Autumn Leaves...Winter Arrives
Posted on November 10, 2010
Come autumn's scathe -- come winter's cold --
Come change -- and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne'er be desolate.
Or so says Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I guess she liked fall, too. Maybe she was, like I am, a fan of boots and sweaters. I like the way fall smells and sounds. I like the different quality of the light as it changes over Keefe Field in the late afternoon. I like seeing the squirrels in their little gray North Face jackets and little gray Ugg boots (they are Wheaton squirrels, after all) working overtime to fill their coffers for the coming months. I like walking to work from the Deanery singing “Autumn Leaves” and my favorite Dan Fogelberg tune (“End of October, the sleepy brown woods seem to nod down their heads to the winter”—ask your parents to sing you a Dan Fogelberg tune. I bet they’ll know several).
But stop right there! I’m not a big fan of the long Massachusetts winter. Except…I like snowfalls, Vespers, basketball in Emerson and swim meets in Haas, Cowduck on ice. And, of course, boots and sweaters. So come, winter’s cold! Bring it! We at Wheaton are ready!
Okay—that’s enough exclamation points for the next six months. Let’s move to another form of punctuation—the question mark, and get to some of your recent questions. “Why is Wheaton building new residence hall space? I thought we were trying to reduce spending?” asked a few of you at a recent meeting. Good question. The short answer (as short as one of my answers ever is): We still don’t have enough space for our current student population, even with the beds we added this summer. We need another 50 or so beds so we can keep triples-that-should-be-doubles at a minimum, get students out of rooms-never-meant-to-be-rooms, and actually have the flexibility to take some spaces off-line now and then to do renovations. New residence hall space will also allow us to grow, and if we enroll more students, it will pay for itself over a few years. And we’ll save money because we’re not actually going to buy you beds. I’d thought we’d try these instead. But you can pick the color.
Another recent question: “Why is the Science Center lit up at night? Isn’t that wasteful?” I guess that’s one way of looking at it. But it’s important for safety reasons because it discourages late-night visitors. And it gives pilots something to point out to their passengers as they fly overhead. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you look out the window on the left side of our aircraft, you’ll see the lights of Wheaton College’s new science center…no, we’re not already over Illinois…is Ann Curry on the plane? That’s Wheaton in Norton, MA, a fine liberal arts college with a great women’s tennis team and a dean of students who loves boots.”
I’ve gotten some questions about Yellow Wood’s work on a “medical amnesty/good Samaritan” policy for alcohol issues. I am really encouraged by the good conversations going on about this topic—students weighing in thoughtfully from multiple perspectives. I look forward to YWC’s recommendations in the next few months. And speaking of encouraged: I am so proud of all of you who participated in the Wheaton Life Watch training a few weeks ago. You help me sleep better at night (and everyone wins that way).
Of course, Dean Alfredo Varela’s recent suggestion that I watch the TV show “Locked Up Abroad” to find inspiration for my Little Talk to students heading abroad next semester has done nothing to help me sleep. To those of you who are bound for distant lands: stay safe and…under the radar.
I have a question for you. I’m often in Balfour-Hood at the end of the day or the start of the evening (6 or 7 pm). I see a lot of you sitting in the Café, which, as you know is closed at that hour. I’m wondering how many more of you would hang out in the Café if it were open, and would you actually buy things, like coffee or snacks? And if not, is there anything that would make you more likely to spend time there in the late afternoon or early evening? Live music? Recorded music? Please send me an email with your thoughts about the Café (along with other ideas you have about space in Balfour-Hood).
Here’s an interesting question from Sarah: “One of my favorite professors is up for tenure. I’m not even sure what this means. Can you explain it?” This is a good and important question. When faculty on most campuses are hired, they are given a period of time—five or six years—to demonstrate their scholarly chops. Wheaton faculty are expected to be outstanding teachers, excellent researchers, and devoted members of the community—a tall order, which is why it takes several years to really evaluate them. Their colleagues in their departments and across the college spend a lot of time reviewing their teaching evaluations and their publications to determine if they merit tenure, which essentially gives them job security. Once they have tenure, they are looking forward to a lifetime of working for Wheaton, teaching Wheaton’s fine students, serving on committees, seeing the same colleagues year in and year out, eating from the salad bar at the faculty dining room, and kvetching over parking spaces, just like you. In exchange for those small joys, they offer us their talent and commitment and the reflected glory of their scholarly accomplishments (like getting their latest book reviewed in the New York Times—huzzahs to Tripp Evans for his “thoughtful and absorbing biography” of Grant Wood).
Great faculty, great students, great squirrel population. Can’t think of a better place to be, especially in the fall. Here’s Emily Bronte’s take:
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
Absolutely. See you around the Dimple.
[Got a question or comment? Send me a note.]