Learning from Others & Appreciating Life
Over the years I have learned many things in my career and what I have learned has come to me in many ways and from many people.
From Ron Brown, former VPSA at UT-Austin, I learned the following:
- no matter how bad your job is, someone else wants it
- the number of people watching you is in direct proportion to the stupidity of your action
- if something goes wrong with a student's file, no matter how hard you try, it will keep getting worse
- the bigger they are, the harder they hit.
I've learned from classes, workshops and colleagues, but mostly I've learned from students.
After a student was stopped at DFW airport with phony travel papers, a university ID, 2 changes of clothes and 75 UT-Austin Library books, he was deported. We put a Judicial Affairs bar on his return just as a matter of course - we hadn't handled the theft yet. From him I learned to keep good records - no matter how unlikely it seems at the time, students come back.
While investigating an accusation that a student had someone take a math placement test for him, we became suspicious about the correspondence course he was taking. Sure enough he sent the non-student in to take the final test at the testing center. I learned never to underestimate the audacity of a student whose parents already have plane tickets for graduation weekend.
From all the students who were perpetrators or victims, and in all of the hazing cases I've investigated, I've learned the power of the amazing need to belong.
Over the years I have worked with faculty to figure out ways for a blind student to take Russian, have seen a deaf student teach a mainstream art class, and have watched a student with severe cerebral palsy complete law school. From these students and many more I learned
- you don't have to be able to see to understand, to be able to speak to be a good communicator, or to hear to be able to teach.
I've learned how fragile human life is:
- how little alcohol is needed for one to die of alcohol poisoning
- how a small miscalculation can result in death and destruction
- how little it takes to bring joy to someone's life
- how important support from others is.
This is the heart of a presentation I gave to the SMU Lions Club in September 1997. I had been scheduled to give a light-hearted after-dinner speech. But that day, a little more than ten years ago, I had spent the day responding to the suicide of a freshman student in an SMU residence hall. Then I knew, as now, that we would never know the reasons for our student's action. It's not for us to know: it is only for us to do the best we can for our community in the aftermath.
So, last week reminds me to reiterate the lessons we all have learned:
- take time to appreciate all you have
- take time to appreciate those around you
- ask for help when you need it
- give help when you can.
Thank you for all the care you share with the entire UTSA community.