Ask Charlotte Answers 5/12/08

Question: Hi Charlotte. I am a German minor and I was wondering how come the German TV channel is not working anymore on the campus cable. I enjoyed watching Deutsche Welle in order to work on my German etc. I just think it is unfair how there are around three French channels and four Spanish channels and our only German channel doesn't work anymore. Come on Charlotte, for the sake of fairness and the ridiculous tuition we all pay at this school we should all be entitled to get the channels we pay for. GET THIS FIXED PLEASE. Thanks.

Answer: First of all, I am just a ghost…my only role is to whisper around for information and clarity. Of course, as you ask, in some cases my whispers do lead to fixes. This response came from my friends in IT: At this point, the German channel, Deutsche Welle, which used to be available to us by open satellite feed, has decided not to broadcast in the clear any longer. This programming was funded to a large degree by the German government, which decided to cut that funding in the face of budget shortfalls. Technology Services continues to work with our video contractor to find an alternative source for German-language programming and we hope to find a replacement—as the cultural diversity and curricular support on the cable system is important to us, too!

Question: I heard that there was once a fourth floor to van Ess but it burned down, killing all the people inside. Is this true or is it just a rumor?

Answer: After consulting with many individuals on the Hartwick campus (those who should be in the know!) I have had no confirmation of this story. It seems that we should label your query as “another small-town rumor” (the likes of which have circulated around this place for my entire lifetime, and my afterlife).

Question: If I don't get into my J Term trip can I apply for another one?

Answer: Yes, you may. A careful review of your off-campus programs packet will provide all of the information needed.

Question: I live on the fourth floor of a dorm now and I got placed on the fourth floor for next year too. Some days you just can't physically make it up four flights! What dorms have elevators in them?

Answer: The residence halls that have elevators in them include Wilder, Hilltop, and Oyaron. Smith, Saxton, van Ess, Holmes, Leitzell, and the Townhouses do not have elevators.

Perhaps it will be helpful to you to reframe the daily trek to the fourth floor of your residence hall. Instead of regarding it as a sometimes insurmountable hike, think of it as part of your daily workout—and feel virtuous for accomplishing it!

Question: If Hartwick is so concerned with being "Green," why don’t we start with turning off the heat in the residence halls?

Answer: According to my friends in Facilities, the transitional periods in the spring and fall are the most difficult to maintain a comfortable environment in Hartwick’s buildings. As you have likely noticed, within a two-day period we can have a high of 80 degrees followed by a snow storm. On a given day, it is common to have 40 degree temperature swings. If the heat were to be turned off to compensate for a warm day, by the next morning, there would be complaints about the buildings being too cold. Some of our buildings have modern digital controls, whereby boiler operation is adjusted to compensate for outdoor temperature. Many, however, still rely on manual operation. Modernization of our controls and our heating and cooling systems is part of our overall capital spending plan. For now though, those in Facilities do the best work they can with what they have.

Question: If Hartwick is having so many money problems, why did they push forward with the construction of Golisano and all the renovations around campus? Why not hold off on big projects until they get a grip on things?

Answer: “Money problems” are no different here than elsewhere. There is never enough funding to meet all of our wants and needs. Balancing our wants and needs is one of the things living humans find most challenging. Problems occur when many have little, or nothing. Since I no longer require sleep, I often ponder the difference between a need and a want—and in a world where so many have so little, I feel richer than I ever did when I was alive.

During the past five years, Hartwick’s long-term debt has been reduced, and more than $16 million in new gifts has been received—principally for the purpose of improving College facilities—by engaging the support of many alumni, parents, and friends of Hartwick. As you might know, the construction of Golisano Hall was set in motion by a donation of $5 million from Tom Golisano.

So, while we must weigh our priorities, Hartwick certainly has ‘a grip on things’ and has made renovations and improvements a priority!

Question: What is our school doing about the fact that our retention rate is 76%? That seems awfully low. That means that of the approximately 500 enrolling freshmen, 120 of them will drop out. That's 24%. Almost one quarter of students choose not to come back. Reasons I have heard cited include finances. Well, Pomona College costs significantly more than Hartwick yet has a 99% retention rate. Williams, Haverford, Colby...all these schools are also up in the high nineties, as are many others. It seems like this has been a problem at Hartwick for many years and that no one is doing anything to change the problems that cause students to leave. Is anyone doing anything to help this?

Answer: Having spent 150-odd years in these environs, it is difficult for me to understand how anyone would want to leave Hartwick College—but I understand that it is not the right place for everyone. Our retention rate is actually quite typical of the small private liberal arts colleges that we consider to be our cohorts.

In an effort to elicit and address each student’s reason(s) for leaving the College, all departing students are asked to complete an exit interview. Some of the reasons given for leaving the College—for example, a desire to study Chinese or to attend a larger institution—have to do with personal discovery. When reasons cited have to do with dissatisfaction with aspects of life on the Hartwick campus, they are the focus of much attention. It is indeed a high priority for the College to address these issues, and it is an ongoing and very important process.

Question: Why do all the meal plans for students younger than seniors cost within $150 of the unlimited meal plan? I want to save my parents money with a lower meal plan because I hate the Commons food and table rock food is all greasy or fried or otherwise terrible for you. I would like to cook more of my meals in my dorm and have selected a lower meal plan for next year but it really only saves a little over a hundred dollars to reduce from unlimited down to less than 10 meals per week. It seems like the College is just looking to make money off of us and doesn't care if we like the Commons food or not because they're charging us for it either way. Why is this? Why can't there be a cheaper meal plan for underclassmen?

Answer: I am a bit surprised that you cannot find food at the Commons that suits you—to me it seems a veritable feast of options (particularly in comparison to the modest meals I took in my day).

As usual, my friends on campus were able to help with your question: Hartwick College room and board are set each year by the Board of Trustees. Hartwick College requires freshmen to have complete meal plans so we guarantee their ability to eat consistent meals each day. We make more options available as students get older. But we require students who live on campus to have a complete meal plan for adequate nutrition through their senior year if their room does not have its own kitchen.

If the food at the Commons is not meeting your needs, please remember that you may speak with Rick Accordino, the Food Service Director, to try and come up with a choice that works for you.

Question: Charlotte, is there anything anybody can do about the ZHDlistserve thing? People's stupid drama is really clogging my in-box.

Answer: First, a bit of advice—what one person perceives to be drama is perceived by another person as passion and interest. The zhdlists have been misused throughout this year, as they are reserved specifically for campus-wide announcements. The AGORA list was created this fall as a forum for campus-wide discussions, when earlier “discussions” sprouted up on the zhdlists. If you do not want to receive AGORA postings, you may opt out of the list.