Knoxstalgia

I have a good memory. In high school, we had vocabulary tests every Friday in English, so I would pace around the room for about five minutes before class, memorize the definitions, and ace the test. I still rely on my short-term memory more often than I work to internalize information. For about two weeks after I read a chapter, I can remember whether I saw a certain factoid on a left or right-facing page and if it was at the top or bottom of the page, so I sometimes use this rather than marking passages in a text. My memory is highly place-based; perhaps this is because I believe strongly in the power of place in evoking emotions, triggering images of events that occurred years ago, and instigating entire states of being. (We could go into my obsession with geopolitics, but I’ll spare you. You’re welcome.)

Earlier, while I was addressing graduation envelopes, I noticed the ease with which I wrote my return address on each envelope. Box XXX, 2 E. South St., Galesburg, IL, 61401. My mind wasn’t processing the characters; it was processing the slight movements of the muscles in my thumb and my pointer finger. Writing my address was like swimming in a still lake: smooth, effortless. One fluid motion from beginning to end. And it struck me that, while I’ll forget where certain subjects were mentioned in my books and the definitions of words I learned six years ago, I will never, ever forget that motion.

My admissions essay for Knox was a series of moments in places. I began in the library with the dust motes on the long, wooden tables in the Red Room, then moved outside to the south lawn of Old Main, framed in giant trees and cyclists meandering to class. These were places that, though I had only visited them once at that point, had still stuck with me. I was sick for much of that first visit and became very well-acquainted with the bathroom in the basement of CFA, yet these places had still managed to resonate. That, to me, was telling.

It still is. I like to wake up early; the light is different then, and I like to read on the Gizmo Patio and feel like there is no one else on campus. I like to be in the middle of the club fair at Admitted Students Day, throwing flimsy purple frisbees while doubled over laughing with friends who now work in the admissions office. I like to sit in the Alumni Reading Room in the library when it rains and watch the drops splatter on the windows. I like to walk to Seminary Street in the winter, the cold biting, to watch the Christmas lights twinkle.

I like the Beanhive. I like the poli sci suite and that I can say hello to each professor who walks by. I like the dance floor at Cherry Street during homecoming. I like twirling around the attic of the Ingersoll House. I like this place. I do, I do.

And I’ll remember it when I’m gone. Not the big picture, because that will change: word has it that we’re only $200,000 away from having enough money to complete the Alumni Hall renovation, and we’ll see if the college actually purchases St.  Mary’s. But the details will stay the same. The light will fall. The snow will fall. Smiles, handshakes, waves, the collective groaning in the Honors tower–all of that will stay.

Different people will move through this place, but they’ll still be moving forward.

Flunk Day Predictions, Round 4

Greetings, fellow Flunkers. Let’s quickly synthesize what we’ve learned this week:

  • Telling prospies that Flunk Day is tomorrow, even when tomorrow is Sunday, totally works.
  • There is serious speculation over whether Helmut would ever allow Meatless Monday to actually happen, raising questions over whether or not tomorrow, April 22, is Flunk Day. However, the Phi Beta Kappa lecture is tomorrow, which is a big deal and features the first in a string of speakers coming all the way from California. My highly scientific probability prediction: no.
  • Ah, the traditional cafeteria worker clues. Every year, the cafeteria workers tell us things. Every year, those things are different things. But history might lend some truth to this particular thing: according to Random Wiki Fire User #23854, the caf workers got the Flunk Day menu during the second week of April, and Flunk Day usually occurs one or two weeks after that happens. A last-week-of-April Flunk Day is relatively normal, so this may actually be a thing. As in a real thing. Also: thing.
  • Latest official prediction: JPow, May 9. Granted, JPow also predicted that Flunk Day would be May 9 last year. Clearly, if he picks the same date over and over again, he will eventually be right. Nice try, JPow, but I see what you’re up to.

In other news, David Gentry was recently spotted breaking out his trombone. Maybe he knows something we don’t…

(Final note: no events have magically disappeared from the events calendar this past week, so no clues here. Keep moving, everyone.)

Flunk Day Predictions, Round 3

Ladies and gentlemen of the Flunk, I bring you…statistics! Through careful cultivation of sources, I have learned that there is a 65 percent chance that Flunk Day will occur before May 7. As any time after then would be late based on historical trends, this makes logical sense. Prediction deemed reliable.

(However, as has been noted before, the planners are really toying with us with regards to a late or early Flunk this year. The friar email got sent out early, freshmen suite meetings happened early, and the theme was announced early. At the same time, both the length of the term and the weather would seem to indicate a later date. The writer can reach no concrete conclusions at this time.)

If you’ve been on the Wiki Fire much today, you’ve likely seen the flurry of posts that would seem to indicate that Flunk Day is tomorrow. This is true, of course, because Flunk Day is always tomorrow. Still, the likelihood that tomorrow, April 15, is THE tomorrow is not high. Cindy forgetting to let you know to return the Wal-Mart card? Cindy has forgotten a lot this year because she is doing the work of two people. (Thanks, Jil Gates.) A surplus of cookies? Pics or it didn’t happen.

So, we have basically learned this week that a) an early Flunk makes sense and is backed by empirical evidence, although said evidence is not overwhelmingly strong; b) Flunk Day is always tomorrow; c) but tomorrow is not that tomorrow.

And now, to turn to our old friend, the events calendar (I’m nixing this upcoming week entirely, because reasons):

  • April 22: not Flunk Day. Professor from California coming to give lecture.
  • April 29: not Flunk Day. Another professor from California giving a lecture. What’s with California? A Flunk clue???? I leave that classification up to you, dear reader.
  • April 30: probably not Flunk Day, due to Caxton Club event.
  • May 2: probably not Flunk Day, due to Caxton Club event.
  • May 7: my Honors defense. God help us all.

News from the land of Flunk

(News! News! News!)

Two important tidbits:

  1. Flunk Day Friars will be chosen, at the very earliest, by the end of the day on April 15. So, assuming this is not a decoy, Flunk Day cannot happen before then. Not that anyone thought it was possible that it would, as that would be unheard of, but ya know. Gotta cover all the bases.
  2. Freshmen will have had their mandatory Flunk Day suite meetings by this Thursday.

The two facts above point to an earlier Flunk, a rather different conclusion than that of my Theory of Late Flunk that I’ve been perpetuating. Still, though, nothing is impossible when it comes to Flunking.

In other news, results of the unofficial TKS Flunk Day Poll so far:

Flunk Day will be early: 2
Flunk Day will be late: 1
Flunk Day is tomorrow: 6

The lovely Elizabeth Woodyard, believing that I apparently tell the truth at all times, has decided that my declaration that Flunk Day is tomorrow means that Flunk Day is, in fact, tomorrow. I’m flattered, but here’s a dash of honesty: I really have no idea.

Flunk Day Predictions, Round 2

There has been little activity in the world of Flunk predictions this week; shame on all of you. A few thoughts:

  • Given the lateness of graduation, the lingering coldness of winter (although it seems to be lightening up a bit; now that I’ve said that, we’ll have a blizzard tomorrow), and the chilliness of last year’s Flunk Day, all signs point to a later Flunk than in the past couple of years. Which, for all of you babies out there, was the last week of April/first week of May. I’m also big on it being later, because my Honors due date is May 3 and if I lose workdays before then, the world will dissolve into a puddle of anguish and despair.
  • Some days that it can’t be: May 15, because that’s the Honors Banquet. May 14, because there’s a Georgetown professor coming to give a talk, and that’s a long trip that’s probably costing the school lots of money. (Also, if this is not a real thing, I will be royally pissed, because he’s a Middle East specialist.)
  • Likelihood reduced for: April 29, due to random classics lecture with outside professor. (Decoy event? Probably not when Brenda Fineberg’s at the helm.) April 30, due to Caxton Club event (but again, not the sort of thing planners typically schedule around…although creative writing major Kaitlyn Duling is a planner…so you never know). Same goes for May 2.
  • I’m a fan of the week of May 6 myself: it’s week 6, which is prime Flunking time and after midterms for most people, and it’s well away from finals.
  • But…on May 16, a Caxton Club event was suspiciously canceled. Due to FLUNK??? We may never know.

Am I on the mark? What are your predictions? Let me know in the comments.

Flunk Day Predictions, Round One

As TKS’s editor-in-chief, it is my duty to keep the campus apprised of all goings-on related to The Day of Flunk. With the theme email officially out (it’s space, for the record) and the planners officially confirmed (Kaitlyn Duling, Regina Rosenbrock, Bethany Marinier, and Andrei Papancea, although this information comes directly from Andrei himself, and Andrei cannot be trusted), it’s time to hunker down, analyze the events calendar, and figure out when Flunk Day will be. Here are the predictions so far:

Tim Kasser: April 26. This student finds it highly unlikely that Flunk Day will be April 26. First, it’s a Friday, and a Flunk Friday would inevitably lead to a Flunk Saturday and a Flunk Sunday and far too many instances of alcohol poisoning. Highly scientific studies by professors who enjoy that sort of thing have further shown that Flunk Day has, historically, only occurred on a Friday a few times. Strike one for Theory de Kasser. Strike two: the next day is the Earth Month Festival, which the college is billing as a huge thing. A huge outdoor thing which cannot be held on the remains of the lawn after Flunk Day.

Anna’s Highly Scientific Probability Assessment: 30:1

John Dooley: a Friday. Again, the Friday argument. John Dooley is clearly trying to mislead people.

Anna’s Highly Scientific Probability Assessment: 27:1

Liz Carlin-Metz: May 8. May 8 is a bit late for Flunk Day, but perhaps the long winter has convinced the Flunk Day planners to hold the event later in the term to ensure good weather. May 8 is also a Wednesday, which is a probable day of the week, and there are no major events happening around May 8. This one might actually have a shot.

AHSPA: 15:1

Andrei Papancea: I’m not telling you when it is. Go away.

Andy Civettini (who actually does data analysis to determine when Flunk Day will be): Go write your Honors, Anna.

Warning: This post contains many parentheticals and the sharp Flunk Day insights of a senior

I’m terrified to say that it might actually be spring, as the Midwest will promptly decide that it’s time for us to get 5 inches of snow. Nevertheless, spring term is upon us, and with it, major cases of senioritis, panicked cries coming from the direction of the Honors offices, and plenty of Flunk Day shenanigans. (I started a meeting last week by declaring that Flunk Day was tomorrow. Another senior promptly chimed in and said that Flunk Day did not exist. The poor freshmen looked so confused! Highly successful meeting.)

I’m trying to do my part in trolling the Wiki Fire (senior privilege, man) and making my own predictions. (Contrary to what Tim Kasser says, Flunk Day cannot be April 26. One, it’s a Friday, and Flunk Day is hardly ever on a Friday. Two, it’s the day before the outdoor Earth Month festival, for which the campus is actually bringing an artist you may have heard of, so they won’t risk having everything torn up and destroyed.) But, if I’m being honest, you’re more likely at this point to hear my voice among the wails of despair from the Honors cohort than the yells of those perpetrating Flunk Day scares. (About which I know nothing. Of course.) A friend and I who are both doing Honors have taken to greeting each other with grunts of anguish. A completed draft of my thesis is due tomorrow, and I’m hitting a wall with one of my case studies, so I’m writing this relatively inane and not at all procrastination-aiding blog post to remind myself how to put sentences together that make some semblance of sense.

But! Although Flunk Day is probably at least a month away and that my Honors project is going to eat my brain, here are some things that are already great about spring term:

  • There’s orange chicken in the caf tonight. It’s not half bad.
  • Poets and Peasants is having a CD release show Friday at 8 in Kresge, for which I am beyond stoked.
  • Speaking of music, perhaps I should mention Lincoln Fest coming up on the 20th? (No confirmed lineup yet, but I’m convinced that if I poke Andrei, our graphic designer and Union Board’s PR chair, enough times, I can get some info out of him.) Or maybe the Hoot Hoots coming in early May? And Ben Sollee for Earth Month? And (shameless plug) the Knox Dems/Conservatives/Greens’ Battle of the Bands for FISH Food Pantry in mid-May, featuring Poets and Peasants, Give Back, Of the Fact, The Colours, A Few Good Men, and more? And WVKC will no doubt have something going on. Dear god, SHOWS.
  • Game of Thrones Season 3 premieres tonight. This bullet point filed under “More Things That Will Distract Me From Honors.”
  • I downloaded XKit for Tumblr today, and it has made my life bright and shiny and glorious.
  • Spring term means walks to Cornucopia, pizza on the bench outside of baked, and hours spent longingly gazing out the window of the Beanhive wishing you were outside instead of writing a paper.
  • Progress on the Honor Code review? One can only hope.

 

On the trials and tribulations of eTime

As editor-in-chief, one of the less fun parts of my job is approving my editors’ hours worked every other week. It is less fun due to eTime. Recently, Knox decided to upgrade eTime. I met this announcement with exclamations, cheers, and general flailing, because eTime is an evil program that, among other things, only lets me approve hours in Internet Explorer half the time when I force IE to run an older version of Java, which I must reaffirm that I want to run every time I go to a new page. eTime had also previously changed Mary’s password without her consent and refused to work at all when I needed to approve hours, meaning that I had to use the Mysterious Business Office Computer who is apparently eTime’s best friend, because that’s the only explanation for why it always works with the blasted program.

So you can imagine my excitement when I was assured that the upgrade would alleviate most, if not all, of these problems. Au contraire, mes cheris. I opened up eTime in Chrome, excited to experience an ease of use never before witnessed in eTime’s general vicinity. Not only did eTime not work regardless of which version of Java I ran, but it also crashed my browser. Groaning, I cringed and opened up Internet Explorer. And surprise! eTime forced me to run an older version of Java that I had to reaffirm that I wanted to run every time I went to a new page. And now there’s an added twist: I must refresh each page at least twice in order to get the prompt to run the older version of Java in the first place. Fun! Not.

(Don’t even ask me how to make eTime work on a Mac. I have no idea.)

Dear Knox, I love you dearly, but please find a timecard system that is not stuck in 1996. Please. Please.

Budget forum, digest version

In case you missed the budget forum tonight: it went for about an hour and 40 minutes. A lot of information was presented. Not all questions got answered, including those that were asked. Here, in brief, is what I think you need to know:

The Facts

  • At the beginning of the fiscal year, the college faced a $3.6 million deficit. This has been partially closed thanks to a Board of Trustees-approved dip into the endowment of $1.7 million and $750,000 in expense reductions. After all of this, we were still $1.2 million short.
  • Three times each year, the college goes through its budget line by line to see where cuts can be made. This was done this year as it has been in the past.
  • This deficit existed in the first place for a plethora of reasons: federal financing for higher education has decreased, the cost of education is rising across the board, we have a teensy tiny endowment, our retention rates aren’t what they could be, no magical gifts from donors fell out of the sky, Knox has been poor since the dawn of time, etc.
  • The comprehensive fee for next year (tuition, fees, room & board) will be $47,352. This is a 5.9 percent increase from last year. Almost half of Knox’s revenue comes from tuition.
  • Aside from the tuition increase, other plans to address the budget shortfall include cutting retirement contributions for faculty and staff through June 2014, growing the student body from 1,400 to 1,600 students over the next four years, a capital campaign with the goal of eventually raising between $150 and $200 million (this has not been officially announced yet), and increased efforts by administrators to reach out to donors.
  • The college is committed to reviewing each student’s financial aid package in order to help meet growing need in the face of rising tuition, although President Amott did say that the college is not completely covering the need of every student right now and will likely not be able to do so in the near future. FAFSAs are due to the Office of Financial Aid this Friday. Any student who feels as though his or her financial need is not being met is encouraged to talk to the staff in Financial Aid; the office is located on the second floor of CFA. Financial aid decisions can also be appealed after award letters go out, which may happen earlier this year than in previous years, though no guarantees were made.

The Details

  • Retirement benefits are being cut because this does not affect faculty and staff members’ take-home pay. This is an alternative to further reductions in salaries (which are already low compared to peers at other ACM schools) and cuts in faculty and staff. The college is committed to maintaining the 12:1 student-faculty ratio and will continue to hire faculty as the student body grows. Which departments receive additional faculty members will be based both on demand and curricular gaps. 
  • A limited amount of full-tuition scholarships will be in place starting with the class of 2017. The size of the overall financial aid coffer was not decreased due to the addition of these scholarships.
  • Increasing the student body to 1,600 by 2016 will result in an increase of between 50-60 students per year. Amott feels confident that the college can handle this influx next year but that the following years would provide a challenge with current facilities.  The college is looking into purchasing the St. Mary’s Square facility at the corner of South and Cherry Streets, which would also offer additional cafeteria space. Other plans include getting rid of the admissions suite and double singles for RAs, turning other under-utilized areas on campus into student rooms, and possibly adding another Grab ‘N Go or annex to the Hard Knox Café.
  • Other small, tuition-dependent colleges have ended need-blind admissions. Knox has no plans to do this at this time. Amott said she believes future classes will look very similar to current ones.
  • Many projects that some students feel are extraneous or unnecessary, such as landscaping improvements, are the result of donations especially designated for these purposes.
  • Renovations to the interior of Alumni Hall will not begin until all of the approximately $11.5 million needed is secured. (Currently, we’re at about $9.5 million.) Eventual plans to move offices such as Admission & Financial Aid and the Career Center into this building will free up space for classrooms and housing around campus.
  • In the late 90s and early 2000s, an endowment spending level of 16 percent was declared unsustainable. The level is currently at 5 percent, which will of course increase with the $1.7 million approved by the trustees. Amott said she would never let endowment spending approach even 12 percent.

The Unanswered Questions

  • How exactly the capital campaign will proceed is not yet known, as it is still in the planning stages, and an explanation of how capital campaigns work in general was declared too “boring” to detail.
  • While the college is undertaking extensive market research to determine what leads students to apply to Knox and decide to attend, what leads current students to choose to leave is much less clear. The issue of retention was repeatedly declared a “complex” one, but a solid plan for examining and addressing Knox’s low retention rate (about 75 percent last year) was not presented.
  • It is not clear how the college will communicate the changing state of the budget shortfall as these plans move forward. It was mentioned that Knox is already much more open than a lot of schools when it comes to these issues: TKS is allowed at faculty meetings, for instance, and student observers are present at all Board of Trustees meetings, which is not common. Still, there was no indication of how the administration will continue the transparency it has begun with this student forum.

Did you attend the forum? Did I miss anything? Tell me in the comments.

On keeping and spilling secrets

“So-and-so told me, and I’m rather loud.” – how information gets spread around the pub office

Perhaps it’s not a secret that journalists are bad at, well, keeping secrets. Providing information to the public is part of the job. Of course, there are rules: classified information is classified for a reason, for instance, which is why Julian Assange got in so much trouble (aside from his sexual trangressions, of course). But by working in journalism, you affirm a commitment to the idea that most information belongs in the public eye. How the government or any other official body is using public money? Check. When laws are being broken? Check. If someone in a position of authority is saying one thing but doing another? Check, check, check. Accountability is our charge, and honesty is our creed.

Given all of that, you would suppose that we have a very difficult time keeping information under wraps, and I’ll admit that I twitch a bit every time I receive a press release prefaced with “EMBARGOED.” (Pro tip: organizations, particularly government organizations, can send out information that you are prohibited from printing before a certain time; this is done with things like the monthly unemployment report.) But, interestingly, I’d argue that journalists are also some of the best people at keeping secrets.

And perhaps that’s because of how we get a lot of our information. There are all sorts of ethical quandaries surrounding anonymous sources quoted in stories, and I won’t address them here. More often, though, what happens is that we receive tips on what questions to ask from sources who we then protect. These sorts of sources take cultivation: relationships are a product of years of personal and professional encounters. I’ll fully admit to having several carefully chosen sources located around campus that have helped me do some of my best work over the years. It’s not about weaseling information out of people; it’s about learning what questions to ask about topics you otherwise wouldn’t know exist. And it’s about respecting the trust of those sources and keeping their identities confidential.

And that’s my two cents for the night. Back into the crazy world of making a paper. Want to know what was said at the faculty budget forum today? Wondering what information is shared there that might not be shared with students at their respective forums? The story online later tonight; more to appear as it develops in the coming weeks.