All posts by Juliana Fidler

Spain’s past brings a new perspective

When I was choosing my classes for my semester at the University of Granada’s Modern Languages Center, I picked “History of Spain: Franco to the Present Day” just to fill my fifth course slot. I thought it looked interesting and figured it might be good to know some recent history of the country where I’d be living for five months.

Not only has it become my favorite class, but it has also proven to be the most valuable in terms of really understanding the culture of Spain today. We’ve only gotten up to the ’50s so far, but I already feel like I’ve learned so much crucial information.

In class, we watch propaganda videos (called NO-DO, or Noticiarios y Documentales) that used to play in the movie theaters here, created and mandated by the Falange under Francisco Franco to project an image of Spain as rich and isolated from a very foreign and far-away war. We have seen photographs that show what life was like for Republican exiles and have read texts that describe what school was like for children being educated by the government and church. We have also read Franco’s laws and compared the Republican constitution with Franco’s Fuero de los Españoles.

My professor frequently encourages us to ask our host families or other people we know what they think about the topics that have come up in class — Franco, the Civil War, controversial newer acts that help family members of victims to locate their loved ones who disappeared during the war — but she always tells us to ask carefully.

I was surprised when she first said this, because I assumed that since Franco was a fascist dictator, everyone would hate him. That is not the case, though. My first encounter with this truth occurred when a very sweet, loving elderly woman I know proudly told me that her husband had been in the military and that Franco had once visited his office to ask for advice.

Franco’s reign had important effects on modern day Spain. (AP Photo)

The professor also told us that, in her opinion, many contemporary cultural phenomena have their roots in Franco’s era. For example, many older women are very religious, in part because the church was really their only social outlet during this time. She also thinks that the catcalling that my female classmates here sometimes experience is the product of a fascination with the foreign woman that began when socially acceptable Spanish women were very restricted in what they could wear. (Tourists from the U.S. and other countries did not abide by the same standards of modesty.) Though that difference has virtually disappeared today, my professor argues, the male mindset has not.

The most important thing I’ve learned through this class, though, is that everything is much more complex than it seems — which I think is usually the case when we study history. We can point out injustice and ache for the people who were exiled or killed unjustly, but we cannot draw stark contrasts that weren’t there. Not everyone was either a fascist or a communist. And at least based on my comprehension, there was never an easy fix for the problems Spain was facing even before the Civil War.

I’ve realized that if I want to fully grasp Spain’s current political and cultural atmosphere, a simplistic understanding of its not-too-distant past just won’t cut it.

My American is showing

I have lived in Granada, Spain for about a month now, and while I make a reasonable effort to blend in, there are times when I am very conscious of my American-ness and other times when I feel more like a local. I’m sure this fits somewhere in the “culture shock” timeline that the Center for Global Engagement showed me before I left. Here’s a short list of these situations in my daily life.

Blending in on the streets of Spain proves to be a sometimes difficult task, but not impossible for an American who makes the effort. (Juliana Fidler / Foreign Correspondent)

I feel like a very obvious American when:

… I see dogs that are better dressed than I am. There are a lot of tiny dogs in Granada, and I think about 60 percent wear clothes. I don’t just mean sweaters; I’ve seen jeans, vests, leather jackets, pea coats — you name it. For some reason I find this a little disconcerting. It’s like they shop for themselves. Interestingly, I haven’t seen any doggie clothes stores around.

… I wear sneakers. Once in a while I’ll feel the need to wear my most comfortable shoes when I get up on a cold morning for an earlier class, and I always rethink that decision (too late) as soon as I leave my apartment building. Spanish women just do not wear sneakers. This is one “American” practice that I’m going to have to hang on to though, in the interest of not getting a foot injury. I don’t think the other Granadinos actually care that much.

… People trying to sell me things on the street speak to me in English. Apparently, this sales technique does not work as intended.

I feel a little more like a native when:

… People stop me on the street to ask for the time. In my mind, this implies that I look like I will understand their question and be able to reply in Spanish. Success!

… I walk somewhere by myself without getting lost. Not only are the street signs here inconveniently located and often missing, but also, I am severely directionally challenged. So when I can find my way without pulling out a map, looking like a lost puppy or asking for directions, I feel like I am achieving a greater mastery of the city streets and routes. Being able to walk confidently always makes me happy.

… I overhear a conversation among Spaniards and can understand everything. Eavesdropping on strangers is a great way to improve a second language. I’m not sure this is a proven theory but it works for me. People talk really fast here, and with an accent. Listening in is accepting a challenge. So when they’re not talking to an American who needs the slower, more enunciated version, and I still know exactly what they’re talking about, I have won the (self-imposed) challenge.

In all seriousness, being an American in Spain or anywhere else is not a bad thing at all. I just think that part of studying abroad is taking part in the culture from the inside — not just observing it from the outside. Luckily, living this philosophy gets a little easier every day.

A walk through Spain is pleasant and rewarding

To be honest, I was a little nervous (OK, a lot nervous) before I left for my semester abroad — going to a completely unfamiliar place with not one person I knew was pretty daunting. But I have been in Granada, Spain for about three weeks, and I already have enough to say about it to fill the entire Signal Features section. What I found when I got here was worth the worry on the flight over — and I still have four months’worth of things to see!

The Spanish street is light on traffic as college students make their way to class and back home on foot. (Juliana Fidler / Foreign Correspondent)

I could write all about the truly incredible, vast yet intricately-designed Alhambra (the fortress, palace of Muslim kings and residential city of the final kingdom to be conquered by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, in order to unite Spain), or the Albaicín (the old, beautiful Arab district, complete with winding narrow streets and breathtaking views of the Alhambra) or the grand Cathedral. I’ll save them for my blog, though, and write about the little things that have defined my experience so far.

Probably the most distinctive characteristic of daily life in Granada is that the people walk everywhere, pretty much all the time. There are cars, of course, but you would never see a college student driving to school. My house is a 25-minute walk from the University of Granada’s Center of Modern Languages, where I have my classes, and for a college student on a budget, this is the perfect situation: It’s close enough so that I don’t have to pay for a bus to take me to and from school.

As far as my residential situation goes, living in a “homestay” with a family is probably the best decision I made when preparing to study abroad. I’m so much less homesick than I thought I would be, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m staying in an actual home. I still miss my family and friends, but being with my host family has helped a lot. My Spanish has been improving a lot because of them, too. When my roommate and I don’t understand what they’re saying (often a result of the Andalusian accent, which drops almost every “s” and “d” from the middle and end of words), one of our host sisters will speak more slowly and enunciate for us. But even in just three weeks, understanding has gotten easier for us both.

One of my favorite parts of living here has been helping my younger host sisters (twins, age 15) with their English homework. It can be a challenge to explain concepts of English grammar in Spanish, but it’s basically an ideal situation for an English major and Spanish minor such as myself, and I’ve actually been fairly successful. I have fun bonding with them over shared mockery of their English textbook, which uses words like “swimming costume” (it’s British). It’s just one of the little things that makes me feel more at home.

I guess the point of all my rambling and musings is that I’m glad and grateful that I’m here, at this time, with these people, and I know the next five months will be some of the most exciting of my life. And seeing the snow-covered Sierra Nevada Mountains on my way to and from school is not so bad, either.

Wenderoth’s readings offended Christians

I attended writer Joe Wenderoth’s reading, sponsored by the Visiting Writers Series and ink, on Wednesday, Dec. 6, and I want to share my thoughts on the event. While I still am unsure that I did the right thing by staying through the entire reading, the fact that I did so allows me to write about it more thoroughly.

I would like to begin by saying that I have the utmost respect for these groups and their work in the campus writing community, and I think they are a vital part of the College. As an English major, I appreciate the value of hearing different and varied voices and reading the work of contemporary writers (including the brilliant writers who are students at the College), and I am grateful that we have such organizations here. I respect and support the right of these groups to bring whomever they deem worthy to campus, as well as Mr. Wenderoth’s right to think, say and write whatever he chooses.

That said, I do not think it is inappropriate for me to say that I was hurt and offended by parts of Mr. Wenderoth’s reading. I am Christian, which made hearing an essay that featured what was essentially a pornographic portrayal of Jesus and his disciples particularly painful for me. Perhaps this is a biased view, but I think it is a fair one. I hope that others who do not profess the same faith will at least consider what I have to say, since, in other contexts, these ideas could apply to people of different religions, beliefs or backgrounds. I also cannot imagine that I was the only one who found the reading offensive, regardless of the religious affiliations of other audience members.

During the question-and-answer session after the reading, Mr. Wenderoth acknowledged that his “hostility” toward Christians is based on a negative experience with the church and the “privileged” status of Christians. I will readily admit that some people who identify as Christians have done and continue to do things that are harmful. I do not wish to hide or condone this behavior. As with any tense situation or conflict, though, I do not think that such angry, hateful words are productive by any means—just as I do not think that the angry, hateful words of the preachers who pop up on our campus every once in a while are helpful in any way. And I do not believe that attacking the core of the religion’s faith will change how any hypocritical Christian will act; the imperfect people of the institution are at fault for hypocrisy, not the faith itself.

Most importantly, I would like to challenge Mr. Wenderoth’s assertion that words are “just words.” He said that as long as words are simply spoken, we can “discuss” them, and “the worst that can happen is that we disagree.” In the past couple of years especially, we have learned the effects that words can have on people in terms of bullying. This is not a new concept, though: negative words of any nature, whether sexist, racist or anything else, have power, just as positive words can help change things for the better.

Mr. Wenderoth’s words were offensive to me not because they were “irreverent,” or, as he said, “reverent toward the wrong thing,” since I do not expect him to believe what I believe, but because they were disrespectful and hurtful. I realize that my feelings might be the reaction Mr. Wenderoth anticipated and even intended when he wrote and read that essay (he said that he loves feeling the tension mount in the room when he reads the piece to an audience), but I feel it is important to be honest about them nonetheless.

Again, Mr. Wenderoth has the right to say and write these things, and I understand that what does not seem like art to me might be art to someone else. I can say without a doubt, though, that I would never speak this way about anyone else’s faith, and I will be more cautious in attending such events in the future — though I also realize that the groups that brought Mr. Wenderoth might not have expected his reading to be quite so offensive.

The God I believe in does not need me to defend Him. I simply wanted to speak my mind to contribute to a wider to discussion of these issues.

Campus Town construction will affect about a dozen houses

Campus Town construction will affect buildings within the dotted line’s perimeter. (Image courtesy of Stacy Schuster)

Construction of the upcoming Campus Town will require the relocation of several College offices and houses, according to Stacy Schuster, executive director of College Relations, and several students.

The 14-acre site will be along Pennington Road, “directly south of main campus entry gate,” Schuster said. The area is “bound on the east side by Metzger Drive” and on the south side by Hausdoerffer and Phelps Halls.

Currently on the site, “there are approximately a dozen houses that are owned by the Trenton State Corporation,” Schuster said, but also among the houses on site are those that belong to the Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement, ROTC and the Municipal Land Use Center (MLUC).

These three offices “will be moving into other buildings on campus,” she said, and the move is “very likely to happen in winter months.”

In an email, Schuster added, “The schedule for site preparation is in the process of being prepared, and demolition of buildings on the site may be done in a phased approach; some of the buildings will remain until May/June.”

The future on-campus locations of the Bonner Center, ROTC and MLUC are still uncertain, according to Schuster. So far, all that the College has determined is that these offices will be moving into existing buildings.

The groundbreaking on the Campus Town site is planned for Spring of 2012, Schuster said. “The date we are aiming to be open and have (the Campus Town buildings) be usable is Fall of 2013, so we’d like to have them operational by August of 2013,” she added.

While Schuster did not mention student College houses in her email, to students living near the mentioned offices, it seems inevitable that their houses will be affected.

According to senior fine arts major Ceire Parker, who lives in a College house on Pennington Road, students who live in the houses on the building site have not been informed of what to expect.

This might be because the College doesn’t actually own the College houses, Parker said. Rather, the Trenton State College Corporation (an off-campus real estate management  group) owns the buildings and rents exclusively to the College.

“Technically they didn’t tell us that the house will be affected, but … our house is right next door to the Bonner Center, so it seems to be pretty much a given that it will be knocked down after this year,” said Parker. “I can’t be sure though, because the College doesn’t actually own the College houses … it seems to be somewhat complicated.”

Parker also said she would be sad to lose the house for nostalgia’s sake.

“I’ll just be sad if they end up having to knock down our house. I love this house, it’s awesome,” she said.  “And it will just be a shame that no one else will ever get to live in it.”

Laura Herzog contributed reporting.

Stud bathrooms renovated, Education Building underway

The numerous construction projects on the College’s campus are almost all on schedule, said Stacy Schuster, executive director of College Relations, in an email interview.

Summer saw the completion of new Armstrong offices, a new roof, interior painting and carpeting in New Residence Hall and initial remodeling of four Brower Student Center bathrooms, said Schuster. According to Campus Construction’s web page, handicap toilets were built in updated student center bathrooms.

Construction on the new Education Building continued this summer. (Janika Berridge/Photo Assistant)

Green Hall’s bathrooms underwent the same renovations this summer, and the building’s fire doors were finished as well. Continuing work on Green Hall, set to conclude during this semester, consists of the exterior envelope, the new generator and HVAC upgrades to the data center, Schuster said.

The other large-scale construction project, the new Education Building, will also be completed on time, said Schuster. So far, “roofing has been completed, much of the exterior walls are up and brick has been set,” she said.

The exterior should be “completely finished” by October of this year, and the entire building “remains on schedule for a spring occupancy,” Schuster said.

The Eickhoff Eatery Phase III Expansion, which was expected to come to a close before the semester started, “will need a few extra weeks to wrap up,” said Schuster, “but this was not unanticipated.”

The Campus Construction website says that the expansion will add extra seating to the dining hall, and “the existing space/offices will be relocated to Holman, into newly created offices.”

This fall, Campus Construction will replace the roofs of Travers Hall, Wolfe Hall, Decker Hall, Armstrong Hall, Centennial Hall and Eickhoff Hall, as well as the clerestory windows in Eickhoff.

Other projects that are scheduled to end this fall are the generator replacement in Holman Hall and the waterproofing and connecting-link replacement in Bliss Hall. (The “connecting-link” is the glass hallway between the two sections of the building.)

“All of the projects” that are ongoing this semester, said Schuster, are “relatively on schedule.”

Commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War

Professor Holly Kent explains how pre-Civil War literature allowed women to be ‘immune’ to politics. (Tom O'Dell / Photo Editor)

The media may have portrayed the Civil War as a war with a purpose, but two professors think differently as the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War took place on April 12 of this year.

History professor Daniel Crofts and women’s and gender studies professor Holly Kent shared their research and expertise with students and professors during a presentation titled, “Thinking about the Origins of the American Civil War 150 Years After it Started: Two Viewpoints,” on April 12, in room 223 of the Social Sciences Building.

Kent, a 2003 graduate of the College, spoke about pre-Civil War anti-slavery women’s literature. The writers she studied argued against the use of both politics and violence to end slavery in their novels, she said.

Attempting to use political activism for abolition is “counterproductive” in these narratives,  Kent said. The fact that characters who are “white, Southern Democrats” are portrayed as “mustache-twirling villains” who do horrible things “makes a lot of sense,” she said, but perhaps more surprising is that Republican politicians are shown in a negative light as well — most are evil and the good ones die.

According to Kent, the female characters, though, can tell quickly that political activism will backfire and they then advise the men to stay away.

“Politics is a kind of disease in these novels, and women are immune,” she said.

The novels also display the belief that violence is not a practical way to stop slavery. Kent explained that violence in the writers’ work she has studied is often present in the form of the uprising of enslaved men, who are “angry for the right reasons but displaying that anger in the wrong ways.”

In this context, too, women characters are on the “sidelines,” trying “fruitlessly” to stop the men from acting violently.

Kent concluded that in the novels, “Any approach to end slavery has to be through women,” because of a perceived “gendered capacity to be peaceful.”

Crofts began his portion of the talk by noting that there is “plenty of evidence that Americans are interested in the Civil War,” including the great number of visitors to battle sites like Gettysburg, the vast quantity of books, the Ken Burns documentary and the many reenactments.

The war is often “romanticized” today, but Crofts hoped to bring the “reality” of the war into “sharper focus.”

He first discussed the casualties. Since the population of the United States was one tenth of today’s population at the time the Civil War started, the 600,000 soldiers would be comparable to six million dead soldiers today, Crofts said.

Historians often “emphasize the differences” between the two sides of the war, classifying North as “progressive” or “modern” and South as “archaic” or “static,” but these are “deliberate exaggerations,” he said.

According to Crofts, the “stereotypes are way overblown,” and “the boys in blue and the boys in gray had more in common than they thought.” Men on both sides were often young and poor and “hardly represented” the supposed ideals of the stereotypical North or South opposition.

While Americans “tend to think of war waged to end slavery,” Crofts said, “it didn’t start that way.”

The 13th Amendment did not seek to abolish slavery, but simply to limit it to states that already had slavery, and even Lincoln did not dispute this. This reality “has been obscured” because it “tells us something about our country that we don’t want to know,” he said.

Though there is a “widespread tendency to exalt Lincoln,” the 16th president did not originally intend to end slavery that already existed, Crofts said. “Lincoln played the cards he was dealt and played them astutely, but he was not clairvoyant.”

Some call for grad student inclusion in conduct code

James Norfleet (right), vice president of Student Affairs, suggested there could be a set of rules for graduate students in addition to the undergrad-centered Student Conduct Code. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

Inclusion of graduate students in the College’s Conduct Code and campus life in general was the main topic of discussion at the Committee on Student and Campus Community’s (CSCC) open forum on Thursday, March 17. The forum, which focused on the proposed Student Conduct Code and Computer Access Agreement, was the second of two on these subjects.

Part of the governance process for policies, which can be found on the College’s website, is addressing public questions and concerns in revising the documents. The next step will be “to gather the feedback, codify it and determine our recommendations to the Steering Committee,” said Magda Manetas, assistant vice president for student services and member of the CSCC.

The Computer Access Agreement, which had not been revised since 2000, was the first order of business at the forum. The revised policy is intended to reflect changes “not just in the technology, but also in what is appropriate to share” online, Manetas said.

The agreement specifies “unacceptable conduct” along these lines, including “illegal use or misconduct of any kind (including, but not limited to copyright infringement)” and “using peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing unless specific instances are authorized by the College.” It prohibits “harassment or violation of the rights of others” and the breaking of any federal laws or College policies.

It also includes information on client responsibility, including backing up files and creating strong passwords.

The majority of the forum was spent discussing the proposed Student Conduct Code. Antonino Scarpati, assistant dean of nursing, who called the code “comprehensive, clear and concise,” was one of several faculty members present who questioned some aspects of the proposed policy.

Scarpati’s concerns, which were echoed by his colleagues, dealt with section III, part A of the code, which states, “Academic standards as well as behavioral expectations of graduate students are not covered by this code, but rather fall within the authority of the individual academic units of the College.”

Vice President of Student Affairs James Norfleet, who said that “more than a third of the previous session was spent on this question,” explained that school officials agree that expectations need to be set for graduate students, but “this conduct code was written with undergrads in mind.”

On a campus where “the undergraduate experience resembles the graduate experience,” he said, there might be one, all-inclusive code. However, based on these respective experiences at the College, a separate, “more focused document” is needed for graduate students, he said.

Scarpati asked if there would be “any items not expected of graduate students” in the code’s policy, even if enforcement procedures might be different.

Angela Lauer Chong, associate dean of students, answered, “We’re not pointing to things in here that don’t apply to graduate students. We’re looking at what’s missing.” There might be different expectations for graduate students, she explained, especially in programs where they would be entering (and representing the College in) the professional sphere.

“We all agree that a policy for graduate students is needed,” she said.

Some faculty members present, though, expressed the concern that if and when this Conduct Code is passed, there would be no policy in place for graduate students. This could create difficulty and a lack of clarity until one was written, which could take some time.

“What would be the harm in making this all-inclusive?” asked Susan Hydro, assistant dean of graduate studies. She cited other institutions with conduct codes that apply to both undergraduate and graduate students, which could be used as models, and noted that five-year graduate students are able to live on campus and take classes with undergraduates, so there is some fluidity between the two groups.

Others recommended an interim policy or inclusion of graduate students in the proposed Conduct Code until a separate code was written, perhaps with an addendum distinguishing any differing expectations.

Truc-Lan Vu, a graduate student who attended the forum, said that she felt excluded by the proposed code. “If this goes forward as only for undergraduates, it leaves 1,000 graduate students on campus and abroad in the dark,” she said.

Manetas, who noted that a graduate student on the Committee has brought up the same concern, said that “the issue is not that it needs to exist, but where.”

“We will absolutely be bringing that back to CSCC,” she said.

Both the proposed Computer Access Agreement and the proposed Student Conduct Code are available online, and any further questions, comments and concerns about either may be directed via e-mail to Carol Wells at wells@tcnj.edu.

Trustees support N.J. task force, professors disagree

President Gitenstein (left) and the Board heard professors Ralph Edelbach (center) and Michael Robertson (right) express disagreement with some of the state-wide recommendations the trustees backed. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

The Board of Trustees voted to pass the resolution supporting the recommendations of Gov. Chris Christie’s New Jersey Task Force of Higher Education at a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 17. There were no opposing votes.

Two faculty members served as speakers at the meeting to share their views on the resolution. Ralph Edelbach, professor of technological studies, and Michael Robertson, professor of English, both presented their subjects of agreement and disagreement with the task force’s report.

The task force made over 70 recommendations to the state for the improvement of public colleges and universities, including an increase in financial support and a removal of state tuition caps.

The Board’s resolution states that “the recommendations of the task force include a number of issues that will significantly impact (the College), and will considerably enhance our ability to provide an outstanding education for New Jersey’s most talented students.”

Edelbach, who is president of the College’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), said that he agrees with the part of the report that reflects the “chronic underfunding of the campus for many years” and that a 2006 report titled “Flunking Out” included the same results. “We have really gotten shortchanged,” he said.

However, he said that some of the issues in the recommendations are “counterproductive” and would “cost more money at a time when money is tight.” In addition, he said he disagrees with proposed changes to decentralize collective bargaining among union chapters at state schools.

“For 37 years, there have been contracts covering employees at the state level, and the system has worked pretty well,” he said. “We have 90 local agreements on our campus,” he added, which create “flexibility to fix problems that come up.”

Given his issues with the report, he did not advocate passing the resolution. “I don’t hold any hope that what I say today will change voting on the issue,” he said. “But it is still important to say.”

Robertson also spoke against some of the task force’s recommendations. Though he agrees with aspects such as “increased (Educational Opportunity Fund) funding and increased enrollment of out-state-students,” he said it was “wrong to endorse the report in full.”

According to Robertson, the report contains two main problems — one of “omission” and one of “commission.”

He said that the report “does not address the single most problematic issue: cutting costs by using adjunct faculty instead of regular faculty.” He expressed the view that this practice is detrimental to students, since adjunct professors are often “unavailable” to meet with students during office hours, guide them to scholarships, write letters of recommendations and help them with graduate school and job plans.

While this situation is “not so severe” at the College, he said, the hiring of adjunct professors instead of regular professors nation- and state-wide is all too common.

In addition, he described Christie’s “toolkit” bills as a “fatally flawed idea” and argued against the loss of a “uniform salary scale.”

Merit raises, he said, would be “at the caprice of administrators.” While he said that he trusts the College’s administrators to handle this correctly, he fears the potential effects — such as discrimination — at other schools. Under a system like this, he said, “a white male like me is just fine, but women and people of color don’t do as well.”

Susanne Svizeny, chair of the Board, who, like several other Board members, was participating via conference call, offered closing comments, thanking the two speakers and reiterating approval of the resolution. Two other Board members spoke. Robert Altman said that he was “pleased to support the resolution,” and Rosie Hymerling, while also advocating the passing of the resolution, emphasized that “it was important that faculty expressed their views.”

President R. Barbara Gitenstein also gave some closing remarks, acknowledging that the situation with adjuncts is “a significant point.” She recognized that “we will always see things somewhat differently,” but expressed gratitude for the ability to hear other viewpoints. “I am proud of this institution — that we can have this kind of conversation,” she said.

Following her remarks, the resolution was put to a vote and the motion carried.

College required to provide ‘strategic plan’ in Monitoring Report

After approving last year’s Periodic Review Report for the College, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) asked that the College produce a Monitoring Report, said Morton Winston, professor and chair of the Philosophy and Religion Department.

“The College was asked to submit a Monitoring Report because peer reviewers and the board at the Middle States Commission felt our initial Periodic Review Report did not show we were as aligned with our standards as we reported,” said Truc-Lan Vu, graduate representative to the Committee on Planning and Priorities (CPP), in an e-mail.

The purpose of the Monitoring Report is “further documentation on how we strategically plan,” Winston said. “They want to see that we can document the planning we do and that it is well-communicated internally.”

Winston is a co-chair of the CPP, which President R. Barbara Gitenstein asked to “take the lead” in writing the report, he said. Provost Carol Bresnahan also serves as co-chair.

The College must go through the Middle States Commission’s reaccreditation process every 10 years; the last instance was in the 2004-2005 school year, and the next will be in the 2014-2015 school year. Halfway between two reaccrediting periods, however, the College is required to submit a Periodic Review Report — in this case, for the 2009-2010 school year.

The MSCHE gives “credibility” to institutions by holding them up to a set of “standards of excellence,” and makes them eligible for federal funding, said Olaniyi Solebo, undergraduate representative to CPP and president of Student Government.

The Periodic Review Report is a document that describes “where the school is, what we excel in, what we should improve upon and where we think we’re going at the next reaccreditation,” Solebo said.

The report noted the implementation of PAWS and the addition of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter among other updates, Winston said. It also included “the president’s strategic planning initiatives with respect to several of the standards” that the Commission defines, Winston added.

“We only looked at three of (the standards),” Winston said. “It would have been too long,” he said, and the Commission “didn’t expect us” to respond to all of them.

The report, which was due on June 1, 2010, was finished in May. Following the submission of the report, the commission “appointed reviewers,” who sent a letter in August in which they “raised some questions” about the College’s strategic planning, Winston said.

Winston said that most universities have a document that “pulls together all the institution’s major goals and objectives” as a “common reference point for everyone involved in the institution.” The College doesn’t have a document like this, and in Winston’s opinion, this is why the Commission is requiring a Monitoring Report. “The reviewers are not familiar with the way we do strategic planning,” he said.

“(The College) is unusual in that it does not have a single institutional strategic plan. However, the campus is very thoughtful and does a great deal of planning, both for the College as a whole and for various units like individual schools, with involvement of many constituencies,” Bresnahan said in an e-mail.

On Jan. 19, a liaison from MSCHE, Mary Ellen Petrisko, met with CPP as well as President Gitenstein and Bresnahan to “explain exactly what the Commission wanted in the Monitoring Report,” Winston said.

“In that visit, which aimed to communicate MSCHE’s views and to assist (the College) in moving forward, called (the College’s) Periodic Review Report ‘excellent’ and noted its honesty,” Bresnahan said.

Winston said that, according to Petrisko, it is becoming “more common” for MSCHE to ask for a Monitoring Report following a Periodic Review Report.

Winston noted that the College’s strategic planning “is coordinated, is integrated, is linked to decision-making and budgetary allocations,” though it was not clear to the review board.

He emphasized that the College is accredited and in “full compliance.”

“The Monitoring Report, as well as Periodic Review Report, are just part of the system of checks and balances that the MSCHE moderates,” Vu said. “Many other institutions go through this process, and I am confident that CPP will complete the Monitoring Report with success.”

Solebo, too, said that “we really have nothing to worry about.”

The Monitoring Report will simply “clarify how we do these things, which we believe we already do very well,” Bresnahan said.

“We look at this as a positive thing. We are a very self-reflective institution,” Winston said. “We believe in continuous improvement.”

Cause of Decker fire still being investigated

A small fire in Decker Hall on Oct. 16 caused the sprinklers to go off in rooms on the second floor. The fire started “directly below one sprinkler in the lounge,” and the cause is “still being examined,” said Stacy Schuster, director of external relations, in an e-mail.

The fire was promptly extinguished after Campus Police and local fire personnel arrived at the scene, Schuster said.

Residents were not allowed back into the building right away, as Campus Police had to first ensure that it was safe to return. While many students were not on campus during Fall Break, those who had stayed in Decker over the long weekend were relocated until their rooms became available again.

Residential Education and Housing kept students updated about the status of the building via e-mail. According to an e-mail from ResEd, students were allowed back into the building on Oct. 18.

Students whose rooms had water damage must meet with a ResEd staff member to file an incident report. ResEd had rugs in the affected rooms “cleaned and sanitized,” said Schuster.

“Only things on the floor got wet. Our rug was soaked and the clothes in our hampers got wet as well,” said Robert Richardson, sophomore engineering major and Decker Resident. His room had no electrical damage, and “Building Services cleaned and dried our wet clothes and rug,” he said.

Sophomore physics major Matt Kanoc added that “the cleaning people did an excellent job of cleaning everything. They were able to get us back into the building before classes began again, and I can’t even smell mildew.”

There are several options to take care of damage not covered by ResEd, depending on the type of insurance the student has, according to Schuster. Students without Student Personal Property Insurance may be covered by their parents’ homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance property insurance.

With either of these two, “students may seek to file a claim through the NJ Tort process for the expense of the deductible,” Schuster said.

Even if a student does not have Student Personal Property Insurance and does not receive coverage from a parent’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, “the student may still seek to file a claim through the NJ Tort process after completing the ResEd incident report,” said Schuster.

After filing an incident report, students should meet with Brian Webb, the College’s risk officer, for assistance with the NJ Tort process.

Following the fire, ResEd is “reviewing its fire response protocols to ensure continued implementation of best practices in higher education for training staff and supporting students in making safe decisions,” Schuster said.

She added that following the College’s fire safety policies, listed at tcnj.edu/~reslife/policies.html, will prevent future fires.

Juliana Fidler can be reached at fidler2@tcnj.edu.

Editor’s note: the Department of Public Relations and Communications stated on Nov. 9 that “It was determined that a pot of cooking oil on top of the stove had caught fire.”

College makes space for freshmen class; 121-student increase calls for dorm, dining changes

A Wolfe Hall lounge converted into a quad — conversions added 33 beds in Travers and Wolfe Halls. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

The addition of 1,421 freshmen to the College community, as opposed to the expected 1,300, required some significant accommodations in student services this semester.

“We have enrolled a larger freshman class this year. While this does generate needed revenue, it will also increase freshman class sizes moderately as well as the demand for student services, housing and dining,” President R. Barbara Gitenstein said in her 2010 Welcome Back Address on Sept. 1.

The 121-student increase will generate more than $1.2 million in tuition and fees “for the fall and estimated spring semesters,” said Barbara Wineberg, treasurer of the Board of Trustees. Student tuition and fees, as well as appropriations, fall into the educational and general budget.

The increase in revenue is offset by related costs of $84,000 covering an additional full-time faculty position, “miscellaneous one-time facility costs and additional software costs,” she said.

She added that the increased revenue from tuitions “will be offset by some reductions in enrollment counts for returning students” because more students will be graduating and studying abroad.

Accommodations in housing fall into a separate, self-supporting auxiliary services (housing) budget, which is primarily funded by room and board revenues.

Changes in Travers Hall, Wolfe Hall and Cromwell Hall generated $146,445 in additional room revenue at a cost of $41,440, Wineberg said.

According to Sean Stallings, executive director of Residential Education and Housing (ResEd), one major change in housing was the conversion of two Travers Hall lounges and two Wolfe Hall lounges into quads, “which, of course, required an investment,” he said.

This process included installing new carpeting, renovating the sink systems, repairing and painting the walls, adding Internet access for four people and putting in new furniture, Stallings said.

Students line up outside Eickhoff Dining Hall. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

Thirty-three more beds became available in the Towers as a result, Wineberg said.

The larger class size affected Community Advisors as well. “We moved some of our CAs to smaller rooms and turned their rooms into double spaces for students,” Stallings said.

Space in Cromwell usually occupied by transfer students was filled this semester by extra freshmen.

While “in years past, (Cromwell) would allow space for transfer students” as only the first four and a half floors were filled with freshmen, this year ResEd “held the entire building for the first-year class,” Stallings said. Ninety-one Cromwell beds that would have previously gone to transfers are now occupied by freshmen, according to Wineberg.

“Anyone who transferred or left the College for any reason — that’s what created space for the transfer students we were able to house,” Stallings said.

The College was able to house 104 transfers in other buildings on campus, Wineberg said.

Stallings also said the increased class size will pose a new challenge for next year, since on-campus housing is guaranteed for freshmen and sophomores.

“When they become sophomores, we have to make sure there’s a bed for them, which creates pressures for the junior class,” he said.

Accommodations to dining at the College are related to space in Eickhoff Hall.

“We are starting the planning process for expanding the seating in the atrium,” said Stallings, adding that the newest renovations resulted in 50 more seats.

“When we expand the dining hall, we’ll see more costs,” he said.

However, “although these improvements helped to manage the increased size of the student body,” Wineberg said, “they had already been planned to accommodate the greater number of residential students anticipated with the new apartments and Decker in service.”

Stallings said those in ResEd appreciate that students have been “patient” with this year’s challenges, and therefore “wanted to give something back.”

“With the additional revenue, we made an intentional effort to add things we knew students wanted,” he said, citing wireless access points in Decker Hall and Eickhoff Hall as some of these efforts.

Juliana Fidler can be reached at fidler2@tcnj.edu.

College to charge per page printed

Illustration by Stephanie Stober

Students will now have to pay for each page printed from on-campus computer labs, following changes to the College’s PrintSense program beginning in the Fall 2010 semester.

While PrintSense previously allowed each student to print 600 pages per semester, printing will now cost 5 cents per one-sided page and 10 cents per double-sided page.

The old system gave each student an account of $30 to print at 5 cents per page, and any pages over the limit of 600 were charged to the student.

“In the past the 600 pages per semester were essentially paid from our revenue from state appropriations and student tuition,” Nadine Stern, vice president for information technology and enrollment services, said in an e-mail.

“We did not identify the cost for this separately and the College paid for all the printing out of the general College Operating budget.”

The “severe cuts to state appropriation,” Stern said, made it necessary for the College to come up with methods of keeping tuition from rising.

“We’ve found that the average student prints about 300 pages per semester, so there will be an added cost to the average student of about $15 per semester,” Matt Golden, executive director of public relations and communication, said in an e-mail.

The exact cost to each student, however, will depend on his or her printing choices.

“We are hopeful that the new policies encourage responsible printing campus-wide,” Golden said. The PrintSense website (tcnj.edu/~printing) allows students to track spending and offers tips for keeping printing to a minimum, such as changing the margins and using both sides of the paper.

Students will receive the PrintSense charges on their bill at the end of the semester. Golden encouraged students to “monitor their print usage so that there are no surprises” when they are charged.

Of course, another major part of this research was the review of the printing on campus in the past, said Golden. The cost of printing for 2008 was $70,000, though the budgeted amount had been $36,000.

Environmental concerns were a crucial factor as well. The work of the President’s Climate Commitment Committee also influenced the changes to PrintSense, Golden said.

“The decision to make these changes to PrintSense was not taken lightly,” said Golden, adding that “in our current fiscal climate, we are evaluating and recommending cost-saving measures in many areas so that we will be able to sustain the critical services for the College.”

According to Golden, the changes to PrintSense were recommended by the Office of Academic Affairs and Information Technology’s business office.

The latter conducted “extensive research” last year, Golden said, which included surveys of faculty of the College “to identify student printing requirements as part of their coursework” and of other New Jersey and Pennsylvania colleges and universities.

‘Road to Fondwa’ highlights history of racism toward Haiti

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti devasted towns and lives. On April 6 students and faculty viewed a film that showed the Haitian town of Fondwa working to rebuild after the devastation. (AP Photo)

The challenges facing Haiti existed before the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, according to Winnifred Brown-Glaude, professor of African-American studies at the April 6 screening of “Road to Fondwa.”

The event, sponsored by Here for Haiti, drew students and faculty members and included a panel discussion following the film. The panel consisted of Robert McGreevey of the history department, Maggie Benoit of the physics department and Brown-Glaude.

The documentary, made in 2008, showed the Haitian community of Fondwa and the progress the people there have made to respond to the extreme poverty.

Many countries, such as the United States, Canada and France have “put their hands on Haiti,” said a man in the documentary.

During the panel discussion, McGreevey talked about the “history of interdependence” between the U.S. and Haiti and the “legacy of racism” present in American attitudes toward Haiti, the first independent black republic. This could be seen, he said, in “how the relief aid was handled” after the earthquake.

The Peasant Association of Fondwa (APF), established in 1988, has been working toward solving the community’s problems. Already, the town has potable water, a school, a radio station and a health clinic, said one of its members.

The film shows the people of Fondwa working to build up the road needed for development in an act they call a konbit, which is working together toward a common goal.

Joseph Phillipe, a priest in the film, set this example by studying abroad and returning to help his hometown.

All of Haiti needs to develop, so Fondwa wants to “share this experience with other areas,” Merault, the community leader in the film, said. “Fondwa is like one finger in the hand … if you don’t have all the rest, you will be handicapped.”

Brown-Glaude spoke of the “perception that the current conditions of Haiti’s underdevelopment … were caused by internal factors.” Without letting “corrupt politicians and elites off the hook,” she said, the external factors of “the globalization of the economy” and the “double-edged sword of humanitarian aid” should be acknowledged.

Because of free trade, the entire agricultural sector of Haiti’s economy was “devastated,” she said, emphasizing rice specifically. Haitians can buy American-grown rice for much cheaper, so Haitian farmers cannot make money.

Many people have moved from the rural areas to the cities to find jobs that are not available, creating a “concentration of poverty in the city,” she said.

The earthquake caused a “reverse migration,” and the rural towns are now faced with the challenge of “absorbing the large number of people moving back,” many of whom are not skilled as farmers.

In terms of aid, while people should keep giving, Haitians need to have “a larger voice” in how the money is being used, she said.

Benoit explained the physics of the earthquake that occurred in Haiti, measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale, and why the damage and death toll there was so much greater than in Chile, which recently had an 8.8-level earthquake that released 500 times more energy.

The earthquake in Chile, she says, was 35 km deep, and the one in Haiti was only 15 km deep.

According to Benoit, the loose, wet soil in Haiti also caused the buildings, which were built with concrete that is not reinforced and other materials not made to withstand earthquakes, to fail because “the foundations were compromised.”

The re-development needs to be “realistic” in building new, safer structures “with the resources available,” she said.