Misha VanEaton ’18 wants to talk to you:
Wescussion is a new student group working to create a space to allow non-judgmental, compassionate conversation with the purpose of fully understanding the complexity of universal, social, and individual issues. We’re going to have our first meeting to talk about how this can/should be created and whether spaces like this exist or are necessary on campus.
Contact mvaneaton(at)wesleyan(dot)edu for more information.
Date: Friday 4/3
Time: 2-3 p.m.
Place: Usdan 108
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.
Image c/o Shannon Welch ’14 and the Wesleyan Argus.
On Wednesday night, students, faculty, and staff gathered in Tischler Hall of the Exley Science Center for the second Diversity University forum of the year. This program, entitled “Diversity University: In the Classroom and Beyond,” was a follow-up to last semester’s forum, “In Theory and In Practice.”
From the very start, it was clear that the atmosphere of this forum was very different from the first one. Not only were there fewer people in attendance, the emotional level, though high, was distinctly more subdued. Clearly this time of year is particularly busy for Wesleyan students, and I can only imagine that that was a major factor in keeping the numbers down. But there was also not the same feeling of urgency, the immediate need for such a gathering—which, all in all, is probably a good thing.
Last fall’s forum was organized in the wake of a series of upsetting incidents of attacks on students, and subsequent issues of racism, targeting, and exclusion that arose from conversations, Public Safety reports, and WesACB threads. In Wednesday’s forum, while there was an expression of similar concerns and issues of diversity, but there was not the same shocking outpouring of powerful emotion.
Video from the event is here.
Last night, hundreds (by my count, 400+) students, faculty, and staff piled into Beckham Hall for what became an over-three-hour long panel/discussion on issues of diversity and community at Wesleyan. By the end, as the clock approached 11:00 PM, there were still at least 200 attendees remaining. By all accounts, the forum was an immensely powerful and public out-letting of emotion and outrage at our community’s collective failings to address intense ruptures in Wesleyan’s identity as “Diversity University.”
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Sonia Manjon moderated the discussion, leading a panel that included President Michael Roth ’78, Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer, students Jalen Alexander ’14, Dorisol Inoa ’13, Chantaneice Kitt ’13, and Evan Okun ’13, Professor Alex Dupuy and Professor Elizabeth McAlister. The original intent of the forum was to address diversity in light of recent events, most notably hateful and racist comments on the ACB after Homecoming Weekend, the use of race in Public Safety reports, and allegations of unnecessary use of force by Public Safety, but the conversation touched on many, many more areas of community dysfunction.
There were a few things that were made amply clear to everybody last night, if they weren’t clear already:
Does our community live up to its ideals of progressiveness, political action, diversity and integration?
Come share a meal and participate in a conversation that addresses the segregation that exists within the community of active students on campus. We want to start talking about the divide between the Student of Color community and the White [Activist] or [Liberal] community, while also thinking about the other divisions that exist. We are here to be explicit, get the issues out and stop pretending they don’t exist. We hope this will be a chance to come together to think about how we can advocate for each other.
This event is for all students interested in making Wesleyan a more cohesive and integrated community. There will be food from Typhoon and dessert.
What: Open dialogue about the way active students on our campus do (and don’t) interact
When: Sat, Dec 11, 5-7pm
Where: Daniel Family Commons (3rd Floor of Usdan)
Who: All students interested in making Wesleyan a more cohesive and integrated community
Yesterday, I posted a note about a “teach-in” on Saturday with an Iraq vet and an artist-activist speaking against the Iraq war. A couple of posters in the comment thread objected that if this is a “teach-in,” it should present more than one side of the issue. While the specifics of Saturday’s event can be debated, I think this brings up a larger issue that’s worth tackling.
Maybe rainbows are political, but we all know that Wesleyan isn’t a political rainbow. Um… What I’m trying to say is, there’s not always a great diversity of viewpoints represented on campus. And even when multiple viewpoints on some issues are presented on campus, it’s unusual for them to be presented together. In my opinion, this makes for a less than ideal climate for learning. Furthermore, the ideological and intellectual self-segregation that we experience at Wesleyan is not unique – it’s largely the state of the nation, and I think it cripples us.
I don’t think the peace group of which I am a member is necessarily the best candidate to present a “multi-sided” view of war, just like EON might not be the right organization to present a “balanced” discussion of pollution. Given that most politically engaged student groups have a particular agenda, maybe there’s need for a separate group to coordinate teach-ins, lectures, and discussions with the purpose of presenting multiple perspectives on an issue in order to facilitate more substantial interrogation (for ourselves and our peers) and support a rich political culture on campus. What do you think? It might start to spur a dynamism this campus lacks. Is anyone interested in trying out a project like this? If you’re willing to help, it can move.
Shoot me an email at nwotton[at]wes if you like the idea or want to get involved.