Oglethorpe is a very special place

Couldn’t be more proud of our students. Oglethorpe is a very special place. Here’s a note I shared with our community today.


Faculty, staff, and students:

 On this past Wednesday evening, over two hundred students gathered in the TLCC dining hall to share their personal experiences and views on the issues of race and discrimination on our own campus and across our country. While there were more than a dozen trustees, faculty, and staff in attendance, I wish more of us could have been there. I could not have been more impressed by the leaders who helped organize the event, the Oglethorpe Diversity Board, the Black Student Caucus and the Student Government Association, and by the passion and eloquence of everyone who came up to talk, minority and majority students alike. I know additional events, large and small, are being planned for second semester and I encourage all of you to make the time to show up at one of these. I think we all learn by attending these events.


As you know, rallies and protests have been organized over the last few weeks on campuses across the country. Despite the good will and intentions of many, discrimination, racism, and intolerance continue to be a regular experience of members of our community, on campus and off. In my view, there is no more important issue for our own community to face and to take on. I can say with confidence that the conversations that characterized the event on our campus are far too rare today. People talked and people listened. I am so proud to be part of a community where that still happens.


Today, you will see signs on the Quad that were part of last night’s event. Please take a moment to read them. I invite everyone to join the conversation.


President Schall


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A city divided

This morning I decided to venture into a new part of the city and see if my Uber experience would be different and boy was it ever. Five rides in little more than two hours. $35.17 was my share (or I should say Oglethorpe’s share) of this morning’s fares. Here’s a quick run down of my passengers: a young woman who had lost her license from a DUI conviction and decided to stick with Uber as it proved more convenient and less expensive than owning a car; a businessman who spends most of his time in China who needed a ride back to his residence at the Ritz Carlton; a Georgia Tech student who had dropped his girlfriend’s car off to be detailed and didn’t want to wait around for the few hours; a college counselor for a well-known private school in Atlanta on his way back from the airport needing a ride from a MARTA station to his apartment; and finally what started out as a two person ride (maybe boyfriend and girlfriend) until she threw him out of the car after an argument before we even got started to their (then just her) destination. I couldn’t tell whether it was the end of a late night for them or too early a start to the day. In any event, it was all I could do to stop myself from telling her this guy was a loser and she needed to permanently throw him overboard. He must have dropped the F bomb ten times in the two minutes he was in my car. And did I mention the college counselor recognized me? I believe what he said was “Is that you, Dr. Schall?” Atlanta is a damn small town.

My routes this morning were all in the general vicinity of Midtown unlike most of my prior outings which were more on the outskirts of town (in between OTP and ITP as it is called here). My riders today were all white and from what I could gather, all quite well-off. It ought not be that big a surprise that where you Uber determines who who you will pick up, but the contrast couldn’t be more stark.

I’m headed up to New York tomorrow for a Monday morning appearance on The Market Makers. Eight forty a.m. on Bloomberg TV. They are interested in my little experiment. Five minutes of fame for Oglethorpe. Should be fun.

Sent from my iPad

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It’s the guns, stupid

I think it was the 1992 presidential election campaign where the lovable James Carville famously coined the phase, “It’s the economy, stupid” in explaining Clinton’s campaign strategy in trying to unseat George H.W. Bush from serving a second term. This morning I was reading all the theories about how we might end or at least slow down the massacres by disaffected young men, as in Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Boston, Charleston and now Chattanooga. Why is it that so many young men become radicalized, often through the Internet, and are driven to commit such horrific acts? What can we do to stop the “lone terrorist” not on anyone’s watch list?

Here’s my take this morning. There’s virtually nothing we can do to stop young men from becoming disaffected. Some portion of this age and gender group will experience depression and/or a general sense of despair and anger in their lives. It’s just going to happen. In today’s highly charged and divided world, that depression and anger is likely to reveal itself over religious or racial difference. And there are lots of people around who are inclined to take advantage of these troubled young men and lead them to act out in massively destructive way. While enhanced mental health services would be a start, I just don’t see us making much of a dent there. On the other hand, doing something to break the combination of angry young men and insanely easy access to weapons of mass destruction just seems too obvious to me. The Chattanooga shooter returns from a recent trip to the Middle East and goes on a private sale, on-line gun site and with the touch of a finger, orders and obtains the all too familiar AK weapon used to kill five brave soldiers. We can go on all day (and our 24 hour news idiots certainly do) about how to identify these murderers before it’s too late, but it will always be too late. On the other hand, we might try to do something to at least slow down the access these boys have to killing machines. What a novel idea. It’s the guns, stupid. And boy are we stupid.

Sent from my iPad

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Our health is everything

On the way back to the office from lunch today, I picked up Christian, a young man who broke his neck and back 15 years ago in a car accident. He had just graduated from Georgia Tech with his whole life ahead of him. After a decade of care, he has begun to walk again. A nice gentlemen helped Christian and his walker to my car and off we went to Northside Hospital to see a doctor. Christian was my first Uber rider who joined me in the front seat and also the first one with whom I talked the entire ride.

Christian can’t drive yet and was not sure he would ever be able to. Not being able to drive, Christian shared, took away his independence. That was the hardest thing for him to lose. When we arrived at our destination, I gathered his walker from the trunk and accompanied him into the hospital. Christian told me I’d get a five star rating from him., although he wasn’t sure how much that mattered. I told him it mattered a great deal to me.

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The Thrill is Going, Going, Gone

Well, that didn’t take long. Saturday morning was my first Uber drive and here we are on Monday and having my Uber Driver’s app buzz me no longer brings a major thrill. I have come to quickly realize that whether someone needs a ride or not at the time my car happens to be close to their location has nothing to do with whether I am a worthy person. It’s all about logistics. Now that the thrill is gone, my attention has shifted back to my original purpose or at least to something akin to that purpose. As you will recall, I had wanted to gain a hands-on feel for how many workers in our new economy are trying to make a go of it. That remains the case, but a new purpose has revealed itself.

Today’s venture was trip five and a pattern is beginning to emerge. I had assumed most Uber riders were like me, out for a night’s event where alcohol was being served or needing a quick ride in another city from the airport to a business meeting. I’m certain riders of those types do make up a reasonably large percent of Uber users. What I have found though, in my admittedly very small sample, is that the nature of the riders are at least as interesting as the drivers (and in my case, far more so). Four of my five rides – all my rides have been during daylight hours — have been with very ordinary folk just trying to get to where they need to get quickly and not spend a significant part of their daily income in doing so. Three of them have included stops at a local train/subway station. I have no idea what they did B.U. (that’s Before Uber). I can’t imagine they used a taxi. A one mile taxi ride from my local train stop to my house, just one mile away, recently cost me $12. And that’s without any tip. I don’t know yet if there is a minimum Uber fee. As a driver, I sure hope there is. My fare for a two or three mile trip has been on the order of $6. But $12? At minimum wage, that’s nearly two hours’ worth of work. Again, I can’t imagine any of the four riders I took could have or would have paid that much. Would they have had to resort to taking a bus or two? That’s possible I imagine, even likely. But I know that instead of a five minute ride with maybe a five minute wait, door to door, a bus route would take five or ten times as long. Not a wonderful option for sure.

So here’s my take on day three. While the students at my university love the option of taking Uber home from a late night downtown and that’s an entirely worthy cause, an even more valuable purpose is to serve regular ole’ folks who need to do regular ole’ things (like get to and from work) and not empty their wallets. I am becoming an even bigger fan of my new employer – or should I say the company for whom I work as an independent contractor? More on that to follow.

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Well, that first date didn’t go so well

For those of you who missed my initial post on my new venture, here’s a brief recap. I signed up to be an Uber driver on Thursday afternoon. By Friday morning, my application was approved. For some reason, I was not required to take the 70 question test before I was licensed to drive. Maybe they saw my two doctoral degrees and figured I’d never pass the darn thing. Who knows, but from what I could tell, my app was in order and I was set to go.

July 4 in Atlanta is the day of the Peachtree Road Race, the world’s largest 10k race (not the longest, the largest) with some 70,000 runners/walkers. It’s been an Atlanta tradition since 1970. I ran the race the year I got to Atlanta. The crowd is so massive it took me 48 minutes to get to the starting line and less time to run the thing. This year I decided to head downtown in my Uber X vehicle, now clean as a whistle, and see if I could pick up my first ride – someone who had run the race in the pouring down rain who needed a ride back home. I even brought some towels to make their ride home more comfortable (and keep my leather seats intact). I made it downtown quite quickly, but that’s where the problems began. The police and roadblocks were out in force and I couldn’t get closer than six blocks to where the runners finished. Who in their right mind was going to want to walk another quarter mile after running six?

I pulled over on the side of the road and told myself I’d wait 15 minutes for a call. And then it came. My Uber app began to beep wildly. I accepted the ride, and saw that Gabe was indeed about six blocks away. I found the place on the app (it is an amazing application) where I could call Gabe. When he answered, I told him I was his Uber driver and explained my predicament. Gabe sounded really nice. I was really looking forward to meeting him. I started to imagine what he looked like and how fast he ran the Road Race. I will give it to Gabe. He let me down easy. It was just too far to walk; he’d look for a ride on the other side of the Park and wished me a happy Fourth. My first Uber ride gone south. Maybe we will meet again.

By then I figured it had been enough excitement for the day, so I headed back north to my office to get a few things done. I did decide, though, to leave the Uber app online, indicating I was available for business. And then, literally a few yards from my office, it went off again. They say if you fall off the horse, you need to get back on again. This time the gentleman would be waiting for me outside an establishment called Lucky’s. I promise I’m not making this up. He got into the back seat and gave the address of his destination. I typed it into my iphone and saw the word Duluth come up. For those of you who don’t know the city, for someone who lives inside the perimeter, Duluth might as well be Minneapolis. I never travel that far outside the city. But to Duluth we were headed.

My ride was very quiet for the first ten or fifteen minutes and then he got on his cell phone. It sounded like he had taken a new job selling car financing and it also sounded like he was making a fortune. No wonder he could afford a ride all the way to Minneapolis. As we were arriving at his destination, he asked me what I was doing the rest of the day. I thought that was quite nice of him. I explained my tennis match was rained out, but that my wife and I were going to dinner later with friends. I asked him if he was from Duluth and that’s when the bomb dropped. No, he was from another small town. He had come to Oglethorpe to study business, but was now transferring to Georgia State. We talked about his favorite professors (it was clear by then he knew who I was) and he wished me a great day. I left the parking lot and started to laugh so hard that I had to pull the car over. Just my luck, my first ride and I picked up not just a student of mine, but one that was leaving to go to another institution. It’s a small damn town.

On the way back home, I picked up two more riders. Both women, both less well-off than my Oglethorpe friend, one headed to Quick Trip and the other to the Marta Station to go to work. The fares here were six and seven dollars respectively.

Day one is over and done with. Time to celebrate our Country’s birthday. Oglethorpe’s scholarship fund is now $31 richer. It was a good day.

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Uber from the driver’s seat

Back in the early 1970’s when I was in college, John Coleman was the President of Haverford College, a close neighbor of my alma mater, Swarthmore College. During his vacations, President Coleman often worked as a laborer, short order cook, or dishwasher. My favorite stories were about his service as a garbageman. This college CEO and President of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank fancied himself a pretty fair collector of garbage. Of course he never suggested he would give up his day job for one of these part time gigs, but I admired him for just being open to experiencing a different side of working life.

Whether being an Uber driver today is the equivalent of a garbageman in the 70’s is a point I won’t argue, but from my first ride with Uber six months ago, the urge to try this out from the driver’s seat appealed to me. It seemed like an opportunity to experience how a growing number of Americans experience work. And to be fully transparent, I love to drive and with a very creaky back these days, I’m not a huge fan of manual labor.

I’ve got to hand it to Uber. They are really good at what they do. Really good. Five minutes after starting the on-line registration, my cell phone rang and the voice on the other end of the phone asked “Am I ready to have my car inspected?” Ridiculously efficient. Within a few more minutes, a very nice man in a very clean car pulled into the entrance of my university. Had I really not washed and vacuumed my car in a couple weeks? Nice start to a new job. Despite these shortcomings, after a ten minute very organized and regimented inspection, I passed (or I should say my near-new, but slightly dirty Volvo passed).

My inspector had been driving with Uber for 17 months. His customer rating was 4.85 on a scale of one to five. He clearly was not someone to be ignored and so I listened very carefully to the driving tips he began to impart. It will take me a while, he suggested, to figure out how best to catch rides. Stay away from large events. They are a pain to get into and out of. I can drop people at the airport but I’m not allowed not to pick them up. Sometimes, he advises, it’s best just to sit near a hot neighborhood. The bars in Buckhead or the Marta stations in North Atlanta are a good bet. The gentleman’s clubs on Cheshire Bridge Road late at night are also lucrative. That ought to make my wife happy. Other times, just try roaming a bit. On a good Saturday night, I ought to be able to clear $300 to $400. Since I’m donating my earnings to Oglethorpe’s scholarship fund, that has the potential of being a night well spent. I’ve certainly been to plenty of alumni events where I didn’t take that much in for my school.

Here’s what else I now know about the inside workings of Uber. If someone throws up in my car, just take a picture, e-mail it in, get my car cleaned, and I’ll get reimbursed. And as an Uber driver, I’m eligible for all sorts of discounts at tire stores, oil lube outlets, cell phone companies and even gas stations. This was getting better every minute.

By the close of day one, my driving record has been checked and my license, insurance and registration reviewed and approved. I think we are awaiting my criminal background check before they allow me to take the Uber test. Seventy questions and I need to score a seventy percent passing grade before my credentials will be issued. My inspector commented that I seemed like a smart enough guy to get a seventy. Clearly, he have not discovered that I have flunked my first driver’s test 45 years ago. I plan to study up over the holiday weekend.

I’ll share more after my virgin ride. I haven’t been this nervous in a long time.

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