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Why I dislike my university

I sent this letter at the beginning of January to Dean of Students, Bruce Pitman, about some of the things that happened to me this last year at the University of Idaho.

Dean Pitman,

In October 2012, I was involved in an incident that resulted in a housing contract termination, disciplinary action and outside legal investigations.

I chose the University of Idaho because the faculty I met while touring campus made me feel welcome, and the environment seemed friendly. My initial impressions of both academia and administration were very high. After these events, I can no longer say that I am proud to be a Vandal. A handful of individuals with an inordinate amount of power have taken my school spirit and crushed it.

I question the procedure that the university used to deal with this incident. It was not timely, it did not seem to operate within the parameters set up by disciplinary codes, and it was not fair or just.

Allow me to address them one at a time:


      • -The incident happened on October 19, 2012.
      • -I received an official charge letter — my first contact from the Dean’s Office — on December 24th, 9 weeks after the incident (and the day before Christmas).
      • -For reasons that I am unsure of, I was not offered an agreed settlement until March 6th, 2013, or 19 weeks after the incident. The terms offered to me were quite disagreeable.
      • -A slightly more reasonable settlement was offered a few weeks later, and a slightly more improved “reduced” settlement was given to me on April 29th, 2013.
      • -A UJC hearing was finally scheduled during dead week; I was provided the very minimal notice required.

In regards to procedures:
I believe that this selection from the Student Code of Conduct is applicable:

Article X, Section 6
“The disciplinary hearing shall occur not less than five nor more than fifteen calendar days after the accused student has been notified in writing of all charges, including amended charges. Maximum time limits for scheduling of hearings may be extended at the discretion of the Dean of Students, or the dean’s designee, as long as the hearing will be prompt. The accused student and DOS may agree to a specific hearing date. The accused student may waive his or her right to a prompt hearing. The accused student may request the chairperson of the UJC to reschedule the hearings. [ed. 8-07]”

The actions that the university took against me were all but prompt. The Disciplinary Office may be considered the “dean’s designee”, but promptness is still applicable in that situation. I did send an email regarding the issue of promptness to the DoS, as did one of my advisors, but failed to receive any contact back or notification of what was going on.

When accusing someone of doing something relatively serious and attaching disciplinary action to it, one would hope that good solid evidence exists. In my case, all that existed was hearsay and speculation.

In the end, what I lacked was a way to prove that I didn’t do anything as described by the disciplinary office.

It was communicated to me that if the disciplinary officer could prove my guilt that they would push for a suspension or worse, and if they could not prove anything with certainty, they would instead have me write a paper and do community service. I’m sure you see the issue I take with this.

I took the agreed settlement offered to me for various reasons:

      • -Erin Agidius intended to push for my suspension or expulsion if I proceeded with a UJC hearing. Whereas if I took the agreed settlement, I was guaranteed a lesser punishment.
      • -It was explained to me by the student defender that the UJC almost always accepts the punishment suggested by the disciplinary officer and that very seldom does the UJC decide on a different action.
      • -A UJC hearing does not require hard evidence. They had hearsay against me from the assistant director of housing, and my word would not stand next to that in front of faculty. Further, a lot of assumptions were made about the incidents which I was being charged of.

In short, and as the student defender worded it, taking the route of a UJC was almost a guaranteed suspension.

What I refused to do was to sign a statement of admission with a list of what the disciplinary office believes I did. The most reasonable thing that happened in this entire situation was that the wording of the settlement was slightly changed so that I was not forced to falsely confess.

Although I realize that the DoS does not control the UI Housing department, I would like to mention problems that happened on their end

      • -About a week after the incident, I was called into the housing office for a meeting with Amanda Mollet, assistant director of housing. I was handed a housing contract termination notice. I find the reason for termination to not be applicable to my situation. I was callously reminded during the meeting that my contract could be “terminated for any reason or no reason”.
      • -I was given three days to move. If it were not the quick actions, help, and resources of my friends, I would have had to drop out.
      • I was not refunded for any part of my housing costs (room costs, deposit, or meal plan)
      • -My meal plan was canceled by the assistant director as well. You do not have to be an on-campus resident to have a meal plan.
      • -Most importantly, I was left homeless. Housing clearly had no care about this. Without refunds, I was not able to easily find housing elsewhere.

This was an unreasonable amount of stress to put any student through, regardless of the situation. It was difficult to keep on top of my class work. During my second semester after this incident, I had to reduce the load of courses I was taking. I didn’t feel safe. Walking onto campus every day was a stressful task.

I never in my wildest dreams imagined that my hobbies could cause me so much trouble or that they would get me to be considered a danger to others, especially in an academic environment. This was one of the most disheartening experience I have ever had.

Thank you for your time,

Jesse Zylstra

Dean Pitman’s response:


This situation has been under an extensive criminal investigation. I have been informed that the investigation has recently been completed.

[omitted sentence]

Our actions were being conducted in cooperation with this investigation.

Bruce Pitman
Dean of Students

My reply:

This incident is an embarrassment to the university and the lack of administrative concern with harassing students and leaving them homeless is upsetting. 

I expected better from this place. 

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SPAM Testing Back on new platform

We are now spam testing on Questions2Answers Q&A Platform.

As usual, it started out with a few legitimate questions to build search engine ranking and to get noticed.

The platform can be seen here:

Current settings require a CAPTCHA (using ReCaptcha) OR email verification. All the rest of the spam limit settings are the defaults of the platform.


We will also introduce SMF spam testing again on two new addresses (although this could get a little messy on resources, we’ll see what we can do…)
One will be at the old address, with no mechanisms to stop spam. ( … not yet set up at this time)
One will be at a random address with no spam prevention mechanisms (to see how long it takes for the address to be discovered). Our robots.txt will block the address from search engine results, but there will be a link to the address on this blog to see if spambots do much of their own indexing or not.

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Let’s Talk About: Natural, Melodic, and Harmonic Minors

Lowered Scale Degrees Chart

The Minors: Lowered Scale Degrees

A quick reminder: We tend to remember most scales by thinking about how they deviate from the major (ionian) scale. i.e., we tend to say that the natural minor scale is like the major scale, but the 3rd, 6th, and 7th scale degrees are lowered. This is not to say that major is in any way better than any other mode/scale. 

In the above chart, the deviations from major for each of the three minors is listed.

How does this work?
Let’s think about the key of C-Major, and turn it into the minors.

If I take my major scale, and lower the 3rd degree (the “third note”), I get a Melodic Minor
If I lower the 6th in addition to the 3rd, I get the Harmonic Minor
and if I lower the 7th in addition to the 3rd and 6th, I get the Natural Minor.

C  D  E  F  G  A  B    < My Major Scale
C  D  Eb F  G  A  B    < Melodic Minor  (3 lowered)
C  D  Eb F  G  Ab B    < Harmonic Minor (3, 6 lowered)
C  D  Eb F  G  Ab Bb   < Natural Minor  (3, 6, 7 lowered)

What does it look like on the staff?

The Minors on Staves

(Red represents newly lowered notes. Both pink and red represent deviations from the major)


Hear it: Download:The Minors MP3

Still not getting it?

Have you sung them yet?
Let’s look at the solfege:

Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti       < Major
Do Re Me Fa Sol La Ti      < Melodic Minor
Do Re Me Fa Sol Le Ti      < Harmonic Minor
Do Re Me Fa Sol Le Te     < Natural Minor

What actually changes between these different types?
The location of the half steps, of course!
Harmonic Minor is an interesting exception. It has three half-step locations, unlike any other commonly used scale/mode.

Where are the half-steps? Take a look:

Chart. Half Steps Marked with Red Arrow
Half Steps Marked with Red Arrow

Copyright info for these charts and audio:

Creative Commons Licence
7th Chord Chart by Jesse Zylstra is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Click “read more” for word-processor friendly version
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Let’s talk about: Lead Sheet Symbols

Lead-Sheet Symbols: Triads and 7th Chords

7th Chord Chart

Free use for non-commercial purposes, share alike, attribute.

Lead-sheet symbols are a tricky thing to remember. Even I, if I go too long without reminding myself about my sevenths, get them messed up.

On the chart above, you can see the 5 types of 7th chords and the 4 types of triads.

Let’s talk about the types of sevenths:
A major 7th has what would be the root of the chord and the 7th being a half-step apart (i.e., C — B)
A minor 7th has what would be the root and the 7th a whole step apart (two half steps. i.e., C — Bb)
A half-diminished 7th is also one whole step (two half steps)
fully diminished 7th is three half steps ( i.e., C — A)

These are just the 7ths. The triad is equally important in determining the type of the 7th chord.

Here is an abstracted version of the above chart:
Major Triad + Major 7th = Major 7th Chord (M7)
Major Triad + Minor 7th = Dominant 7th Chord (Mm7 / dom7)
Minor Triad + Minor 7th = Minor 7th Chord (m7)
Diminished Triad + Minor 7th = Half-Diminished 7th Chord (⦰7th)
Diminished Triad  Diminished 7th = Fully Diminished 7th Chord (o7) (Note that “o” is a radial sign)

“Why the white-notes?”
If you spell your sevenths without qualities, the “white-note” chords are their default position. C E G B is a M7,  F A C E is also an M7. G B D F is the only white-note dominant chord, etc etc. They are useful as a memory tool.

What does it look like in two different keys?

7th Chord Qualitiues in C and Bb

7th Chord Qualitiues in C and Bb

Hear it:

Download: 7th Chord Qualities MP3 

Notice how the minor 7th (m7) almost sounds major. This is because of the major chord that exists in the chord when the bass note is removed. C Eb G Bb, remove the C and you have a Eb major triad.

Copyright info for these charts:

Creative Commons Licence
7th Chord Chart by Jesse Zylstra is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Click “read more” for word-processor friendly version
Continue reading

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Propaganda of the Week:

Loose Lips

Loose Lips

Loose lips might sink ships, but loose gooses take trips.

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Delano, the Bus Driver.

Riding public transit in the Wenatchee Valley is usually pretty uneventful. The drivers are super nice, routes are usually on time (except in the winter), and the stations and busses are clean and safe.
I had a bus driver, let’s call him “Delano”, who wasn’t exactly friendly or very helpful.

Delano became our regular bus driver to Waterville. Waterville is a long-distance rural route from Wenatchee. You couldn’t hardly get a word out of Delano. He said “hello” or “good morning” when you said the same to him, and that was it. No smile either.

There was a girl who usually got on our bus when we reached the city. She got on every day, at the same spot and at the same time. She was a regular rider, along with the rest of us.

She forgot her bus pass one day. When Delano opened the bus door, she said: “I forgot my pass today.” Delano said: “No pass, no bus!”, shut the door, and began to drive off. Another passenger shouted: “Stop! I’ll pay for her to ride”, but Delano kept driving.

All of us were in shock.

We wrote our complaints to the city transit administrators. We knew Delano wasn’t in “the wrong”, but his actions were not very professional or humane; especially considering that he knew the girl did have a pass.

Quite a bit of time passed. I needed to take the bus to the hospital to visit a family member. The yearly route change had just occurred, and I knew that the hospital route had made a significant change.

I got on the bus, and guess who was driving?

“Shit!” was all that went through my mind. We took off at the scheduled time, and I knew we were getting closer. I tried my best to make sense of the new map, but it wasn’t happening. So, I took a deep breath and said: “Delano, could you let me know when we get to the bus stop nearest to the hospital?”

He replied: “Yes. Yes I can.”

And he did. He pulled right over at the stop for me. I didn’t even have to pull the stop string and make the bus produce that annoying “ding” sound.

I file this memory under: “Moments when I thought I was going to die, but things turned out alright.”

Delano, I suspect, may have gone to happy camp, making all the difference.

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Pipe Organ Encounter Technical

This past week I was at a Pipe Organ Encounter: Technical (POET) event.

The regular Pipe Organ Encounter (POE) is an event for younger people who have little or no experience playing the organ to have the opportunity to receive lessons and see many different organs in a weeks time. The POE Technical is for organists to get a chance to see the inside of the instruments, learn how they are constructed, and get hand-on experience working with organs.

For the event, a group of 18 (including myself) stayed at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA (except for a few commuters, who still reported to PLU at the beginning of the day) and spent a great deal of time seeing instruments all around the area.

The two organ builders that we visited were Paul Fritts of Paul Fritts and Company Organ Builders, and Martin Pasi of Pasi Organ Builders. These are, by all means, the two finest organ builders in the United States. They both build organs using historical methods. The goal is not to replicate historic organs, but to return to older and true methods of organ building that have been in existence for centuries. Both builders have been getting a lot of notice in Europe as well; and they certainly should, because every instrument they build is of the utmost and exceptional quality. Everything in their instruments is build to absolute perfection to a degree that I have never seen.

Both builders have a preference for wedge shaped bellows. Why? It makes the instrument BREATH! When a sudden demand for air is made, there is slight sag in the supply. This is just like the breath of a singer, or any wind instrument. The effect is magnificent. When not desired, additional “wind stabilizers” can be turned on to make the organ constantly speak absolutely steadily.

All but two of the organs we saw were tracker organs. A tracker organ uses completely mechanical means to operate the entire instrument. The only electrical parts in a tracker are the combination action (to assist the organist in making quick stop changes) and a blower. Most trackers lack a combination action. Many have the ability to manually supply wind (so one could turn off the blower and still have the organ playable… with the assistance of a person to supply the wind).
One of the non-tracker instrument was across the street from the PLU at Trinity Lutheran. The other was a theater organ in Gig Harbor.

I’ve seen, played, and worked on theater organs before. Most of my peers with me in the POET have never seen theater organs or played one. Some never knew what they sounded like. I was quite pleased to see that nearly everyone had an ear-to-ear grin on their faces when they heard the impressive playback of a concert by Jonas Nordwall, which included many of the percussions available in the instrument.

Overall, the event was fantastic. I hope to see more POE events for older students and adults that I can participate in, and I would suggest that others with a similar interest in playing and working on organs check this out.

You can read about Pipe Organ Encounters and the different types of encounters available here:

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