Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Was Trayvon Martin a victim of racial profiling?  Was he provoked into a confrontation by George Zimmerman, who was looking for an excuse to harass Martin because he was young and black?  Or did Zimmerman shoot and kill Martin out of fear that that his own safety, perhaps even his own life, was being threatened by the Florida teen?

Though a jury acquitted Zimmerman of all charges related to Martin's death, the case continues to resonate not only in legal circles (witness the ongoing debate about "Stand Your Ground" laws) but among those who believe that America's most pressing concern in 2014 is finding a way for its citizens to be less suspicious of each other.  It's a  challenging  task, to be sure, made all the more difficult by events, in the news and elsewhere, that suggest a fraying of trust between Americans of different ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, is among those who have taken up the challenge of promoting understanding, of eradicating violence and racism, and, as noted in a recent interview, of not letting his son die in vain.  Tomorrow (Wed., April 23, 2 p.m.) Martin will speak in NCC's College Center about these issues.  His talk, sponsored by the cultural program, is titled "We Are All Trayvon."

This won't be the first time Martin has spoken about his son, the circumstances surrounding his death, the Zimmerman trial, and the ongoing debate about violence, racism, and stereotyping that has followed the verdict.  In fact, Martin himself has been the subject of countless stories and has been interviewed on numerous occasions.  But tomorrow's program will give the NCC community a chance to hear, firsthand, his views about how, as a nation, we might address these important matters.  There will also be the opportunity for audience members to ask questions.

It's an event that shouldn't be missed.  Part of every student's college experience is the opportunity to take part in conversations about the state of the nation and the world and to think seriously about where we've been and where we're going.  Martin's talk at NCC will be one of those moments.  It is, in a sense, what college is all about. 

Are we all Trayvon?  Maybe, maybe not, depending upon your point of view.  But we're all human beings sharing the same piece of terrain and trying to get along with each other.  Some would say we need to be doing a better job at the latter.  Tomorrow's talk promises to give everyone something to think about--and maybe some ideas about how to keep young lives from being destroyed by fear and ignorance.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ready for Google Glass?

David Pogue says it's the next big thing.  A wearable computer, attached to eyeglasses of sorts, Google Glass will allow us to be connected 24/7.  And best of all, it will be responsive to natural voice commands. No more keyboards, no more fishing in pockets for phones.  The world will be right there in our glasses!

That's not the only thing on the digital horizon, according to Pogue, a former New York Times' tech columnist who spoke at NCC last week.  Driver-less cars are already being tested in some states, with more to follow.  While the cars require someone to sit in the driver's seat, the vehicle's sensors and other technologies do the rest.

Besides highlighting what's new, Pogue also pointed to some items headed for antiquity.  Among them: print newspapers and televisions.  While not predicting the demise of journalism or TV  programming, Pogue sees computers as being the only way we'll soon read the Daily News, watch the Mets, and keep up with the latest episodes of "Mad Men."  And it will happen faster than anyone thinks, he believes.

Is all this good?  Pogue tended to sidestep this question, preferring to focus on what's ahead and how technology will change life for all of us.  Still, it's not hard to see the advantages of cars that will make life easier for non-drivers (or for those who've had a few too many Blue Moons!).  Nor can anyone quarrel with technology that will allow us to arrange for a forgotten prescription to be delivered to a sick friend in a faraway city (something Pogue knows from firsthand experience).

But what about Google Glass (and similar tech products)?  Are there not some potential negatives to having a computer in your face every waking moment?  Will it further erode our privacy and attention spans?  Will it make crossing busy streets a dangerous activity and--even more unsettling--diminish our ability to relate to human beings sitting next to us in class?  

Already some are voicing their unhappiness, suggesting that the Google world is too much with us.  Recent protests against Google in San Francisco, while extreme and irrational at times, nevertheless suggest some discomfort with a technology that some believe simply won't leave people alone.  http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/14/tech/mobile/google-glass-attack/ 

The key, of course, is not to be simply "for" or "against" technology (including Google Glass), but instead to understand its impact and implications.  That seemed to be Pogue's POV in his talk at NCC: Technology isn't going away, so it's up to all of us to understand and think about its impact, for better or worse, on our lives.  Navigating the tech world is not for the passive.  

Perhaps never before has the need to be a clear and critical thinker been so important!  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thinking of Summer . . .

It may not seem very summery these days, but trust me, summertime's just around the bend.

So, for that matter, is summer school at Nassau.  If you click the "Summer Courses 2014 " link on the NCC homepage (https://www.ncc.edu/admissions/registrar/summer.shtml), you'll find plenty of useful information about summer classes, including a list of everything being offered.

If you're just out of high school, you may associate summer school with unhappy kids in hot classrooms being taught by teachers who look like they'd rather be somewhere else.  You may even equate summer classes with people unable to get their academic acts together.   

Not so at NCC.

To be sure, some people use summer sessions to repeat classes that haven't gone well during the previous semester.  But students also take summer courses for other reasons: to graduate early, to lighten their course load in the coming academic year, to tackle a course best taken by itself, even to get something they're not wild about out of the way.

And unlike high school, NCC's summer classes don't take up the entire summer.  Summer Session I, for example, starts right after Memorial Day and ends in late June. The second session gets going just before July 4 and finishes on July 31.  And the third (and shortest) session runs all of three weeks in August.  So it's possible to take a course or two in a summer session and still have most of the summer free for work, vacation, or whatever else is going on.

And just in case you're wondering, summer classes are usually held in air-conditioned classrooms--so you won't feel cramped or uncomfortable.

You could even have a good time!

Is a summer class for you?  Depends on work, vacation, and other June/July/August plans.  Keep in mind, of course, that summer classes move quickly; you have to leave time to keep up. 

But if you think it makes sense, for whatever reason, to take classes this summer, now's a good time to speak with an advisor and register.  Though NCC's summer offerings are pretty extensive, classes do fill up.  You definitely don't want to miss out.

Summer's coming.  What are your plans? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Do Something

At tomorrow's Day of Service at NCC, you can plant an organic garden, contribute food to a campus pantry, give future freshmen advice about starting college, make PB&J sandwiches for hungry people at the INN, adopt a U.S. battalion in Afghanistan, donate pet food and supplies to a nearby animal shelter, buy cookies to support multiple sclerosis research, and recycle old cell phones so U.S troops across the globe can call home more easily. 

You can also donate IPods to nursing home residents, buy a cupcake to support the Ronald McDonald House, collect toiletries and other "life" supplies for survivors of domestic violence, help clean up the Hempstead plains, gather school supplies for kids in Haiti, contribute a brick to a Habitat for Humanity project, send a thank you note to a teacher who's made a difference in your life, and--yes--even be part of a Zumba flash mob.

So what should you choose?

Your call. 

But above all, do something. 

NCC's Day of Service is about extending yourself, about getting out of your comfort zone, and about realizing that the way to make things better is for everyone, including you, to extend a hand.  It doesn't matter what form that helping hand takes. It doesn't matter whether you're tending to the environment, to women and children in crisis, to new college students, to senior citizens, to hungry people across town, or to poor schoolkids a nation away. 

What does matter is your presence and your participation.

In a world that's often short on kindness and generosity, do your part tomorrow to make up the deficit.

Mark the date and place: Wednesday, April 2, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., College Center.

See you there.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Ladies and Gentlemen . . . The Beatles!"

To those of a certain age, Ed Sullivan's words, delivered in typical Sullivan fashion, changed everything. 

For the millions of Americans who got their first glimpse of the Beatles on February 9, 1964, life would never be the same. 

More Sullivan performances followed.  So did gigs in Washington and Miami, concerts (screamfests!) at Shea Stadium and elsewhere, all ending (in America) with the final San Francisco show in 1966.  But the albums kept coming--"Rubber Soul," "Revolver," "Sergeant Pepper," "Magical Mystery Tour," "Abbey Road," "Let It Be," each reflecting  the Beatles' development as musicians, their growing political awareness, and (at times) their fraying personal relationships.   The '69 rooftop concert in London gave us a final glimpse of the band doing what they did best--playing music and having fun.

If you're a Beatles' fan (or even if you're not but you're looking for a place on campus to hang out), you'll want to get to the College Center (Rms. 252-253) this Tuesday, April 1, for a look back at the Fab Four.  There'll be food, music, videos, giveaways, and a few surprises.  Can't promise that Paul or Ringo will show up, but you'll have a good time anyway, listening to music, watching videos, and remembering a group that changed just about everything in America, all those years ago.

Ladies and Gentlemen .  . . The Beatles!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Here's to Commitment

It's sometimes easy to be cynical about the world, especially when you encounter people who are  forever taking the easy way out.

But when you meet people who aren't this way--who work hard, push themselves, and realize there's more to life than just "getting by"--you can't help feeling renewed.

That's been my experience at Nassau these past few months, as I've watched or heard about students who have demonstrated talent and commitment--and who've been recognized for their accomplishments.

Maybe you've heard about the thirteen NCC students who received the 2014 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence.  The award recognizes students who "have integrated academic excellence with other areas of their lives," including "leadership, campus involvement, athletics, career achievement, community service, and creative or performing arts."  The recipients' achievements are truly  impressive, enough to make us optimistic about the future.

Maybe you've also heard about the 44 students who recently received NCC's "Who's Who" and "Student Activities" honors.  Both awards acknowledge students' academic achievement and contributions to campus life as club officers, members of sports teams, orientation leaders, newspaper editors, and student government leaders.  All of those recognized have enriched the campus fabric and made Nassau a more interesting place.

Not only have individual students at NCC excelled this spring--entire groups have also distinguished themselves. The men's basketball team won the 2014 Region XV Division III championship, racking up 25 regular season wins, defeating three tough teams in the division playoffs, and notching two victories in the NJCAA tournament.  The team's numbers are impressive, but even more so is the players' tenacity and willingness to hang together in a season that lasted five long months.

Another NCC team, Speech and Debate, earned honors this year at the International Forensics Association World Championship competition.  Competing on a world stage in Paris, France, Nassau placed second among community colleges and fourth overall among two- and four- year schools. Several students received individual honors in specific categories: After-Dinner Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, and Communication Analysis. Their performances reflect hours of practice and preparation as well as a commitment, on everyone's part, to stretching themselves.

And speaking of stretching: maybe that's what college, at its best, is really all about--pushing yourself, developing (or improving) skills, resisting the temptation to just go through the motions, and discovering just how much you can accomplish when you combine heart, mind, and effort. Some NCC students in our midst have done all of these things recently, and it's important we take notice.

                                               Members of NCC's Speech and Debate Team display     
                                               their awards from the International Forensics Competition.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Time to Step Up

Can you believe the spring semester is almost half over?  That's right.  In less than a week we'll be at the halfway point.  Then it's a mere seven weeks (eight if you count the Passover/Easter break) until everything wraps up.

If this news really isn't news--if you've been keeping an eye on the calendar and keeping up in your classes--you can stop reading now and go back to what you were doing.  Congrats for being on top of your education.

But if the "it's-almost-midterms" message makes you gasp--and worry that you're in trouble in your classes--you definitely need to read on. 

To be sure, there's no need to reach for the panic button, at least at this point.  Seven weeks is a long stretch.  No matter how the first half of the semester has gone, there's still enough time to catch up on papers, projects, required readings, etc. and finish strong.

But you do need to act--and sooner rather than later. You need to find those syllabuses you got in January and see what lies ahead in each of your classes.  You need to take yourself to the Math or Writing Center (or some other campus service) and get whatever help you need.  You need to knock on your professors' doors during office hours and have some frank conversations about where you stand in your classes and how you can catch up. 

And above all, you need to get working.  No time to lose.

If by some chance you've decided that it makes sense for you to withdraw from one (or more) of your classes and concentrate on the remaining ones, remember that you still need to withdraw officially. Don't just disappear from a class, which will result in a UW grade, which will be calculated as an F in your grade-point average, and which won't make you happy.  In case you're wondering, you can still get an automatic Withdrawal if you file the paperwork by the April 4 deadline. 

But withdrawing is an absolute last resort.  It's almost always better to finish and to have something to show for your time.  Achievement matters--in college and everywhere else. 

What with snowstorms, class cancellations, late openings, and early closings (plus a week off for George Washington and company), the first weeks of the spring semester have been anything but ideal. Life is indeed imperfect.  But you can't let your education be undermined by circumstances.  

You have to move forward.  You have to step up, at moments like this, and take care of business.