Wesleyan solicits donations from alumni year-round to support the many fundraising campaigns that keep Wesleyan afloat (but somehow still not need-blind…). Over the summer, I spoke with Cade Leebron ’14about her own campaign for alumni to speak up about the many issues that students and alumni alike see at the school. She began Text Wes Back to collect actual responses that she and other alumni sent back when Wesleyan texted them to donate money to the school.
Read below the jump for the full interview.
Content warning: This interview discusses sexual assault.
“So play your favorite cover song, especially if the words are wrong ‘Cause even if your grades are bad, it doesn’t mean you’re failing”
After a mysterious week or so of trying to guess exactly what this Humanity Festival was all about— between the unexplained promotions, the flyers, and the recruitment — the one constant was the promised presence of Amanda Palmer ’98. And, combined with the excellent organizing efforts of Raechel Rosen ’15, that was more than enough to draw a huge crowd onto Foss Hill this past Saturday afternoon for the “one-day musical celebration in solidarity against bigotry, racism, and social divisions within a community.”
After performances by Don Minott, a group comprised of Jess Best ’14, Mel Hsu ’13, and Sam Friedman ’13, Siren, and Oz Rhys Langston & Izzy, Palmer finally arrived, unaccompanied except for her ukulele. After releasing Theatre is Evilthis past year, Palmer booked herself for a large slew of international shows with her new backing band, The Grand Theft Orchestra. Here, though, was more like a large scale, heavily-planned ninja gig. Like her impromptu performance in 2011 at Eclectic, her appearance at the Humanity Festival was an intimate affair, despite the large crowd. Her stage was just a few carpets on the grass, a monitor, some speakers, and a stool. Her orchestra was that beaten-up ukulele.
Some commentary, some more photographs, and a high-quality recording of the entire performance (!) after the jump.
Tons and tons and tons of young activists (including a handful of conservatives) descended on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court this week to express their support or opposition towards same-sex marriage as justices hear arguments that may well strike down the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. Of the many demonstrators, perhaps none are nerdier than a pack of students from the Georgetown University Law Center, who are predominantly peeved about the Court’s decision to “review the arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry using rational basis, the most lenient form of judicial review in the U.S. court system.” Haven’t been to law school yet? DCist’s Benjamin Freed, who dubs it the “Most Obscure Supreme Court Protest,” explains:
In a rational basis review, judges test if a law or other governmental action is in the reasonable interests of that government in a way that passes muster with the Fifth or 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The standard gives a wide berth to state laws, such as Proposition 8.
Spotted among the crew, second from the left in that photo, is former Argus editor, prolific soccer blogger, and all-around friendly dude Gabe Lezra ’11, who elaborates on his crew’s moral indignation:
“Rational basis means that the court will give great deference to any state law passed so long as that it is rationally related to government interests,” said Gabe Lezra, who was propped up one of four posters decorated to look like a court brief.
“We were going to do a table of authorities, but we ran out of time,” he said.
“Joss Whedon is our commencement speaker! Was so excited when I got the email that I had to stop using the elliptical for a few minutes.”
In a move strategically maneuvered to collapse Wesleyan’s entire Whedonite community in a salivating heap of shock, joy, and euphoric paralysis, President Roth has announced that screenwriter, filmmaker, Buffy creator, Avengers director, ironic Romney supporter, and Wesleyan alumnus Joss Whedon ’87 will deliver the commencement address for the Class of 2013. The news has delighted everyone from Argus Executive Editor Max Brivic ’13, who tweeted that he was “so excited when I got the email that I had to stop using the elliptical for a few minutes,” to Assistant Director of ResLife Stacey Phelps, who expressed something closely resembling excitement on Twitter and fittingly utilized used the hashtag “#yay.” Other reactions in the digital sphere ranged from “I’m going to die” to “#forgetobama” to my personal favorite, “Whatever, still pulling for Bill Nye.” Even members of the dearly departed Class of 2012 are seething with jealousy.
I’ve only been at Wesleyan since 2009, but I think it’s fair to call this the most unanimously excitement-inducing commencement speaker since Barack Obama was tapped to replace Ted Kennedy at Commencement 2008. (Then again, I’m not sure 69,498,516 popular votes can really compare with what I’ve seen of the salivating Cult of Whedonites.) According to President Roth’s email, honorary degrees will be additionally presented to environmental and social justice activist leader Majora Carter ’88and former Chair of the Board of Trustees Jim Dresser ’63 (yes, the guy that the diamond was named after). You will likely be too busy squealing to hear this take place.
“The ultimate goal wasn’t to be able to chalk. It was to exhibit control over their environment.”
Ten years ago this autumn, President Doug Bennet ’59 sent out an all-campus email and banned chalking at Wesleyan for good. When I set out to mark the tenth anniversary of that Moratorium, I only meant to reflect on a heated and surreal episode in Wesleyan’s activist history and share the story behind a once-treasured campus medium that stills pops up everynow and then.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. What follows is an unexpectedly timely conversation with our first interview subject, Matthew M. ’05, who not only passionately fought the chalking moratorium, but went so far as to hack into President Bennet’s email and inform the Wesleyan community that the Moratorium was over. (Spoiler: It wasn’t.) According to Matthew, the chalking controversy wasn’t just about chalk. It was about widespread discontent over “fewer and fewer outlets for organized student autonomy”—a sentiment that brewed well past the fall of ’02 and culminated with over 250 students trapping President Bennet in his office in December, 2004. (No, really. Ask your older sister about it!)
The full interview is past the jump (it’s a long one), and the introductory post is here. Since he openly admits to perpetrating email fraud, Matthew asked me to withhold his last name. Our chalking Westrospective will continue later this week with another interview reflection.
Wes Alum Myles Potters ’12 just released a fresh-to-death EP using works from his senior thesis called Apertures. Potters writes:
This release is many months in the making, and is the recorded, modified version of my Senior Thesis Recital at Wesleyan University. The Thesis revolved around the question: What can we consider to be ‘live’ music in the 21st Century? The music in this album, though recorded, continues to ask similar questions by highlighting contrasts between instrumental improvisation, sampled beats, and notated music.
I could spend a solid amount of time writing about what I like about it, not to mention the dank group of musicians that he had on the album: Wes Alum Owen Callahan ’12 on sax, Nate Campagne ’15 on drums, Sam Friedman ’13 ticklin’ the ivories, and Dylan Bostick ’13 (see: DreamHost) working the electronics. Instead, I asked Mr. Potters a couple questions, and I feel like that does a lot more justice explaining the album than what I could do by myself. That’s all past the jump.
Ten years ago, Doug Bennet ’59 declared war on chalk. In a multi-post series, we’re looking back.
On October 3, 2002, President Douglas J. Bennet ’59 sent an email to Wesleyan students, faculty, and administrators. It contained 335 words, but the message was brief: the chalking on campus, much of it sexually explicit, had gone too far.
The practice “undermines our sense of community and impedes substantive dialogue,” Bennet wrote. Though storied, “it is not a lofty tradition.” Plus, “there are more constructive ways to communicate.” With that, the president was declaring a moratorium on the practice. Temporary, of course. But indefinite.
A decade later, chalking remains banned.
With that single memo, Bennet set in motion the controversy that would rock campus that autumn, ten years ago this month. The chalking moratorium enraged queer groups, dividedfaculty (spoiler: they voted 44–8 against the ban), and inspired flurries of activism all over campus. (There was even a protest at a closed Board of Trustees meeting, recounted here and here. Its details are eerily similar to the occupation last month.) It spawned more Wespeaks than probably any single controversy while I’ve been at Wes, including need-blind. And it captured the imagination of the New York Times, who sent a journalist to cover the drama in a generous feature piece.
“If you really love the people who support your work, they’ll go to the ends of the earth for you.”
Speaking of Kickstarter campaigns, remember that time our very own Amanda Palmer ’98put up a plea for a modest $100,000 to finance her new album and tour? Instead, the Dresden Dolls frontwoman ended up raising—wait for it—$1,192,793.Sure, you could say there’s a unique cult of fandom surrounding Palmer. Just recall the reaction to her impromptu “ninja gig” in Eclectic last September. Or consider that two donors fronted $10,000 for the chance to have dinner with the singer while she drew a portrait of her guest. But, Palmer says, crowdfunding is a viable model not just for the beloved and few.In a fascinatingvideo interviewwith TIME, the singer argues, convincingly, that “we’re really looking at crowdfunding as a new, future model for how musicians and artists can connect with their fans and audiences and put out music.”
“I think this can pretty much work for anyone, but you need to keep your goals pretty realistic,” says Palmer, whose goal turned out to be a hell of a lot more realistic than she realized. For her, the story of independence began when she left her record label after 2008’s Who Killed Amanda Palmer?. She describes her thought process as: “My fanbase is pretty big now. These guys [at the record label] aren’t understanding me. . . . I think it’s time to go and do this myself, and I think I know how to do it.” So she did. And she let her freak flag fly. As TIME points out,
What does the Wu-Tang Clan have in common with the Grateful Dead and Björk? Nothing. But Nat Leich ’12 doesn’t care. His recently released senior thesis album, Kaleidoscope, takes diffuse elements of pop scenery and welds them together in a thirteen-piece orchestra — you might even call it a Mixtape Orchestra — that travels down Memory Loss Lane.
Alex Okrent ’05passed away Friday morning after collapsing at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago, where he worked. The 29-year-old alumnus of the College of Social Studies (CSS) was Paid Media and Polling Regional Director for the 2012 presidential campaign, and has worked for Obama ever since his 2004 senate campaign.
Fox Chicago reported that Okrent had been working out at the gym earlier that morning, as he did every day, before coming into work at the campaign headquarters in the Prudential Center. A report by the local ABC News affiliate adds that he told a friend he was talking to online that he wasn’t feeling well, collapsing when he went to take an aspirin. He was treated on-site by paramedics before being taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after. A massive heart attack may have been to blame, Okrent’s family believes.