Tuesday, November 27, 2012

USF's Latest Marketing Campaign, and A Proposal for "Pre-Professional Athletics"

I'll put this forth first: I am one of the most realistic sports fans you'll ever meet. No blind faith here, just fandom in times both good and bad. As a Tampa Bay sports fan, it's probably the best stance I could take :)

Along with that comes the ability to be critical of managerial and marketing decisions. Anyone who knew me during the Lightning's nightmarish Oren Koules period is well aware of that. But the latest eyebrow raising from Tampa sports comes from this recent marketing campaign for USF Basketball:

Billboards with sayings such as "we major in home openers", "I major in get that junk outta here", and "I major in schooling you" send a mixed message. As an institution that speaks often of its graduation rate for student athletes and has a president who is an active member of both the Big East Conference and the NCAA, this sends a message that the school part doesn't matter as much. That worries me.

The contemplation continued this morning when Beth Moriarty shared this article from the Chronicle: "End the Charade: Let Athletes Major in Sports." There are elements of it that I agree with, and elements that really concern me. On the one hand, it allows a comprehensive education like many of us hope for- a way to incorporate education with something a student truly loves and understands. And if done thoughtfully, such an endeavor of marrying athletics and academics would allow for mutual support of each other's work, a concept foreign to many institutions.

On the other hand, this to me smacks of creating a major by demand of consumers, but not the market. Just as it feels disingenuous and excessive to create for-profit programs of study in crime scene investigation based on interest in similar TV shows, does it make sense to create an academic curriculum that could flood the market with a slew of athletics majors, a market that is far smaller than the demand of students to fill it? Granted, not all students would choose this major- for some do truly see it as a means to supplement an unrelated education- but many likely would. And moreover, would those majors ultimately end up with greater support and disproportionate resources, just as athletics programs occasionally do in relation to academic pursuits?

This raises many more questions than it provides answers, and I'm sure they will be addressed in time. But what do you think? Should athletics be a major? How would you like to see it structured?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Farewell to Elmo, or The Lasting Power of Words

The past few weeks have seen controversy surround someone, as the result of using words without full consideration. A 24 year old male who engaged in a relationship with Sesame Street Workshop producer/director/puppeteer Kevin Clash came out last week, saying that Clash had engaged in an illicit and inappropriate relationship with him. The catch? Clash is best known for his work as the primary puppeteer, personality, and voice of Elmo. He is credited with steering the direction of Sesame Street away from Big Bird, who has long been a secondary face of the show (until Mitt Romney threatened to fire him, of course), and giving Elmo his current characteristics of childlike wonder and unconditional love.

Today, Clash and the Children's Television Workshop released a statement announcing Clash's resignation. Despite the fact that the Workshop's own investigation found no illegal action on Clash's part, AND the accuser recanted his statement three days after making it, Elmo will permanently have a new voice as the result of this circus. And as we speak, the accusation of a second accuser is making its way to courts.

I admit, as an outsider to the situation, I have no way of knowing if all the released information is true, nor do I claim to know all the facts of the situation. But what I do know is that there is a lesson in the stated course of events. And I can also admit, it is one that I should pay attention to.

I am a grudge holder. I know it, and I try not to, but if I'm hurt, I don't forget it. That being said, I'm extremely careful about what I say. Why? Because the impact of those words lasts. This is proof of that. A statement likely made emotionally has taken down a 28 year career that brought joy to many. Those words can (and have) been taken back, but their effect remains. Let this unfortunate series of events serve as a warning: watch your words. They could have effects you would never intend or imagine, whether you would mean for it to happen or not. The effects could be the destruction of a friendship, or even as big as tarnishing the legacy of a beloved entertainer.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Importance of Challenge

A recurring theme in my life this week has been the power of challenge, and what it does to shape the person that you are.

The first instance which prompted me to think about it was, unfortunately, the death of my uncle a week ago tomorrow. He had been sick for several years, and passed peacefully. And the thing I will remember most about him was that he was the first adult to challenge me. When you're a kid, adults tend to either lay down rules and punish you for diasgreeing, or allow you to believe you're right (even if you're not). But my Uncle Simon and I argued. For example, he didn't have a microwave in his house for ages, for fear of the radiation they emitted. He was convinced they weren't safe. I never understood that, and we had some heated discussion about that. Another example was the ends of chicken bones. He railed against me for wasting them, insisting that the antibiotic quality was lost if I left them behind (a fact which, of course, he is correct about). But I remember arguing with him, disagreeing with him, really being challenged. 

But I learned from that. I learned to defend a position I believe in. I learned to think critically about both sides of something. For example, what did I do after the microwave argument? I looked it up. In BOOKS, because we didn't get the Internet for another few years :) I learned that an argument doesn't always have to be personal, or emotional, or even particularly hard fought. But when it is, there's something to be learned from it. And in later years, when we spoke less often and he would let me know he was proud for all the work I was doing, I don't think I ever told him what role he played in that ability to reason and debate. I wish I had.
Thanks, Uncle Simon. You're looking pretty fresh.
  Those lessons flooded back to me today as Eric Stoller and Ann Marie Klotz debated the social structures that informed her well-received blog post this morning. Each stood his or her ground, each spoke rationally, and each lent his or her opinion to the discourse. And unlike so much bickering and anger we saw so openly during election week, it was civil and composed. No irrational threats of unfriending or personal attacks, just heated discussion about an issue each party was passionate about. And when the discourse needed to fade (after all, it was a workday!), it did peacefully. They embraced the civility I called for last week in the wake of the election results. 

I'm glad I had someone so special in my life to teach me the importance of challenge, and particularly glad to be able to see it exemplified in two professionals who I admire for their ability to challenge others, and to challenge me in dissecting their discourse.

How do you deal with challenge?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quiet Strength: Developing the Introverted Student Leader

Well folks, as some of you may know, I have an article in this month's Campus Activities Programming magazine. A few had mentioned they wanted to read it, so I'm providing a crude scan job of the article until the electronic version posts.
Hope you enjoy, but more importantly, I hope you consider it when working with students in your offices, and particularly in recruiting new ones.

After talking to another friend concerned about a coworker in regards to introversion, I realized that this is something my friends and colleagues recognize I'm passionate about (and you all know I hate the "P" word). And that makes me excited, because it's something I'm really interested in researching more, even as a dissertation topic. So this is an exciting start for me- the first chance to provide insight on an area that there is a gap in exploration on, and in an area I really enjoy learning about.

Who knows where it'll go from here, but I'm excited for this start :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Running for My Life


One of the things I was most looking forward to after this past weekend's Wine and Dine Half Marathon, aside from the wining and dining, was the above video, shared with me by fellow runner (who I ran with for the first time this race!) Megan Johnston. It brings about what is, to me, the most hilarious and significant souvenirs of long distance run- the post race walk.

While my fellow runners wore their medals around the park the following day, I wore this button to show my preferred badge of honor:
"13.1: You can tell by my walk."

And finally, I saw this image this evening. 

It reminded me about why many choose to run. It's not just a means to go to Disney and justify heavy eating, or a way to stay in shape and healthy, or even a means to clear the head when the rest of the world serves mainly to fill it up. It's all of those things, but also a way to return us to something simpler. When you run, really run, to the point of pain, it brings you back to the most basic reason to run: survival. Whether you ran to escape capture, or ran to hunt for sustenance, running keeps us alive. And while I sometimes hate "walking like ET" the day after the race, it proves that I'm alive. After 3 miles, or 5 miles, or this past 13.1 miles, I'm alive.
If you're gonna live, best to do it with friends :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Civility in Victory, Civility in Defeat

When I woke up yesterday morning, November 6th, we had a president. When I woke up this morning, November 7th, we had a president. Frankly, the only excitement that I had to share (aside from the video of a still-employed Big Bird dancing that I found on YouTube) was that the deluge of political activity in the media stopped.

But I saw something very different. In the same way that we gloat or sulk after winning or losing a board game as children, or as adults in our more heated sports rivalries, the discourse had shifted to vocal expressions of both excitement and disappointment. I understand wanting to voice those feelings, but I'm not okay with them being an attack on anyone. As an example, I read an article about a mall collapse in Ghana earlier today. First commenter's contribution to the thread? "If only Obama had been in there." Really?!?!

I wish I had saved the Tweet I read this morning urging adults to be careful how they behaved today, for children learn a lot about expressing themselves after a win or loss from watching us. What can children learn from you in these moments?

I posted an image yesterday courtesy of George Takei yesterday that I'm sharing here again for its truthful nature. I don't have a problem with people disagreeing. I wrote a post last year about stepping outside the echo chamber, something I firmly believe in as a mechanism for learning something new as well as for reaffirming what you believe. And that is no less true in this instance. If you disagree with anything I say, engage me in discussion about it. I'm happy to listen, offer my opinions, and debate...respectfully. The very moment that it becomes a personal attack, or loses its air of respect, I will refuse to engage.

People are different. And we live in a country where that's okay, even (at times) encouraged. Is it nice to have people agree with you? Yes. But I'm of the belief that there is value in having people around who challenge you. But same, different, it should all be respectful. And for all today, no matter your take on the election result, please be respectful in your expressions.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why I Wouldn't Run the ING NYC Marathon.

There is a debate raging on the Internet, and surely amongst actual people in the area, about the running of the ING NYC Marathon this weekend, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. I'm all about running in new circumstances- the unanticipated hills of Tallahassee, the difficult elevation of Denver, and the impending snow runs I have to look forward to in Boston. 

There is so much of me that believes the text of the picture to the right. New York has faced disaster before, and has had the opportunity to rise through the dedication of people, and marathon running is a wildly communal endeavor. Just as so many people have looked out for each other during these trying times (check out the Mashable collection of images for proof of spirit in the face of darkness), so too do distance runners take care of each other.

However, I wouldn't run the ING NYC Marathon if given the chance. As someone who has been on the administrative side of a race, I have been privy to the citywide resources that it takes to successfully pull off such an undertaking as a road race. And for all the arguments that have surface about "it's just for a few hours" and "the recovery won't happen because the race doesn't happen", I agree there. But in times where frustration and unrest is rising as difficulty continues, now is not the time

There is also a case to be made for the indulgence of corporate races that I will touch on only briefly- the amount of money involved with cancelling a race of this magnitude is significant, and that will hurt the bottom line of this race in subsequent years- but at the end of the day, I don't want to balance my argument on that. I would rather bring it back to the people who are enduring the difficulty of a destroyed home. Should life go on as normal? Sure. But not yet. Not just yet.