobble away. But I let her ride, knowing too well of the inevitable spills and scrapes that will follow.

Though I am afraid, I have to trust that my daughter will remember our words, consider our advice and realize that we were young once too; that we once walked the same path, and that, we, too, have faltered. As our child, we want to spare her some of our mistakes, some of our pain. As parents, we want to protect our children and tell cautionary tales, offer advice when none is sought. As parents, we arm our children as best we can and end them out into the world. We let go of the bicycle seat and pray.

My hope is that my daughter will find her way, guided by a light that always shines and a heart that instinctively knows the path. I hope her life is full of love and beauty, kindness and miracles. I hope she knows little of life’s dangers, hurts and dark places. The palatable and powerful Tug reminds me that I must let her go. I let go of my grasp, let the balloonsfloat into the vast, blue sky. I untie the ropes, and the boat drifts from the safety of the harbor to chart a new course. The magnetic pull of adulthood is claiming my child, and I let her go. Once again, I let go of the bicycle seat and pray.

Barrie Page Hill with daughter Brenna when she was a Trinity student.
I settled my daughter into her dorm. I helped her hang her clothes and put away books. I watched as she positioned her bed under the window so she could look out into the treetops. But this year, I did not stay to hang pictures or rearrange furniture. I did not stay to make mad-dash Target runs for Command hooks and laundry pods. I didn’t offer to take my daughter and her friends out for dinner. My daughter is a capable young adult. She and her friends are reunited, and she is settling back into college life. Instead, I kissed my daughter goodnight, went to my hotel and left her to catch up with her friends. They made their own dinner plans. I clicked the lock, put up the Do Not Disturb sign and settled for a long bath and a longer cry.

On the ride back home, the seat next to me was empty and gaping. I missed my daughter’s chatter, the silly jokes, our conversations. Instead, I watched the trees and cars blur past and thought of my daughter, settled into her dorm as a new semesters’ classes start tomorrow. She will have a wonderful fall full of football games, pizza parties, study sessions and class assignments. I will greedily gobble up her calls, texts and letters home as she shares her news, her life.

The Tug has happened. And it’s going to be okay. It is as it should be.

If you're a Trinity parent, make sure to check out the parent webpage for resources and ways to engage.

About Barrie

A former print and broadcast reporter, Barrie blogs to document her experience as primary caregiver to her mom, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. I find writing cathartic and find it helps me order some of the chaos of my cluttered life, as she navigates the New Normal of living with a family member tormented by this devastating disease. Her daughter, Brenna Hill '17, graduated from Trinity in May. This post originally appeared on her blog in 2014. View all posts by barriepagehill →
Mom with hat on move in day at Trinity University
by Susie P. Gonzalez

Welcome to the 2017-18 academic year at Trinity University. As curator of the Parent Perspective, I invited parents of returning Tigers to share some tips for new parents.

Here are some ideas:
- Bring a toolbox. It doesn't have to be big but should have basic screw drivers, wrenches, etc. for assembling items you don't realize you have until you are moving in.
- Invest in a mattress topper. A memory foam version is worth the money to make sure your student gets a good night's sleep. One mom went a step farther and said to add a bed bug protector as well.
- Assemble a First Aid kit of over-the-counter medications. This will help when the first wave of colds sweeps through residence halls. Include Tylenol, Advil, Zicam, Pepto-Bismol, cough syrup, allergy medications, and other items you know that your student will need. (Editor's note: While you are at it, toss in some Band-Aids, topical anti-bacterial cream, and possibly mosquito repellent.) And of course, don't forget any prescription medications!
- Think about liquid hand soap and a pump dispenser for the bathroom. Also, Clorox wipes and facial tissues are good things for the room.
- A small bucket with other cleaning supplies for those times when housekeeping isn't scheduled but the room needs a touch up.
- Consider a locking box or lockable file cabinet to store items of value that your student absolutely wants to bring to campus but would be heartbroken if they went missing.

Trinity mom on move in day
Trinity University mom on move-in day.
Speaking of items of value, mom Cindy Cooke of Sacramento, California, recommends keeping a balance of about $100 on your student's TigerBucks account. She says her student uses debit cards and Venmo to share off-campus expenses. And in the event of an emergency, Cooke suggests trusting your student with a credit card.

Jean Whewell of Georgetown, Texas, says the upside of taking her third child to college was to purchase in advance a small, free-standing wire shelving rack for the bathroom. It was the perfect place near the sink for toothpaste, combs, soap, etc. that might not fit on the counter top when multiplied by four student occupants.

Although move-in day is a breeze because of the help of Team Trinity, moving out at the end of the year requires some assistance, says mom Loretta Pizzini Mendoza of Houston. She recommends purchasing a dolly that coverts from a two-wheel vertical truck to a four-wheel platform card. "Sure comes in handy when you are moving them home at year end," she writes.

Thanks to Cindy, Jean, and Loretta for sending such great advice.

Best of all, make a checklist and use it when packing from home. Speaking from experience, I purchased some items but forgot to put them in my husband's truck so they didn't make it to campus on the first run. Fortunately, I live close to campus and could circle back to collect the forgotten items. If you don't live nearby, make that checklist! Need more tips? Check out the Parent Guide. 

About Susie
Susie P. Gonzalez, senior manager of public relations at Trinity, can be reached at susie.gonzalez@trinity.edu or @susiegonz.


Trinity U students with frame at Spring Family Showcase

by Cat Schlueter—

Trinity University had never even been on our radar because in the North Texas burg of Azle where we reside, there is not a lot of marketing or promoting of schools other than state schools, TCU, and other colleges around the Dallas Fort Worth MetroPlex. My plan to become an ambassador for Trinity will hopefully change that.

Our very first college visit was based upon a recommendation of my daughter’s former babysitter, but after touring that school, my daughter Hayley decided to look at other similar schools and BOOM/GOOGLE here came Trinity University and Southwestern University in Georgetown. The backdrop of all this was her dad, who holds a doctorate in chemistry (which is what Hayley plans to pursue her degree in) LOUDLY cheering her on to go to A&M or the best, in his opinion, UT Austin.

Fast forward to January of 2016 when Hayley and I attended our first Trinity in Focus visit and I had to bite my tongue because I liked it so much, I wanted to switch bodies with her like Lindsay Lohan did with Jamie Lee Curtis in “Freaky Friday” so that I could be the one on this college search journey. Hayley is an introvert and is very hard to read...so when we left the campus to go back to the hotel, I was just waiting to hear her opinion...in her own words. She got in the car and said, "I really, really enjoyed that visit and I can totally see myself fitting in here - thank you for bringing me here." I cannot express strongly enough how ecstatic I was that she felt this way about Trinity after that visit because it became the foundation and comparison for everything else she looked at afterwards.

She visited A&M shortly thereafter but it was just not her style (and she couldn't care less about the Aggie ring) so next up was UT Austin. We visited there and her dad/my husband was obviously VERY interested in this University. After all, it has one of the strongest chemistry programs in the country. And hey, let's not overlook or forget that it costs a LOT less than any private university. Our visit to UT was during summer, so we could not get a true feel for what the campus would be like when 20-30,000 bodies would be hustling and bustling about. Still, Hayley liked it and decided she would definitely apply there. Our next visit was to UT Dallas and it was a set-up much like Trinity in Focus but this particular day was designated for auto-admit students, and yup, Hayley was an auto admit. She didn't get the warm and fuzzy feeling there so decided that if she got accepted to UT or Trinity, those would be the two she would decide between for her college selection.

In the meantime, dad had actually done some RESEARCH (imagine that, a scientist doing research) about Trinity and learned about its tremendous reputation AND the new Center for the Sciences and Innovation. So we went to yet another Trinity in Focus day with the whole family and he walked away saying it was just as great as I had told him it was. His objection and the issue at hand was still PRICE TAG. Long story short, Hayley applied early action to Trinity University and did the regular state application for UT Austin.

As the mom who wants to know everything about my daughters and knows them like I do, I couldn't stop thinking that if Hayley were to go to UT, she would "disappear" in the crowd. And she would sit in the middle or back of a big lecture hall, and if she did not understand something, she would probably just decide to skip class instead of asking the TA's or taking advantage of office hours.

Still, I kept my mouth shut while continuing to send Trinity blurbs and highlights that I would find from all over the web. I would send these links to both Hayley and her dad.

Trinity U student with LeeRoy the Tiger
Incoming first year student Hayley Schlueter with LeeRoy the Trinity tiger mascot.
Now came the waiting game. And, WOW, was that wait excruciatingly frustrating! More for me than for Hayley because she was just in the "whatever happens happens" mode at this time. THEN December rolled around. EARLY Merry Christmas from Trinity University with the "You're in" packet AND a surprise scholarship to boot! Hayley was sooooooo excited. I still think I was more excited than she was. And her dad? Being the fiscally skeptic dude that he is, he remarked that it was wonderful but "let's see what happens with UT." So more waiting and more waiting still. Finally, during the last week of decisions coming out from UT, Hayley said to me, "Don't tell dad but I have really been thinking about this and Trinity is my top choice so even if I get into UT, Trinity is where I want to go." Heck no I wasn't going to tell her dad she said that. I was jumping up and down inside though for sure. UT offered her admissions through CAP and it was at that point she told her dad she would be a Trinity Tiger.

Relief is an understatement...I could finally decompress because I knew and know that Trinity will not only perfect for her, but she will be good for Trinity. My daughter ended her high school career in the top 10% of her class at Azle High School and she is going to Trinity University in San Antonio with the intention of being a chemistry major and ultimately going to graduate school for pharmaceutical research.

But she will be encouraged to be engaged in so many things from day one. And she will meet so many people who will influence her in so many positive ways. Heck, she may even change her major. Who knows? The opportunities at Trinity, the potential to study abroad, and all of the new things to which she will be exposed shall be the foundation for how she impacts this world. And she loves basketball so I am pretty sure she will become a Spurs fan. She hasn't experienced the Riverwalk like it needs to be experienced. And during our last visit for admitted Tigers, I finally got to take them to the Tower of the Americas which I think is pretty darned neat.

I think I have bought her at least $250 worth of Trinity shirts and gear...she has been driving around with the Trinity University decal on the back window of her car, and her keys are on a Trinity University key ring, and her name is prominently displayed on what is referred to as "The Student Wall of Fame" which is a huge framed white board by the counseling office which has printed and laminated senior student names under which is listed the college they are planning to attend (or Trade School or Armed Forces branch, etc.). She is excited and proud to be able to call Trinity University the college she will be attending.

Four years from right now, she will have had experiences at Trinity University that many of her current classmates will not have the good fortune of experiencing because they may have not had parents or guidance of people who could tell them about the benefits of a university like this and about the availability of financial aid.

Trinity U student and mom
Hayley and Cat Schlueter
I am a mom that will not "hover" when she gets to San Antonio...I am confident she will find her way. But I will be supportive and sing praises about Trinity with all who I meet. And I will be engaged as much as I can with all of the other responsibilities I juggle.

And I will read every TU blog that pops up in my FB and Instagram feed with genuine interest and pride. Pride that my daughter, Hayley Julia Schlueter, chose Trinity University for the next step of her educational journey.

#TigerPride!

About Cat

Cat Schlueter is a human resources manager and is pretty excited, if you weren’t sure from her blog post, that her daughter will be an incoming first-year in August.
Family of Trinity U student Mason Meredith

by John Meredith—

As the parent of a Trinity University student who just finished his freshman year, the summer provides an opportunity to reflect on his decision to attend Trinity and first year of college. Our son, Mason, attended a Houston high school with more students than Trinity, so my wife, Shirley, and I wondered if he would want to attend a small college. When Mason narrowed his decision to Trinity and the Big 12 colleges that we attended, the main two factors that helped him choose Trinity were Trinity’s stellar academic reputation and the high-quality Trinity baseball program.

Orientation

The first time that we understood why Trinity was the right choice was in August when we pulled up to unload Mason’s bags and boxes at the start of school. There were so many smiling volunteers that we were amazed as everything was moved from the car to his dorm room. The orientation process was designed for students to learn what it means to be a Trinity student and helped us, as parents, begin the process of having our child make more of his own decisions.

Trinity Alumni

Being on campus confirmed what we had heard from Trinity alumni about what a special place Trinity is for students. There are few questions where 100% of the responses are positive, but I have yet to find any Trinity alums who are not pleased with their decisions to attend Trinity. Seeing the campus and the caring environment in person provided us with a glimpse of what students and faculty experience throughout the school year.
Trinity U baseball player Mason Meredith
Baseball has helped Trinity student Mason Meredith adjust to college life.
Lessons Learned

While I wish that I could say the first year was a breeze and that Mason liked every minute of it, there were challenges he had to overcome. First, he learned how to study better and participate in class, as professors would not let him just be a nameless student since there are fewer students in class than typical freshman classes in larger schools. When Mason came home for winter break, we were amazed with how much he had learned in one semester and we even had several thought-provoking discussions about important world issues. Second, Mason learned to make new friends with students from all over the country and world. Mason only knew two or three Trinity students when he arrived, so he had to get outside his comfort zone to develop friendships. Fortunately, being on the baseball team helped as he interacted daily with his teammates. Finally, he expanded his food choices; and it was nice to hear him compliment home-cooked meals after experiencing school food.

Tips for Parents
One tip for parents is to get a subscription to “The Trinitonian.” The student newspaper helps parents keep up with the activities and issues that are being discussed and experienced on campus. Getting the Trinity students’ perspectives on local, national, and international issues helped us understand what Mason was learning and experiencing.

Another tip is to join the Trinity Parent Council. The information received and the connections among other parents and the Trinity staff provide a better understanding of the Trinity “college experience.”

Shirley and I are pleased that Mason is looking forward to being at Trinity for his sophomore year. He is living with fellow sophomores that he did not know a year ago. Even better, he seems to be on the same trajectory that Trinity alumni end up reaching as they enthusiastically and fondly recall their time on campus.




About John

John Meredith is the Chief Operating Officer for Chamberlain Hrdlicka law firm.

Parents at Trinity University

by David Tuttle—

Every summer the Trinity University residential life staff fields questions from parents before their sons or daughters move to campus, receiving many queries about room dimensions and configurations, the length of the clothes bars in the closet, and more. Planning and setting up a room is fun. Helping one’s offspring prepare is an important ritual in sending a child off to college. Nevertheless, there is some other preparation that is even more pressing.

I remember asking one mom why she insisted in setting up her son's room. She told me it was because if she didn't, nothing would happen beyond move-in day. Indeed, it doesn’t take long before most students’ rooms are in disarray. (At check-out in May, parents often ask, “What is all of this stuff?”) Plans for clean rooms and organizational systems are quickly forgotten amid papers, pizza boxes, and piles of laundry.

In the meantime, students will struggle with homesickness, poor time management, freedom and the consequences that come with it, opportunities for alcohol consumption and other substance use, and poor grades. While many of you have addressed things as life lessons for the past 18 years, you may want to reinforce some of these messages or address new ones specific to the college years prior to August.

So send your child to Trinity, not only with stackable bins from the Container Store and little sewing and tool kits (that they will probably never use) but also with anticipation of how they will manage real and important issues and experiences.

The answers to many of these questions are obvious as to what they should or should not do:

Safety

Will they lock their room doors when they aren’t there? Will they sleep with their doors locked? Will they drink and drive? Will they get in a car with a drunk driver? Will they leave parties alone or with friends? Do they know they can call the Trinity University Police Department for on-campus escorts?

Health issues

Can they survive on pizza and soda alone? Will they be able to develop a regular sleep pattern? Will they budget their meal points? Will they take advantage of excellent recreational facilities and the intramural program on campus? Will they take their medications?

Alcohol

Will they drink alcohol? What will they do to take care of themselves or a friend? Will they ride with a designated sober driver or just the person who is least drunk? Do they know the consequences of alcohol violations on campus? Do they know the alcohol policy?

Sex
Do they know that Trinity has a sexual misconduct policy? Do they know how to protect themselves? What do they think about “hooking up”?

Roommate issues

Will they be assertive? Will they be respectful of a roommate’s reasonable habits and requests? How will they ask for that respect in return? Will they stand up to a roommate who brings in a guest and tries to kick them out of the room? Will they ever treat their roommate this way?

Parent-child relationship
How often will you communicate and by what means? How often will you visit one another? For the first visit home: What will the house rules be applied on visits and holiday breaks?

Finances

Which bills will they be responsible for paying? How often will you send money or add funds to their Tiger Bucks account? What is your philosophy on credit cards? Should they look for a part-time job to offset costs?

Trinity University students at the Writing Center
Students can get help with essays at the Writing Center. 
Academics

What are their academic strengths? How will they get to know professors? What questions will they ask the faculty adviser? In terms of study habits, what will they do differently than in high school? What are the important dates on the academic calendar? What kind of support do they like to receive from you?

Campus involvement


What clubs or organizations are they interested in joining? How will they make new friends?

Game systems, video games, instant messaging

Will they take their game systems with them? How much will they play each day in relation to doing homework? Will they use the systems to break the ice and have fun with others? Will they play so much that they don’t get involved on campus? Will they text during class? Will they live on social media and neglect studies?

Responsible citizenship


Will they work to make the campus a better place? Will they take time to understand campus rules? Will they treat campus neighbors respectfully? Will they pre-judge people because they are different? Will they embrace diversity and learn from others? Will they care for the University facilities they are using?

Career exploration

Will they meet with staff from Career Services and their professors to relate their interests to different majors and careers? Will they investigate job shadowing, internships, volunteering, research, or other career-building endeavors, beginning as early as their first year?

That is a lot to cover. Maybe there are some topics that are more pressing than others. Even our New Student Orientation uses a triage approach to the most critical messages being shared first, usually issues related to safety. You have lots to talk about this summer. Help them get ready for college, not just ready for setting up their first room.

About David

David M. Tuttle is an associate vice president and Dean of Students at Trinity University. You can read his blog, The Dean's List, here.

Trinity University Chamber choir

(Editor's note: Although the 2016-17 academic year has ended, we want to share one more story from a proud parent of a student who sang at the Tobin Center during the spring semester.)

by Lee Carter —

On Feb. 22, 2017 our son, Zachary “Zack” Carter, sang in the Mozart “Great” Mass in C minor at the Tobin Center. Zachary is a bass in the Trinity University Choir. His father and I traveled from Atlanta, Georgia and invited another couple who reside in San Antonio to join us. We all thoroughly enjoyed the concert. The quality of the performance was outstanding. It was amazing to witness the collaboration between the San Antonio Choral Society, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Choir, and Trinity University Choir, along with the four soloists and orchestra. It was also very nice to see our son dressed in his tux.

Zachary is a physics major at Trinity University. However, music has always played a huge part in his life. He has been in chorus since the 4th grade, and was in the Chamber Choir and two musicals during high school. At Trinity, all students are eligible to participate in the choir. That allows for a diverse and substantial volume of talent

The Mozart Mass was like hearing the angels singing; prayer put to music. It makes one feel closer to God. It was wonderful seeing Zack singing again. We look forward to future concerts with the Trinity University Choir. In addition, we love San Antonio!

I totally agree that “At Trinity, each and every person matters—every student, every alumnus, every member of the staff and faculty…Trinity respects and nurtures each person’s unique talents, spiritual growth, skills, passions, leadership, and potential...(While) preparing our students to make a tangible, positive difference wherever they go.”

Trinity student Zack Carter
First-year student Zack Carter at a HUMA presentation.


College is a time for challenging oneself and discovering God’s plan. During Zack’s college search we discovered Trinity University offered excellent academics, a broad range of opportunities, small class sizes, and close connections with faculty and fellow students. During his first semester at Trinity, one of Zack’s professors hosted a dinner at her home for her entire class. Wow!!

I have been a nurse for 34 years. I can attest to the health benefits of music: It eases pain, relieves depression, improves sleep, enhances recovery after surgery or illness, strengthens learning and memory in both the young and old, boosts immunity, and decreases stress. This is significant since “Seventy-five percent to 90 percent of all doctor’s visits are for stress-related illnesses and complaints.”

How many times have you been in your car, when a song comes on the radio and it can change your whole mood. It can make you relaxed, sentimental, joyous, energized, and even inspired. Besides the shower, and church, my the car is the only other place where I sing! Zack got that talent.

In closing, I want to quote from the late musician John Denver: “ Music does bring people together. It allow us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics, or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.”

About Lee


Lee Carter is a registered nurse who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She is grateful to be able to express appreciation for such a great concert.


by Aliza Holzman-Cantu—

Today it finally hit me. Like a ton of bricks - that too-often used phrase that describes perfectly the weight of emotions that pummeled me on my drive to work.

It began with innocently looking at my Timehop app while drinking my coffee. This morning my memory of six years ago was, “With as many graduation special events Sophie has this month, one would think she was graduating from high school, not elementary school!” But now that memory is really about today. High school graduation is less than one month away. I am not ready.

As I smiled about the memory, I looked up to see Sophie (my high school senior) sitting in the living room playing with the puppy. She was dressed in her typical “uniform” (oversized T-shirt and Nike shorts) with no makeup on. She looked just like she did seven years ago as a fifth grader ready to take on middle school. How can college be just a few short months away?

It is not that I don’t think she is ready. She is. She had the benefit of wonderful educators to prepare her for university life. It is that I am still in disbelief that my first baby is truly a young adult, not a child.

All those vacations spent visiting campuses and U.S. regions to see where she would like to go to college have culminated in her finding the school that felt just right to her. The truth is, it is not a university that I would have chosen for myself, but it is a terrific place with so much to offer a young scholar and of course, I am not the one going. She has chosen to attend an SEC (Southeastern Conference) school, known for its school spirit, gorgeous campus, and friendly atmosphere. It is a school where she has found the majors and minors that she dreams of pursuing. AND, above all, it is a university that understands what the ton of bricks feels like to parents and makes my husband and me feel secure that my daughter’s best interests are theirs.

You, as Trinity parents, have probably felt these same emotions. And you, with college graduates, have certainly felt them more than once. Being a parent is certainly an emotional roller coaster, with hopefully more highs than lows. Trusting others to educate your “child” is not an easy decision. Working at Trinity has helped me to understand what I did not comprehend as an undergraduate here. It takes a community to provide an education. I am privileged to work with dedicated professionals throughout campus who ensure the full Trinity experience is accessible to all our students. It is this team of people, and the parents that I get to meet through my job, that are getting me ready for this next phase of life. Thank you. I am almost ready.

About Aliza

Aliza Holzman-Cantu ’92 ’94 is director of Parent Giving and Engagement and truly loves getting to know Trinity parents. She received both her BA in Communication and MA in Teaching from Trinity and is grateful for the opportunities both of those degrees have afforded her. She lives in San Antonio with her husband Willie (a TexasEx) and her two daughters, Sophie (12th grade) and Iliana (9th grade).


(Editor’s note: This Trinity mom reflects on her new grad’s college years.)

by Jennifer Mackender—

It seems like yesterday, my daughter, Ally, and her dad were sitting on the floor in our Colorado home looking up at the office walls admiring the bubble letter, colored marker, college hunt spreadsheets she had made. Each piece of typing paper, taped side by side in a perfect horizontal line, listed the name of the college and had bullet points showing the well-researched strengths and weaknesses of each school.

I remember on the weekends, as these lists would be created, edited, and sometimes torn from the wall and tossed in the trash, I would listen from another room as Ally and her dad would chat, laugh, and argue while discussing her college search. I was not necessarily drawn into their conversations, sometimes feeling left out and jealous of their commitment to the process. It wasn’t that they weren’t willing to include me – believe me they were! However, instead of joining the conversation, I tried to quietly walk past or find an errand to run so that I could remove myself from the activity.

I was at peace and I didn’t know why.

Why, at a time when I should have been hovering, talking more than listening, and giving my advice, had I become absent? After all, I am a stay-at-home mom. And like all stay-at-home moms, I was committed, I was sometimes annoying, and I was certainly the stereotypical helicopter parent. So why wasn’t I doing my job?

I had always been there to help Ally make those important life decisions. Which Build-a-Bear should I buy? Should I spend all my money on a Justin Bieber concert T-shirt? Am I a vegetarian or should I eat the burger? So why wasn’t I there now? How had I become quiet, peaceful, and confident at a time like this? Why was I confident in her ability to make this HUGE decision without me bothering her every step of the way?

As my daughter graduates from Trinity University, I now realize that the years of hovering, teaching, guiding, inspiring, modeling, and loving paid off. It led Ally to make the huge decision to attend Trinity, a school that has the same values that we instilled in her and our son, Ethan. It just felt right; she had found a university that mirrored everything we had been working so hard to impart on our children.

Trinity, like our home, provides love and support, but encourages her to take risks and face challenges.

Trinity, like our home, provides friends and professors that become family and provides her with connections to never feel alone.

Trinity, like our home, provides her with enrichment and the opportunity to nourish her talents.

Trinity University mom Jennifer Mackender and Allyson
Trinity mom Jennifer Mackender with daughter Allyson '17
Trinity, like our home, emphasizes the importance of embracing and accepting diversity and helping others.

So, prospective parents, as you watch your son or daughter make their huge college decision, be quiet as they process, be thoughtful as they share, and be confident as they waver. Most importantly, though, know that if they choose Trinity University, the students, faculty, and community will be there to pick up from where you left off. You’ve done well, mom and dad.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Mackender resides in Denver, Colorado. Her daughter, Allyson, graduated Saturday, May 13 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Her son, Ethan, is finishing his first year as a business student at Carthage College in Wisconsin. She is most proud of raising her two college-aged kids to be happy, healthy, and independent. She is a public health educator and enjoys spending time with her family, watching ’Husker football and breathing in the fresh air of the Rocky Mountains.
Trinity University student Brenna Hill, right, and her mom

(Editor’s note: In advance of Trinity’s Commencement on Saturday, May 13, this mom reflects on The Hunt for the right college and just how right Trinity was for her daughter.)

by Barrie Page Hill—

I knew we were in trouble when the plane made yet another merry-go-round swoop, circling the sprawling Atlanta area, waiting for clearance to land. Flight attendants buckled into jump seats; the red warning light kept crew and passengers tethered. The kind man in the aisle seat directed the overheat vents toward my daughter, who sat, motionless, ashen, gripping the armrests. The plane dipped and banked as the tiny houses below whirled in a colorful, patchwork kaleidoscope.

I rummaged in the seat pocket and ferreted out the crumpled white bag and thrust it into action just as my daughter lurched and wretched. The plane made a final swoop, straightened, and frazzled passengers exhaled a collective sigh when the wheels finally bumped the pavement.

After the plane rolled to the gate and passengers crowded the aisles, tugging open overhead bins, a flight attendant offered up a bottle of water and dampened paper towels. My flummoxed and abashed daughter sheepishly apologized for the disruption. The kind man in the aisle seat patted her arm, told her he had daughters of his own at home, hoped that she felt better and that her college visits would go well.

This was one of the first of many adventures my daughter and I shared when we started the exciting -- yet daunting -- challenge of narrowing down her long list of potential colleges. Our trip to Atlanta was flanked by visits to LA and Little Rock, Oklahoma and New Orleans.

For this mom, packing a suitcase and heading out to visit a campus was a perfect excuse for packing in another memorable trip with my soon-to-grad-high-school daughter. I was racking up mileage and memories while she earnestly tried to picture herself in the campuses’ hallowed halls.

We dusted ourselves with white powdered beignets and bustled through the bawdy crowds on Bourbon Street. We posed under the Hollywood sign and marveled at the hilltop view from a posh college in Malibu. We sampled street food and hailed yellow cabs in New York. We yelled “Boomer Sooner” and warbled “Oklahoma” as we crossed the Red River to visit my mom’s alma mater. At the campus bookstore, my daughter bought a coffee mug to cart home for her grandmother.

Together, my daughter and I trampled across the Lone Star State on long, lovely, weekend road trips. We’d pin on name badges and meet up with bouncy tour guides who rattled off college facts and pointed out campus amenities.

During The College Hunt, my daughter kept a huge whiteboard, using it to chart applications, essay deadlines, acceptance letters, and scheduled visits. She tallied tuition costs, national rankings and potential scholarship opportunities.

I was giddy to be part of The Hunt, thrilled that my serious, studious and pragmatic daughter was weighing the pros and cons of each school and not swayed by whether the football team made it to the Final 10 or if the party scene was adequate for a sheltered kid from the suburbs with strict parents who would soon dismiss curfews and make her own decisions.

I was honored to be part of The Hunt, humbled that my daughter wanted me to ride shotgun on visits as she narrowed the field. We visited small towns and big cities; Campuses touting co-ed dorms and religious classes. We visited party towns and sleepy hamlets. As the months went by and airline miles grew, more red Xs colored the board when potential destinations didn’t make the cut.

Trinity University student government presidents Nick Santulli and Brenna Hill
Brenna Hill, right, is a former SGA president who helped bring B-cycle service to Trinity. 
It was really no surprise when one university rose to the top of the list -- and after an impressive and impressionable campus visit -- my daughter was officially smitten with her No. 1 choice. I was secretly relieved that my daughter’s ultimate selection was not taking her out of state or across the country.

I had felt the same when we visited the campus -- some intrinsic feeling that this was my daughter’s place, that she belonged here, that this is the school I’d secretly hoped she would select. I kept my opinions to myself and carefully gauged my daughter’s reactions when we visited classrooms, dorms, Mabee Cafeteria. I was pleased when she met two other girls on the visit, the trio chatting like longtime chums.

Likewise, I met up with a wonderful and charming group of parents. Under colorful umbrellas on the meandering River Walk, we spent a pleasant evening dining and sipping margaritas while our kids were off learning more about their potential college. After our amazing weekend visit, my daughter was giddy and excited on the drive back.

I came home from work one day to find my daughter dragging the whiteboard down the hall to stow in the garage. She filled out her acceptance form and started calling herself a Trinity University Tiger. Soon high school T shirts were replaced by a TU jersey. When she posted about her decision on social media, it started to sink in; I started to believe it. The Hunt was over. My daughter had made one of the most important decisions of her life and a whole new adventure was about to begin.

I have not once regretted my daughter’s choice of schools. Trinity has been my student’s ideal match. As a mom, I am amazed and awed to have had the privilege of watching my daughter’s transformation from shy First Year to confident and capable Senior in the four years she has called Trinity and San Antonio home.

I think about to those early college visits when my smart, but very shy, daughter wouldn’t even consider a dorm stay to learn more about the school. I think about the lunches in crowded cafeterias, when my shy kiddo was hesitant to join a table of other parent-student teams. I think about that Atlanta flight, thinking then, that there was no way my daughter could leave home and travel across the country. She was too young. She’d never find her luggage at baggage claim. She’d lose her airline ticket. She’d get snatched while hailing a cab. She was my baby.

I think about that Atlanta flight and remember how worried I was -- not that my 17-year-old was sick from turbulence -- but that stern and severe gut punch every parent gets when they finally realize they’re about to have to let go and let their child figure out how to find the air sick sack on their own.

Unbelievably, I soon found us packing up the family sedan, buying dorm room essentials, and she was off. My little girl was about to grow up.

My daughter’s four years at Trinity have been, quite simply, amazing. Once she made up her mind, she set forth on her educational journey, seizing every opportunity, embracing her quest for knowledge in the classroom and through her associations with an amazing group of professors, administrators, friends and colleagues. She has experienced dorm life, sorority sisterhood, frat parties, afternoon teas, fine dining, nights of take-out pizza, her first crush, first apartment, grocery shopping, budgeting, and balancing the transition from student to soon-be-grad. She has learned the yin and yang of work and play, juggling and prioritizing and keeping it all in perspective; (something her driven, OCD-prone mom has yet to master.) I am in awe of my daughter’s drive, determination, and dedication.

Through Trinity, my daughter claims a close posse of smart and amazing friends who have become her second family. They are ambitious and humble, loyal and funny. After graduation, they will scatter like dandelion seeds on the wind, to do great and wonderful things. They will, no doubt, keep in touch. These friends will remain, lifelong and true. Likewise, my daughter has assembled an impressive team of mentors -- professors and staff and colleagues and associates from whom she has learned so much. It is to these amazing minds she will, no doubt, continue to turn for professional and personal advice in the years to come. She is a part of something special: A legacy of learning. A community of caring. Alumna of an amazing university that fosters the very best in its students.

Trinity student Brenna Hill with her mom in New York
Barrie and Brenna Hill in New York City.
My daughter is loyal, trustworthy and does what she says she will do. She thinks critically, analyzes aptly and has a world perspective that many my age will never possess. Through Trinity, my daughter has become an intrepid traveler, studying abroad in Germany and Spain. She wasn’t snatched while hailing a cab. She did, however, get stung by some strange insect while sunning in a Madrid park and her ankle swelled up like a tree stump. (No, this neurotic mom did not board a hastily booked flight, though it was tempting when I first saw the texted pictures of the swollen and misshapen ankle.) My daughter and her host family managed just fine without me, and she recovered to enjoy an incredible summer. She has hundreds of photos documenting her adventures. At the end of the trip, my traveler’s flight back was uneventful and non-turbulent. She never even needed the white bag.

For my daughter, Trinity has provided an incredible education; a place where she was encouraged to explore, experiment, learn, listen, engage, evolve -- and become herself.

In a few days, my husband and I will pack a suitcase. We’ll be making another road trip. This time, we’ll gather with other proud parents, watch through misty eyes as our little girl, our daughter, accepts her diploma. Four years of tests and teamwork, research papers and projects, exploration and adventure will be acknowledged. We are proud of our daughter’s scholarship. We are proud of her perseverance. Mostly, we are proud that she has become the person we always hoped she would be. She is capable and confident, able to take on life’s blessings and bounty and bumps in the road. She is Herself.

And this mom has absolutely no doubt my daughter will be able to find that little white bag should she ever need it.

Fly, my little bird, fly. You have wings and places to go.

About Barrie

Barrie Page Hill, proud mom of Brenna Hill (TU class of 2017), is a former broadcast and print reporter currently serving as an academic advisor at a large public university to students entering the field of communication. Barrie still accepts occasional freelance writing assignments and contributes randomly to her blog at https://barriepagehill.wordpress.com/author/barriepagehill/ where she chronicles experiences as primary caregiver for her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Barrie and her family live in Arlington, Texas, with a menagerie of rescue pets.

Brenna will graduate with majors in urban studies and sociology and minors in political science and Spanish. At her next stop, she will be a development coordinator with the Make-A-Wish office for central and south Texas.


(Editor's note: In honor of Earth Week, we are sharing an essay by a family that chose Trinity University because of its commitment to sustainability.)

by Jill and Mary Cooper --

In 2013, we were on the circuit tour of university campuses in search for the best match for our daughter. Lindsey always had a passion for the environment and the protection of natural resources, and as her parents, we wanted to foster that appreciation. It quickly became apparent that the campus she chose would not only have to be of high academic quality, but to also be the greenest campus possible.

Our first steps on Trinity University's grounds led us to the stream of recycled water that flowed throughout the middle of campus. As we toured various buildings, Lindsey pointed out the plaques stating LEED certifications. She immediately explained to us that LEED certifications required stringent criteria given to projects that exhibited “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.”

Additionally, at every turn we were happy to discover recycling bins next to trash cans for sorting and collecting not only garbage but recyclables. Although not every prospective student and parent probably notices these things, we were immediately drawn to them! Knowing that Trinity supports sustainability issues and is on the forefront of research to advance that study was, and continues to be, most impressive.

Mary Cooper, Lindsey Yazbek, and Jill Cooper celebrate Lindsey's "Unsung Hero" Award.

In Lindsey’s first year she joined SOS (Students for Sustainability) and jumped right into furthering her interests. Promoting the sustainable garden, enhancing recycling issues, and studying geosciences and environmental studies was the perfect trifecta for our “green inclined” daughter. The following year she became co-president of the student organization. We were proud of the direction she took in leading the renamed organization, Eco Allies, with sponsored displays, demonstrations, and work on campus promoting sustainability.

The faculty and staff at Trinity were and continue to be supportive of those efforts as she was given the “green” light on all proposed ideas and requests. Lindsey was even able to work with professors on research with reclaimed and recycled water and its value. The epitome of all that hard work combined with her passion culminated this month when she was named the recipient of the “Unsung Hero Award” in honor of her work in sustainability at Trinity. This most green campus was certainly the best fit for our greenest daughter.

About Jill and Mary Cooper

Jill and Mary reside in Buda, Texas, outside Austin. They have had similar career paths. Both are retired kindergarten teachers from the Austin Independent School District, each with 30 years’ experience in the classroom. Mary is currently employed as an administrative assistant for an aerospace engineering firm in Kyle, Texas, and is also a professional scorer for nationwide student standardized testing. Jill is a part-time tutor in reading and math for fourth and fifth grade students in Austin, and also drives for a local ridesharing company (Ride/Austin) in her spare time.


by Jana Reddoch and Steve Spindel

Earlier this semester, our son, David Spindel ‘20, performed the Great Mozart Mass in C minor with the Trinity University Chamber Singers, the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Choir, and the San Antonio Choral Society at the Tobin Center in San Antonio. He had been anticipating and practicing for this opportunity for months. Of course, we also had great excitement and planned a special trip from our home in Portland, Oregon, to San Antonio to hear him sing.

David played violin through the 7th grade, then joined the school choir in 8th grade. The Upper School choir at Oregon Episcopal School, under the direction of Adam Steele, is small, about 25 students, and locally very successful. The choir advanced to the Oregon School Activities Association state championship each year. David found immense joy and fulfillment singing during the chapel at school, carols and hymns at nursing homes, and challenging technical pieces for local competitions.

David chose to attend Trinity University to pursue sports management, international business, and Spanish studies. After meeting with Jacob Tingle, he felt Trinity has the best to offer. He was thrilled to accept admission.

Additionally, he met with Gary Seighman, conductor of the Trinity University Choir and Chamber Singers. His kind manner and reassurance encouraged David to audition for the choir. Dr. Seighman made it clear that even if David was not planning to major or minor in music, the choir at Trinity wanted him to continue to learn and perform.

Mom Jana Reddoch, David Spindel '20, and dad Steve Spindel
David has had a wonderful time in his first year. Of note, he was very proud of the Christmas Concert and Vespers performances. We were able to live stream the concert on the Trinity Tiger Network. Our family plans to visit one year during the December weekend of these performances. “Oh mom, you would love it, it is so beautiful.”

We have to choose our visits to Trinity carefully, as there are no direct flights from Portland, Oregon, to San Antonio. We knew we would come for Parent’s Weekend, after “the first 100 days” of college, the longest we have gone without seeing him. It was completely reassuring to find him so happy at Trinity. The flight home was not as sad as anticipated.

Trinity student David Spindel at the Tobin Center
David Spindel '20 prepares to perform at the Tobin Center. 


When the date of the Mozart Mass concert was known, we simply had to see such a special performance. Never mind that four tornadoes touched down in San Antonio 15 minutes after our plane landed!

We arrived at the Tobin Center with the sun setting behind the silhouette of palm trees and lights shining on the great pillars of the entrance. It is beautiful! Inside the clean, modern, and elegantly designed interior is a world-class concert hall. The stage filled with members of the three choirs, the orchestra, the soloists, and the conductors. As parents, our hearts swelled and our eyes filled with tears while witnessing our son sing so joyously.

About Steve and Jana

Steve Spindel and Jana Reddoch are physicians living in Portland, Oregon with their daughter Cara, a junior at Oregon Episcopal School. Steve attended New York University. Jana attended the University of Washington. They met at George Washington University Medical School 32 years ago.

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.