Subversive Email Gets It Mostly Right

I would really love to know who’s behind the name “Wes Annoucement” that sent out an all-campus email this afternoon. In this message, they critique several problems with Wesleyan by mimicking the format of those lovely “you’re going to have to trek through the snow unless we text you at 6:45 AM” emails. I think a lot of the points are right on, but I’ve got to address my concerns with the last paragraph of the email. If you have any (non-sexist, non-racist, non-classist) thoughts on the content of the message, go ahead and sound off in the comments.

If your thoughts on receiving this email are “feminists suck,” then, well, bye Felicia.

Before you read this post, I highly suggest that you take a look at Jesse Shanahan GRAD’s awesome WesSpeak that was published in The Argus on Tuesday. Shanahan details how difficult it is for students with disabilities to travel on campus during inclement weather, and how far Wesleyan has to go before being truly ADA compliant. Actually, given how widely I’ve seen Shanahan’s piece shared, I’m surprised the email did not include an ableist critique of Wesleyan. It’s just a good reminder that all intersectional projects should include the perspectives of those who are differently abled.

Without further ado, here is what many people on campus received from an anonymous source this afternoon:

To the Wesleyan Community:

The University anticipates being “open” tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 12, despite continuing to build upon a history of settler colonialism and rampant heterosexism. University officials are monitoring the level of repressive tolerance and if conditions change, you will be alerted through Wesleyan’s emergency notification system by 6:45 am. Crews will work overnight and early Thursday to keep marginalized people as powerless as possible. We ask everyone to exercise extreme caution when interacting with feminists on campus. Dealing with aching feelings of white guilt may be difficult, so please wear appropriate shoes. Remember, denying personhood is the best way to stay safe and warm in the winter.

Tomorrow, we ask you to report slippery slopes of diminished expectations that require immediate attention by calling work order control. If snow blocks your chosen path across campus please remember that queer students are expected to maintain respectability at all times.  If snow flurries occur or need-blind admissions are reinstated please stay inside to avoid adverse conditions and poor students. Please exercise extreme caution when leaving your home as women, people of color and queer people may be verbally harassed. If you are a white cis-man continue to travel through campus freely, as the natural world continues to accommodate your every wish.

The University’s Adverse Weather Policy states that employees should use their judgment about coming to work, and provide additional information for higher paid employees who do not feel they can safely come to campus. The university expects its lowest paid workers to risk life and limb or sleep on bubble wrap on the floor of the Daniel Family Commons in order to maintain the quality of life its students blindly expect.

Faculty who are unable to hold their classes as scheduled should just thank their lucky stars that the University compensates them merely $6,000 per class and stop complaining. A living wage is only for those who are wholeheartedly invested in the capitalist system. The humanities, especially ethnic and feminist studies, are continuing to fail to meet the standards for productivity — so please get your act together.

Please call Public Safety for help with Public Safety-related matters of administrative violence and structural oppression, though there are no guarantees that subaltern publics will be protected. If the social or administrative climate of the University continues to affect your mental health, please utilize Zingle to text in your order to CAPS. They have a growing supply of pharmaceuticals federally approved to numb your sense of reality. For affective emergencies, contact your local queer feminist socialist assembly.

This message fires some necessary shots. I wholeheartedly agree with its critique of the treatment of Bon Appetit workers, the absurdly low salaries of adjunct professors, and acknowledging that there are some colonialist, racist, sexist, and heterosexist aspects of Wesleyan’s history. And yes, it is crucial to exercise caution when interacting with feminists on campus. As a Wesleyan feminist, I carry a hammer with me at all times so that I’m ready to smash the patriarchy at a moment’s notice. Watch out.

That being said, I’ve got to protest against this sentence in the last paragraph:

“If the social or administrative climate of the University continues to affect your mental health, please utilize Zingle to text in your order to CAPS. They have a growing supply of pharmaceuticals federally approved to numb your sense of reality.”

Listen. While I fully support a subversive critique of white capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy, I don’t believe that there’s any need to criticize people on campus who take pharmaceutical drugs. Many of us do so because it improves our quality of life, not because we are looking to blithely “numb [our] sense of reality.” In fact, shaming people for relying on pharmaceuticals is a form of ableism.

But truly, this sounds to me like I’m going through an affective emergency. I’m going to go look up the email for Wesleyan’s local queer feminist socialist assembly in OrgSync. It may take me a while.

  • Adam

    Given the thoroughly polemical tone of the email, I think the last couple sentences of the email are far less problematic than you make them out to be. I think it’s possible to be pro-treatment and still to use polemics to critique the pharmaceutical and psychiatric/psychotherapeutic industries for being corrupted by the industrial capitalist superstructure in which they exist. Moreover, it’s pretty clear (to me at least) that these polemics are directed not toward individuals needing/seeking treatment but rather toward said superstructure. We’re all products of the system, but that doesn’t mean we should read critiques of the system as critiques of ourselves.

  • Peter Cotrona

    I am one of those workers that slept in DFC. We did not do it because we were made to, we did it so we can better serve the students during a blizzard. Everything we do is to serve the students in any way we can. Some of the other staff members live a distances away, or have children that were out of school. We make a very fair wage, our goal is to meet the students needs. Not because we were made to, but because we care.

  • minerva

    “If you have any (non-sexist, non-racist, non-classist) thoughts on the content of the message, go ahead and sound off in the comments.”

    I agree with the email (mostly) but freedom of speech is important! How can you ever hope to have a productive discussion with others (e.g. people outside of your ideological echo room) if you don’t allow them to speak their mind and make their points?

  • P.M Stephen Harper

    Excellent point on the “reality numbing pharmaceuticals,” it’s ironic the author of the email failed to see that general contradiction in sentiments. That was messed up.

    Can we just call a spade a spade and say that one of the quickest ways for the school to address the “white capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy,” at least amongst the student population, is to get the administration to change their freshman housing policies? Specifically, stop putting the white capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy together in Fauver and certain floors of Clark?

  • adam

    you fags would never make it in the real world.

  • guest

    really interesting point about the critique of psychiatry. I too take psychiatric medication and it does improve my quality of life – but I took the critique to mean that the school sometimes uses pharmaceuticals as an alternative to addressing structural problems. For example, survivors of rape looking to the administration for resolutions are told to (every other second) to go to CAPS – presumably for psychiatric treatment on top of therapy. Now I’m a survivor, and while medications do help me, much of my anxiety had to do with the structural violence perpetuated by the University. I think mental health issues, and other ways in which the University environment is oppressive, need to be addressed in addition to providing students with drugs. I think pointing kids towards medications all the time makes some struggles “our problem to deal with” instead of a community or institutional problem.

    • bossypants

      Thanks for your comment, guest! I may not have seen how the critique of pharmaceuticals fits in with the critique of Wesleyan’s structural problems. I appreciate you that you wrote in, and I hope this is the way that the authors of this email intended that sentence to be interpreted.

    • bossypants

      Thanks for sharing, guest! I think that’s a great interpretation of that part of the email, and I hope that’s how the authors meant it to be read. I might have missed how that critique fit in with the larger argument about Wesleyan’s institutional problems.

    • guest

      This is exactly how I read that last line, as I have experienced the same thing as a survivor struggling with depression. And drugs didn’t work for me, so once I discovered that, Wesleyan had nothing to offer me (I had tried many time to get the support I needed). I think the school often does just point students to drugs when they have nothing else to offer, which can be very harmful. It’s not always safe to start anti-depressants in this college environment where one might not have the support system of friends or family nearby.