Saturday, August 23, 2014

Campus Conversation

“No relaxation, no conversation, no variation
“In a very dark blue, blue connection.”
    “Cream, “Blue Condition,” Disraeli Gears

Conversation is the new buzzword for academicians in the field of teaching and learning theory.  They are discovering what oral historians long knew – that education is a two-way process and requires meaningful interaction between students and their instructors.  Skeptic that I am about on-line courses, if they are well-planned, involve small groups of students, and produce an active dialogue among all parties, perhaps that’s preferable to old-fashioned lecture-oriented classes. 
Old Valpo Fairgrounds, NWI Times photo by Bob Kasarda

The great Garrett Cope, one of the few professors over the years to make an effort to reach out to Gary residents, named his monthly meeting with local residents Glen Park Conversation.  The programs and entertainment were always interesting, and Garrett made sure to involve the folks who attended, making it truly a conversation.  Chancellor Lowe was a regular, as was Rick Hug, Steve McShane, Tim Sutherland, and most librarians.  I spoke to the group on several occasions and once won a beautiful Christmas wreath (Garrett always raffled off locally made items) that we still hang on our front door every Christmas. 

Friday morning I ran into Chancellor Bill Lowe in the Conference Center lobby, and we agreed that last night’s heavy rainfall was a good test for the new storm sewers.  He was off to the annual Chancellor’s Address and Campus Conversation in Bergland Auditorium (I prefer to call it Hilda Richards Auditorium after the chancellor who deserves credit for it).  In years past I have been tempted to attend the event and “air my beef,” as my prize students the Nommensen brothers, Mike and Neil, used to say, but not this year.  For one thing, emeritus professors were not invited (nor, in my case probably not welcome).  For another, the agenda will probably be announcements followed by small group discussions on predetermined topics rather than real give and take.  As a retiree, albeit an active one, I can register displeasure at current trends elsewhere.  Also I genuinely like Bill Lowe, think he’s doing all he can playing the role of good cop to the “Old Boy” bad cops when it comes to academic policies, and don’t want to rain on his parade.
Installation of Chancellor Lowe, October 29, 2010

I have to admit that I had something to do with IUN’s Campus Conversation.  Years ago, tired of the faculty retreats where disinterested colleagues discussed banal matters for a day or two, I suggested that the university have an event at the beginning of the school year that brought everyone together, a convocation featuring a lecture by a nationally known speaker.  At Bucknell my freshman year theologian Paul Tillich delivered a convocation speech, and my professors’ excitement was palpable and contagious. At IUN the convocation idea stuck, but somehow the speaker angle fell by the wayside. 

Knowing that Campus Conversation participants would be on a noon break, I took my brown bag lunch (ham salad sandwich, carrots, radishes, and peanuts) to Moraine hoping to find compatible meal companions.  Instead, the area where a buffet was being served, the old student lounge, was sealed off from those without nametags.  On the way to Moraine my Wednesday lunch companion, John from Gatlin Plumbing, joined me.  I warned him that the cafeteria probably wouldn’t be open, it being Friday, and suggested, half jokingly, that we crash the food line.  He demurred and instead headed off to Subway on Grant Street.  I bet that John, his long-haired co-worker, would have done it.  I ate alone.  Leaving the building, I spotted one of Anne Balay’s adversaries lined up to feed his face, making a rare, non-teaching day appearance.
above, shooting victim Michael Brown; below Governor Jay Nixon with Ron Johnson (r)

Calm has apparently come to Ferguson, Missouri, at least for the time being, no thanks to the virtually all-white local police or the National Guard troops Missouri governor Jay Nixon send into the area.  Credit should go to black leaders in Ferguson who urged calm and often policed themselves, as well as Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol.  During the 1970s IUN’s campus police were all white men except for Brady Ratliff, who never wore a uniform for some reason and was the friendliest of the lot.  Most were really nice people, but I still felt more effort should have been made to have the force be more diverse.  That has happened in the last 15 years, first with an African American chief, Denson Chatfield, and presently a woman, Patricia Nowak.
Denson Chatfield (l) with John Gonzalez, Gary Martin, John Jelks

The two best movies I’ve seen this year are both about chefs.  Give me a scene where a cook is cutting cucumbers with a sharp knife any day rather than a lame sword fight.  The latest, “The Hundred Foot Journey,” stars regal Helen Mirren as dour French restaurateur Madame Mallory, threatened when an Indian family opens an eatery, Maison Mumbai, across the street from hers.  Om Puri, playing Indian patriarch, is extremely endearing; in fact, all the characters have an undeniable charm, and the movie has a fairy tale quality to it, including the satisfying denouement.  I had trouble remembering the title until I latched on to the symbolic word journey, for the main theme has to do with assimilating into a different culture.

I’ve never been tempted to develop culinary skills.  I’m quite good cooking breakfast and make a mean BLT on toast, but, left to my own devices at dinner, have a very limited repertoire.  Years ago, if Toni went away for a couple days, I’d buy TV Mexican dinners, admittedly pretty gross.   Now I get a supply of hot dogs and prepare large salads with dressing made from scratch – ketchup, mayo, chopped onions and olives, and a hard-boiled egg.  I’ve never liked outdoor grilling ever since having to deal with charcoal and lighter fluid.

Celebrated “Star Spangled Banner” virtuoso Wayne Messmer sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” recently at Wrigley.  He is so great, the Cubs need to sign him up for every game and end the lame tradition of bringing in minor celebrities and former players.  Once a year they could book comedian Bill Murray and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins.
Newsman Art Norman with Terri Diggs

WMAQ anchor Art Norman, who retired in 2009 after 27 years, was back on NBC’s Chicago affiliate, Channel 5, organizing a charity drive.  The summer Phil interned at WMAQ Norman was friendly and helpful to him.  Phil has tried to pass that along at his PBS station when he works with Grand Valley State student interns.

Returning CDs to Westchester Library, I took the elevator because my right hip and knee still ache.  I hope it’s from falling down a week ago rather than something more serious.  I stopped at Wendy’s for a junior steakhouse cheeseburger and value fries costing just $2.65, including tax.  Haylee gave me a big smile when, spotting her name tag, I thanked her by name.
Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West squad defeated Las Vegas in a thriller to become the United States champ.  There were a half dozen lead changes before pitcher Joshua Houston, who gave up a two-run HR in the top of the fifth, got the key hit to spark a three-run rally in the bottom of the inning.  Slick fielding shortstop Ed Howard, nicknamed “Silk,” got the final three outs, including a game-ending 1-6-3 double play that many pro teams couldn’t execute. 

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