Tag Archives: campus culture reflections

More Speech, Please: Activism, Censorship, and Whose Voices Get Heard

photo by Jonas Powell '18

photo by Jonas Powell ’18

Every few months, it seems, another one of those articles surfaces about how political correctness or trigger warnings or “social justice” is ruining the country or the educational system or everything. Our own President Roth reminded us a few weeks ago that “there is no right not to be offended.” These arguments typically suggest that because a few of us are so fragile and oversensitive, everyone is losing: words are banned, jokes are less funny, debates about important issues are diluted or even curtailed.

While I’m really not concerned if racist jokes lose their appeal, I agree that we need more, not less, conversation. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away, and indeed, often worsens them. If we can’t talk about the systems of oppression that plague our society–racism, heterosexism, misogyny, classism–we’re going to have a hard time dismantling them. Sometimes frustratingly, we have to be able to talk about these issues not only among our own identity and affinity groups, but with people whose ideas are vastly different from ours. So yes, I agree that trying to shut down conversations about sensitive topics is problematic. (Which is not the same, please note, as removing oneself from a conversation because of personal history or trauma.) More speech, please.

The thing is, though, the targets of these arguments–the oversensitive college student, the person who can’t take a joke, the “social justice warriors”–hardly ever seem to be asking for less speech. Perhaps there are exceptions, but I cannot think of a single anti-racist activist who wants people to stop talking about racism. When we ask that certain words not be used or that our histories be treated with understanding and respect, we are not questioning whether these conversations should happen, but how. To worry that such efforts are ruining free-spirited debate seems, to me, to be missing the point.

An Open Letter to the Wesleyan Community from Students of Color

The following is an open letter to the Wesleyan community from a group of students of color. It appeared earlier today on The Ankh‘s Facebook page and has been published here with these students’ permission. The views reflected here are the writers’ own.

photo by Jacob Seltzer ’17

To the Wesleyan Campus Community:

To be black in an anti-black society is to be a commodity fit for liquidation, it is to be already evidenced as not befitting of life, it is to live under surveillance and always positioned as a potential threat, it is living under the conditions of imprisonment (of our senses of self, expressions, bodies, gender articulations, and sexualities).

So when we say that Black Lives Matter, we are not implying that other lives do not matter. We are reaffirming our existence in a country that continues to do everything it can to demolish and obliterate black and brown lives. By speaking out against institutional, structural, and systemic racism, by affirming Black Lives Matter, we are liberating ourselves from these systems of oppression.

We do not have the time, nor luxury, to be caught up in this smokescreen of free speech. Let us be clear: this is not an issue of your free speech. This is an issue of our voices being silenced, our communities under attack. Free speech is not a one-dimensional highway—white, cisgender, heterosexual men are not the only ones with the right to free speech.

When students of color speak our lives into existence, our speech comes under attack. When we defend our lives, we are harassing you. When we demand safety, we are attacking you. Our unapologetic voices are deranged screams; our open hands are clenched fists; our cellphones, weapons, our pigment, targets.

Crime, Punishment, and Justice in the Face of Tragedy

This post is part of a series of reflections on the recent events on campus. If you have anything that you would like to contribute, please feel free to reach out to us at staff[at]wesleying[dot]org.

In a matter of hours after I write these words, students, friends, and members of the Wesleyan community will be seen before a judicial panel somewhere in North College to determine whether or not they will be allowed to stay on campus. I first heard about this from a petition that is being circulated calling on Deans Whaley, Culliton and Backer for “sound judgment and restorative justice” for the students that are facing a hearing over spring break when the majority of campus is away. The petition states, “judicial processes [are] being blatantly overruled” and seems to paint these trials as unusual, suspicious, and unjust.

I wanted to investigate these claims and help spread awareness of how our school’s judicial system actually functions. While much of this information is available in the “Judicial Procedures” section of our Student Handbook, I know few of us actually read or understand these rights and procedures.  This post is my search for truth in face of unfortunate circumstances while recognizing that the Student Judicial Board is so often given a bad reputation due to misinformation. I want to understand how and why these students are being charged and how the University has handled this case.

On Being Kind To Yourself

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This post is part of a series of reflections on the recent events on campus. If you have anything that you would like to contribute, please feel free to reach out to us at staff[at]wesleying[dot]org.

In the past two weeks, we have heard many, many calls for some form of “self-care.” Usually these are the kinds of things that I ignore, since they too often rub me the wrong way. It’s taken me an entire week to work up the nerve to write this. Even as I write this, I’m still not sure how to approach the topic, both generally and through the lens of my own slow quest to take better care of myself. It’s taken me most of my teen and adult life to get to a point of acknowledging that I take really shitty care both of my corporeal vessel and my.. soul, or whatever.

Just as we should be kind and respectful of people around us, we should also try, to the best of our abilities, to be kind to ourselves. We should give both our bodies and our minds the same kind of compassion we would give to the people we love. But efforts to practice self-care are so often intertwined with the struggle against a number of factors outside of our control, and self-care itself is a very personal and very relative thing. I’m still trying to figure out a good way to practice self-care in a manageable way, a way that doesn’t add to my stress, a way that makes me feel less empty.

Rhetoric about self-care without acknowledging such variables places nearly all of the responsibility for ‘getting help’ on people who might not have much of an opportunity to be kind to themselves. It’s especially hard when the assumed first step of self-care is seeing someone at CAPS — although I’ve found them helpful, students often have to wait at least a week for an appointment if they have the time for a visit at all. Likewise, it’s difficult to speak broadly to any group of people about self-care without making it seem like outside factors aren’t important, or like self-care only takes one form.

Thoughts on Compassionate Discourse

This post is part of a series of reflections on the recent events on campus. If you have anything that you would like to contribute, please feel free to reach out to us at staff[at]wesleying[dot]org.

The past few weeks have seen a lot of turmoil within our community, most notably the hospitalizations and arrests, and reactions to them, both within and beyond Wesleyan. I hope to speak to the ways that we have addressed these events, as well as other contentious issues, namely the DKE lawsuit and the recent WSA meetings concerning first generation students and institutional structure.

At times like these, it is important to talk to each other, in order to process, to heal, and to examine the needs of our communities. These are events that we should discuss, both as individuals and community members. All too frequently, however, the way we’ve been discussing them has led to more pain, frustration, and division within our community.

Rather than creating spaces to support each other while addressing problems, many of the discussions I’ve witnessed, both in person and in online forums, have allowed ideological and experiential differences to further divide us, leaving many students, myself included, feeling hurt, angry, or cynical. It’s important to note, though, that I have also heard many calls for kind and supportive dialogue. It is in that spirit that I share the following observations and requests.

Reflections on the Recent Hospitalizations, Arrests and Wesleyan

This post is the first in a small series of reflections on the recent events on campus, to be published over the next few days. If you have anything that you would like to contribute, please feel free to reach out to us.

I am writing this in response to the traumatic and overwhelming events that have happened over the past few days – the hospitalization of a dozen students and the arrest of four others, as well as the media and institutional reactions. I hope that this can be a space of positive dialogue and solidarity, where we share our thoughts and reflections with compassion and humanity. I hope to counter the intense and destructive negativity and inappropriateness of some of the language being used to address these events in our own community, in person and online, in the media portrayals and in the administration’s emails. These events remind of us of the importance of fostering a supportive community, one that we must build on our own, as the student body.  These thoughts hope to help support that process of reconciliation, healing, and empowerment.

Go for Perfect, Wes

Fare ye better. -- pyrotechnics

As I contemplate my impending graduation in a matter of hours, I find myself wondering what Wes will be in the next semester and beyond. What should Wes be?

Wesleyan is not a perfect place, and only our Admissions brochures pretend that that’s the case. We’ve got problems, big problems. We’ve got deep, meaty, institutional problems. We’ve got acrid, calcifying, traditional problems. We’ve got murky, messy, cultural problems. For the moment I’ll let you define precisely what those are–the point is, Wes is not a perfect place. We all spend days here unhappy, frustrated, hurt. And by and large, we try to change that.

That’s a long, lonely road, but a good one.

“______ Fall Back”: On Concert Culture, Moshing and (Un)Safe Spaces

Almost three years ago exactly, I showed up to my first Eclectic concert, as a wide-eyed, naive pre-frosh, a total stranger to the “college music scene.” There was loud, thrashy music coming from the ballroom, where a small crowd was gathered. While dancing wildly around with all these strange older cool college kids, I thought to myself, “Wow! I am actually doing this. I am a skinny, lanky dude moshing! And it feels great! And I should totally come here and do this more!” And the rest was, as they say, history.