Newsweek used this photo in their article to contrast the liberal values
that the school likes to think it has with the conservative mindset it actually practices.
Maybe Wesleyan University learned a lesson today: Not all press is good press.
Today’s in-depth and certainly unflattering Newsweek article by Katie Baker (who wrote that Jezebel piece in May ridiculing the administration for its medieval Tour de Franzia threats) asserts that “Wesleyan seems to be slinking away from its weird and activist roots to attract rich students and even richer donors.” What could the school have done to deserve this sort of criticism?
As we are quite aware, the answer is: a lot. Baker’s article (following on the heels of two Autostraddle and Youngist articles) begins with the issues over degendering bathrooms, with several trans* students speaking up about their not-so-welcome experiences on campus, both from other students in the bathroom (“Wrong bathroom, fag!” one gender nonconforming student heard) and from the administration as a whole. After the group Pissed Off Trans* People organized students to remove gendered bathroom signs and replace them with “All Gender Restroom” signs, the Student Judicial Board singled out three trans* students (claiming they were the only identifiable ones) and charged them with property destruction, at the cost of $157 per sign— $5,245 total.
After a four-and-a-half hour hearing, the board lowered the fine to $451 and gave each student three disciplinary points (10 earns a suspension or dismissal). “The SJB action was taken because vandalism occurred,” Vice President of Student Affairs Mike Whaley said in a statement. “The board does not strive to determine the legitimacy of a protest/action, only whether such protest/action is done in a manner that violates our community’s standards.”
The three students tell Newsweek they feel they were unfairly singled out for actions committed by many but were most concerned with the symbolism of it all: This was the first time anyone knows of that the administration had punished individuals for LGBT activism.
“We’re talking about economic sanctions on activism at a school that profits off a reputation of being a progressive, activist-friendly space,” says Ben, a Wesleyan junior. “Being trans and fighting for trans justice is not profitable or shiny or appealing.”
Tonight, Professor Aharon Barak will be speaking in the Memorial Chapel at 8:00 PM for the annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression.
Whether you are attending the lecture or protesting the role Barak’s decisions have played in the development of Israeli settlements, you may want to learn a bit about the Israeli judicial system prior to the lecture. If so, check out this commentary by Eric Stephen ’13. The commentary puts Barak in context, discussing the structure of the Israeli judicial system, how the government deals with freedom of the press, and whether Barak is an “activist judge,” as his detractors within Israel have occasionally said.
Uh, we won?
In February, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) flagged Wesleyan for contradicting its own commitment to freedom of speech with what it deems “substantial restrictions on students’ expressive rights” and named us Speech Code of the Month. Wesleyan last drew FIRE’s ire in 2011, during the infamous Beta-Gate, when they chastised The_Real_MRoth in an open letter for restricting our freedom of assembly with his changes to the university’s housing policy.
What exactly, you might ask, is a speech code? According to their website, “FIRE defines a ‘speech code’ as any university regulation or policy that prohibits expression that would be protected by the First Amendment in society at large.” In this case, FIRE is drawing attention to a clause in Wesleyan’s Student Handbook on discrimination and harassment.
The right to abstain from performing acts and the right to be protected against actions that may be harmful to the health or emotional stability of the individual or that degrade the individual or infringe upon his/her personal dignity.
Lecture planned for March 8; Supreme Court bounce workshop indefinitely postponed.
As we’ve previously reported round these parts, Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is giving the university’s Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression, which will take place at 8:00 pm in the Memorial Chapel on Thursday, March 8. The event promises to be one of the most anticipated lectures of the academic year (I suppose you could cast your memory back to Elie Wiesel’s impassioned 2010 lecture for a rough comparison), but it has also prompted some healthy speculation as to how Scalia’s noted conservatism will mesh with our dear little college. One alumnus commenter likened the event to “Daniel appearing at a lion’s convention”; President Roth was a bit more measured in his commentary:
“I think it’s really important for Wesleyan to bring speakers to campus who don’t just preach to the choir, who don’t necessarily fit into what people think Wesleyan students think,” Roth said. “Bringing a Supreme Court justice to campus is a good thing because the justices are in positions to see the world and act on their perspectives in ways that are crucial to the country, whether we agree with them or not.”
It’ll be an interesting Q&A, for sure—for those who can actually make it. Tickets are going on “sale” (they’re free) tomorrow at 10:00 am at the Usdan Box Office, but good luck on the mission: there are 500 seats in Chapel, of which only 175 are reserved for students. Set an alarm for this one, and set it earlier than 9:55. (As the Argus reported this week, “The lecture will also be broadcast live in the Goldsmith Family Cinema, the Center for the Arts [CFA] Hall, and in the Public Affairs Center [PAC] rooms 001 and 002. Tickets for the 200 student seats in the Goldsmith Cinema will be available at the box office on Thursday.”)
To my knowledge, Scalia is the only Supreme Court Justice of any political persuasion to appear on campus in at least 15 years or so. The late Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who famously authored Roe v. Wade, spoke in Crowell Concert Hall in early 1993, just a week into the Clinton administration and a year before Blackmun’s retirement from the court.