“[My New Year’s Resolution is to] try to just calm myself down. It’s like Sid wants to see that side of me. He’s like, ‘You know, I know there’s a side to you and I am going to push every single button until I get it out of you, daddy” ? Jason Biggs
This article was in collaboration between fern and un meli-melo
It’s been another crazy year with Trump, North Korea, devastating natural disasters, and a solar eclipse. With 2017 behind us, we’re going to take a moment to look back on the happenings of the past year here at Wesleyan. Wesleying‘s done a Year in Review ever since 2012 when hermes began the series. The goal is to sum up the major stories—both serious and Fun—that we’ve covered throughout the year.
Disclaimer: We may have forgotten to mention some things. Since this is a review of some of what we’ve covered on this blog, there will necessarily be things missing and many of the topics included here are still developing and are certainly not over!!! So, if you think we missed anything important, please leave a comment or email us at staff[at]wesleying[dot]org with any moments and/or details you found essential to the character of 2017 at Wesleyan :)
Content warning: This article discusses issues around sexual assault on campus and Scott Backer’s arrest.
Wesleyan Community Responds to Trump’s Muslim Ban
President Trump signed an executive order banning Muslim immigrants from 7 countries and halting immigration from Syria at 4:42 PM on Saturday, January 28th. Though a federal judge ruled to block parts of the order to prevent some of those detained from being immediately deported later that night, the ruling failed to free those detained as a result of the ban, leaving many travelers unable to leave the airport or government custody despite having proper green cards and visas. As of December, the US Supreme Court approved of the enforcement of the third version of this travel ban.
On January 29th, Wesleyan students joined over 1,000 protesters at Bradley International Airport in The Council on American-Islamic Relations – Connecticut‘s demonstration. The Hartford Courant and The Wesleyan Argus both covered the details of the protests and dangerous repercussions of the ban on our local communities. Similar protests happened at airports across the country to prevent the illegal detention of travelers and pressure law enforcement and immigration officers to release detainees.
For further reading:
- Students, Alumni React to Trump’s Muslim Ban (Jan. 28th, 2017)
- President Roth Sends All Campus Email Responding to Trump’s Muslim Ban (Jan. 29th, 2017)
- Guest Post: Former Iraqi Refugee Ahmed Badr ’20 on Trump’s Muslim Ban (Jan. 29th, 2017)
- VIDEO: Wesleyan Students Protest #MuslimBan at Bradley International Airport (Jan. 31st, 2017)
Scott Backer’s Arrest
Former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer, who was fired from Wesleyan in July 2016 (see 2016 Year in Review) for a history of sexual misconduct, was arrested in his home in Hartford last May after soliciting a person whom he believed to be a 15-year-old girl on YikYak. Backer sent illicit photos to the “girl” he was talking to, but when he went to meet her at the Walmart in Cromwell he was instead confronted by a man posing as the minor. The man was acting as a part of a citizen campaign to expose sexual predators. The man questioned Backer on camera, asking why he was trying to solicit sex from a minor.
Backer’s arrest reignited feelings of disgust and mistrust, and heightened calls for Wesleyan to revisit claims of Backer’s mishandling of sexual assault adjudication proceedings. It remains important to scrutinize Wesleyan’s policies and support those around us affected by sexual assault. This year’s #metoo campaign has sparked a solidarity movement around the sexual assault of women. As a community, it is key we continue fostering sentiments like these towards sexual misconduct.
For further reading:
- [CONTENT WARNING] Scott Backer Arrested in West Hartford for Soliciting Minor on Yik Yak (May 15, 2017)
- Petition Calls for the Wesleyan Administration to Admit Mishandling of Sexual Misconduct Cases (May 23, 2017)
Sexual Violence Activism and Policy Reform
In February, posters like the one above appeared around campus, calling out institutional protection of sexual predators. The posters follow increased anger with the administration for a variety of institutional failures; in particular, involving the firing of former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer, the Title IX complaint filed by former Associate Professor of Classical Studies Lauren Caldwell, the student-reached consensus to push for the removal of Vice President of Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias and University President Michael Roth from their positions at the University, and the statement to the Argus by professors calling for independent review of sexual assault cases at the University.
A week after Scott Backer’s arrest, students hung banners reading “Reject Sexual Predators Emboldened by Institutional Power” during move out day at several prominent locations around campus (200 High, Community Engagement House, WestCo, and Hewitt). After Backer’s arrest, in survivor support circles, several students reiterated the need for student action to bring about accountability.
In response to widespread outcries from faculty, staff, students, and alumni, Wesleyan hired the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC) to review Wesleyan’s Title IX policies and suggest improvements to these policies. We broke down the VRLC’s report in April. In response to the report, Wesleyan did make some of the recommended changes, although the job of “Title IX Coordinator” is still held by Antonio Farias, despite the VRLC’s recommendation that Deputy Title IX Coordinator Debbie Colucci be considered for the role.
For further reading:
- University Plans to Conduct Title IX Assessment With Victim Rights Law Center (Jan. 31, 2017)
- Posters Call to Reject Sexual Predators (Feb. 28, 2017)
- Responding to the Victim Rights Law Center’s Report on Wesleyan’s Title IX Policies (April 2, 2017)
- Banners on Move Out Day Call for Rejection of Sexual Predators (May 22, 2017)
The Roth administration lives on!
In 2017, President Michael Roth ‘78 turned 60 and celebrated his 10th year as Wesleyan’s president. He had the good fortune of having his contract extended by the board of trustees to the year 2023. In a school-wide email the board commended Roth for his “#THISISWHY” $482 million fundraising campaign, his “Beyond 2020” vision for the future of Wes, and new academic programs opened under his leadership.
In the letter praising Roth the board also included the line, “Thanks to a concerted effort to expand recognition of Wesleyan, record numbers of students from around the world have sought the opportunity to learn here.” Which probably had nothing to do with the success of our friend Lin-Manuel Miranda ‘02.
For further reading:
- BREAKING: Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees Extend President Roth’s Contract Through 2023 (March 4, 2017)
- From the Argus: Trustees Extend President Roth’s Contract Through 2023 (March 4, 2017)
- From the Hartford Courant: Wesleyan Extends Contract Of President (March 4, 2017)
We broke our THESISCRAZY record (again)!
With an astonishing 45 interviews, we broke the 2016 record of 40! THESISCRAZY gives us a window to watch seniors struggle to communicate their feelings and summarize their theses in everyday terms, and with interviews from thesis-writers in 23 different departments this year we accumulated quite a survey. Go read them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
DKE v. Wesleyan
In February 2015, the Wesleyan chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon sued the University for discrimination and deceptive practices in its communication with DKE after the Fall 2014 mandate that all fraternities on campus must co-educate. After a multiyear saga, the case went to trial in June. President Roth emailed the campus announcing that DKE won its lawsuit against the University. The jury awarded damages of $386,000 to the Kent Literary Club, DKE’s Wesleyan alumni chapter. In December, after a round of appeals, a judge ruled that Wesleyan must allow DKE access to 276 High Street at the start of the 2018-2019 academic year, opening the fraternity after three years of vacancy. Wesleyan has made clear its desire to appeal this decision. The uncertain future of appeals, along with Eclectic’s petitioning for reinstatement of program housing status mean that Greek life will continue to be a news item in 2018.
For further reading:
- DKE Wins Lawsuit Against University (June 15, 2017)
- Court Orders Wesleyan to Give DKE Access to 276 High Street (Dec. 4, 2017)
White Supremacist Messaging on Campus
In April, posters carrying messages of white supremacy, racism, and antisemitism appeared around campus overnight. The people responsible for the posters were never identified. The messages and intentions were disgusting and horrendous. Several people either removed, sharpied-out, and/or posted over these posters, or called on others through social media to do so.
Mid-afternoon on the day before the posters appeared, there was a band of white protesters near the 100 block of Washington Street around mid-afternoon. The group reportedly threatened a demonstration the following night outside the Office of Admission.
In response to the threat of a potential white nationalist demonstration, students, and later a group of masked Antifa (Antifascist Action) activists, gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Office of Admission, many with the intention of shutting down any white nationalist demonstration that might occur. Dean Mike Whaley and Dean Antonio Farias sent out an all-campus email regarding the posters, and President of the WSA Rebecca Hutman ’17 sent a letter to Wesleying editors regarding the incidents on behalf of the entire WSA leadership board. Both statements recognize the hateful and threatening nature of these posters, and both organizations committed to supporting the response of the Wesleyan community.
For further reading:
- White Supremacist Posters Appear Around Campus (April 24, 2017)
- WSA, Administration, and Students Respond to White Supremacist Posters (April 24, 2017)
Some ~Honorable Mentions~
- We tried to break the world record for most people rolling down a hill (600 people, for those of you wondering). Even though we got really close, we didn’t because it was from 10am-noon on a Saturday.
- Excitement ensued when we learned we could order in bulk from weshop.
- We were told to participate in a shelter in place drill which was then canceled due to “unforeseen weather conditions”. In the same set of emails, we learned we could unsubscribe from Wesleyan emergency alerts.
- A song called “Middletown is my Kind of City” that was released in 2015 resurfaces in a Wesleying blog post. It’s about as bad as you’d expect.
- Low-cost tampons and pads become available at the Health Center! Hopefully by next year’s review post, having safe sex and having a period will cost the same, aka the Health Center should just give these shits out for free.
- Skull and Serpent opens a temporary lemonade stand to raise funds benefiting Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS).
- The Douglas Cannon shows up during Reunion and Commencement weekend
- Chemistry Professor Emeritus David Beveridge is arrested for animal cruelty after leaving his dog in a car on a 90-degree day.
- Professor Richard Winslow ‘40, who was responsible for the creation of Wesleyan’s world music program passes away at age 99.
- Our favorite Wellesleyan alum, Hillary Clinton came to Middletown, but during our fall break.
- University librarian Dan Cherubin passed away.
- There’s a new Wesleyan fashion Instagram in town: wesworn, and it even got a shoutout from @wesleyanadmissions
- We got an Amazon locker so we don’t have to wait in line as WesStation any more.
- Summies salmon burger sales dropped after a scathing review.
- An investigative piece shed new light on the Freshmen Orientation Hickey.
- The Middletown Christopher Columbus statue got tagged on Columbus day.
- Trying to check their points balance, students started getting redirected to a new and better WesPortal
- Seniors asked not to install bidets by themselves and instead ask physical plant to professionally install them.
- The correlation between Wesleyan specific memes and meme spiciness on Soggy We$ Memes is graphed, and a cry for original content is made.
- Eclectic reapplies for program house status and we live-blogged the community forum.
- And some Roth memes.