All-Campus Email about Charlottesville: A Dialogue with President Roth through Blog Posts

President Roth,

You have worked, implicitly and explicitly, directly and indirectly, to make Wesleyan a hostile environment for people of color, students with disabilities, trans students, survivors of sexual assault and pretty much any student who does not fit into your image of the “conservative oppressed by the liberal arts.” What’s more, you have repeatedly refused to engage with students in any meaningful way about the ways in which you’ve created this hostile environment. So I have resorted to engaging with you on your own terms: in a blog post.

In your infamous blog post  “On Intellectual Diversity”, posted on May 19, 2017, you asserted that, “It should be clear that I do not regard the president’s incoherent leadership—which is so often driven by impulse, resentment and prejudice—as belonging to significant streams of conservative thought, even broadly conceived.”

Now that people have been murdered, their aggressors egged on by the president’s “incoherent leadership,” will you acknowledge that such “impulse, resentment and prejudice” do in fact comprise mainstream conservative thought?

You support the notion that “all of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views… we should oppose efforts to silence those with whom we disagree—especially on college and university campuses.” Yet, is this not the exact attitude that lead to the death of Heather Heyer and the injury of 19 others in Charlottesville? How can you justify allowing these people, who advocate systemically prejudiced violence, a platform on campuses like our own? If you would have protected these “Unite the Right” fascists’ right to protest at UVA before it lead to death/injury, you are complicit in the violence and destruction of human life that occurred.

What happened in Charlottesville this week is part of the “full range of conservative ideas and traditions” that you say “deserve…sustained, scholarly attention.” By proposing an “affirmative action” for conservatives, you actively invite these Neo-Nazis onto our campus. Yet as soon as the white supremacists kill someone, you immediately backtrack and send an all-campus email saying, “As educators and students, as participants in our local communities and in our national polity, we must unite in condemning the poison being spewed by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis.”

So which is it? Where do you draw the line? And what are you planning to do regarding that line, once you’ve stopped waffling on the question of so-called “free speech”? Because we all know it’s not really a question of free speech, it’s a question of whose lives, safety, and comfort matter more to you.

Sarah Chen Small ‘18 speaks for many of us when she responds to your latest attempt to smooth over legitimate harms with blog posts and all-campus emails:

“Says the man who is trying to use a twisted version of affirmative action to inundate Wesleyan with the same conservative rhetoric/people that emboldened these nazis. The logic of his project relies on the idea that white conservatives are discriminated against (sounds an awful lot like a White Nationalist sentiment).

Says the man who told rape survivors they were only unhappy with the system bc they didn’t “win” a fair trial, never mind the child predator who sat on those trials and harassed victims.

How about he starts with doing literally anything tangible to help his students instead of helping himself with pull quotes and screen time. We are so far past the time for nice words, we need action. I’m paying attention and I’m outraged at YOU Roth.”

Not your friend,

michelle

 

The full text of President Roth’s all-campus email (including a link to his blog post about Charlottesville) can be read below:

Dear friends,

Many of you are still away from campus, and you may not have seen my blog post from Sunday in response to events in Charlottesville. We stand in solidarity with the city of Charlottesville and those outraged by the terrorist actions that took a life and injured many who stood up against hate. As educators and students, as participants in our local communities and in our national polity, we must unite in condemning the poison being spewed by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis; we must come together in support of those threatened by hatred and racism; we must stand up for our democratic values; we must persevere in our efforts to promote a more just and courageous community on our campus, and beyond.

Sincerely,

Michael S. Roth

President

  • newstudent

    I’m a new coming in this year, so I’m a little confused, and I have 2 questions.

    1. Has Roth actually attempted, on purpose, to make Wes a hostile environment for PoC? Is Wes actually now an unsafe place for liberals, people of color, and survivors of sexual assault because of Roth?

    2. Has Roth ever brought alt-right/Neo-Nazi/Nationalist thinkers to Wes in order to fufil his “vision”? If not, are there plans to (and how do we stop it)?

    • Recent Grad

      1). No. Only through indirect decisions made by people not named Roth and the conflation of distrust with safety or lack thereof.

      2). Also no. The plan is to have conservative thinkers with college degrees and brains (who aren’t nazis or alt right or whatever) come and engage far left people without getting hit with rocks.

      People on campus who are the most marginalized can do and say as they please, even when it borders on illegal (slander and libel). Anyway welcome to Wes!

      • newstudent

        So why is this article so angry at Roth? If he doesn’t make the decisions, and isn’t planning to “inundate Wesleyan with the same conservative rhetoric/people that emboldened these nazis”, what’s the problem?

        I’m not being belligerent, I’m just feeling out the landscape so I can speak intelligently about these important issues when I get to campus.

        • ’20

          Roth is a very divisive figure on campus. Hating on him seems almost like the cool thing to do. He’s not totally innocent. I’ve taken a class with him and he can be a jerk. He’s also very flighty with when being called out.

          People on campus also see the administration as this sort of monolith where Roth controls all, but that isn’t really true. Ideally, it would be great to know exactly who makes all the decisions that come out of the administration and how the decision was made. But that isn’t possible.

          Also, Roth is just bad at wording things sometimes. Case in point: “affirmative action for conservative ideas”.

          The main problem is that Wes students as a whole just don’t like conservatives. Things got pretty heated after the election, but that was because a lot of conservatives on campus were assholes about Trump winning.

          Ideally, I’d like to hear intelligent conservative voices that are removed from this sort of white supremacist rhetoric and make a judgment on them being assholes after, rather than before.

          • Recent Grad

            And unfortunately it doesn’t help Roth that he’s a Jewish, white, cis hetero (so we are told) male. He’s like a showman forsure and yeah I think people dislike him for sport, but I also think things would be way different if his identity were different. I also think it would be difficult for a conservative in the RINO sense of the word to come to campus without getting shit on. We can’t even have center left or just party aligned democrats without major flak. Either way, there’s like 5-10 far right people, and like 15-20% of the athletes that are conservative to some degree on campus. Mostly everyone else is on the left side of the spectrum and most of the fighting happens within that group, which is sad.

          • Also Recent Grad

            You make a good point in that we don’t actually know who is responsible for administrative decisions. However, Michael Roth is the President, meaning he is ultimately responsible for his hires and, by extension, their actions.

            On a secondary note, stop defending him. I’m seeing a lot of people defend him when I get the impression that their defense has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with their annoyance at the “SJWs” at Wesleying. In order words, people get annoyed at Wesleying for being so far left, and so when Wesleying attacks Roth, these people instinctively defend Roth. It’s not really about Roth, though, because anyone who has followed him closely for an extended period of time knows that he is indeed the spineless coward Wesleying portrays him as.

          • ’20

            You have a point there. He should be taken more to task for things that happen. And I’d be lying if I said he isn’t a coward. He is. I’ve seen it with my own eyes when I asked him a question.