Staff Appreciation Day
Remarks by emcee Brian Griffith, June 1, 2012
Good morning. It is my privilege to welcome you to Staff Appreciation Day - or SAD, as we like to call it. How appropriate.
If you were here last year, you may be expecting me to be funny, in an almost but not-quite inappropriate way. As it turns out, there’s a problem with that. You get asked to do it again. Well, let me tell you, I’m not making that mistake twice. So with that in mind, this year, I’m shooting for “just offensive enough to not get asked back, but hopefully also not get fired.” This should be fun … for some of us.
It’s been a crazy year, hasn’t it? While there was no near revolt by the faculty this year, we still had our fair share of excitement. I’m going to highlight just a few things this morning. And don’t worry, George. Out of respect for all parties involved, I promise not to even utter the word “Tenure”.
First off. The culmination of much work and worry – the oft-discussed employee contribution for health insurance premiums took affect. That was a good time. Thanks for the mid year raises to help counteract that, by the way, George and Peter – Peter’s nickname is Cash, you have to thank him anytime money is involved.
Some of you will fondly recall the time the bathroom outside the President’s office backed up due to a clogged sewage pipe. I believe it was even a top story in “The Fountain” – the hard-hitting weekly news journal. To fix it they had to tear up the brand new concrete right outside Mem; to “relieve the pressure,” if you will. And let’s not forget that this happened during the trustee meetings. No pressure, physical plant. But apparently the issue had been developing for many years. When the clogged sewer pipe was finally cut open, Dan Park reportedly said, “Smells like Tom Cronin had a hand in this.” The “presidential paraphernalia” was offered to the Penrose Archives. No word on when that will be available for public viewing.
Hopefully all of you are aware - we are in the middle of a capital campaign. I believe we’ve raised something in the neighborhood of 100 bajillion dollars so far. Listen people. The Boges – he don’t mess around. Speaking of the campaign… It has been creatively entitled “Now is the time.” I don’t want to go all English Major on you, but can we unpack that for just a moment? So… Isn’t that only true once? If you say “Now is the time” and then ten minutes later say “Now is the time” again, well which one of those is the time? Shouldn’t it be, “The ten minute period from when I said it the first time until now is the time?” Unless the time is continually updating, which is just the kind of sneaky business J. Boges would pull. But really, shouldn’t it be called “now was” … no … “now will be”…or… no, hold on. I’ve got it. You can thank me later, Admiral. I … Have … Got it. “Now is or rather was the time which should or will have been after the previously mentioned time but before the heretofore unmentioned…oh, just give us your dang money.” … A Campaign.
Incidentally, WCTS is starting it’s own capital campaign. We’re calling it, “You want it when?”
I can see our new HR director, Dennis, starting to sweat profusely over there. I was initially a little worried when we hired him, because everybody knows Dennis Hopper is a little crazy, right? He always plays the psychos in the movies. Turns out he’s totally normal in person, and doesn’t look anything like he does in the movies. Weird. But Dennis has proven to be a wealth of useful information when it comes to HR practices and we are lucky to have him. George, I want you to know that absolutely none of this speech was cleared with him beforehand.
Is it getting warm in here? Is the AC on? Excuse me for just a moment.
Last year’s Unpretentious Wear was such a big hit that we were inundated with t-shirt ideas for this year. While I am relatively certain none of these will be made, I do want to share some of the more compelling entries.
- First we have one of my favorites, the “HOPE” series. Featuring your favorite member of the President’s Council looking up and away from the camera as if to convey an air of resoluteness. … Yep, the gang’s all here.
- And even though TKO is not with us today, we had to have Sneetch Wear. In both special and non-special styles. I’ll let you figure out which one is which.
- And moving on as quickly as possible. Certain members of the President’s Council reportedly had a difficult time with Unpretentious Wear. So we decided to go the other way and in conjunction with Dolce and Gabana, we are proud to introduce Pretentious Wear. They’re the exact same T-shirts, we just taped over the U and N, and we charge $500 each for them. Those will be available starting next week in the Whitman College Bookstore. You can buy one, if you’re deemed worthy.
What else happened this year? The Trustees approved the Joint Extra Fringe Tuition Benefit Advisory Committee Taskforce Council’s plan to provide full tuition for dependents of current employees to a handful of colleges that are all not quite as good as Whitman. That’s good news for some of us. By the time my daughter gets to college in 16 years, it should cost somewhere between $180,000 and $220,000/year. I think Peter Harvey just started twitching. In fact, since the Trustees approved this plan, Peter has been looking for other ways to lower fringe benefit costs and offset that impending liability. For today’s breakfast for example, Peter replaced all the bacon with Beggin’ Strips. He figured staff won’t know it’s not bacon. It wouldn’t surprise me to see parking meters on Boyer soon. Maybe coin operated toilets. Look for Bake Sales on the second floor of Mem, and yard sales on the lawn in front of the clock tower – likely involving some very nice pieces of furniture from the 3rd floor of Mem. Finally, the “Kiss the treasurer” booth should be going up on Ankeny any day now. Chuck, you’re only allowed to visit twice per year. If any of you have other ideas for how to cut costs or raise a little extra college cash, please send them to Peter. Truly, no matter how small or ridiculous your idea seems – Peter just loves receiving hundreds of emails every day. I am going to hear about that one.
Also this year, the Department of Admission and Financial Aid managed to meet their discount rate target, which is no small feat. They only had to let in 50 extra kids to do it! We’re going to have to start putting kids in cots in our offices. But seriously, Tony and Kevin and everybody over there in Penrose work really hard to get the right class size every year. Considering the process they go through, it’s something of a miracle that they get anywhere close to their target every year. From what I’ve been told by my highly placed, soon departing, anonymous source – Katie Deponty – the process is highly technical. But it does involve a consultant, an abacus, a dartboard, a hat full of names, a couple of stray cats, and daily social functions involving lots of food and alcohol. They cleverly disguise these social functions by calling them “committee”. Not co-incidentally, committee tends to happen most during March Madness. Rumor has it that our large class-sizes the last couple of years can be blamed on somebody forgetting to take the abacus away from Tony after the Pendleton got opened.
WCTS has had an exciting year. We had that fun little incident with the ID Cards. Our IT Security officer went from a 5 to a 9 on the “Just for Men” Gray Scale over that one. We hired a new CIO this year. We were lucky enough to steal Dan Terrio from our arch nemesis Lewis & Clark. They’re so pretentious with their fancy “law school”. Dan is pretty much the perfect boss. (I’m not just saying that because I want to keep my job, hint, hint.) But seriously. He loves sports, he cooks a mean chili, he brews his own beer, and his house, which we fondly refer to as “pub Terrio,” is within crawling distance of our office in Hunter. He has also continued in the grand tradition established by his predecessor Keiko and already reorganized the department in just his first 6 months on the job. It’s nice to know that semi-constant title changes and office moves are with us for the long haul.
We did, however, manage to dig up a few skeletons in Mr. Terrio’s closet. Let me ask you. What is the first thing you do when you get an application and resume to review for an important position like CIO? You look the applicant up on Facebook, of course. Imagine our surprise… <slide> Dan, I’m impressed – you are very agile for a big guy. Little bit of a wardrobe malfunction, looks like.
Also, some of you disco fans – John Bogley, I’m looking at you – will recognize Dan by his more common stage name – Deney Terrio <slide>. I’m sure many of you remember “Dance Fever” – the weekly television show featuring Deney Terrio. Some of you may not even realize that Denny Terio taught John Travolta how to dance. That’s him on the left, back when he was a bit taller and had way worse taste in clothes. So obviously, we feel like we really scored with our new CIO. He’ll be starting dance lessons for staff and faculty in the fall. Stay tuned for details on that.
And now the part you’re all dreading. I’d like to get serious for a moment, if I may. No, just kidding.
Incidentally, I’m really proud of myself for making it through my entire speech without mentioning Tenure.
Ok, but seriously.
If I could offer one suggestion to you as staff members at Whitman College, it would be to take advantage of the opportunities that we have to engage with the larger campus community. Take a class, teach a life skills class, join a campus club or intramural team. (My entire IM basketball team graduated this year, so I’m looking for new players.) But I have found a tremendous energy in the campus community. Take some time over the next year to tap into that. Dr. George Ball, in his open letter the to the Whitman Tennis teams in 1998 said, “Your life will largely be defined by the nature and quality of the relationships you are part of and to which you contribute.” Be encouraged to involve yourself in and contribute to relationships with members of all the constituencies at Whitman – students, staff, and faculty alike. Off my soapbox…
This year has gone by, like most years, with its fair share of difficulty. Matt Dietrich, the student speaker at commencement this year, gave what I thought was a particularly profound quote during his speech. He said, “Nostalgia will betray us.” And while Matt was encouraging us to not just look back fondly but to look forward to new challenges, I do think it is important to take opportunities along the way to celebrate and reflect. However, the further away we get from a period of time, the less we tend to remember and really grasp the struggle of it. Time and nostalgia can have an inoculating quality to them. So as we look back at the past year, and even years, I personally refuse to romanticize things so much that I fail to do justice to the incredible amount of hard work and effort that was put in by each of you. I said it last year, and I continue to believe, that the underlying strength of Whitman College is in the incredible quality of you, the staff. While we may typically hear about the great leaders and presidents or key faculty members who have been a part of Whitman’s history, let us not lose sight of this important truth: You all have played a crucial role in make Whitman College what it is. And for that, you deserve to be appreciated and celebrated. Enjoy the bacon, everybody.