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:
The Argus in 1972: “George McGovern might very well be the man to lead the United States out of its present moral crisis.”
George McGovern, the United States senator from South Dakota and fierce antiwar advocate, died early yesterday morning in Sioux Falls, S.D, at the age of 90. Most students will recall McGovern as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in 1972, when he was defeated by President Nixon in a staggering electoral landslide. (McGovern managed to carry a single state, plus D.C., to Nixon’s 49.) (Massachusetts was the single state.) (This later inspired bumper stickers reading, “Don’t blame me—I’m from Massachusetts.”) Most students will not know that McGovern was also a Wesleyan alumnus.
Dakota Wesleyan, that is—probably the only Wesleyan I haven’t been mistaken for attending. McGovern graduated in 1946, then returned to the school, where he had met his wife, only a few years later to teach history and political science. Today, a guest book appears on Dakota Wesleyan’s website.
“What can we do as a community in this time of crisis and uncertainty? The most important thing, perhaps, will be to learn from each other.” —President Bennet
Here’s what the Argus looked like the week of September 11, 2001—shocked, singularly focused, teeming with questions and grief. The bold header is striking and clear: “UNIVERSITY STUNNED BY ATTACKS.”
There was the candlelight vigil outside North College Tuesday night, where President Douglas Bennet ’59 spoke (“We are together as a community because we need to sustain each other in a time of loss,” he said) and Dean Mike Whaley opened up the microphone to any student who wished to speak. There was the afternoon forum on Wednesday, featuring words by Professor Khachig Tölölyan among other faculty. There were the “where I was when I heard” anecdotes, the firsthand accounts by alumni survivors, the blood drives, the faculty panel. One article sought to summarize how other colleges were adjusting their schedules—especially those with campuses in New York. At Wesleyan, classes moved forward, with extreme flexibility. “Holding classes will provide us all with an opportunity to gather in small groups,” wrote the University’s administration, “and is preferable to the alternative of our students remaining isolated.”
President Bennet wrote a Wespeak. “We have an unusual opportunity to see past stereotypes, identify and diminish our own prejudices, and experience a complex world through the sensitivities of others,” Bennet urged.
Were he still alive, experimental music messiah John Cage would turn 100 this week. Consider taking a moment of silence today in honor of Cage’s genius. Or four and 33 seconds.
The man responsible for such works as 4’33”, Indeterminancy, A Valentine Out of Season, and Cartridge Music was affiliated with Wesleyan on and off from 1955 until his death in 1992. He first came to campus to work with composer David Tudor on the prepared piano, performances described by The Argus as “clunks, clanks, plinks, and plonks.” Cage continued working with members of Wesleyan’s music faculty (particularly Alvin Lucier) and was a Center for Advanced Study fellow in 1960–61 and 1969–70. In this role, he taught classes in experimental music. In 1961, Wesleyan University Press published his book, Silence, followed by M and A Year From Monday. (Here’s a review that ran in the October, 1961 Argus.)
Finally, in early 1988, Wesleyan hosted a massive week-long festival-symposium celebrating his 75th birthday. (Here’s coverage in the Argus and the New York Times. Also, Ampersand coverage, featuring “indeterminate typing.”) When I took Experimental Music with Alvin Lucier in 2009, Cage’s music stayed prominent on the syllabus. Lucier spoke of his old friend often, and passionately.