The Colgate Scene
November 2006

Around the college

Professors Barry Shain (left) and Tim Byrnes debated on Constitution Day. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]


Welcome back week

A diversity of views were on display as two political science professors focused on the First Amendment and the ever-evolving issue of separation of church and state as part of the university's celebration of Constitution Day in September.

Barry Shain advocated a more accommodating position regarding church-state relations while Tim Byrnes argued for a strict separation during their discussion at an event sponsored by the university's Center for Freedom and Western Civilization.

Shain, who specializes in American political thought of the Founding periods, told students and community members about misperceptions concerning the role that religious freedom had in the development of the United States.

It begins, he said, with the notion that the Pilgrims came to America in search of religious freedom. Not so, said Shain. The Pilgrims decided to leave Holland, which was tolerant of all religions, and immigrate to the New World in 1620 to avoid "being polluted by other religious views."

Shain also discussed what "religious toleration" meant in America from the 1600s to the 1800s, and how a proposed constitutional amendment that would have prohibited public money from going to sectarian institutions was defeated in 1875.

While the so-called Blaine amendment failed, many state governments would adopt their own versions of it, and litigation and legislation revolving around what the framers of the Constitution intended with the First Amendment would soon become more and more common.

Byrnes, whose academic specialty is religion and politics, said that even today church-state issues creep into many aspects of Americans' lives, including debate over the teaching of creationism in schools, stem cell research, and same-sex marriage.

He said that the pivotal 1947 Supreme Court decision declaring separation of church and state was a "really good thing." And since then the court has tried to adjudicate cases in a way that is separationist rather than accommodationist.

An examination of those conflicting viewpoints was one of the main goals of the discussion, said Robert Kraynak, director of the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization. "I hope our students came away with a better understanding of those two ideas," he said.

Indie/folk musician Andrew Bryant performs in September at a Colgate Activities Board-sponsored event at the Townhouse Apartments. [Photo by Luke Connolly] The women's studies center hosted a brown bag lunch in September to discuss "The Importance and Impacts of Multi-Cultural Sororities at Predominately White Institutions." Participants included the Radiant Sisters of Omega Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

When Colgate geology professor Bruce Selleck '71 sat down at dinner with his students on an Adirondack research trip, it's a safe bet that the conversation revolved around laboratory exercises and classroom pedagogy rather than ghost stories and canoe safety.

That's because the 12 students were science teachers themselves.

Selleck took the high school and college educators to the headwaters of the Hudson River near Newcomb, N.Y., as part of the River Summer 2006 program.

Participants spent several weeks learning about the Hudson from a rotating roster of environmental studies experts and also created and prepared new curriculum units for their courses based on what they discovered.

"The goal is to teach the teachers about the river, and to help them become more engaged and at ease with the materials," said Selleck. "When that happens, these educators — and, subsequently, their students and the broader community — will have a better understanding of field science and of the Hudson in general."

The initiative was sponsored by the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities (ECHVCU), which includes Colgate and 43 other institutions throughout the Hudson watershed and collaborates on teaching, research, and educational projects.

Selleck's own work on Adirondack geology formed the foundation of his six-day module, which covered everything from water quality, geology, forest composition, and impact of humans on the area to the use of artistic representation in 19th-century tourism advertising and the area's modern tourist economy.

One of his former students, Stephanie Pfirman '78, a professor and chair of the department of environmental science at Barnard College, approached Selleck and Colgate colleague Rich April several years ago about an idea for collaborative research on the Hudson. Pfirman led the charge on forming the ECHVCU and then, in 2005, pilot testing the River Summer initiative, which is funded by the Teagle Foundation. This year, support also came from the Mellon Foundation and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Barge Canal Coffee Company [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

When the Barge Canal Coffee Company opened 10 years ago, it sold coffees, teas, and bagels. Today, offering lattes, cappuccinos, and other specialty drinks and a greater variety of eats, it has become more than just a student hangout.

The Colgate-owned coffeehouse serves as a performance venue in the village of Hamilton, a study space for caffeine-deprived students, and a place where they, and members of the local community, can socialize. The shop celebrated this success and its 10th anniversary with a day of activities on September 30, and was even the subject of a feature in the Post-Standard (Syracuse).

"I go there all the time," said Wallis Dolan '07. "I eat, I get coffee, I study. It gets pretty busy around midterms and finals."

Perhaps that's because the managers have a particularly warm philosophy on operating the business. "Everyone who comes in here is our family, we've always said that," said co-manager Susan Pasachnik. "This was always supposed to feel like . . . a community living room."

"It's such a busy, lively place all the time. I think it's been very successful," said Associate Provost Trish St. Leger. "Students have really latched on . . . I think if you ask any Colgate juniors or seniors, they can't imagine life here without it."

Have you ever browsed an art exhibition and wondered what the artist was trying to convey?

Now imagine that while you were studying the various artworks, a little voice inside your head described each piece's origins, the material in which it was constructed, and an art scholar's interpretation of the work.

If you are at the Picker Art Gallery, that little voice doesn't mean you are going crazy, but rather that the little white earbuds in your ears are connected to an iPod containing audio recordings describing every piece in the exhibition.

This merging of art and technology has provided a fuller experience for gallery guests since May, when the first audio tours, with the help of Information Technology Services, were introduced with the exhibition Plaster Doors of Pisa: Solving a Medieval Puzzle. Curated by Professor Judith Oliver and five of her seminar students from the Class of 2007 (Matthew Anaya, Alexandra Kislevitz, Jessica Minck, Leslie Petsoff, and Glenna Wiley), the exhibition featured 14 panels cast in plaster from the monumental 12th-century bronze doors of the Cathedral of Pisa, Italy.

Oliver said her students worked on groups of panels and wrote essays that were assembled into a booklet. Then Elizabeth Barker, director of the Picker, also thought it would be an asset to have an audio tour. With the audio commentary, visitors could listen to the recorded voices of the students instead of having to read — that way, they would be looking at the art while learning more about it.

Barker added that most museum visitors spend fewer than 30 seconds in front of a piece of art, looking at it and reading the label. "With audio tours, we can shift the percentages of reading and looking times from half-and-half to 100 percent looking and listening. Visitors come to the gallery to look at art, after all, not read the labels. Providing audio commentary is a terrific solution," she said. Barker hopes the audio tour is the first of many.

Colgate obscura: In October, hundreds of Colgate students, Hamilton residents, and area schoolchildren entered the realm of Bus Obscura, a collaborative project launched under the direction of visiting New York City artist Simon Lee. Lee worked with art professor DeWitt Godfrey and nearly a dozen students to transform a school bus into a multiple aperture camera obscura. In a fusion of physics, art, and sound, hundreds of small, upside-down animated projections melded into each other along panels mounted over the windows. As the bus stopped and started along its 10-minute circuit, riders experienced a perception-shattering view of campus and village sites while hearing a unique soundtrack recorded at Colgate.

The project was organized through the Institute for the Creative and Performing Arts and its ArtsMix program and the art and art history department, with support from the Picker Art Gallery, Upstate Institute, Bernie Bus Services Inc., and the Partnership for Community Development.

Twelve sophomores and juniors are learning how philanthropists find and fund worthy causes — and then getting the chance to become benefactors themselves.

The group, the Student Philanthropy Council (SPC), will disburse $10,000 to nonprofit agencies in central New York through a new two-semester seminar offered by the Upstate Institute in partnership with the sophomore-year experience and the university's Annual Fund.

The non-credit class, aptly titled Philanthropy Seminar, will give a general overview of how organizations in the field work, and examine how nonprofits are managed, how they respond to the needs of the communities they serve, and how they are created.

The course will also teach participants about grant writing, public speaking, and making decisions as a team, said Upstate Institute Director Ellen Kraly.

"We want to show students the importance and impact of philanthropy in society," Kraly noted, adding that Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski '03, associate director of the Annual Fund, has lined up numerous experts in the nonprofit area to lead workshops. "We also want to provide them the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world setting and, of course, connect them with the community."

The SPC will design, solicit, and review grant applications from community groups, and then settle on the criteria used to select recipients. At the end of the class, the students will decide how and to whom the funding will be distributed.

The Brennan Family Foundation, a charitable organization based in Ohio, made a $50,000 commitment to the Upstate Institute to support the program through 2011, thanks to the efforts of Jay Brennan '81. The institute will offer the course each year until then. At that point, Kraly hopes there will be more funding available to continue the seminar.

"It's exciting to think of how many people — students, members of the community, and otherwise — will benefit," Kraly said.

Dominic Duval of the avant-garde jazz ensemble Trio X digs into the strings during a performance at the Picker Art Gallery in October. The trio (including Joe McPhee, saxophone, and Jay Rosen, drums) has been called "the best improvising trio in music today." The event was made possible by WRCU, the humanities division, the Africana and Latin American studies program, and Catholic chaplain Mark Shiner, and was organized by WRCU with help from Michael Coyle, professor of English. [Photo by Luke Connolly]

The visual arts are alive and well in central New York, and Colgate contributed much to several regional events and exhibitions this fall.

The Longyear Museum exhibition African Shapes of the Sacred: Yorùbá Religious Art was one of three concurrent regional shows that featured pieces from its African art collection. Much art of the Yorùbá people of West Africa figures in the veneration of divinities and ancestors, as well as the control of supernatural powers associated with nature, medicine, and witchcraft. Curated by Carol Ann Lorenz, senior curator, the exhibition included traditional Yoruba shrine furniture and vessels, divination objects, memorial twin figures, masks, and other sculptures that figure in the practice of the Yorùbá religion. The other regional shows include Reveal Conceal: The Transforming Power of Masks (with 13 examples from the Longyear) at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown; and African Personal Art and Adornment (curated by Lorenz), at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica (both are on view through December).

In the Clifford Art Gallery, Transition, an exhibition of work by artist Arturo Lindsay, featured a collection of spiritually and emotionally charged paintings, collages, drawings, and installations that highlights the evolution of the artist's work over the last two decades — and reveals his appreciation of his own African ancestry. Lindsay, who also gave a lecture about the exhibition, is the 2006 Batza Family Professor of art and art history at Colgate. An art professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, he also maintains a studio in Portobelo in his native Panamá. Transition was also curated by Lorenz.

The presentation of public art, where artistic expression intersects with public audiences, often raises challenges, and sometimes controversy, over issues of siting, funding, community involvement, and maintenance, along with issues of aesthetics and content. In early September, Colgate joined with Hamilton College to convene artists, art professionals, and educators for Public Art on Campus, a two-day exploration of the role and responsibilities of public art in the physical, social, and teaching space of the college campus. The events included a keynote address by sculptor, filmmaker, and environmental artist Mary Miss, as well as a variety of performances, public sculpture viewing, and panel discussions on both campuses. The symposium was part of the 30th anniversary of Sculpture Space, an international artists' residency program in Utica.

In a move recommended by its faculty, Colgate's Department of Philosophy and Religion was reorganized into two separate departments this summer. Maudemarie Clark, George Carleton Jr. Professor of philosophy, chairs the Department of Philosophy, and Steven Kepnes, Murray and Mildred Finard Professor in Jewish studies, chairs the Department of Religion.

"Students may notice very little difference," said Clark. "The curriculums in philosophy and religion will remain the same, and the concentration in philosophy and religion will remain under the auspices of the two departments."

Notwithstanding their shared historical roots, philosophy and religion are now two clearly distinct disciplines.

"The individual fields as academic disciplines have grown apart," Kepnes said. "Religion is no longer dominated by philosophical issues or philosophy by religious ones."

As philosophy has become more concerned with naturalistic conceptions of the world, religion has branched out into the study of religions as a social phenomenon. These respective shifts brought religious studies closer to the social sciences, and moved philosophy closer to the physical sciences. "Religious studies has also moved away from its historical emphasis on systematic theology of Christian and Jewish thought to incorporate the study of other religions, including Buddhism, Islam, and Native American religion," said Kepnes. According to Clark, "philosophy retains its traditional emphasis on the history of philosophy and on normative questions concerning what we should believe and how we should live, but has expanded its concerns to such areas as international ethics, environmental ethics, and women's studies."

The reorganization puts Colgate more in line with its peer institutions. The intellectual divergence of the two disciplines has resulted in a widespread institutional separation. Graduate education in the two fields has little overlap, and all but three of the top 50 liberal arts colleges in the United States now have separate philosophy and religion departments.

The reorganization will also free members of the two departments from the time commitment necessary for administering a large department containing two distinct disciplines. It will allow faculty to devote more time to working in their own disciplines, and also to planning more activities for their students and to developing a sense of group identity among concentrators.

Popular speaker and facilitator Mari Ann Callais (far right) came to campus to present "How Does Hazing Happen in My Chapter?" Her interactive program of music and storytelling offers methods for taking the focus away from hazing and placing it on positive events that make Greek life meaningful. Callais's visit, sponsored by Sigma Chi, kicked off fall fraternity and sorority new member education. [Photo by Luke Connolly]

Colgate garnered widespread public acclaim through this year's higher education guidebooks and other rankings.

Kaplan and Newsweek listed the university as one of the 25 "New Ivies" — schools with exceptional educational programs and campus offerings that have seen a rise in stature to rival the Ivy League and other academic powerhouses in competing for top students. According to Kaplan, the New Ivies list was created this year to recognize the growing reputation and heightened selectiveness that Colgate and other schools have achieved. Schools were selected based on admissions statistics as well as interviews with administrators, students, faculty, and alumni.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Colgate 16th among the nation's top 20 liberal arts institutions for 2007. Time featured Colgate in a lengthy article titled "Who Needs Harvard?" about the college admissions process, and quoted a California guidance counselor as saying: "Students see that schools like Vassar, Lehigh, Colgate, and Dickinson really care about the quality of undergraduate life."

The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students, a new book released in August, listed Colgate, along with other upstate New York colleges Cornell University, Syracuse University, and Ithaca College, as one of the 100 Best Campuses for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

Golf Digest ranked the Colgate golf team number 33 in the "academics first" category as part of its College Golf Guide, and 13 among Division I schools. The magazine ranked the NCAA's best colleges for golf, providing a blueprint for high school students. Five criteria form the basis of the rankings: a college golf team's adjusted scoring average, player growth while on the team, academics, climate, and coaches/facilities.

Colgate was ranked number two on the Men's Fitness fittest college campuses list. The magazine surveyed nearly 12,500 students at 115 colleges and universities throughout the nation.

The Case Foundation and Liz Hollander, who oversees Campus Compact, a national coalition of nearly 1,000 college and university presidents, listed Colgate as one of 16 "institutions to watch" for civic engagement. "Students at Colgate are challenged to `live democracy,' not just in their civic engagement work in the community, but in their dorms, where they are charged with building a civil society that honors difference and works together," wrote Hollander.

The Princeton Review named Colgate number 13 on its "Most Beautiful Campus" list, and gave the university high marks in Quality of Life (83), Academics (95), Admissions (97), and Financial Aid (98). Scoring is out of 100.

Geoffrey Hartman, Sterling Professor of English and comparative literature emeritus and senior research scholar at Yale, answers questions about his presentation, "Holocaust Testimony in a Genocidal Era." The event was sponsored by the English Department Reading and Lecture Series. Hartman delivered a second lecture, "Cultural Memory and the Passion Narrative," the following day. [Photo by Luke Connolly]

When Jay Shaw '76 and his wife, Debi, pondered recently how they wanted to allocate a $1 million gift to Shaw's alma mater, they considered briefly his former fraternity and the rugby club.

Then they thought of one of their children.

Their oldest son had struggled during his teens with substance abuse, low self-esteem, and depression, Shaw explained, and could have greatly benefited from more support during that time from his high school and the community in general.

"Kids today feel such pressure to succeed academically and in their extracurricular activities — it's easy to see how they can become depressed, turn to drugs, or develop an eating disorder," said Shaw, who is managing director of New York-based Resource Holdings Ltd. "There is no question that at the college level — as well as at the high school level — a significant portion of the population suffers from some kind of emotional problem at that point in their lives. I think, though, that a lot of it can be avoided if they have the resources to get through it."

So the Shaws earmarked their gift for a program they think will provide some of those resources: Colgate's Wellness Initiative, which, in a nutshell, will help undergraduates establish healthy behavior patterns that extend beyond their time at college.

The brainchild two years ago of former Dean of the College Adam Weinberg, the objective of the program is to promote not just the physical and psychological components of "wellness," but also the intellectual, social, spiritual, and vocational aspects.

The intent is to cultivate the positive behaviors of the majority of participants, identify "at-risk" students who have existing problems or potential for developing them, and target those who need assistance early in their college careers.

"The goal here is to help students establish healthy life habits and to prevent or curtail bad ones," explained Mark Thompson, director of counseling and psychological services, who serves as program co-chair with Merrill Miller, director of student health services.

First and foremost, the funding will enable Wellness Initiative coordinators to implement much-needed new undergraduate assessment tools and continue using existing ones, such as, a healthy behavior study, and a campus body image survey. It will also allow organizers to schedule broader programming, facilitate more peer education and training sessions, and provide seed money for new projects. Other creative initiatives will become possible with ongoing support, they said.

"Colgate has always focused on cultivating the whole person — both inside and outside the classroom — and the Wellness Initiative fits in very well with that idea," said Miller. "[The Shaws'] gift will help us take that approach to another level."

As for Shaw, he's just happy that he and his wife will be able to help provide students access to a support system that will "get them on the right track to lead happy and productive lives." His son, he explained, turned his life around, graduated from a top college, and became a successful entrepreneur — but not until he found the right resources and focused on himself as a whole.

"The mental health of kids today — that's something I feel passionate about," said Shaw. "There's nothing else I'd rather spend my money on."

"Thoreau At Nauset," a poem by Peter Balakian, Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor in the humanities and professor of English, was selected by Robert Pinksy for the Poet's Choice in the Washington Post on August 13.

Also in August, "an arts foundation called Creative Capital held a six-day `boot camp' upstate at Colgate University for 86 of its grantees to help them figure out how to better run their art careers," reported New York Magazine. One attendee, performance artist Sheryl Oring, has received much media attention for her project, which involved dressing as a '60s secretary, sitting in public, and typing, on a teal manual typewriter, 60th birthday messages from passersby to President Bush.

Columbus Dispatch columnist Joe Blundo released the results of his recent pet name contest — which inspired 500 entries, including honorable mention Flossie, "a dog from the dental-themed family of Susan and Sam Smiley of Dublin. Mr. Smiley is a dentist, and the Smileys' daughter, Lauren, is a student at (where else?) Colgate University." (She's a sophomore.)

Democracy Matters founder and NBA player Adonal Foyle talks with a member of the crowd after speaking in Olin Hall during Democracy Week. [Photo by Luke Connolly]

Appearing as the keynote speaker for Democracy Week, Adonal Foyle '98, current center for the Golden State Warriors and founder of Democracy Matters, urged students to assume an active role in the political field.

"The social movement that we need today is disarmingly simple, but it is basic to giving us back our voice in politics," said Foyle. "We need to make sure that politicians are no longer so dependent on a small group of elite campaign contributors and special interests. We need publicly funded elections."

Foyle, a longtime advocate for the involvement of younger generations in the political scene, believes that the only way to bring in these age groups is by leveling the playing field via "clean" elections.

Foyle claims that his interest in politics was invigorated at Colgate years ago in Professor Coleman Brown's philosophy and religion class.

"We were discussing the issue of apathy in young people and we had an amazing fight. I completely forgot that I had practice for a championship basketball game that day. Coach wasn't too happy, but that to me was certainly one of the defining moments where I felt that I was defending our generation . . . that we weren't apathetic, that we had a lot of things to say, we were doing a lot of things, and there had to be something else."

Foyle later identified that "something else" that prevents young people from taking political action not as apathy, but as "a sense of hopelessness, where the politicians won't speak to them."

This sense of hopelessness is exactly why he founded Democracy Matters — to give students a chance to "claim their voice." The nonprofit, non-partisan organization has campus-based chapters throughout the country, focusing on the issue of private money in politics and other pro-democracy reforms and encouraging "the emergence of a new generation of reform-minded leaders." — Brittany Messenger '10

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