With our own politics, concerts, and grocery store, Wesleyan may feel like a fairly complete ecosystem that leaves little cause for crossing Broad Street or Wash. It can be easy to forget not only that there’s a world beyond campus borders but also that there are exciting affairs and good people right here in Central Connecticut. Thus on behalf of MidWes (the Middletown Relations Committee), I’ll be popping that Wesleyan bubble with a bi-weekly dose of local news and events. Has it been a while since you befriended a Nutmegger, thought about city and state politics, or drank real coffee? Stay tuned for more reminders as to why you should know and maybe even love your neighbors.
- The Connecticut General Assembly is discussing a bill that addresses various felonies committed with drones, which would require the state’s Department of Transportation to develop regulations regarding unmanned aircraft. Drones will transform rescue missions and the shipping industry but lawmakers worry over the threat they pose to public safety and privacy. The future is an awesome and terrifying place.
- Connecticut House Republican Leader Larry Cafero has requested a public hearing where anyone could share thoughts and suggestions on the controversial Common Core State Standards Initiative If you have strong feelings about curriculum changes and teacher evaluation standards, keep your eyes out for opportunities to address the state’s Education Committee, who has not yet raised a single bill regarding Common Core, despite widespread criticism.
Image via The Atlantic
“The Dark Powers of Fraternities” was published this morning by The Atlantic. The article is the culmination of a yearlong investigation into the systemic power of fraternities and the tragedies derived therein, and prominently (ignominiously) features our very own Wesleyan University and Beta Theta Pi. In brief, the article describes fraternity organizations’ thoroughly American heritage, their roles in transforming the nature of higher education from the priest-factories of yesteryear into the often-outrageous party scenes of the modern day, and the complex trade-lanes of power, litigation, fundraising, and tragedy that have allowed the fraternity infrastructures to survive and thrive among even the most progressive of Universities. The article gets many, many things right, and I thoroughly agree with the sentiment of the author—that colleges and universities are institutionally and structurally threatened by powerful organizations with outdated (and morally detestable) principles and priorities.
The article also gets a few minor points wrong, and misses a larger point: the cultural attitudes we—as Wesleyan students, as American collegians, literally as humans—accept and collectively promote bears as much responsibility for the horrors described as do unscrupulous power structures protecting that culture. In other words, I am responsible for the continuation of awful events like those brought to light in “The Dark Powers of Fraternities,” and so are you.
Saturday evening, Middletown police officers arrived at the Nics to investigate the existence of drugs after they were called to the scene by Public Safety. According to a piece by NBC Connecticut, the two students in question “denied having drugs or drug-related materials in the room, but when public safety said they would call police, the students handed over various items, including marijuana, a bong with marijuana residue, rolling papers and other drug-related material, police said.”
The entire incident began to unfold after Public Safety was called to the Nics sparked by two students that were found to be stealing shampoo from another resident of the dorm. Their room reportedly was a place of constant activity, with people coming in and out, raising suspicion amongst other students.
This begins a weekly[ish] piece presenting recent articles on college and higher education news and issues.
Just in time for the return of ridiculously expensive trips to Broad Street, U.S. PIRG has put out a study revealing the adverse effects of high text book costs on students’ (especially low-income students’) course decisions, and subsequently, their grades. There’s no other way to say it – this is a f****ed up system.
From a shared link going around Facebook, I’ve come across some interesting and worrying data from the Office of Institutional Research—data on the graduation and retention rates here at Wesleyan. On the website, it gives data for the “six-year graduation rates of the fall 2007, first-time, full-time, degree-seeking freshmen cohort.” This refers to the group of freshmen entering Wesleyan in fall 2007, making them what we would call the “Class of 2011.”
Here’s some of the data: Overall, with this cohort, there is a 92% graduation rate (including everyone), with 92% for both men and women when sliced in that fashion. Here is data broken down by race straight from the website:
American Indian or Alaskan Native students: n/a
Asian students: 91%
Black or African American students: 75%
Hispanic students: 95%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander students: n/a
Non-resident Alien (International) students: 96%
White students: 92%
Students of two or more races: 95%
Students of unknown race/ethnicity: 89%
I hope you can see the one grad rate that is substantially lower than the rest—black or African American students graduate at a rate of 75% from Wesleyan, compared to an overall average of 92% for this cohort.
Over the past few weeks, it has been difficult to see a newspaper, blog or journal without reading an opinion about the recent vote by the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli universities. The ASA boycott incorporates “formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions” and “scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions.”I think the boycott is misguided and wrong. Boycotting all Israeli universities is a grave assault on academic freedom and does little to achieve peace.
I am glad to see that President Roth condemned the boycott. Roth argued that the boycott lacked consistency. That is, why boycott Israel while ignoring North Korea, Russia or China? This argument has merit and proves a double standard on the part of the ASA. However, many opinions have used this argument to show that the boycott has its foundations in anti-Semitism. The President of the ASA did not help his case when stating that, “One has to start somewhere” when explaining the decision to boycott Israel. However, there is no reason to believe that the ASA had its motives rooted in anti-Jewish sentiment.
To understand the morality of the boycott, I think it is important to explore the purpose of a university. Universities, like many institutions, are concerned with professional, not political, performance. While the ASA will not be boycotting specific Israeli professors based on their citizenship, they will not allow them to participate in academic forums if they are sponsored by an Israeli institution. However, if an Israeli institution condemns the occupation, they are exempt from the boycott. I personally do think that Israeli universities should take a stance in opposition to the occupation, but I think it is wrong to boycott universities based on their views. To explain this reasoning I would like to propose a thought experiment. University X is a progressive, liberal institution. However, Professor Y, who is eligible for tenure, is an outspoken critic of many of the university’s policies. It would be wrong of the board of trustees to deny this professor tenure because he does not conform to the university’s beliefs. Non-conforming ideas lead to progress. A university has the right to define its own beliefs, however misguided they may be.
So, a while back (some of you may remember), disaster struck over at NYU. An innocent, unimportant email from the Bursar’s Office glitched into an auto-reply-all email that suddenly became a galloping firestorm of boredom, anxiety, horse-duck hypotheticals, and utter hilarity. (Incidentally, the news of the reply-all horror terrorizing New York quickly launched a similar tragedy on the Wesleying listserve.)
We at Wesleyan never suspected that this could happen to us. We were safe. How little we knew.
Several days ago, the Athletics Department at Wesleyan sent a holiday greetings email slash donation request email to a massive listserve of Wesleyan Athletics alumni, which was horrifying enough on its own (you can read it here).
Like at NYU, the first few replies were innocent:
Ditto, Mike. And thanks for given me the opportunity to rag my urologist, a Williams grad, about the Little Three Football title. Never been so eager for a visit my urologist!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
A little under a week ago, I posted a video in which Josh Krugman ’14 took the microphone at a senior class reception and, immediately following speeches by University administrators exhorting members of the senior class to donate to Wesleyan, asked his fellow seniors to not donate in protest of the University’s abandoning of need-blind admissions and alleged fiscal irresponsibility. The post generated a debate over whether alumni should give to the University – informed in part by a recent letter from alumni who withheld donations on “Giving Tuesday” due to the University’s financial aid policies.
This post was followed immediately by a post by pyrotechnics about the 68% figure referenced in Josh’s speech. This post shed light on a serious problem with the way the University deals with financial aid donations:
There is currently no way for donors to increase the amount of money the University plans to spend on financial aid. Given the budget cap, there is no such mechanism for that right now, confirmed to me by President Michael Roth himself. (Again, note that there is a way to decrease the amount of money spent: not donating.) This is something I (wearing a different hat) am currently working on fixing with University Relations, with tentative support from both President Roth and Barbara-Jan Wilson.
In response to this and the fact that the number of students on grant-based matriculation aid fell this past year, Benny Docter ‘14, Danny Blinderman ’14, and Josh Krugman ’14 presented a letter to the administration calling for a revision to the financial aid donation policy. This letter, cosigned by WSA leadership, campus group leaders, student fundraisers, Greek-life presidents, and others, makes two simple demands on the administration:
1) Donors should be able to specify that 100% of their gift goes to increase financial aid for the following school year; 2) Donors should be able to specify that 100% of their gift goes into the endowment for financial aid, to be drawn at a rate equal to the annual draw rate of the endowment as a whole, and could be spent only on permanently increasing the number and quality of financial aid packages that the University offers.
The idea is that any donation made in this new manner would result in an increase in financial aid spending proportional to the size of the gift – as opposed to the current system, where all donations received are already planned for in the financial aid budget. The letter does not call for a boycott on donations to financial aid, nor does it ask for a return to need-blind admissions. Rather, it demands that the University allow those who donate to financial aid to increase financial aid spending as a total portion of the University budget in the same way that alumni donations to athletic programs or academic departments do not result in a corresponding decrease in the funding those programs receive from the University.
The snow storm that usually wreaks havoc in October seems to be coming for CT right when we’re all supposed to go home, SO your travel plans may be delayed if you plan to leave some time on Saturday.
On the plus side, University housing isn’t closing until Monday, December 16 at noon. From Res Life, the great bureaucratic power that still isn’t telling me if I can move into my new room or not:
As you may know, there is a winter storm forecast for Connecticut on Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning. We know that most students will have completed exams and will be able to leave campus prior to the beginning of the storm. For those students whose travel plans are impacted by the storm, we are extending the closing time for University housing until Monday, December 16 at noon.
The Usdan marketplace will be open for
three two meals on Saturday as well as breakfast from 10am-noon on Sunday. Weshop will be open from 2-6pm. on Saturday. If you think your departure from campus may be delayed, we encourage you to plan ahead by getting to Weshop before the storm as the dining halls will not be open after Sunday at noon.
WesWings is open today but will be closed tomorrow and Sunday; Red & Black is open today and tomorrow but closed Sunday.
Newsweek used this photo in their article to contrast the liberal values
that the school likes to think it has with the conservative mindset it actually practices.
Maybe Wesleyan University learned a lesson today: Not all press is good press.
Today’s in-depth and certainly unflattering Newsweek article by Katie Baker (who wrote that Jezebel piece in May ridiculing the administration for its medieval Tour de Franzia threats) asserts that “Wesleyan seems to be slinking away from its weird and activist roots to attract rich students and even richer donors.” What could the school have done to deserve this sort of criticism?
As we are quite aware, the answer is: a lot. Baker’s article (following on the heels of two Autostraddle and Youngist articles) begins with the issues over degendering bathrooms, with several trans* students speaking up about their not-so-welcome experiences on campus, both from other students in the bathroom (“Wrong bathroom, fag!” one gender nonconforming student heard) and from the administration as a whole. After the group Pissed Off Trans* People organized students to remove gendered bathroom signs and replace them with “All Gender Restroom” signs, the Student Judicial Board singled out three trans* students (claiming they were the only identifiable ones) and charged them with property destruction, at the cost of $157 per sign— $5,245 total.
After a four-and-a-half hour hearing, the board lowered the fine to $451 and gave each student three disciplinary points (10 earns a suspension or dismissal). “The SJB action was taken because vandalism occurred,” Vice President of Student Affairs Mike Whaley said in a statement. “The board does not strive to determine the legitimacy of a protest/action, only whether such protest/action is done in a manner that violates our community’s standards.”
The three students tell Newsweek they feel they were unfairly singled out for actions committed by many but were most concerned with the symbolism of it all: This was the first time anyone knows of that the administration had punished individuals for LGBT activism.
“We’re talking about economic sanctions on activism at a school that profits off a reputation of being a progressive, activist-friendly space,” says Ben, a Wesleyan junior. “Being trans and fighting for trans justice is not profitable or shiny or appealing.”