Wordsanctuary Revisited

Musings of a writer-teacher-counselor.

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Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

I am inquisitive and have worked in writing, editing, and teaching. I am a citizen of the USA and also concerned about the world. This is an addendum to my original blog, Wordsanctuary. That's at www.wordsanctuary.blogspot.com Please check out my column at www.insidehighered.com, "A Kinder Campus." Click on Career Advice to find it. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A CSU Alumna Listens

It’s 9:30 Sunday morning. It’s icy. It's cold. I’m still drained from trying to get in to hear Sen. Hillary Clinton speak at a campaign rally at Brush High…hours of waiting…not finding my son….only to arrive at an overflow site where, eventually, my son appears…and later, the profound surprise that Hillary will add a second talk for those who were relegated to sit here like second class citizens to watch her on TV…still better than those who grew tired of all the confusion and went home.

Back to…the room this Sunday morning that fills gradually with bright-eyed, mainly gray- and white-haired men and woman who greet one another with smiles and gentle jokes that I can’t quite discern because my ears are still blocked from the rally.

A mirror stretches the full length of the extreme left of the room, revealing the room’s “other” function as a dance studio. The arts are alive and well at First Unitarian; my son studies violin there at a branch of CIM. You won't catch me looking in the mirror. The right hand wall has an array of religious symbols; only in a Unitarian Universalist church will these dwell together in silent harmony, and perhaps only in a UU church will a room be packed with people so very early on a weekend and so genuinely eager to hear about the fledgling/mature university down the street.

The featured speaker was distinguished CSU president Michael Schwartz, who took the reins of the college in 2001; as most know, he had served as president of Kent State University and was supposedly in retirement when he joined CSU. 2001. A full eight years after I quit my full-time job in the News Bureau at CSU but during the point when I still had connections there as an occasional teacher through Urban Affairs and Continuing Education Division.

I am a 1981 graduate of CSU and worked in four different jobs there from 1980-1993, loving the campus with a zeal that made leaving to tend to a frail, premature child extremely difficult.. I always maintained the highest idealism about CSU’s potential and a realistic view of its glitches and contradictions. I had been a student. A secretary. A publications editor/writer. A public relations’ liaison. A member of the part-time faculty. There was not a day in my career there when I felt bored or underutilized. I have maintained a concern about CSU, and have been delighted with the reports that internal morale is high, improvements being made, growth happening….though they are tearing down my cherished University Center, spot of dates in the game room, the best donuts, couches on which to collapse from exhaustion after studying all night… When you work the jobs I did, you get to know the rank and file employees, the administrators, the students. To me, it is like a city and--as such--can be as welcoming or frustrating as any city.

Back to topic: Dr. Schwartz has a dry sense of humor coupled with a no-nonsense, no-fluff manner of speaking. The topic was: University of Akron/Cleveland State University Merger? And he answered that simply and directly in the first few sentences: No. It wouldn’t be his preference.

But he took his attentive listeners through sprawling anecdotes about the prospects of greater collaboration among institutions, chiefly Akron, Youngstown, Kent State, Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, and CSU.

He brainstormed a big dream of faculty of information science or technology across institutions collaborating and forming a team if not as good as MIT’s, almost as big.

He tempted us with the thought of a fully refurbished Allen Theater—not only to help the CSU theater department but possibly, some day, kindred programs at the other nearby institutions. Apparently dance thrives at Akron, piano at Youngstown, theater at Kent…and I know from my CSU days, the artists were few in number but powerfully creative. The music building today is filled in every sense with energy and opportunity—for musicians from campus and far beyond.

And Dr. Schwartz stressed a phrase I remember from my old days at CSU “centers of excellence,” acknowledging that universities may wish they could deliver every conceivable program to every students, but the fact is: less can be more.

He said that CSU hopes to add and or further support components of health to almost every college of the university: law and health; urban studies and health; education and health; and so on. A questioner from the audience asked: Wouldn’t that have been a good idea from CSU’s inception, given our local health centers? Dr. Schwartz’s answer was good, but I would have added that many moons ago, there were plans for a college of health sciences at CSU. Roaming archives, as I used to love to do, I saw a report about that. Somewhere along the line, as in a wild and flourishing garden, other enticing varieties of programs developed. But the seeds for a health focus were there, fallow.

A bold thought from Dr. Schwartz came in the form of one central board to oversee the four schools. I can imagine the impossibility of achieving that, but it’s good to dream big. That would allow for a broad focus, “thinking across and out of the box.” I don’t personally know any trustee at any college, but I do know that these are posts served by appointment. Many who might have the savvy to make good contributions may not be anywhere near the list of appointees.

Speaking of contributions, of course a fundraising campaign will soon occupy CSU’s attention. Dr. Schwartz said that the theme will be helping Cleveland…not making the coffers of CSU bulge in pitiful self-interest. In other words, spreading the idea that investing in CSU is directly investing into an organization whose faculty, staff, and students are committed to using their talents and insights to serve and better greater Cleveland.

May it be so.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

One of those Days

At least here I can choose my color, my typeface, and my degree of rant. It should be red, but I'll choose a soothing green. It should be a spiky type, but I'll let my fingers sink into a soothing Verdana. I could be shouting here in all caps out of sheer frustration, but I'll keep it down. Those who know me a little expect a little restraint. Those who know me a lot have observed that even upon great provocation, I still maintain a lot of restraint. And those who know me the very best know that once every long while, I bubble over with the best of them.

In the car last night, the following conversation unfolded:

Andrew: "Mom, you need your own radio show. You have so much to say and need someone to listen to it."

Me: "So you don't have to?"

Andrew: "Yes, that's right."

We used to play a game called "radio show." I had several talk show personae. My son would be the caller, and I had great fun provoking him and he had great fun mimicking the type of stock figures that call radio shows.

At the moment, my son has shut off that play-with-Mom station (probably permanently) but he keeps another permanent appointment with the radio and music. At least this generation doesn't lack auditory stimulation.

Gripes du jour

1. The latest violent acts in Cleveland schools reported in the PD. My tolerance level for violence is waning--in part because of the extensive Holocaust studies I've been pursuing. Violent children are destroying school--and traumatizing many for life, including their own classmates and teachers. The "bystander syndrome" of children standing by while others fight sickens me, but they are worried about their own protection. This is a prescription for a society aobut to slip even more deeply into the abyss. Is there a way to reach the hearts of children and parents? Or has multigenerational poverty made this impossible. I've observed fighting at economically advantaged schools. So, maybe people just have to go at it....regardless of age....and we have to accept that it is too late.

2. My own college students in one particular class who refuse to buy the textbook in a reading/writing course. Such a small gripe compared with the above. But they sabotage their own learning and make it awfully hard for me to create a common context...

3. Being turned down for a summer venture I really wanted to be part of. I know others were ahead of me, but it still hurts. I put so many hours into the application packet. What was I thinking? That there would be a chance?

4. Hearing how many friends are out of work and/or underemployed or seriously in debt and barely staying afloat. I have no good news for them. Traditional job search strategies don't work. I believe we are in danger of losing the middle class, even the working class. Is anyone listening? Does anyone care?