If, in the midst of enjoying your spring break (or laboring away on your thesis…), you find yourself wondering what Wes was like 138 years ago, never fear. I checked out the March 11, 1876 issue of the Argus and found a variety of interesting, amusing, and/or bizarre tidbits.
For anybody who was a fan of the bunny in the Nics last year or a certain cat on Home this year, a search through the Argives (Argus archives) has unearthed something for you. A short hop up to floor 3A in Olin revealed that in our past, pets were a welcome part of the Wesleyan community. In a series of articles and opinion pieces between 1973 and 1975, Argus writers covered not only the changes to the school’s pet policy but also the student outrage after the changes were made during summer break.
By the 1974-1975 academic year, having a pet was looked down upon by the administration. In the words of Dean Edgar F. Beckham, “when pet behavior is not carefully monitored and controlled, Wesleyan becomes a bad environment for many pets and a much worse environment for man members of the community.” Perhaps we can forgive the gendered language as a sign of times past.
The first article, “Beckham Defends Pet Policy” by Chris Mahoney ’76, exposes the controversy that would surround the pet policy for weeks. At the end of the 1973-1974 academic year, the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) and administration refused to implement a new pet policy because they thought it would be “‘inappropriate’ to take such action over the summer without campus discussion.” Then, over the summer, the school asked the SAC to vote on proposed new pets restrictions via mail during the summer recess. The restrictions included a $30 registration fee and tags for all uncaged animals. The SAC members voted in favor of the proposal.
These are some headlines that I have come across while perusing the Argives, more or less at random (and for most, there were dozens of other articles like it I could have included). If you’d like to read more about one, go look it up! The Argus archive is located along the North wall of the main stacks section, floor 3A, Olin Library.
“A look at the bare facts of nude modeling at Wesleyan,” by Yinka Bogdan ’88, published 23rd September 1986
“Celebrants stampede coat room at end of Senior Cocktails,” by Bobby Zeliger ’03, published 13th February 2001
“Students spared slaughter,” by Jon Dube ’94, published 1st November 1991
“Should Attendance Upon Recitations Be Compulsory?” by a mysterious H.C., published 12th February 1876
“Why Austerity: Wesleyan Must Cultivate New Income,” by B. Kent Garlinghouse ’63, published 24th April 1962
“Students disrupt campus tours to speak about sexual assault at Wes,” by Linda Wong ’90, published 4th November 1986
And two dozen more:
That almost-mythical not-corner of Olin 3A.
Back in 1985, being spotted exiting a Middletown tanning salon was evidently enough to land you on the front page of The Argus. On Friday, 6th November 1985, the front-page headline quite seriously pronounced “Winter break to be shortened by two weeks,” and vaulted into rote Argus material. Just below that, however, still on the front page, Argus ran one of the most bizarre articles my eyes have ever traipsed across in the great (worthwhile) time-suck that is the Argives. The headline: “Wesleyan student spotted in downtown tanning salon.”
So goes the story: one particular freshman had a crush. To look good for his crush, he wanted a tan. But it was almost winter, and the Connecticut sun was rapidly retreating to the Southern hemisphere. So he went to a local tanning salon a few times. After one fateful zap-session, a group of girls — crush included! — spotted him leaving the establishment, at which point he looked away and walked off as quick as he could. And everyone, except the freshman himself of course, that the whole affair was uproariously funny. A Wesleyan student! In a tanning salon! How preposterous! (Oh, the huge manatee!)
The author proceeds to quote the crush (who thought it was funny, and was flattered, but felt objectified), the crush’s friend (who couldn’t stop laughing), the freshman’s roommate (who felt for his roomie), the freshman’s mother (who wondered if she could take a message), the freshman’s RA (who sympathized), and the owner of the tanning salon (who worried that the freshman’s tan was still at a delicate stage).
Seriously, this must have been a joke issue. Subsequent pages, detailing an argument between the Editor and Staff about drinking on the job, seem to support this hypothesis. Any 1985 Argus staffers want to weigh in, in the comments? Author Chris Chester ’86? Editor Aaron Schloff ’87, perhaps?
Article text (and subsequent pages) post-jump.
Or, Why Wesleyan in 1983 Was Basically Just Like Europe in 1415.
About a month ago, in the aftermath of the megablizzard, Public Safety came under criticism for threatening to tow cars buried under mountains of snow that made it rather difficult for their owners to reach them. If retweets are endorsements, a handful of students echoed the complaint.
There’s not much that’s interesting about the history of Snow Parking Bans (side note: we’re more than midway through March and as I look out my window right now, it’s again snowing), but piecing through the Argives last week I was oddly enthralled by an Argus story that ran 30 years ago last month with the headline “100 Cars Towed as a Result of Snowstorm.” After this particular 1983 storm, Middletown Police Sergeant Wood was unforgiving: “If they’re not off streets, they’re towed. It’s as simple as that,” he told the Argus.
But as then-Argus reporter (and current literary agent) Linda Loewenthal ’85 tells it, the problem was that many students simply weren’t aware that the parking ban was in effect. Why would they be? In 1983, before email or Pinterest or Friendster or whatever, it was damn hard to get information out quickly on a college campus:
Leafing through the Argus archives earlier this month for information on past WSA presidents, my comrade A-Batte happened upon this bodaciously amusing nugget from a “University Convocation” in the fall of 1975.
On Thursday, September 4, President Campbell gave a thirty-seven-minute address, during which he called for a reevaluation of the grading system and noted that “diversity and innovation were ‘expensive qualities’ that Wesleyan may no longer be able to afford” (sound familiar?). Apparently Campbell also called for the establishment of a generalization requirement (sup, gen-eds) and a “coordinated multi-disciplinary program for freshmen” (spell check seems to want to make that “mulch-disciplinary”).
In a misguided attempt to
avoid cope with the prospect of finals, I found myself flipping through decades of old December Argus issues. While I didn’t find any especially enlightening advice from past Wes generations on how to deal with the stress of Reading Week, I did find this gem of a column from December 6, 1977:
The writer begins by making an observation that is just as accurate today as it was 35 years ago—that conversations between acquaintances here always center on the same questions. “How was your summer?” “What classes are you taking?” And so on and so forth.
The column quickly evolves into a rant on the “destructively self-indulgent” nature of one particular conversation-starter, one that always comes up around this time of the year: “How’s your work going?”
The conversation generated by this question has a certain quality of desperation about it which only serves to reinforce the already desperate atmosphere which characterizes Wesleyan in December…Furthermore, as with the other automatic questions that get asked here, reading week questions are boring! Do you actually remember even one out of the ten workloads you hear described? Do you remember who has it rough and who hasn’t? Do you care?
Well, do you? The next time you have an urge to complain about your workload, or to ask someone else about theirs, instead think about exchanging accounts of how many hours you’ve spent procrastinating. Or just lock yourself in Olin for a few hours, away from the rest of humanity, and waste time looking through old Argus issues.
Read the full column after the jump.
Yes, that kind of protection.
September 1992 was an interesting time in Wesleyan’s history. “Fall Ball” was cut due to budgeting problems (an autumn version of Spring Fling?), and a whole new WSA was being assembled after the entire group had been disbanded during the previous school year.
However, squished between articles about how all the frats had to cancel their beginning-of-the-school-year parties and blurbs about every single WSA candidate was this gem of a post, titled “How to Use a Condom Correctly.”
No, not in 2000. The article’s from 1992, when Al Gore was the Democratic vice presidential candidate, and the headline refers to the elder Bush, then running for reelection. If you’re confused as to why Gore would bother campaigning in the middle of Connecticut, consider that this was 1992; the red/blue state divide as we know it today wasn’t quite in place, and Connecticut swung right for Bush in 1988 and for Reagan in both 1984 and 1980.
So, on October 30, 1992, the VP candidate made his way to the relatively new Freeman Athletic Center, where he spoke for 35 minutes, “mostly criticizing President Bush, but also highlighting the ticket’s stance on the environment, healthcare, jobs and the Head Start program.” According to the piece, Gore spent the bulk of his speech attacking Bush in light of claims that the president knew about and was involved in the 1986 Iran-Contra Scandal. (Why these charges didn’t play a greater role in the election, I can’t say.)
“I feel like no matter what happens, I will never look back on this with any regrets.”
Eight years ago, Wesleyan students voted in the first presidential election following the 2000 Florida clusterfuck. Intent on getting Bush out of office, most students from swing states dutifully mailed their absentee ballots. But when Jeff Kessner ’07, a Palm Beach County native, failed to receive his ballot in the weeks leading up to the election, he decided to take action: he flew 1,360 miles home for early voting.
“For me it’s important,” Kessner told the Argus at the time. “I made sure that my vote counted.” Later in the piece, though, he acknowledges some degree of selfishness:
“I think it is amazing,” said Amanda Hungerford ’07, a friend. “Jeff was able to put his own disillusionment aside in order to effect change.”
To Kessner, however, it was actually a selfish act.