Posted by: gdevi | March 21, 2017


Rally to save Men’s Track and Field from being eliminated at Lock Haven University.

When: Tuesday, March 21, 12: 15pm

Where: Meet at Roger’s Gymnasium at 12:15; march towards light end up North
Street; end at the new amphitheater where the rally will begin.

Guest speakers: students, alumni, parents, former coaches, community members,

Please join the rally and help keep the Men’s Track and Field students at
LHU. For inquiries, please contact Coach Aaron Russell.

Posted by: gdevi | March 19, 2017

Obituary: Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

Read Guardian’s obituary here.

Thanks for all the great songs, Chuck Berry. You were beloved the world over. Rest in peace, Chuck Berry.

Here are some great Chuck Berry songs

Memphis, Tennessee

Roll Over Beethoven

You Never Can Tell

School Days

Rock and Roll music

You Can’t Catch Me

Posted by: gdevi | March 19, 2017

#SaveHaven Challenge on WTAJ News

Watch the #SaveHaven Challenge on WTAJ news here.

Thank you, Aaron, for your team, your students, and your alumni. Your students are a joy to have in classes!

Posted by: gdevi | March 15, 2017

LHU Athletics

Read Matt Girton’s letter to the editor here. Thanks, Matt, for standing up for our coach colleagues, students and alumni. Excellent letter!

Seeking a better way forward at LHU

MAR 15, 2017


Since I moved to Lock Haven in 2001, there were many times I felt compelled to write a letter to this newspaper expressing either my approval or displeasure regarding a decision or event.

However, it was not until the recent, unjust firing of Lock Haven University swim coach Joel Blesh, the pending and unwise termination of the men’s indoor/outdoor/cross-country teams, and the alienation of our two university foundation campaign co-chairs (and countless donors) that I have broken my 16-year silence.

I cannot remain mute while an institution that means so much to me and this town is heading down a path that, unless it reverses course, will place its future in jeopardy.

I, like so many Lock Haven residents, first encountered Joel Blesh as my son’s swim coach at the YMCA. I was immediately impressed with the interest he took in the success of my (and every other) child in the pool. Joel did not define success solely by splits and finishes, but also by engendering a love for a lifelong pastime. He is one of the main reasons that a small child who would not leave my side in the water has grown into a teenager that, while not swimming competitively, has found joy there. Joel carried his enthusiasm for the sport and his athletes to the next level when he was hired as the coach at LHU. Again, his concern for the swimmers went beyond the pool. In my classroom, I could always count on those students to be attentive and well-prepared. The unpardonable way Joel was fired has already been documented. That LHU has thrown away such a remarkable asset is inexplicable.

For decades, LHU’s men’s track and cross-country teams have been some of the most successful at the school. Like Joel, Coach Aaron Russell looked after his athletes outside of competitions and practice. The success they experienced on the track or course (with multiple conference championships and national qualifiers) extended into the classroom where, once again, I witnessed conscientious students with a drive to excel academically. More than crafting a conference juggernaut though, he has built a family. Countless times I have seen posts to social media lauding the experience that Aaron provided and the bonds they created with the campus and each other. Again, I am at a loss as to why this school would toss such a valuable group of students and alumni aside.

Finally, I am stunned by the reaction against the two co-chairs of the university’s current capital campaign. I have met Jim Whaley and Ron Bowes, and both are spirited alumni and longtime supporters of this school. Their letter to The Express was a distress call. Instead of our administration reaching out to mend fences, these gentlemen were subjected to a diatribe where they were accused of creating “false information, perversion of facts, and intentionally malevolent claims.” To use these words in private against two leading and concerned benefactors would be inexcusable.

To do so publicly is unfathomable.

Our administration has responded to my incredulity at these actions with the fact that LHU has experienced a decline in enrollment and state funding. According to their reasoning, this necessitates the elimination of the above coach and programs. However, during a time of reduced enrollment, we have fired a man and terminated programs responsible for recruiting some of our very best and brightest students who graduate at a substantially higher rate than students in the general population. Administration has made the argument that, through roster management and shifted funding, other sports will recruit more students; therefore, enrollment will not be affected. We need look no further than another State System school to see the flaw in that argument. Millersville University announced in 2012 that it would cut its men’s cross-country and outdoor track teams. According to the Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics report, in 2012, Millersville had 226 male athletes. In 2015, (the latest report I could find and three years after cutting track and cross-country), that number dropped to 205.

This example supports the adage that you cannot keep cutting your way to growth.

In spite of what has been written about those speaking against administrative decisions, I am still one of the most ardent supporters of this wonderful institution.

Because of our coaches, faculty, and staff, a student can still get a solid education and invaluable life experiences at Lock Haven University.

However, we are at a tipping point.

I appeal to our administration to drop its defensive tone and engage in a dialogue where stakeholders’ suggestions are welcomed, as opposed to quickly dismissed.

Unless we walk back from these misguided actions, the line from our alma mater heralding “time for sports and songs and laughter” will ring hollow.

Posted by: gdevi | March 14, 2017

LHU Athletics Administration- Response Letter

Here is Lisette’s response to the VPUR Rodney Jenkins aka “the president” of LHU and his letter to the Express last week maligning the capital campaign co-chairs Jim Whaley and Ron Bowes and their letter in which they asked the trustees to investigate the athletics decisions. Thank you, Lisette, for writing this. I hope the greater public will understand what is happening with LHU Athletics.

Response to ‘Setting the record straight’


MAR 14, 2017

In their March 9 letter to readers of The Express, Ron Bowes and Jim Whaley, co-chairs of Lock Haven University Foundation’s Capital Campaign, expressed their concerns about “the future livelihood of Lock Haven University,” specifically as it follows from actions pertaining to the Athletics program. In that letter, they expressed concern about a female student-athlete being “allegedly threatened in a closed-door meeting, where she was not allowed to have her coach present or have any representation at the meeting” and that she “was accused of violation of media policy for expressing her thoughts.” They also noted that “she was unduly stressed” by the process. It is that portion of the letter that I am writing to address.

The vice president of university relations (or the President) refutes these claims, stating that “the student brought a faculty representative” to one of two meetings, and that “the student did violate the long-standing media policy.” (I say “or” only because the faculty received an email late Friday afternoon with the same “Setting the record straight” message that appeared in this weekend’s issue of The Express.

The message the faculty received had a “From” line indicating the message was from the President of the university. I understand that the byline of the same message appearing in The Express was that of the Vice President of University Relations.)

I happened to be the faculty representative who accompanied the student to the referenced meeting. So let me say this: The student-athlete came to me expressly for support and to ask me if I would accompany her to a meeting that she otherwise was expected to attend with no such representation. When the meeting was called, the student was told by the Athletics Director that she could bring a teammate – the team captain – to the meeting, but that a faculty representative outside of athletics was not necessary, even though the student indicated she would like such a representative to accompany her. She asked for this specifically because she was uncomfortable attending a meeting with the athletics administration without someone outside of Athletics with her. She was told by the athletics director that he and the associate director of athletics are also faculty members, and as such, no additional faculty member was necessary. Presumably, the directors thought their also being faculty members was sufficient to allay her anxiety.

When the student-athlete came to me, it was very clear she was distressed and anxious to go alone to the meeting, or to go with only another team member.

Ron Bowes and Jim Whaley were quite accurate in their saying the student was “unduly stressed.” The student read the meeting set-up as anyone would. Who wouldn’t be “unduly stressed?” No student should be put in that position to feel like s/he was walking into some kind of inquisition without anyone to serve as a witness and as support. That is why the student conveyed to the athletics director that she was uncomfortable with the meeting as it was arranged. Telling a student that another student-athlete is allowed to come, but that no one else can (or “is necessary”) is a violation of the student-athlete’s rights. Telling the student that the Director and Associate Director are also faculty is hardly reassuring in this situation. The student wasn’t stupid. She understood quite well that the role the two directors would be playing was AS directors of the Athletics program.

Regarding the violation of the media policy: I do not believe the student-athlete violated the “long-standing policy.”

The “long-standing policy” that I am aware of is actually titled the “Social Networking Policy,” and the spirit of this policy is about the use of social media. As I read this policy, it is intended to help protect student-athletes from, say, posting something like personal information on Facebook that could put them in harm’s way, or posting something that is offensive or self-incriminating. One of the tenets of this policy reads: “I must refrain from posting offensive or inappropriate pictures and/or comments including but not limited to derogatory language about any member of the NCAA community[.]”

What seemed to concern the athletics directors at the meeting, however, was the fact that the student-athlete had not signed a very recently added policy titled the “Student-Athletes and the Media” policy. This new (repeat, new) policy states: “As a LHU student-athlete, I understand I am not permitted to speak to the media without prior approval from the LHU Sports Information Director or Director of Athletics.” As we know, the student-athlete–all student-athletes–were expected to sign this new policy. Some who are aware of this policy have referred to it as “a gag order.” That is how I read it. I see it very clearly as a gag order. It IS a gag order. It is distinctly different from “Social Networking Policy,” if that is indeed the “long-standing policy” referred to in the letter by the Vice President of University Relations (VPUR) or the President. This new media policy is the one the student-athlete in question refused to sign.

One has to wonder why this new media policy was even instituted. Why suddenly were student-athletes presented with it, and told they had to sign it by a certain date and time? One is hard pressed not to at least see the timing as curious.

The student-athlete I accompanied expressed very clear reasons to the Athletics directors why she felt she could not sign it, and at one point in the meeting, the Athletics Director told the student-athlete he understood her reasons and felt they were justified. And yet, the student was still told there would be “consequences” if the policy was not signed. The “consequences,” the student-athlete clearly understood, had to do with her being allowed to continue in her sport, and also her being allowed to participate in the PSAC championship. As the student-athlete clearly expressed after an exhausting 2+ hour meeting, all she wanted to do was continue her sport. It is why she came to Lock Haven University, she told the Athletic directors, so she could pursue her studies and continue as an athlete. The previous PASSHE institution she was enrolled at had discontinued the sport. So she came to LHU. She couldn’t believe her sport was, once again, under threat of being discontinued. For those who have expressed concern that cutting sports programs will mean students going elsewhere, this student-athlete’s experience is testament to that fear being real and legitimate.

I’ll say one more thing. This student-athlete, who indeed felt unduly and unfairly stressed by this whole situation, is an incredibly impressive student. She is a model student who is committed to her sport and excels academically. Throughout this whole process, and certainly as I witnessed at the meeting, she acted with the utmost poise, integrity, and respect.

The VPUR or the President indicated in his letter that “Creating an atmosphere of free and open discussion is a hallmark of university life. The university has never, and will never, limit the legal rights of our students to speak openly and honestly.”

I can only wonder what the student-athlete might be thinking and feeling in reading that description. I know as a faculty member, I can only voice my concerns to faculty at large through an APSCUF listserv. Our ability to send @faculty emails was taken away some time ago.

Posted by: gdevi | March 9, 2017

LHU Swimming

Read excellent op ed in today’s paper by Foundation board members Jim Whaley and Ron Bowes here:

LHU trustees need to examine direction school is taking, impact on the future

MAR 9, 2017


The purpose of this letter is to bring to the attention of the Board of Trustees of Lock Haven University, university students, alumni and all interested parties concerns that impact the future livelihood of Lock Haven University.

As co-chairs of the university’s Capital Campaign, we feel it is our duty and responsibility to report these concerns to the public.

As with any financial endeavor, investment is negatively impacted by uncertainty.

Much of what has been raised thus far to ensure the future of Lock Haven University is in the form of pledges, which can be rescinded if there is negative publicity, or if there is a lack of support and confidence in the direction the university is moving.

We believe recent decisions and actions by the current administration have eroded trust and confidence.

The decision-making and staffing process to propose the elimination or suspension of various athletic sports has alienated a large number of giving alumni.

In fact, LHU Cross Country and Track & Field have the largest number of giving alumni and currently fund over $250,000 in foundation scholarships.

If the cost of sports is the primary criteria for consideration, then the university leadership could have asked the LHU Foundation or the Capital Campaign to raise the necessary funds, or requested recommendations from a representative body of university, alumni, civic leaders and students to explore other possibilities.

Now, instead of effectively communicating a financial need that would have united alumni in a common cause, the LHU leadership has managed to alienate and anger our largest, giving alumni group and is diminishing any hope to garner support.

A letter outlining those concerns and a request for a meeting was sent to LHU President Dr. Michael Fiorentino dated Jan. 27, but was never responded to.

It would also appear that no strategic communication plan was organized to explain the challenge and build a narrative to gain support to address the challenges.

We have since, as Capital Campaign co-chairs, learned of the intent to cut athletics by reading it on social media.

It would appear the staff work and coordination is non-existent, purposefully obtuse, or requires a change in leadership.

Sports, like men’s cross country, women’s swimming and field hockey, all recruit many students.

At a time when enrollment is falling, why would we possibly cut our top-line revenue source?

We would suggest more attention should be invested in growing enrollment by focusing on the department of admissions and asking alumni to help build a recruitment campaign.

Continued support of what draws many students to Lock Haven is essential.

We are also aware of a troubling situation regarding the actions of the administration in regard to a female student-athlete.

It would appear she was allegedly threatened in a closed-door meeting, where she was not allowed to have her coach present or have any representation at the meeting.

She was accused of violation of media policy for expressing her thoughts.

She was suspended from competition for a number of days before a championship meet and unduly stressed.

Review of the policy and her treatment should be conducted by an outside and independent council in order to ensure the policy’s legality and to protect the institution’s reputation and credibility.

We should all ask ourselves: If this were our daughter, would we want her treated this way?

Now we learn that the swimming program will stay on, but the coach was fired.

Details as to why the coach was fired should be shared with the Council of Trustees.

It appears that both coaches and students are fearful that any discussion on these proposed cuts or actions will result in retribution.

We should welcome a healthy discussion that includes representation from key constituencies in and outside of the university.

Let us not forget, our first priority is to teach and mentor students, and these actions seem counter-intuitive to our school’s mission and do not reflect well upon our university.

Any process must be fully transparent and embarked upon using the best of talent we can muster.

Not doing so will exacerbate an already poorly handled situation.

As co-chairs of the Capital Campaign, we strongly recommend that the Board of Trustees commission an outside and independent committee to investigate and report on the above concerns and publicly state if they individually support the proposed cuts to athletics.

The brand and reputation of Lock Haven University are at risk, and any ability to reach our goals of the Capital Campaign to raise millions of dollars is now in jeopardy.

Ron Bowes and Jim Whaley are co-chairs of the Lock Haven University Foundation Capital Campaign.

Here is swim-swam’s report:

Posted by: gdevi | March 8, 2017

Firing Coach Joel Blesh

Here is my letter to the editor regarding the firing of LHU women’s swim coach Joel Blesh.

I am writing to express my deep concern and sadness at the firing of Lock Haven University women’s swim coach, Joel Blesh, by LHU administration this week.

Coach Blesh was one of the first people that I met when I moved here in 2005.

For those first several years, Coach Blesh coached the YMCA Loggerheads swim team where my child, and several other children from Lock Haven, Mill Hall, Beech Creek, and other neighboring communities swam.

Coach Blesh brought out the enthusiastic swimmer in those children. He was patient and thoughtful, and watched each child’s swimming and technique closely. I can still see Coach Blesh by the side of the YMCA pool with his clipboard in his hand or kneeling down telling the boys and girls how to perfect what they were doing in the water. We, the parents, found him to be a knowledgeable, caring and decent human being and a coach. We loved the meets at the LHU Zimmerli pool where our children–then in the area’s elementary schools — swam. We made and sold food for the concession stands. Maybe one day our children would swim for LHU, we thought. There was great pride in seeing the names of all the LHU swimmers, their meets, events and times hanging around the pool. We were happy to see Coach Blesh’s wife Kasey’s name there as well. We were happy and proud when Coach Blesh became the LHU women’s swim coach.

The Lock Haven University “Alma Mater” song projects a certain warm and fuzzy image of our university:

Where the ivied tower measures

Time for work and play;

Time for sports and songs and laughter

Through each pleasant day;

Where enduring friendships flourish

Sturdy through the years;

Where learning leads to early wisdom

Substance of careers.

I do believe that a university can be a home for the values listed in the above song. However, the manner in which Coach Blesh was fired at Lock Haven University shows no wisdom, friendship, common decency, or humanity.

Coach Blesh’s email was cut off around 9:30 Monday morning; his keys were taken from him during a coach’s meeting, and he was asked to come back at 4:15 in the evening to clean out his office.

The only thing flourishing in the above actions is disdain and disrespect for a coach, a colleague, and a good human being who has served this university and this community with love, talent, and dedication over the years.

It is a shameful day for the university; a day and an action not worthy of the sons and daughters who built up this university in this community through the years.

Posted by: gdevi | January 26, 2017


Apparently, some lawmaker in North Dakota has sponsored a bill that would protect drivers who hit and kill the pipeline protestors if they happen to be somewhere near a road.

I am so ashamed of this place. I am ashamed of Pennsylvania too. This North Dakota bill gives the pipeline people the right to drive people off the road and not be held responsible for manslaughter or murder. What a shameful place and shameful people to support and pass such laws.

Posted by: gdevi | January 25, 2017

Hell is a Very Small Place review

Here is my review of Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices From Solitary Confinement in the latest issue of the North Dakota Quarterly. Subscribe to the journal, nation.

“A Sentence Within a Sentence”: Solitary Confinement as Torture


Posted by: gdevi | January 23, 2017

A good semester

The spring semester started today. Old faces and new faces. The English upper level looked like the fall grammars class; I started looking for students in “their chairs.” Funny! It was wonderful to see everyone; most students agreed that the break was too long. They are ready to be back. Good classes. I look forward to working with you all this semester. Already, it looks like a sleepless semester for me. So much work.

ps: I was at the bank parking lot and it was raining heavily, when a woman with a pronounced limp walked up to me. Hi how are you, she asked. I said, Good. How about yourself? I asked. She said, I am walking now. Oh, I said. Were you hurt? I asked her. A black truck ran over my feet, the woman said. Really? I said. That is terrible. In Lock Haven? I asked. No, up in Beech Creek, the woman said. Did you get it looked at? I asked. I should, the woman said, but I haven’t. Well, maybe you should, I said. Meanwhile, it was raining hard. I had an umbrella. The woman was getting wet though she seemed oblivious to the rain. Well, you take care, I said. You too, the woman said. I started to walk away from my car. My name is Candy Warren, the woman called after me. I turned around and said, okay, hi Candy. Pray for me, will you? Candy called to me. Of course, I will, Candy, I said, I will pray for you. I have to go now, but you take care, I called out to her. I looked back from the foyer when I was inside; she was limping her way amongst the parked cars in the pouring rain. Strange encounters in Lock Haven.

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