Going Green

If one thing bothers the president of U of All People, it’s being caught behind the curve, whether it’s in technology, sports, or even pedagogy (though curiously not in teachers’ salaries). Given UAP’s humble start as a community ag school, this attitude is perfectly understandable, especially since the citizens from the neighboring towns of Glutch and Glim still refer to U of All People as Ditchwater High, from when the old high school was on this site.

It gives President Bachtrach great pleasure, therefore, to proclaim that, starting in fall 2011, the campus will embrace a host of enviro-friendly measures that will put surrounding schools to shame. “The only way that U Hoo will be able to compete with us,” Bachtrach recently announced, “is by turning green with envy” -- a line reprinted in the student newspaper, Vox Omni Populi, picked up by AP, and recently aired in a YouTube video devoted to Funny Things College Presidents Say. Of course, so far, all we have are a bunch of proposals, along with a measly nonrenewable grant from the Glutch Chamber of Commerce, but that hasn’t stopped us from brainstorming and wish-listing. Below are some directives from the Green Initiative Team, U of All People, or GIT, UAP:

No toilet paper in the public restrooms. Time to embrace the Third World not just with our hearts, but with our hands.

Recycle and reuse (almost) everything: white paper and plastic bottles -- yes. Answers from your roommate’s calculus test -- no. Recycling competitions and quotas: the Bachtrach Order of Merit to whoever can reuse 400 paperclips a week!

Heat recovery from hot air generated in lectures. If this doesn’t work, check with medical experts to make sure students can still concentrate and text with frozen fingers, then set thermostats to 32 degrees in winter.

Solar panels on all surfaces aimed at the sun, including the shining bald pates of certain faculty members. This will put U Hoo to shame, since they have only one dinky sun-powered traffic sign, powered by the aluminum foil wrappings left over from lunch.

Wind power stations at all available junctures, mainly in the breezeways between halls.

Automatic regulators that shut off heat and light in all rooms without movement for five minutes. Note: this may present a problem for professors who rarely stir during lectures and induce a similar immobility in the students.

Rip out the AC in the dorms and replace with ice cubes and folding fans.

Take all the stair machines, exercise bikes, treadmills, and rowing machines from the recreation center and put one in each classroom, designating a student in each to generate power for the lights.

Bike- or walk-to-school incentives, including the elimination of all parking lots. Get rid of all shuttle buses and replace them with pedicabs run by students who no longer have Exercycles to use at the recreation center.

Find a use for all the ditchwater that accumulates along the sides of Entrance Avenue after even minor rainstorms. We don’t still want to be known as Ditchwater High, do we?

David Galef
Author's email:

David Galef is a professor of English and the creative writing program director at Montclair State University. He also writes dispatches from U of All People for Inside Higher Ed.

My Chancellor's Crazy. And I Love It.

When I first heard about it, I said to myself, “How do I kill this idea?”

My chancellor wanted to participate in a reality show. What a nightmare!

It was during my first months on campus. A new job, at a University of California campus on the rise. Great plans to help this campus break into the national consciousness. So very many heavy, strategic communications activities to organize.

And now a reality show. What a nightmare!

My internal dialogues simmered: “Boy, they really need me here. Who in his right mind would want to engage with this side of network programming? We have no editorial control! What if they catch something bad on film and there’s hell to pay?”

How could I, a communications professional with years of university experience, embrace such a thing? I had little choice. The conversations had been going on for more than a year. Welcome to campus, James. We’re doing “Undercover Boss.”

Getting a real dose of reality reminded me, with extreme clarity, that: (1) I don’t know everything; (2) authenticity counts; and (3) I don’t know everything.

Get Us in The New York Times

What does it take to get someone’s attention these days? How do we break through the clutter we created, along with thousands of other distinguished research universities and fine liberal arts schools and wonderful community colleges?

Given the lives we transform, the discoveries we create, the communities we help, we all deserve to be on the front page of The New York Times. It’s a fact I have been reminded of frequently, across 25 years’ worth of media relations and communications management at NYU, UCLA, Thunderbird, USC, UC Merced, and a few places in between.

We hear it from students, professors, board members, parents of students: “Why can’t you get The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal to write about us? If we just told our story better, we’d get more publicity!”

(Did you ever find yourself at a loss for words? Not because you can’t think of anything to say -- rather, because there is too much to say? You want to take the NYT, WSJ, LAT or WaPo, roll it up, shake it wildly, and say: “Well why don’t you just pick which of these stories should be bumped off the front page for a smarmy feature on our campus? The major political story? The major economic story? The compelling bus strike? The investigative piece on misuse of public funds?”)

But of course, we don’t do so. We don’t yell. Not externally, at least. We put on that serious “trust-me-I’m-a-communications-professional” look and stammer a few things about our recent pitches (and successes, if any) to The Gray Lady. Our comprehensive strategy for national and global communications domination. Our extensive experience talking with journalists and meeting their needs and those of their readers. That’s how I felt in this situation and what I’d have liked to have said out loud.

Lessons learned: (1) I don’t know everything; (2) authenticity counts; and, (3) I don’t know everything.

In the build-up to the filming, only a few of us on campus were allowed to know about the project. We drove others crazy asking for help for a special initiative we couldn’t discuss. We signed legal nondisclosure forms that included the prospect of personal liability of six figures if we broke the code. That’s six figures per incident! I didn't even tell my wife. (About the show. If she knew about the show that’d be O.K., probably, but I didn’t know how to tell her I just signed the rest of our financial lives away if we slipped up. So I didn’t tell her anything.)

Behind the scenes, the chancellor’s top associates, sworn to secrecy, then begin asking managers across campus to do things we’d usually never do. (“Can you please find us staff and faculty members with compelling stories who wouldn’t mind signing their own nondisclosure forms, and then will work and be filmed for a few hours with a strange man named ‘Pete?’ Um, and trust us, this is all above-board?!”)

Our Protagonist

Enter our protagonist, “Pete.” Chancellor Timothy P. White. Dude is so sure this reality show segment will be great for our campus that he agreed to shave his own head to make sure he’d look different while filming took place for “Undercover Boss.” One of the reasons I came to UCR -- along with several other newbies here -- is Tim White.

White had his own personal journey: immigrant to California from Argentina as a kid. Community college at Diablo Valley in the Bay Area, then a bachelor’s from Fresno State University and a master's from Cal State Hayward (now Cal State East Bay), then finally a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley.

Despite his serious chops as an academic, Chancellor White is an authentic person first, an academic leader second. He makes others comfortable, he’s funny, he’s direct. Those of you who watched the show on CBS last Sunday saw what I mean. Chancellor is the real deal -- on a reality show! I’m not quite sure how one charismatic, grounded person can hold such sway over the camera, over a crowd. But one thing that comes through is that he’s able to laugh at himself, take a ribbing, and stay on message.

And I’m also finding out that he’s a pretty good teacher.

What I learned: (1) I don’t know everything; (2) authenticity counts; and, (3) I don’t know everything.

James E. Grant Jr.
Author's email:

James E. Grant Jr. is assistant vice chancellor for strategic communications at the University of California at Riverside.

A President With a Lot of Friends

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Iowa's David Skorton uses "The Facebook" to stay in touch with students.

Son of Sokal: Conference Accepts Bogus Paper

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MIT grad students use computer program to generate substance-free paper -- with plenty of jargon and graphs -- and a conference accepts it.

Reality TV 101

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New television show features competition among bright low-income students -- and admissions officers as judges -- for a full scholarship.

Community Colleges to Jay Leno: Shut Up

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A president challenges the late-night comedian to a motorcycle ride -- and a talk about education.

Skip vs. Larry vs. Camille vs. Freeman ...

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2 magazines sponsor election for the title of top public intellectual.

Look Out Orange County

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Boston College spoof shows that "The O.C." isn't the only entertainment that can hook viewers on popper collars and preppy problems

A Shirt Isn't a Prerequisite

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Some things learned in school will inform major life choices that students make during college. Take shirtlessness, for example.

Jacob Authier, a junior at Chapman University, in Southern California, was home-schooled, so he never had to wear a shirt to class. "I have plenty of shirts I like," the film major said. "I just don’t like to wear them all the time.”

Hoping for a Year Without Dawgs or Hunkering Down

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Lake Superior State U. once again tries to banish overused and abused words.


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