This is a part of our 2020 Unofficial Orientation series. You can find the rest of the posts here.
There is not much more esteemed at Wes than its history of activism. Wesleying’s Rage Updates are here to welcome you all to the issues of the day, and to educate you on the issues of the past. While it seems to have been an even year sort of update for Wesleying with our first article in 2014, our second in 2016, and our third in 2018, and our fourth in 2019, more than enough has happened this past school year to warrant another for 2020.
As a publication and a series steeped in tradition, we must open with the eloquent words of alt, the author of our first rage update:
You’ve now arrived on campus, and we hope that you find your time here enriching and transformative. In that hope, we feel that it would be ill-advised to allow you to not have at least a foundational understanding of the things that have forced us as a community into dialogue, disagreement, and action.
This is not to scare you or to give you a negative impression of the University. However, we are certain that most if not all of you were told about the “passion” that Wesleyan students have and the issues that we care about on campus are at the forefront of those passions. While there is certainly no requirement to take an activist stance on any of these issues and it is in fact easy to sink beneath the radar on these issues and all the others not covered here, we would plead with you to be engaged in the community that you are now a part of.
Read this, ask questions, and reach out to students and faculty that have been here before you. We hope that as you begin your time here, you fully invest yourself as a community member committed to making Wesleyan as good as it can be for you and for those after you. Caring about Wesleyan does not foreclose critique on Wesleyan and as you read this, and other things like it, we hope you understand that too.
This article is not comprehensive, and merely serves as a taster for the Wesleyan brand of fiery social justice.
Hong Kong Panel
On September 17th, 2019, the College of East Asian Studies and the Center for the Study of Public Life co-sponsored a student-led discussion about the Hong Kong Protests. The panel aimed to civilly discuss the protests and the issues they presented and to challenge the Wesleyan community to partake in this political discourse. The panelists also brought up the defacing of the flyers advertising the panel in the days prior.
Shortly after the panel, Michael Roth announced that the University was not going to pursue the creation of a Wesleyan campus located in China, the plans of which were leaked only a week earlier. In response to the initial China campus proposal, there was a Hong Kong Solidarity Rally urging Wesleyan to abandon the plans and “not fall into complicity with the forces of authoritarianism, exploitation, and colonialism.” The plans for the China campus have been officially abandoned and the turnout of both the panel and the rally were strong.
On September 20, 2019, the College of the Environment in conjunction with the Wesleyan community held a climate strike around campus which included a rally in which student groups such as WesDivest, Climate Action Group, WesDems, Sunrise gave speeches and marched for sustainable use of the world’s resources. Physics Professor Brian Stewart gave a “Climate Rant” and the entire day closed with a candlelight vigil. While these events were part of the Global Climate Strike, a week of worldwide events demanding the end of fossil fuel use, Wesleyan’s rally and march was specifically calling for the administration to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry and commit to renewable energy. That same week, President Michael Roth announced that
“the Investment Committee of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees has voted to eliminate any permanent allocation to “oil and gas” from its asset allocation model… It means that Wesleyan will no longer seek out managers specifically to invest in oil and gas in order to balance its portfolio as a whole.”
5 More Workers Protests
On November 2, 2019, USLAC (Wesleyan Student/Labor Action Coalition) led protests at the Wesleyan vs. Williams football game on homecoming weekend. The protests called for Wesleyan to hire five more custodial workers due to unreasonable workloads for the workers as well as their poor working conditions. A series of protests calling for 5 more workers occurred throughout the previous school year, which you can read more about here.
Women’s Cross-Country Speaks Out
On March 2, 2020, Yuki Christina Hebner ‘17 posted an open letter to the Wesleyan community about the problematic culture of “body shaming, disordered eating, and high attrition rates on the Wesleyan women’s cross country team.” This problematic culture was alleged to have been fostered by former Head Coach, John Crooke. The open letter includes a petition signed by 36 alumni who have been through Crooke’s cross country program, as well as over 25 testimonies from the women. These athletes have been voicing their concerns about Crooke and the women’s cross country program for many years, but they felt that they were not taken seriously and called for systematic change in the way that coaches approach women’s health, disordered eating, and body shaming in their athletes and are held accountable for their role in causing and worsening these issues.
Immediately after Wesleying posted the letter and testimonials, Michael Roth opened a 60-day investigation of the allegations against John Crooke. The investigative team concluded that the allegations against Crooke varied widely from person to person and that Crooke had not violated Wesleyan policy. Crooke remained Head Coach and appeared to have planned to stay on in the 2020-21 school year, but in August retired.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and international protests, a global pandemic and mass shut-down, economic instability and hateful speech and violence coming from police and our own US president, Wesleyan students have continued the fights for justice on all fronts. Wesleyan is known for our social justice groups and ability to organize for important causes. While the large scale rallies and protests are suspended this fall to minimize the spread of coronavirus, the passion and energy behind the events is not. Here are just a few examples of how Wesleyan students have continued their activism and educating our community virtually and from home:
Black at Wesleyan on Instagram
International at Wesleyan on Instagram
Letter and Petition to Wesleyan film department