Senior Cocktails, faculty engagement, Espwesso, and the state of Wesleyan society.
The media has been having a field day with last Friday’s Senior Cocktails. History, at least as it is popularly understood, often influences the character of the future, so this article seeks to illuminate three brief bits of historical meaning. The first involves the intent of the Allbritton cafe now called Espwesso. The second, an old norm of behavior between faculty and students. And finally, the origins of Senior Cocktails, the third. All told, these elements collectively form the tale of a beautiful and normative aspect of Wesleyan society that aged, became tarnished, and eventually disappeared.
I titled this “The Bridge on the Drina,” after the Ivo Andric historical novel of the same name, for reasons that will hopefully be clear by the end of the article.
Allbritton, Wesleyan’s Kapia
As you might expect, the centerpiece of Andric’s novel is a bridge across the Drina river, lying athwart the town of Višegrad near the border between Bosnia and Serbia. This bridge serves in analogy for many aspects of Ottoman rule in the Balkans (and some of these I will reference later on), but for now its importance lies in the kapia, the widened center of the bridge. Upon the kapia sit the people of the town, resting on benches of carved stone, chatting, sipping coffee and plum brandy bought from the vendor’s stand, and conducting business of both great and little import. The kapia is as central to the society of the town as it is to the bridge itself.
So it was to be with cafe space allotted on the bottom floor of Allbritton.
In the wake of the Newtown shooting, should teachers be armed?
One week after the Newtown shooting, the NRA has ended its social media blackout and the national gun policy debate is as bitter as it’s ever been. Thousands of Americans are demanding gun control now, and if you’re reading Wesleying, chances are you agree. But on the gun-owning side of the lobby—the sort of people who follow NRA’s Twitter account in the first place—conservatives demand the opposite: more guns, more concealed carry, more self-defense. (Don’t believe these people are real? Read a few NRA Facebook comments. Go ahead; I’ll wait.) In one heated exchange, Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America appeared on Piers Morgan and suggested that gun control advocates are responsible for the massacre. “Since we have concealed carry laws in all of our country now, people can get a concealed firearm,” Pratt argued. “And yet, we have laws that say not in schools.”
Should teachers be armed in the classroom? Could guns in school have saved the lives of 20 children and six teachers? Should America combat guns with—err, more guns?
Over at Tenured Radical, in a post titled “Teachers Are Not Soldiers,” Professor Claire Potter has a response for the pro-gun lobby. In a phrase: “Uh, no.”
Professor Potter describes learning about the Sandy Hook massacre after having just read Jeffrey Goldberg’s December Atlantic piece in favor of more guns. The bulk of her argument revolves around an experience at Wesleyan following the shooting of May, 2009, when a gunman remained on the loose after murdering Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10 in Red & Black Cafe. Wesleyan’s campus went into lockdown, and Potter waited for hours in the Center for the Americas:
The Tenured Radical reflects on Bennet’s moratorium, student activism, and the meaning of chalking today.
Wesleying’s multi-part retrospective on the 2002 chalking moratorium continues with a faculty perspective: a conversation with Claire Potter, Professor of History and American Studies at Wesleyan from 1991–2011.
In the wake of President Bennet’s moratorium announcement in October, 2002, Wesleyan faculty from across the disciplines spoke up to register their views. Some authored a Wespeak supporting the ban, arguing that the “free exchange of ideas . . . is not facilitated by the hostile, racist, or sexually explicit slogans” reportedly contained in chalkings. Others expressed dissent, culminating in a 44-8 faculty vote asking Bennet to overturn the moratorium. Perhaps no faculty member, though, argued for free speech as forcefully and passionately as Professor Potter.
According to the Argus, just before the vote, she spoke up at a faculty meeting on chalking:
Chair of the American Studies Program Claire Potter also spoke at length to the faculty. She cited the Constitution and Bill of Rights as upholding free speech and said the 1st Amendment of the Constitution also holds true for obscenity.
“No one has the right not to be offended,” Potter said. [ . . . ] Addressing some of the comments from faculty members who viewed the chalkings as an inept way of expressing themselves and talk of helping students better express their views, Potter asserted that it is not the faculty’s place to interfere with student expression.
The sun’s shining, birds are chirping, and there’s music playing. Finals are coming up quick, but maybe you just want to relax, take a breather. Why not rock out to some good music with hundreds of your fellow Wesleyan students? Spring Fling is that opportunity.
Every year, we have one day—just one day—to all be together and do nothing but listen to music and hang out. And now, that day is under threat of going away. The Educational Policy Committee of the University, which sets the school’s academic calendar in five-year increments, is considering removing a day dedicated to Spring Fling.
In response, the WSA passed legislation at its five-hour meeting this Sunday titled “Resolution 6.34 Resolution on Reading Period and Spring Fling.” The resolution notes that we are already pretty stressed about finals with only four days each for Reading “Week” and Finals “Week,” and this would just make things worse. Students have been pretty insistent that they need more time to study, not less. We’re already evicted just hours after finals end, leaving little time to pack. There’s explicit concern about students’ health expressed in the resolution. As a member of the WSA, I voted for the resolution and have to say, this is not good for academics, not good for campus spirit, and not good for health.
Read the full resolution here. Email wsa[at]wesleyan[dot]edu if you want to reinforce the point, and share your thoughts in the comments here too.
Just call it Skillman v. Glenn and get your popcorn ready.
Last Thursday after class, I moseyed over to Shanklin 107 (stirring fond memories of freshman year Biodiversity class) for what I took to be a faculty panel discussion on “Transparency, Admissions Policy, and Financial Aid”—more succinctly, need-blind. When the discussion began, Professors Lim, Rouse, and Long, representing varying views, also seemed to interpret it as a cordial panel discussion on the issues surrounding need-blind. Seated at the far end of the panel, though, Professors Glenn and Skillman took it to be a full-throttle, boisterous debate—sparring over the meanings of a need-aware policy, university transparency, and whether or not Wesleyan can afford to remain need-blind (Glenn says yes, Skillman no). Both presented articulate and passionate positions (taking opposite positions), and both got pretty riled up. Suffice it to say audience members (my estimate would be 40 or 45 students) benefited from witnessing this direct confrontation of competing narratives.
Continuing Wesleying’s recent tradition of ‘Posting Videos of Important Shit Filmed By Ben Doernberg ’13,’ we’ve got video footage of the entire conversation below or on the YouTubes. Scroll past the jump for a more detailed rundown on who said what.
As Professor Glenn opened his remarks, “I guess reasonable people can disagree.”
Em Trambert ’14 goes out on a Lim:
While this semester has been filled with debates, discussions, and protests about the impending change to a Need-Aware admissions policy, the impacts of this change—both positive and negative—are enmeshed in much larger issues. These include the financial health of our university, the value we place on welcoming a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives on this campus, administrative transparency with both faculty and students, and access to a Wesleyan education. Dr. Glenn, Professor Lim, Professor Long, Professor Rouse, and Professor Skillman will help us think critically about what a Need Aware policy might mean. The goal of this panel is not to propose an “ideal policy” but to create a foundation on which further conversation can be had. Feel free to come and engage these professors in conversation, or just sit back and listen!
If you have specific questions for the panel, feel free to submit them to ProfessorPanel@gmail.com. See you there!
Date: Thursday, November 15
Time: 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Place: Shanklin 107
“The female body may not be able to shut down conception, but we can at least shut down Akin’s wild claims.”
If you study at a liberal arts college like Wesleyan, you’ve probably already recoiled in disgust at Representative Todd Akin’s comments last week regarding pregnancy and rape.
But if you teach history and science in society at a small liberal arts college like Wesleyan, you’ve probably already
unpacked analyzed the decidedly medieval roots and implications of Representative Todd Akin’s curiously antiquated theories of pregnancy and rape. You may have even gotten the New York Times to publish it as an op-ed.
Enter Professor Jennifer Tucker, who smartly pointed out last week that Todd Akin’s views of rape are in fact quite consistent with science—as long as you’re living in 12th century Germany. Akin, of course, suggested that women are unlikely to become pregnant from rape, because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Turns out this view is intriguingly consistent with what was preached by Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century:
Eight tenured, six promoted, effective July 1.
According to the Wesleyan Connection, eight Wesleyan faculty members have received tenure this month: Gloster Aaron, biology; Nadja Aksamija, art; Sally Bachner, English; Hilary Barth, psychology; Daniella Gandolfo, anthropology; Phillip Resor, earth and environmental sciences; Elise Springer, philosophy; and Deb Unferth, English. Go nuts, faculty friends. You’re free! An additional eight professors have been promoted.
Which brings us to an interesting query floating around popular media in recent months (and, well, decades): should tenure be abolished?
Not that, you know, those professors don’t deserve it. I can’t really speak for seven of them. The one I’ve studied with is indeed fab. But is tenure beneficial to students—or anyone—in the long run? Noting that as few as 31% of full-time college professors had tenure in 2007, a 2010 Slate article answers “No,” laying out the case with one snappy analogy:
Imagine you ran a restaurant. A very prestigious, exclusive restaurant. To attract top talent, you guarantee all cooks and waiters job security for life. Not only that, because you value honesty and candor, you allow them to say anything they want about you and your cuisine, publicly and without fear of retribution. The only catch is that all cooks or waiters would have to start out as dishwashers or busboys, for at least 10 years, when none of these protections would apply.
New professor alert! Elisha Russ-Fishbane will be joining Wesleyan’s Religion Department and Jewish and Israel Studies in July. If you can’t wait that long to hear about interactions between Judaism and Islam in medieval Egypt, check out this lecture tomorrow, details courtesy of Clare McGranahan ’13:
The talk will address Jewish approaches to Islam from a historical and modern perspective.
Elisha Russ-Fishbane received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in 2009. His dissertation, Between Politics and Piety: Abraham Maimonides and His Times, is a historical investigation into Egyptian Jewish society in the thirteenth century. It explores religious transformations of Egyptian Jewry, whose rituals and inner ideals reflect profound impact of contemporary Sufism, in the social and political context of contemporary transformations and upheavals in Egypt. Elisha Russ-Fishbane is now a Tikvah Postdoctoral Fellow in Jewish Thought at Princeton University and will be joining Wesleyan’s Religion Department and Jewish and Israel Studies in July.
Date: Thursday, April 19
Time: 4:30 pm
Place: PAC 004
Why choose between ellipses, em dashes, and question marks when you can include all three in your lecture title? Ging-Ji Nathan Wang ’13 dares to ask:
The Veritas Forum at Wesleyan presents . . .
A conversation offering both Pragmatist and Christian perspectives.
Moderated by Wesleyan Professor of History Richard Elphick.
- Elise Springer, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Wesleyan University
- Greg Ganssle, Lecturer in Philosophy, Rivendell Institute at Yale University
Date: Thursday, February 23
Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Place: Exley Science Center Tishler Hall