A few days ago, the following email went out to all students. This is a forum worth contributing to, considering the significantdiscussions about Wesleyan’s direction last semester. Those interested should send their responses to the WSA by February 20. More details below:
I am writing to invite you to participate in a new form of student engagement with President Michael Roth and the Board of Trustees. Over the past several months, I have worked with the President’s Office to organize a face-to-face discussion with the President on an open question about Wesleyan’s future direction, shape, and character. Board meetings (in which WSArepresentatives participate) usually address one such question, and this time around I am pleased to announce that the question is also being posed to the student body as a whole.
The question can be found below. We cordially request your thoughts on the subject by Wednesday, February 20th, in the form of an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “Discussion” in the subject line. The Wesleyan Student Assembly will collect your responses and convey them to President Roth. On February 28th, in PAC001, the WSA and President Roth will co-host an open face-to-face discussion with students, which will inform the Board of Trustees’ own discussion two days later.
On the basis of strong communitysentiment, Wesleyan has decided not to relocate its bookstore to Washington Street. Objections to the bookstore relocation (and planned development) included concerns about pedestrian safety, increased traffic, and disruption of the residential neighborhood. Wesleyan had signed a non-binding agreement with the developer, Centerplan Companies, to give the University the opportunity to discuss the proposal with its community before reaching any conclusions. On November 27, Wesleyan held an open forum on the proposed relocation, and the views of faculty, staff, students and neighbors from Middletown who participated were strongly against the proposal. Wesleyan also sought and received community input on a blog it created about the proposed relocation, and Wesleyan administrators received emails from and held conversations with individuals and campus groups.
According to WSA Finance and Facilities Committee Chair Andrew Trexler ’14, he and WSA Pres Zachary Malter ’13met with Peters and Topshe last week and “conveyed a broad range of student opinion, which was predominantly opposed to the move and the development.”
Following public comments by President Roth and the WSA, the discussion surrounding Monday night’s forum on race and diversity continues around campus—in online comments, in blog posts, but most of all in personal conversations I’ve overheard (or took part in) over the past few days.
If you missed the forum and still aren’t sure what all of the talk is about, Ben Doernberg ’13 (who livestreamed the event on Monday) has taken the liberty of consolidating his footage into one master YouTube video. It’s long (the forum began at 7:30 and continued well past 10 pm), and the video quality isn’t ideal, but you should easily be able to make out what’s being said. And you should watch it, too. Three hours is daunting, so split it into segments. Let the audio play while you’re doing work. Listen to it on your iPhone while running. But listen.
As one of the students on the panel remarks about thirty minutes in, “These are discussions that we must have, and not discussions that are silenced.”
Roth to Wes: “It was difficult last night to realize that we have fallen short, and that I have fallen short, of my aspirations for making Wesleyan an inclusive campus.”
Within minutes of pyrotechnics’ post about last night’s lengthy, heated, and utterly startling forum about race and inclusion, President Roth sent out an all-campus email summarizing his reflections and plan for action. In brief, the president describes the forum as “an intense, disturbing and enlightening experience for me”:
It was difficult last night to realize that we have fallen short, and that I have fallen short, of my aspirations for making Wesleyan an inclusive campus for progressive liberal arts education. But it was good to be reminded of those shared aspirations. It was difficult (terribly difficult) to hear the accounts of disappointment, anger and pain. But it was good to see the solidarity and affection of members of our community as they reached out to comfort one another — with snapping fingers, with applause, with hugs.
Roth goes on to acknowledge two other upcoming forums—one with the WSA Committee on Inclusion and Diversity, another with Invisible Men, Asian American Student Collective, Ujamaa, and the WSA Committee for Inclusion and Diversity—and vows to follow up on concerns raised last night by developing a list of the most important policies to improve, assigning staff to work with students and faculty, and giving a “progress report to the campus community.”
I hope there will be a good turnout so that we can have a frank conversation about how we can create a campus climate in which all are treated with respect. More than that, we want a campus that builds on acceptance, creating bonds of affectionate solidarity.
Can’t make it? Watch it from your bed. The panel is being livestreamed by social media journalist Ben Doernberg ’13 on U-Stream, as well as by the University at this link. For more, read this post. [Edit: more video after the jump.]
Can’t make the forum? Email us your questions for Roth: staff(at)wesleying(dot)org.
If the Wesleying coverage, Arguseditorials, WSAmoves, and general campus discourse come to anything, it’s this: the debate surrounding Wesleyan’s decision to scale back need-blind is among the fiercest in recent memory. Wesward, the online organizational hub, has even compiled a page of links for need-blind. I haven’t seen such an ongoing flurry of campus activism since the bygone days of Betagate. If our current weekly poll is any indication, I’m not sure I’ve seen such a divisive Wes controversy ever.
Since May, Wesleying has been (and will continue to be) instrumental in facilitating these discussions. But sometimes the best conversations take place off the Internet. (It’s kind of weird for us to wrap our heads around.) And sometimes it’s nice to get your point across to Michael Roth ’78in a venue other than his blog’s comments (though those can be great, too) and reddit AMAs. When some fellow students, including A-Batte, and I met with the president during Senior Week last spring, he even offered to participate in a live forum.
So it comes to this. On Monday, in PAC 002, Wesleying will host its first ever forum: an open conversation with President Roth about Wesleyan’s need-blind policy shift and affordability plans.
The Wesleyan Student Assembly hosted a forum on the chalking issue this evening, attended by Dean Mike Whaley and some twenty or so students. For the many of you that might have wanted to go but couldn’t, I, as the organizer of the event, am writing in to let you know what it was about and how it went. A summary description and probably some opinions after the jump.