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Xavier Magazine

Personality Profiling

A number of years ago I lived in a large apartment complex in the suburbs—a residence that, how should I say, sometimes made sleeping a challenge. People would come and go at all hours of the night, doors would slam, parties would linger into the wee hours. One particular night, around 3:00 a.m., I was awakened by the terrifying sounds of a woman screaming hysterically: “No. Stop it. Stop it. Put me down. Put me down.”

Fearing someone was being attacked, I jumped from my bed and ran to the window to investigate and, if possible, help. I discovered, though, that the screaming woman wasn’t being assaulted. Rather, she was being repossessed. Or at least her car was. She made the discovery in mid-repo and ran outside in her bare feet to try to keep her car from being hauled away. She jumped on the hood just as the tow truck driver was lifting it off the ground and straddled the hood ornament with her feet on the front bumper.

“No. Stop. Put me down.”

“Lady,” the tow truck operator said, “I have a letter here from the bank that says you haven’t made your payments and they want their car back.”

“Stop it. You can’t. Put me down.”

“Lady, if you don’t get down off that car right now I’m going to drive away.”

“Put me down.”

“This is your last chance, lady.”

“Stop. Stop.”

“OK, lady.”

A man of his word, the tow truck driver got in his truck, threw it in gear and drove away with this forlorn woman riding the hood of the car like a rodeo rider on a bull, screaming non-stop as he drove away: “No. Stop. Put me dowwwwwwwwwn.”

Being repossessed notwithstanding, the attachment people have with their cars is a funny thing. We spend so much time in them that, in many ways, we become a part of them and they become a part of us. We pick the color and the style to match who we are or who we think we are. Some are small and sporty, some are giant wheeled barges. Some are open so the wind can blow through our hair, some are buttoned-up and appointed with bells and whistles. People talk to their cars, give them names, curse them when they break down. I’m sure Freud found cars to be an extension of our personalities or something. “We are what we drive,” he might say.

All of this was brought to the forefront of my thinking recently for two reasons. One, because I just bought a new car after nearly 13 years in my old one. It was tough parting with that old car. There was definitely a bond between us. We shared a lot of memories and, literally, went down a lot of roads together. When I left that car at the dealership, I must admit that I looked in my mirror and became a bit misty-eyed. I bought that particular car because I felt it seemed to best fit my personality—outdoorsy, open, four-wheel-drive so I could get out of trouble just as easily as I seemed to get into it. My new one—a truck, actually—has four doors and room to haul my regular purchases from Lowe’s. It’s more family friendly and more utilitarian. Then again, so am I now.

The second reason I was thinking about the bond between people and their cars has to do with two incoming freshmen—Monica Laco of Lakewood, Ohio, and Nora Tighe of Toledo, Ohio. They are, whether they realize it or not, the beneficiaries of this odd attachment between people and their cars.

In mid-July, the national alumni association announced that Laco and Tighe were the first two winners of its newly created legacy scholarship program. Each year, starting this year, two students who are lineal descendants of a Xavier graduate each receive a $3,000 scholarship. What makes it relevant here is the money to fund such scholarships comes from people and their cars.

The state of Ohio has a special program in which the University receives $25 for each specialized Xavier license plate someone buys for his or her car. This program began a few years back, and so many people have purchased these Xavier license plates since then that the national alumni association was able to set up a special scholarship fund with the money.

Really, the two concepts were bound to be joined because about the only thing that can be equated to the bond between people and their cars is the bond between people and their college. The effort they go through to pick a college is much like a car—they research their options, consider the cost, read the reviews. They visit campuses to give the schools a metaphorical test drive and tire kick. And, ultimately, their final choice speaks directly of their personalities. “We are where we attend college,” Freud might say.

And that decision is something people carry with them throughout life—not to mention proudly display on, of course, their cars. Witness the number of people who adorn their car windows with college stickers. Or their license plate frames. Or key chains. Or front license plates. Or window flags. Or antenna toppers. The Xavier bookstore’s web site has a whole category just for auto accessories.

So it’s only natural that cars and colleges would form this bond. The attachment people have for both of them is a funny thing. And two incoming freshmen each year are laughing all the way to the bank.

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Xavier Magazine

Parting Shot

A passageway for diplomats and world leaders alike, this door is the first step to better cultural understanding.

Where are you?

A. The Edward B. Brueggeman Center for Dialogue located at the lower end of Ledgewood, off of Victory Parkway. The work of the center includes conferences, research and publications, and interfaith and interreligious activities as well as exploring new forms of collaborative engagement on issues of religious, social and cultural diversity, social and economic justice, ecological sustainability, and local and global responsibility.

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Xavier Magazine

Other That Reminds Me Column

Other That Reminds Me columns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Xavier Magazine

Monkey Business

As a science teacher, Mary Pat Schoeny Harris isn’t one to monkey around. But the double graduate—B.S. 1974 and M.Ed. 1977—did spend 12 days last summer in Sri Lanka studying monkeys. Specifically, she studied toque macaques, who live in and around temple ruins near the town of Polonnaruwa. The trip, sponsored by Lyondell Corp., and the Earthwatch Institute, was part of a 37-year-old project carried out in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution—the longest running study of its kind.

The multinational team studied social stratification and activities within and between groups of macaques, with a particular emphasis on the animals’ home-range habitat. On a normal day, Harris was up by 4:30 a.m. and off to the ruins to find her monkey troupe. She then spent the best part of each day observing a small troupe of about 20 animals, recording their activities minute-by-minute in a field notebook, until the macaques settled into their sleeping tree for the evening.

Her studies more or less confirmed previous theories and observations regarding the relative dominance of individuals and groups. But Harris, who teaches in the suburban Cincinnati school district of Milford, says the experience changed her life. And beyond the obvious advantages of sharing the scientific aspects of the study with her students, she says the first-person experience has other educational benefits as well.

“Kids get the idea from TV and the newspaper that the world is a big scary place,” she says. “I can say ‘No, the world’s a good place. There are a lot of good things going on. You’ve got to give it a chance.’”

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Xavier Magazine

Life Support

About 75 percent of heart attacks occur in the victim’s home, and simple cardiopulmonary resuscitation can double—or even triple—the chance for survival. Not enough people, however, know how to administer proper CPR, says Dr. Michael Sayre, a professor of emergency medicine at The Ohio State University. To remedy this, Sayre, a 1980 graduate, helped the American Heart Association develop its new, less complicated CPR guidelines. People are now instructed to give 30 chest compressions, instead of 15, for every two breaths. “We believe that will make CPR easier to learn and remember,” he says.

About 281 international experts completed 403 reviews on 276 different topics before coming up with the updated guidelines. “We believe increasing the number of chest compressions will get more circulation of blood, making CPR more effective,” he says. “And we believe the simplification will help more people learn and use CPR when they need to.”

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Xavier Magazine

Letters to the Editor

What About the Youth?
I was very pleased to read that Xavier University is making an effort to engage the communities of Evanston and Norwood. As owner and landlord of a beautiful house located on Greenlawn Avenue, I was a little disconcerted to hear no mention of Cincinnati Public Schools or specifically Walnut Hills High School in the collaboration. Xavier and Walnut Hills are two of the best schools in Cincinnati bordering Cincinnati’s worst drug neighborhood (according to an article last month in The Cincinnati Enquirer). It is not enough to engage the adults in this plan to better the community, the youth must also feel that they are being included so that the hopelessness that fuels the use and sale of drugs is addressed and combated once and for all.

I was also a little disappointed to hear that the person hired to deal with the problem was from Chicago. I hope that ordinary citizens from the community are being included in providing solutions for their community also.

Andrea Laudat Blackmon

 

In Praise of Uncle John Thank you very much for the kind article on my uncle, John Sweeney, and his part in the battle of Guadalcanal. Besides being my uncle, John Sweeney was the younger brother of James Sweeney (Xavier Class of 1934) who was featured in the article “Time Passages“ in your summer 2002 magazine. All through my life he was my uncle and my personal hero and inspired me to join the Marine Corps when I graduated from Xavier in 1967. I fought with the 3rd Marine Division in Viet Nam as a 2nd Lieutenant Forward Observer, the same Marine Division Colonel John Sweeney served was the Chief of Staff. It was my last post before retiring from the Marine Corps.

Xavier students interested in learning more about the Marine Raiders and their part in the battle of Guadalcanal can readEdison’s Raiders by Joseph Alexander, which is available in the Xavier library. Also for those that wonder, the rifle my uncle is carrying in the photo is a Reising Submachine Gun, Caliber .45 (made in Models 50, 55 and 60) used in limited quantities by the U.S. Marine Corps, the Coast Guard during World War II.

Brian Sweeney Class of 1967

A More Peaceful Anthem
Concerning patriotic music, columnist Colman McCarthy has suggested that instead of a national anthem with rockets and bombs bursting, we should get a more peaceful national anthem that emphasizes the bravery and freedom required to work for peace and justice. He calls attention to the national anthem of Finland: “O hear my song, thou God of all the nations; a song of peace for their land and for mine.”

Ben Urmston, S.J.

Service with a Smile
I remember Rowena from 1960-1964, along with some of the nicest line servers and worst breakfasts I’ll ever have—but at least there was plenty of food and smiles, and I needed both.

E. N. Genovese

Missing Rasheedah’s
As a former Xavier employee, I used to get lunch or dinner from Rasheedah’s at least twice per week. Her food is one of the things I miss about Cincinnati. I hope more students, faculty and staff will support her restaurant and other businesses in the community. Interdependence is the only way communities thrive.

Elayne Jackson

 
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Xavier Magazine

Wired and Weary

Sara Rowell blames no one but herself. Her parents tell her not to push herself so hard. But something inside keeps driving her. As a freshman, she routinely studied until 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m., slept a few hours, went to class, stayed busy into the evenings, then hit the books again. By the end of her freshman year, she was fried. 

“My goal was a 4.0 grade point average,” she says, “but that was too hard. I had trouble ordering my time. My schedule was so out of whack that I was up all the time. I’d start homework around 7:30 p.m. and just do homework all night. I knew I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I’m a pretty clear-cut case of overachiever. It’s totally my fault.”

Rowell is a triple major—math, political science and the Philosophy, Politics and the Public honors program—which makes her a bit unusual among students. But she’s not alone in other respects. In fact, her story is quite common. Many students in college today suffer physically, mentally and academically as a result of a drive to succeed, a need for social stimulation and a 24-hour-a-day schedule that has no beginning or end. To accomplish it all, they’re staying up late—really late—and robbing themselves of the sleep their bodies crave.

Sleep-deprivation among college students is nothing new, but, in many ways, it’s defining today’s students as much as their wired world. Coming of age in the new century, today’s students have embraced the explosion of technology as their own. They played on computers as toddlers, have been in programmed activities since grade school, have high expectations from parents, school, society and themselves, and are adept at multitasking the dizzying array of technological tools available to them. They use cell phones, iPods, laptop computers—often at the same time.

They’re also ambitious, hard-working and more involved, joining groups, playing sports and doing community service, always with their résumés in mind. Many work crazy hours to pay their rapidly rising tuition. When they add socializing to their crammed schedules, the only time left to study is the time they should be sleeping, so they study instead. They show up for class red-eyed and groggy, and are apt to sack out on a couch at the library in the afternoon. The pace of their lives, the stress they endure and the lack of rest are taking their toll, and it has college officials concerned, especially when it leads to unhealthy behaviors such as eating disorders, irresponsible drinking and sex, and increased visits to the health clinic.

“My role is to try to educate students that for every action there is an equal reaction,” says Luther Smith, dean of students and assistant vice president for student life. “Students are always trying to stretch their boundaries, and our role is to set those boundaries and hold them accountable. The greatest lesson they learn is when they screw up.” When they do, Smith talks to them about their behaviors even as he enforces the University’s discipline policies. But his approach is also holistic. He wants students to practice healthy behaviors before they get out of control. Still, many students come fully intending to rev up their stress levels.

“Everything is turned on from the time they’re toddlers,” Smith says. “And it carries on into college. From the time they enter as freshmen, we send the message that the most successful student is the one who is involved. So they make an extra effort to get connected, and they stay up all night.”

Kailin Borton taped little fuzzy sheep to all the doors in her wing of Husman Hall, where she’s a resident assistant, to drive the freshman girls to a message board in the lounge. There she’d posted a display about sleep. “You Snooze, You Win,” was the title. Underneath was a list of facts about the value of sleep and words of advice: “Thinking of pulling another all-nighter? Think again. Sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle.” Such a simple message, it seems, and so common-sense. But it often goes unheeded. And the reasons why aren’t always related to school. While some students are actually studying, others are on the Internet until 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. talking to friends, downloading music or playing online games. Rowell recalls when some guys in her dorm bought a copy of a new computer game, Halo 2, shut the door and didn’t come out until they beat the game—48 hours later.

College students have always found things to keep them from studying. Today, it’s the computer. A tracking program by Xavier’s information systems office shows the heaviest online weekday traffic among students living in the dorms is from 2:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. Internet traffic then slips gradually until 8:00 a.m., when it begins a steady climb through the rest of the day. Still, during the quietest time, between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., there is a measurable amount of Internet traffic. Somewhere among the 1,800 students living on campus, several are awake and online after 4:00 a.m. “There are 38 students on my wing and about 25 percent are late-night studiers,” says Evan Klein, a junior resident assistant in Husman. “At least one stays up until 4:00 a.m. or so every day.”

As a freshman, Klein used to stay up past 1:00 a.m. hanging out with friends. Now he gets his work done in the evenings because, with his RA responsibilities, he no longer has the luxury of afternoon naps.

“It’s a balance,” he says. “After your freshman year, you realize you’re here for a degree and you don’t have time to play.”

But he still fights the lure of the Internet. “It’s horrible. If you hear the ding of the Instant Messenger, you drop what you’re doing and go see who it is. It’s 24/7 on the computer.” Students are easily caught up in the attractions of the Internet. Most students today use Facebook.com, a web site that allows them to create personal pages that selected friends may view, like an online social club. Instant Messenger or surfing the web is popular. But some get hooked on more risky behaviors like online gaming or gambling that suck up valuable time—and money.

Borton, who studies as late as 3:00 a.m. some nights and has 8:30 a.m. classes every day, has to disconnect her Internet when it’s time to write a paper. When that doesn’t work, she heads for the library or the Gallagher Student Center, away from the distractions of the dorm.

“In your room there’s TV, you might go to sleep, there are a lot of distractions,” says Monique Simpson, a junior criminal justice major who was using the computer lab in Gallagher one Sunday night. “When you’re in your room, there’s that cell phone and you want to talk, but here there are a lot of people who are motivated to work.”

In annual surveys by the American College Health Association, students increasingly list stress as their top impediment to academic performance, rising to 32 percent in 2004 from 29 percent in 2000. Sleep difficulties rate third, just behind illness. The book College of the Overwhelmed by Richard Kadison, chief of mental health services at Harvard University, declares a mental health crisis on American college campuses.

At Xavier, there is an increased emphasis on addressing students’ health. Residence hall directors hold regular discussions with their assistants about issues such as healthy eating, sleeping, the risks of drinking and sexual behavior, and time management. The office of student retention looks for health problems behind struggling students’ poor grades and refers some to the medical clinic.

“What I see is students getting themselves run down because they’re trying to do too much. It shows in their grades,” says Molly Maher, assistant director for student success and retention. “Or they’re just completely stressed and overwhelmed. Students are calling me about Cs. They consider it like an F.”

Maher also contacts students who are having trouble with their grades because, she says, it’s usually an indication something else is wrong. The number of students requesting counseling at the McGrath Health and Counseling Center, where staff was increased this year, is up 13 percent over last year. About 20 percent of all visits are for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders, says medical director Dr. James Konerman.

“Ten years ago, I rarely had to write prescriptions for mental health drugs,” Konerman says. “I’d see a handful, like 1 or 2 percent, but now it’s really exploded. No one knows why we have more cases of this.”

McGrath’s counselors help the stressed-out create more balanced schedules. Campus life is challenging enough for the well-adjusted person, he says, but it can push those who are prone to depression or anxiety right over the edge.

“Students still don’t take care of themselves,” Konerman says, “but demands on them have increased and the speed has increased. Everyone has a computer and gadgets to help them manage their days, but the same problems are out there. They’ve just gotten more complicated.”

Kathleen Edwards has seen a lot in her five years as a residence hall director, the last two at Xavier. She says most of the kids in Husman manage well, but she worries about those who deal with serious personal issues. Last year, a male student withdrew because he couldn’t control his addiction to Internet gaming. He didn’t even notice when campus police came into his room to write up his roommates on an alcohol violation, nor was he aware of his roommates’ drinking.

Edwards says she works closely with her resident assistants about these issues because she knows students will listen more closely to their peers. They create programs where students discuss the challenges of staying healthy in college. One of her favorite exercises is having students survey their friends about the effect of their own behavior on them. “I worry about how they take care of themselves, how much sleep they’re getting, how they handle their stress and how they cope,” Edwards says. “And their study habits. Yesterday at 8:00 a.m., I opened my office and a student was out here with her papers all around her. She hadn’t been to sleep all night.”

Lori Lambert, director for residence life, says freshmen struggle the most. But most also adjust their habits before their second year. “I think students learn the hard way what works and what doesn’t,” she says. “You get sick, you get poor grades, you get in trouble. It’s difficult that so many students stay up and socialize, and it’s hard to be the one to say they’re going to bed. But we see a different pattern after the first midterms and in the second semester.”

Lambert estimates 60 percent or more of Xavier students don’t drink regularly, but she wishes more would find the perfect balance between studying, jobs, socializing and sleep, and would be more considerate of others.

“For some it’s that they’re socializing and doing other things when they should be studying, and then when everyone else is going to bed, that’s when they do their work,” Lambert says.

In response, the University provides people and programs to help students manage the freedom and demands of college, such as tutoring, campus ministers and Student Support Services for first-generation college students. Says Maher, “I almost feel a student fails only if they work at failing here because there are so many resources.”

As for Rowell, the triple major, she’s now a junior and has turned her schedule around. It’s still not for the faint of heart. She sleeps until 6:00 a.m., studies before, between and after classes until about 1:00 a.m. In between, she fits in intramural volleyball, a job as a math tutor, student government meetings and community service. It’s the kind of schedule only a student could master.

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