In an email this morning, President Roth ’76 announced this year’s Commencement Speaker will be Saidiya Hartman ’84 (above). Reverend Edwin C. Sanders II ’69 (left) and Former Wesleyan Professor Hazel V. Carby (right) will also receive honorary degrees at the University’s 187th Commencement.
This seems to be the first time in a while that Roth has actually read the room when selecting honorees for Commencement. It’s certainly gratifying to see a Black woman being honored for her achievements on the 50th anniversary of the Vanguard Class of ’96 and the founding of the African American studies program (which has finally been received department status this year).
Certainly, this year’s honorees are a welcome variation from last year’s Commencement Speaker controversy. As many of you recall, Daniel Handler ’92, who has a history of racist and sexist harassment, was chosen as the 2018 Commencement Speaker, while Dr. Anita Hill, known for advocating against those very abuses, was relegated to a lesser position of honorary degree recipient. Handler later withdrew as Commencement Speaker following a flurry of student and alumni demands to #CancelHandler18. Notably, President Roth and the administration did nothing in response to concerns and complaints from survivors, students and alumni of color, and other members of the Wesleyan community. Dr. Hill graciously agreed to give the Commencement address in Handler’s stead.
Hopefully this year’s Honorary Degree recipients can become emblematic of the excellence that Wesleyan chooses to honor at future Commencement Ceremonies, rather than continuing a pattern of choosing powerful (and often problematic) white men who don’t represent the community or values that Wesleyan claims to strive toward.
If you have thoughts or feelings about this year’s selection of honorees, we welcome write-ins and guest posts! Just shoot us an email at staff[at]wesleying[dot]edu.
The full text of Roth’s email can be read below:
Wes is known for its history of activism. Rage update outlines all public activism that occurred on campus in the past academic year. It seems to have become an every other year sort of thing for us with our first article in 2014, our second in 2016, and now our third in 2018. All articles are definitely worth a read and although 2017 didn’t get an article, it was certainly a year worth remembering so I’ll leave some links to further reading in the end.
Rage update wouldn’t be complete without the words of alt, the author of our first rage update:
You’ve now arrived on campus, and we hope that you find your time here enriching and transformative. In that hope, we feel that it would be ill-advised to allow you to not have at least a foundational understanding of the things that have forced us as a community into dialogue, disagreement, and action.
This is not to scare you or to give you a negative impression of the University. However, we are certain that most if not all of you were told about the “passion” that Wesleyan students have and the issues that we care about on campus are at the forefront of those passions. While there is certainly no requirement to take an activist stance on any of these issues and it is in fact easy to sink beneath the radar on these issues and all the others not covered here, we would plead with you to be engaged in the community that you are now a part of.
Read this, ask questions, and reach out to students and faculty that have been here before you. We hope that as you begin your time here, you fully invest yourself as a community member committed to making Wesleyan as good as it can be for you and for those after you. Caring about Wesleyan does not foreclose critique on Wesleyan and as you read this, and other things like it, we hope you understand that too.
On Monday, posters like the one above were put up all over campus, including on most (if not all) senior house doors. The posters call for the removal of Daniel Handler ’92 as Commencement Speaker after repeated instances of racism and sexual harassment. They also call attention to the fact that Dr. Anita Hill, who is known for speaking out against workplace harassment, will receive an honorary degree (a lesser honor and a shorter speech) at the same event.
The poster also links to Wesleying’s Write-In: “Commencement 2018: Lemony Snicket, Anita Hill, and Silencing Women of Color in the Age of #MeToo” and a recent article in Pacific Standard by David M. Perry ’95 detailing Handler’s history of sexual harassment.
Today at 10am, the class of 2017 will begin lining up around the Wesleyan graveyard, probably hungover from tent party. Actual commencement will begin at 11am. There will be a livestream of the ceremony featuring commencement speaker Claudia Rankine on the Wesleyan Facebook page and on WesCast.
Congratulations to the class of 2017 and to Wesleying’s graduating seniors Maya, kitab, rachel, and medusa. We’re going to miss y’all!
It’s Reunion & Commencement Weekend, which means campus is crawling with wealthy alumni; nervous soon-to-be-graduates; underclassmen working temp jobs as ushers or golf cart drivers
or squatting in their senior friends’ houses; and, of course, Wesleyan dads.
In between all the snoozing on Usdan couches, schmoozing on Foss Hill, engaging in Senior Week shenanigans, chasing after famous alumni currently on campus (shoutout to Joss Whedon ’87, Matthew Weiner ’87, Craig Thomas ’97, Carter Bays ’97, Santigold ’97…), and packing up your life’s belongings with your parents (godspeed), you may have missed an important piece of Wesleyan history reemerge in the Gordon Career Center.
Come to Wesleyan’s Baccalaureate Ceremony with Seniors, family, and friends and listen as your peers share some of their unique and transformative moments from their years at Wesleyan. The keynote will be given by Assistant Professor Anthony Hatch, of Science in Society, African American Studies, Sociology, with Senior reflections by Lili Kadets, Haenah Kwon, Arnelle Williams, and Mika Reyes.
Date: Saturday, May 27
Time: 6 PM
Place: Memorial Chapel
At 9:45am today, Michael Roth sent an all-campus email announcing this year’s Commencement speaker as well as the 2017 Honorary Degree recipients. Poet, essayist and playwright Claudia Rankine will deliver the 185th Commencement address on May 28, 2017.
Additionally, Wesleyan will honor Jo Handelsman, a former Associate Director for Science at the White House, and Cristina Jiménez, the executive director and co-founder of United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigration organization in the country. The Alumni Association’s Baldwin Award will be presented to John Driscoll ’62 and Gina Driscoll.
Here’s the full text of the email:
The time is here, the time is now: Wesleyan’s class of 2016 is graduating today! Over the course of the past weekend, the median age on Foss has gone up to something like 30, an old dude asked one of my friends where to find drugs, and everyone is hungover. The ceremony begins at 11am and features commencement speaker Bryan Stevenson.
You can watch a livestream here, and read our liveblog after the jump:
After months of hilarious gossip circulating about Bernie Sanders being our commencement speaker, MRoth is putting rumors to rest: Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a professor at NYU Law School (and owner of an impressive AF Wikipedia page), will be delivering the commencement address. Stevenson will also receive an honorary degree from the university.
Some other cool news (that astag_rocky is currently shitting his pants over): Patti Smith (yes, THE Patti Smith) will be attending and receiving an honorary degree, as will Kwame Anthony Appiah, renowned philosopher whose long list of amazing accomplishments include winning the National Humanities Medal in 2012.
And no surprise here: John Usdan of the Usdan University Center Usdans is receiving the Baldwin Medal, the highest honor from Wesleyan’s alumni association, which recognizes “outstanding service to Wesleyan.”
You can read MRoth’s full email after the jump (it’s hella long).