A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
November 9, 2006 Volume 37 / Number 3


A CELT Sampler

More than 320 people registered for the 12th annual CELT conference, held from Wednesday, October 11 through Friday, October 13. The majority of attendees were CSU, Chico faculty members, followed by staff members. For those of you who missed the CELT presentations, here is a sampler of two of the workshops—a taste of what you missed and a possible incentive to visit the conference next year.

The Greening of the Guru: Transcendentalist Teaching Philosophies for Environmental Awareness
Lynn Marie Houston, English (pictured left)
Melanie Haft, undergraduate English major
Aaron Wittman, graduate student, English
Jillian Buckholz, sustainability coordinator

“There is a crisis at hand regarding the ecological fate of our planet,” said Lynn Houston, English. “What contributions can we make, from our various departments, to instill ecological perspectives in all disciplines?” The answer she offered as moderator of “The Greening of the Guru” was to look at the philosophies of the Transcendentalists, particularly Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau, for inspiration. The Transcendentalists believed educators should function as facilitators of learning and help students tap into a sense of wonder about nature.

Houston emphasized that the Transcendentalists give an ideal framework for teaching environmental awareness: “As teachers, we need to become environmentalists … our teaching should be rooted in personal experience and tap into this ‘sense of wonder.’” Houston herself is learning to fly-fish and studying the names of local plants, educating herself in order to model environmental awareness for her students.

The presentation offered a number of Transcendentalist-inspired suggestions for integrating sustainability into the curriculum across disciplines, including encouraging political engagement in university students and giving students information about on-campus recycling, biking, and carpooling—and modeling these actions for them.

None of these ideas require a hefty financial commitment or major restructuring of the way we teach; instead, they involve a shift in the way we think about teaching. “One solution,” said Houston, “is to fine-tune existing programs, not necessarily to add new faculty and classes to an already overburdened institution.”

Alpha Geeks and the Next Generation Textbook—The Conversation Continues

Joe Picard, Regional and Continuing Education
Kent Sandoe, Accounting and Management (pictured left)
Information Systems
Deborah Lemmo, A.S. Bookstore

Is there a future for the traditional printed textbook? Yes, said Deborah Lemmo, A.S. Bookstore, who added that she is looking forward to holding the heft of the new Harry Potter in her hand—not to reading it as an e-book. However, she added, textbook prices have been rising at twice the rate of inflation, and something clearly needs to be done to ease the financial burden on students. The CSU Academic Senate is looking for ways to reduce textbook prices and increase choices for faculty and staff. The A.S. Bookstore will be offering access codes for e-books (traditional books in a digital format) at half the price of a traditional textbook as early as spring 2006.

Kent Sandoe, AMIS, talked about his experience using Safari U, an online database, to compile learning materials. Because faculty members using Safari U choose the content of their textbooks, all the material is relevant to their class. Sandoe’s students access his Safari U content online by paying an access fee. Faculty also have the option of generating a print textbook, but this option is significantly more expensive for students.

Several of Sandoe’s students talked about their experiences with Safari U. They liked the fact that their text is inexpensive and relevant, but were frustrated by the fact that Safari U materials are difficult to print out. One student commented that he had a hard time reading large amounts of text from a computer screen. The students also considered the fact that their access codes ran out after the semester a drawback. They would like to keep some of the material in their personal library, the way they can keep a particularly useful textbook for future reference.

The Challenges of Greek Life and Culture at Chico State

Jed Wyrick, Religious Studies
Dustin Struble, Intrafraternity Council president
Freddy Suarez, Gamma Zeta Alpha
Amber Strandberg, Panhellenic Council president
Maribel Bravo, Multicultural Greek Council vice president
Andrew Flescher, Religious Studies
Jim Moon, former Vice President of Student Affairs (pictured left)

Jed Wyrick, Religious Studies, Phi Delta Theta advisor, opened The Challenges of Greek Life and Culture at Chico State with the good news: the new mandates that have come from the Greek Life Task Force, formed by President Paul Zingg. These mandates include a strict alcohol policy, a GPA requirement for members, a ban on hazing, and no fall recruitment of freshmen.

Dustin Struble, Intrafraternity Council president, and Amber Strandberg, Panhellenic Council president, discussed what they saw as the biggest challenges facing the Greeks. Each saw a hole in their recruitment programs left by the absence of hazing in the case of fraternities and “frills” (songs, dances, expensive costumes) in the case of sororities. While both agreed that the recruitment changes are a step forward, they said it was difficult to figure out what to do instead. Struble joked that he planned to come up with alternative activities to promote group loyalty and camaraderie and make “lots of money” after graduating.

Maribel Bravo, Multicultural Greek Council vice president, and Freddy Suarez of Gamma Zeta Alpha discussed the difficulties facing multicultural fraternities and sororities, particularly the lack of multiculturalism at the University overall.

Jim Moon, former vice president of Studies Affairs and task force member, saw alcohol abuse as the number one problem facing the Greek system. Andrew Flescher, Religious Studies, Alpha Delta Pi advisor, advocated that the University take greater control over the Greek system by buying chapter houses. This way, houses could be shut down after any infraction. Audience members questioned the liability issues of this move.

Everyone on the panel agreed that the fraternities and sororities need to bring their espoused values and actions into alignment before the campus and community decide that the Greek system is broken beyond repair.