The Colgate Scene
Around the college
Professor Tim McCay listens to a reading as part of the April Arbor Day celebration, which included a tree planting and free picnic from Roger's Market. The event was sponsored by outdoor education, the biology department, and buildings and grounds. [Photo by Taylor Shaw '09]
Despite their persistent questioning, creative writing students were unable to extract a detailed roadmap of the writing process from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. Jones. But it was no wonder that they tried. Jones, author of the story collection Lost in the City and the novel The Known World, is a master of the craft.
Jones's writing spans from slave-era Virginia to today's Washington, D.C. "His work is a blend of what America has been and is, but most important, the high level of craft demands that we readers elevate ourselves," said Henry R. "Hank" Lewis of the English department. "It is work that hits simply but is never simple."
At Lewis's invitation, Jones presented a masterclass and a public reading at Colgate in March. Jones has been Lewis's mentor and friend since the two met at the University of Virginia.
Students came armed with photocopies of two of Jones's short stories, and concrete questions that Jones found impossible to answer: Does he start with an idea or an image? How do his race and gender impact his writing? Does he have a responsibility to address social issues in his fiction?
"I don't think about any of that," he said. "You don't say, I'm going to push this button or that button. You're just in your little place and you're writing. All the writer says is, I just know this little bit of truth and I'm going to go with that."
Jones said he thinks only about the work. "I live my own life in this little bubble that has nothing to do with anyone else's life. So I ignore classifications and what people say about me. The job is to make the character real. Whatever he does, we have to be able to understand why he did it."
Then what were the students to learn from Jones? His advice: "The most important thing you can do is to read. That is how you learn what is good."
As students packed to go home in May, many left donations for the COVE's "Don't Throw it Out" salvage campaign. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]
As students broke down their rooms and packed up their necessities, there was an awful lot of stuff to decide what to do with. Clothing that no longer fit or seemed stylish. Books full of weighty ideas that couldn't be easily lifted. Cases of Easy Mac 'n Cheese.
The detritus of students' lives may not be glamorous, but a lot of it is useful.
That's where the COVE comes in. This year, Colgate's Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education formalized its year-end donation-and-collection process into a full-fledged salvage campaign -- called "Don't Throw it Out" -- to benefit several community organizations in Hamilton, Morrisville, Utica, and the surrounding area.
Members of the community helped collect what Colgate students discarded in bins outside of the residence halls, townhouses, Greek-letter houses, and apartments. COVE staff and volunteers including the Hamilton Boy Scouts delivered edible items to the food cupboards in Morrisville and Hamilton. Other recipients included the Community Action Program of Madison County, JCTOD of Cornhill Utica, Sculpture Space, Spring Farm CARES, Madison Lane Apartments, Thea Bowman House, Inc., Emmaus House, and The Mustard Seed. Members of the Hamilton Baptist Church helped collect items that they planned to resell in their August lawn sale.
According to Betsy Busche-Cross, assistant director of the COVE, a wide range of useful items were salvaged. "There were many shelving and storage units, and an unbelievable mix of clothing," Cross said. "There was also a remote control Hummer, a decorated white artificial Christmas tree, and at least one pair of skis."
New England Patriots linebacker and two-time Super Bowl champion Don Davis discussed the role of his Christian faith in his life both on and off the field.
In a talk to the Colgate community in April, Davis emphasized that his road to becoming a Super Bowl champion was not easy: he was cut three times after college and at one time contemplated suicide.
"The only way I got through this point in my life was by the grace of God," Davis said. He re-dedicated himself to football, and was signed by the New Orleans Saints in 1996.
He sent a message of encouragement to his audience, asking them to live lives of dedication, character, and morality. "Don't trade future blessings for temporary pleasures," Davis said. "One bad choice can ruin a lifetime of achievement; one moment of indiscretion can destroy your whole life."
Keeping constant with his themes, Davis charged no honorarium, asking only that his travel expenses be paid.
Davis also encouraged students to challenge themselves to reach the next level.
"A true champion is the same whether he wins or loses," he said. "Do you have the courage to be all that you want to be? Have the courage -- go out and get it." — Jeffrey Tufts '08
Professional auctioneer and TV personality Sam Solovey '98 emcees the Konosioni charity auction which raised record funds this year. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]
The Konosioni senior honor society has played an important role on campus for more than 70 years. This year, members worked hard to better promote the peer-selected group, and the incoming class is looking to build on that momentum.
Members said their efforts paid off through an auction held at the Palace Theater that drew a huge crowd from campus and the Hamilton area.
The group set a record in raising more than $10,000, according to Vice President Rizwan Chowdhry '06, who organized the March auction.
All the money is allocated to the Konosioni Community Fund. This fall, the new Konosioni members will disburse the funds to local charities that apply for assistance.
Previous beneficiaries have included mother-and-child homeless shelters, summer camps for blind children, and literacy encouragement programs for low-income families in the community.
"In developing this year's auction I had three things in mind: keeping costs down, benefiting Madison County ... and maximizing something I call FPM, fun per minute," said Chowdhry. "I feel that all three of these goals were met very well."
This year's Konosioni class, under the guidance of Mary Acoymo '06, sought to be a more visible organization on campus and tried to build student awareness. The group instituted a monthly campus life award, which goes to an organization that shows exceptional achievement in enhancing Colgate's social and academic life as well as volunteerism. Winners included the Breast Cancer Awareness Coalition, Colgate Jewish Union, Kappa Kappa Theta, Colgate Thirteen, and the Progressive Student Network.
Chowdhry has no doubt that the next group will have a positive impact on the community. "I'm really excited for the Class of '07. We paved the way and set great precedents that I'm sure they can meet and surpass," he said. — Katie Castino '08
Paleontologist Kevin Padian '72 talks about his role in the intelligent design trial often referred to as the "Dover case." [Photo by Aubrey Graham '06]
When he was a Colgate student studying evolution -- in a major of his own design -- little did Kevin Padian '72 know that more than three decades later he would become involved in a landmark court case that had the potential to impact science education in school districts nationwide.
In April, he came back to campus to talk about that courtroom experience. Last year, Padian, who is professor of biology and curator of paleontology in the Department of Integrative Biology at University of California at Berkeley, served as an expert witness in the trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (often referred to as the "Dover case") -- the first trial to test whether it is constitutional for public schools to present the theory of intelligent design in science classes.
In the Dover case, 11 parents of students enrolled in the Dover, Pa., school district sued over a statement that the school board required to be read aloud in ninth-grade science classes. The statement offered intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in explaining the origin of life. According to the Discovery Institute, intelligent design theory states that certain elements of the natural world are so complex that the most plausible explanation is that they are products of an "intelligent cause" rather than random mutation and natural selection.
In his finding for the plaintiffs, the judge ruled that intelligent design has its roots in the religious concept of creationism, and therefore teaching it in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution maintaining the separation of church and state (as well as the Pennsylvania Constitution).
Padian, whose research focuses on large-scale evolutionary changes such as how animals first began to fly, became involved in the case because he is also the president of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit organization that advises members of the public, press, and government on the creation/evolution issue.
As an expert witness, Padian said, he was tasked with teaching the judge in detail what scientists know about evolution, and showing why intelligent design is not science. By coincidence, Witold "Vic" Walczak '83, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, served on the plaintiffs' legal team for the case. Walczak was originally scheduled to take part in the campus visit, but had to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances.
While on campus, Padian visited with students in biology professor Damhnait McHugh's senior seminar on evolution and geology professor Connie Soja's Dinosaurs to Darwin course; participated in a faculty development teaching table; and spoke to a packed house at the weekly Science Colloquium. In the various meetings, Padian discussed his research, details of the trial, and how he feels the American education system has failed students in teaching them science.
Too often, Padian said in an interview with the Scene, children are taught "a chronicle of random facts," rather than teaching them how to be literate about the natural world. Scientists know a tremendous amount about things like how animals walked out on land and how birds started to fly, "but that never gets communicated in textbooks to children, and I think they need this stuff. They'd be so much less confused about things, and there wouldn't be such a disconnect between hearing about little changes in peppered moths and connecting that to something big, like how we got whales. There are central organizing theories in science, and we should be teaching people the questions they need to ask to understand and make sense of the world."
Science is not democratic, Padian said; it is based on standards of evidence and accepted methods of procedure, and because our society doesn't educate its people well on that point, it is no wonder that controversies such as that in the Dover case arise. He also pointed out that the evolution/creation educational debate will continue -- in different forms, in different places -- because the American education system is locally rather than nationally based, as in other countries.
Actor and activist B.D. Wong, right, listens as he is introduced. Wong drew a big crowd for his keynote address as part of Big Gay Weekend. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]
Wishes do come true -- at least for senior Will Birnie, an active member of Colgate's LGBTQ community, who last fall wished that Colgate would dedicate an entire weekend to promoting his group's mission.
Fast forward to Colgate's first Big Gay Weekend. The jam-packed schedule included discussion circles, lectures, multiple screenings of the award-winning Brokeback Mountain, and performances, all of which event organizers expected to draw up to 75 visitors from 12 nearby colleges.
Last November, Birnie had submitted his request to the ALANA Wishes program. Run through ALANA Cultural Center, the program sought to promote the goals of underrepresented groups by granting one wish per week.
Meanwhile, James DeVita, associate director of the Center for Leadership and Student Involvement, had been discussing with Richard LeBeau '06 the need for improved networking and social options for all of New York's LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning) college groups.
So when Birnie's wish was passed on to DeVita, the idea began to take shape, garnering support from Colgate's Advocates and Rainbow Alliance groups along the way.
"The goal of the weekend was to raise awareness about the LGBTQ community on campus, making it a safer, more positive, more fun, and more open environment," said LeBeau.
LeBeau said keynote speaker B.D. Wong's keynote address in Memorial Chapel was a "can't miss" kickoff to the weekend.
The out Asian-American actor, noted for his Tony-winning performance in Madame Butterfly and several TV and film roles including Father of the Bride, And The Band Played On, HBO's Oz, and his current starring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, spoke about multiple identities. As part of her introduction of B.D. Wong, President Rebecca S. Chopp announced the creation of a one-year LGBTQ program assistant position. The assistant will work to support LGBTQ issues on campus, including supporting students and student organizations, providing campus-wide educational programs, and furthering initiatives emerging from the LGBTQ Supporters Network.
The weekend also included two 75-minute workshop tracks where participants chose educational sessions ranging from LGBTQ networking to issues in politics to incorporating LGBTQ involvement on a resume, and a party at the Palace Theater.
"Charlotte embodies the right experience and character to help us take Colgate's residential education programs forward," President Rebecca S. Chopp said. "She is fair, accessible, forthright, and passionate about the most salient issues in higher education: ethical leadership, diversity, and global learning."
Johnson began her career practicing law. After earning a bachelor's degree in 1985 from the University of Detroit and a J.D. in 1988 from the University of Michigan, Johnson became the first African American female partner at the firm Garan Lucow Miller in Detroit.
In 1997 she joined the University of Michigan as director of academic services. While working at the University of Michigan Law School, she served on the core teams responsible for developing legal and communication strategies in defense of the university's admissions policies.
In other appointments, Bruce W. Selleck, Harold Orville Whitnall Professor of geology, will serve as director of the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute. He currently serves on the Middle States Steering Committee and the Patriot League Policy Committee, and chairs the Faculty Development Council.
Abby Rowe has been named director of outdoor education. The assistant director since 2003, Rowe replaces Josh and Molly Ames '91 Baker who have been co-directors of the outdoor education program for 12 years and recently left Colgate to run a family business.
Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda, chats with attendees at his talk, "Hotel Rwanda: A Lesson Yet to be Learned." [Photo by Aubrey Graham '06]
Paul Rusesabagina has an important story to tell.
In a heroic measure that was immortalized in the Academy Award-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, the former assistant manager of the Hotels des Milles Collines in Kigali, Rwanda, prevented the execution of more than 1,200 Tutsi refugees and sympathizers by housing them during the 1994 genocide.
Rusesabagina talked about the experience in a lecture titled "Hotel Rwanda: A Lesson Yet to be Learned" in Memorial Chapel. He presents his talks as a wake-up call to the international community in the hope that similar atrocities can be prevented, said Liz Whitehurst '08, a member of the Progressive Student Network, the grassroots coalition of campus organizations involved in politics and activism that brought Rusesabagina to campus.
"We in the PSN want people to understand what is happening by letting them hear firsthand the types of things going on in our world," said Whitehurst.
Rusesabagina's talk capped a series of activities coordinated by the PSN during March that focused on boosting awareness of genocide, and specifically the ethnic cleansing currently occurring in Darfur, Sudan.
The organization hosted a presentation of Hotel Rwanda, and showed In Rwanda We Say... and Valentina's Nightmare in conjunction with Rusesabagina's visit.
Several other events included a penny drive, poker tournament, date auction, benefit dinner, and letter-writing campaign, through which the group sent 150 communiqués about the Darfur conflict to members of Congress and the Bush administration.
The proceeds from the events, said PSN member Laura Simocko '08, were to be donated to the Genocide Intervention Network, a nonprofit organization based at Swarthmore College aimed at preventing and stopping genocide.
Donald Gregg, the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, spoke on campus in April on the initiative of the Korean Student Association. [Photo by Aubrey Graham '06]
In an effort to raise awareness of Korean issues at Colgate, Jason Park '08 and other Korean Student Association members invited Donald Gregg, the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, to campus in April.
Liz Bubriski '08, KSA publicity chair, said Gregg's appearance shed light on the human rights abuses and deteriorating economic conditions in North Korea. KSA members had dinner with Gregg before his free public lecture, giving students a chance to discuss Gregg's views on current U.S. policy and other issues.
In February, the club co-hosted with the China Club a banquet that drew more than 160 people to The Edge. The group talked with faculty advisor John Palmer, who teaches the Core Korea course, about future programming, including a Korean film festival being planned for next semester.
"We want to be a group that provides something valuable, whether it's culturally or politically, that will be accessible to everyone," said Park.
The opportunity to lead the club has given him something, as well.
"It's a constant education about what I thought I knew about my own heritage and what I know now. It's really been enlightening," he said.
Five people were recognized at commencement on the occasion of their retirements.
James Berg joined the faculty in 1967. His interests include Africa, India, and the United Kingdom. He has served as a research associate at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and has held a prestigious Foreign Area Fellowship jointly awarded by the Social Science Research Council and American Council of Learned Societies.
Robert A. Elgie came to Colgate in 1977. A specialist in urban geography and the geography of the world economy, he has moved into the study of environmental issues. Elgie played a major role in planning the geography department's spaces in the new Ho Science Center, and as chair of the department, he helped develop Colgate's geography department into one of the top undergraduate programs in the nation.
Ronald A. Hoham has been a member of the biology department since 1971. The leading international authority on algae that live in snow fields, he has studied them for more than 35 years. In 2005, he won the Sidney J. and Florence Felten French Prize for excellence in inspirational teaching, and this year received the Phi Eta Sigma Professor-of-the-Year award. He started Colgate's program in field biology at Flathead Lake Biological Station and co-founded and directed Colgate's Marine and Freshwater Science topical concentration.
Carol Kinne has taught at Colgate since 1981 and was a leader in bringing the Department of Art and Art History into the digital age. She supervised the installation of the digital lab in Little Hall and was instrumental in the department's transition to their new location. Her work in painting and digital arts has been shown in many galleries and at symposia in the United States and in Australia.
Donald G. Palmateer came to Colgate in March of 1968 as the instructor of physical education, supervisor of intramurals, and campus coordinator for the Cooperative Program to Realize Individual Potential. He soon took on the expanded role of chair of the Department of Recreational Sports. His leadership led to the development of Colgate's expansive recreational sports offerings.
Finalists in the Student Lecture Forum competition gather inside Merrill House. [Photo by Aubrey Graham '06]
Members of the Class of 1884 may have long ago departed Hamilton, but they were present in name and spirit at the Student Lecture Forum competition in April.
The contest, which was the centerpiece of the Student Lecture Forum's once-a-semester soiree, featured discussions of undergraduate research and ended with the presentation of nearly $8,000 in prizes. The prizes, split among 13 finalists, were funded from long-unused endowed scholarships for public and extemporaneous speaking established by Class of 1884 members and other former Colgaters.
The idea for the competition took shape last spring when Miranda Weigler, Colgate Speaking Union adviser, learned of the existence of the scholarships. She approached the Student Lecture Forum about holding some kind of event to distribute the funds. "We all thought this would be a great way to help foster intellectual community on campus," she said.
About 55 undergraduates submitted abstracts and personal statements about work they completed this academic year. The organization's selection committee then asked 26 entrants to send in their full research papers, compositions, essays, or creative projects. All the applicants were invited to attend the gathering, but no other details were provided.
That night, 13 students were asked -- without any warning -- to talk about their submissions for 90 seconds in front of a crowd of about 70 fellow undergraduates, faculty, staff, family, and friends. All of the students were judged on content, presentation, interest in their papers, and the short speeches they made, according to Weigler. She added that the 13 finalists' work will be compiled and published in a leather-bound book that will reside in Case Library.
First place went to Mehul Malik '06, who presented his work on quantum physics and post-modernist art. Malik said he thought the competition was a great way to get people on campus interested in research without making them sit through long presentations. "It also felt pretty good that my ideas were being understood -- and liked -- by a broad group of people," he said.
Once she recovered from the shock of being thrust suddenly into the spotlight, Elisa Benson '06, who compared college students' perceptions about sex with the media's "sex goddess persona," said she enjoyed the gathering as well.
"It was such a rush to get up there and talk about something that has become so interesting both academically and personally," she said. "I think that was the whole point, to showcase that kind of `intellectual curiosity' that [we keep] talking about on campus. I hope Colgate continues to support such initiatives, and that students have even more opportunity to talk about their work publicly in the future."
Fewer universities are requiring students to pass a swim test to graduate. In a story by the Associated Press that ran in multiple newspapers nationwide, Colgate is mentioned among universities such as Ferrum College in Virginia, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Notre Dame, MIT, Cornell, Columbia, Hamilton, Dartmouth, Swarthmore, and Washington & Lee, plus the service academies, as schools that no longer require a swim test. Colgate decided to eliminate its swim test last year.
Biology professor Ken Belanger, who was chair of the committee on athletics for the university, said in the article: "I think the fact that there were students who were not graduating because of this requirement led people to question its validity." Belanger explained to the AP that "students were called back from senior week travels to take the test; others took it so late senior year they didn't make it into the graduation program. Occasionally, they didn't graduate at all."
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