Tag Archives: from the argives

From The Argives: “Nixon, No! McGovern, Si!”

The Argus in 1972: “George McGovern might very well be the man to lead the United States out of its present moral crisis.”

George McGovern, the United States senator from South Dakota and fierce antiwar advocate, died early yesterday morning in Sioux Falls, S.D, at the age of 90. Most students will recall McGovern as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in 1972, when he was defeated by President Nixon in a staggering electoral landslide. (McGovern managed to carry a single state, plus D.C., to Nixon’s 49.) (Massachusetts was the single state.) (This later inspired bumper stickers reading, “Don’t blame meI’m from Massachusetts.”) Most students will not know that McGovern was also a Wesleyan alumnus.

Dakota Wesleyan, that is—probably the only Wesleyan I haven’t been mistaken for attending. McGovern graduated in 1946, then returned to the school, where he had met his wife, only a few years later to teach history and political science. Today, a guest book appears on Dakota Wesleyan’s website.

From the Argives: Doug Bennet ’59 Becomes Wesleyan’s Fifteenth President

Ah, 1995: the year of the OJ Simpson trial, the fourth busiest hurricane season on record, and my 1st birthday (yeah, I’m a youngster, but I rocked those 90s children’s overalls so hard). More importantly, this week in 1995, Douglas Bennet ’59 was inaugurated as Wesleyan’s fifteenth president.

Bennet is more than just the new name of Fauver (or if you’re anyone who isn’t the class of 2016, the name of the dorm is in fact still Fauver). He has been involved with Wesleyan as a student, a parent, an alumnus, and an administrator.

During his time in the Oval Not-Very-Oval Office, Bennet had his share of ups and downs. Though he greatly improved several important aspects of university life (like nearly doubling the size of the endowment and overseeing the construction of many buildings on campus), he was criticized by some students for the lack of student involvement in Wesleyan’s decision-making process. Eventually, student dissatisfaction with Bennet culminated in a 250-person sit-in outside his office in 2004.

From The Argives: “Anna Mendes, You’ve Got Mail”

“Please, pick up your mail Anna, you’re missing so many great events.”

On Monday, our investigative report on the new WesBox squeeze (in short, a number of students are now sharing mailboxes but were never informed—oops) touched off a controversy in the comments. For some, it’s a basic privacy issue. “A lot of sensitive things come through the mail,” a mailbox-sharer argued. “There is a reason why mailboxes come with locks on them instead of remaining open cubbyholes.” For others, it’s hardly worth bitching about. “The envelope is surprisingly effective at securing privacy as is,” wrote one commenter. Finally, one irate alumnus huffily pointed out what may not be obvious to current students: in the Dark Ages before Usdan, everyone shared a mailbox. And everyone was happy about it, because Clinton was president and there was no Twitter or Pinterest or WesDicks or whatever to bitch about it on. Right?

But one potential issue has gone unstated: what if your boxmate never picks up hir fucking mail?

In a Wespeak published October 6, 2006 (only a year before Usdan forever changed the Wesbox Industrial Complex), Stephen Morris ’07 illustrates the frustrations of sharing a mailbox with a neglectful party. In fact, he publicly urges his boxmate, Anna Mendes ’10, to check out all the mail she’s missing:

From The Argives: September 11, 2001 at Wesleyan

“What can we do as a community in this time of crisis and uncertainty? The most important thing, perhaps, will be to learn from each other.” —President Bennet

Here’s what the Argus looked like the week of September 11, 2001—shocked, singularly focused, teeming with questions and grief. The bold header is striking and clear: “UNIVERSITY STUNNED BY ATTACKS.”

There was the candlelight vigil outside North College Tuesday night, where President Douglas Bennet ’59 spoke (“We are together as a community because we need to sustain each other in a time of loss,” he said) and Dean Mike Whaley opened up the microphone to any student who wished to speak. There was the afternoon forum on Wednesday, featuring words by Professor Khachig Tölölyan among other faculty. There were the “where I was when I heard” anecdotes, the firsthand accounts by alumni survivors, the blood drives, the faculty panel. One article sought to summarize how other colleges were adjusting their schedules—especially those with campuses in New York. At Wesleyan, classes moved forward, with extreme flexibility. “Holding classes will provide us all with an opportunity to gather in small groups,” wrote the University’s administration, “and is preferable to the alternative of our students remaining isolated.”

President Bennet wrote a Wespeak. “We have an unusual opportunity to see past stereotypes, identify and diminish our own prejudices, and experience a complex world through the sensitivities of others,” Bennet urged.

From The Argives: 100 Years of John Cage

Were he still alive, experimental music messiah John Cage would turn 100 this week. Consider taking a moment of silence today in honor of Cage’s genius. Or four and 33 seconds.

The man responsible for such works as 4’33”, Indeterminancy, A Valentine Out of Season, and Cartridge Music was affiliated with Wesleyan on and off from 1955 until his death in 1992. He first came to campus to work with composer David Tudor on the prepared piano, performances described by The Argus as “clunks, clanks, plinks, and plonks.” Cage continued working with members of Wesleyan’s music faculty (particularly Alvin Lucier) and was a Center for Advanced Study fellow in 1960–61 and 1969–70. In this role, he taught classes in experimental music. In 1961, Wesleyan University Press published his book, Silence, followed by M and A Year From Monday. (Here’s a review that ran in the October, 1961 Argus.)

Finally, in early 1988, Wesleyan hosted a massive week-long festival-symposium celebrating his 75th birthday. (Here’s coverage in the Argus and the New York Times. Also, Ampersand coverage, featuring “indeterminate typing.”) When I took Experimental Music with Alvin Lucier in 2009, Cage’s music stayed prominent on the syllabus. Lucier spoke of his old friend often, and passionately.

From The Argives: Digable Planets to Rock Spring Fling 1993

The last time Social Committee announced Spring Fling in late April, they called it a “diverse line-up.” Familiar, no? This was 1993, and underground hip hop trio Digable Planets had been snagged as the last-minute headlining act. (It all seems so 1993, too, until you remember that Digable’s lead emcee, Ishmael Butler, is now one half of hip hop collective Shabazz Palaces, which would’ve been a tight steal for Foss this month.) Opening acts included hip hop group Black Moon, Boston-based ska outfit Bim Skala Bim, and Wes band Thumpasaurus, which are all awesomely named mysteries to me. (Apparently Bim Skala Bim reunited in ’09, so go crazy, Spring Fling Committee.) (As for other acts in consideration that year, committee chair Ron Tuckman ’93 name-drops The Lemonheads, Cracker, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr., and Honey. Did I mention it was the ’90s?) (Still, they should’ve booked Dinosaur Jr. You’d be able to enjoy it from Summerfields.)

In other Spring Fling throwback news, I have managed to find the 1999 lineup announcement, which featured reggae legends Toots & the Maytals as headliner (beating out Bob Marley’s former band, The Wailors) and little-known indie trio Yo La Tengo as an opening act:

From The Argives: Student Poet Combines Humor with Profundity

Handler: “I’m aware of the fact that I’m a semi-pretentious liberal arts student. I don’t think anything I feel is terribly important to anybody else.”

Continuing our recent slew of notable alumni coverage (never change, Das Racist, Joss Whedon ’87, bear-fighting Vermont governor Peter Shumlin ’79), here’s one I recently stumbled upon in the archives. On February 21, 1992, The Argus profiled a student poet, a senior at the time from California. His name was Daniel, and he had made it to the Connecticut Students Poet reading. He even skipped his Chaucer class to save his raspy voice. Today, he is Daniel Handler ’92—or Lemony Snicket, as the case may be.

From The Argives: Justice Blackmun Charms Wes

Tickets to Justice Scalia’s Hugo Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression went on sale this past Thursday, and what a madhouse it was: tickets were snatched up in minutes, and the real debate ought to concern whether or not more than 175 seats should have been reserved for students. (As one disgruntled commenter opined: “Students should have been allotted at least half of the tickets. We go here.” I can understand the need for quotas, but in terms of numbers I can also strongly concur.)

I posted that Scalia, whose lecture will be simulcast all ’round campus, is the first Supreme Court justice to speak at Wesleyan in recent memory. By which I apparently meant 19 years: turns out the late Justice Harry Blackmun gave the second Hugo L. Black in Crowell Concert Hall on January 27, 1993—one week after Bill Clinton took the oath of office (Blackmun expressed open optimism) and three days after Thurgood Marshall succumbed to heart failure (Blackmun conveyed great sadness).

The Hugo L. Black Lecture series was initiated by Leonard S. Halpert ’44 in the early 1990s; Blackmun’s speech was the second such lecture. Scroll on for extensive Argus coverage of the speech.

“The Funniest Prank Ever”: The Middletown Mummy Mystery, 22 Years Later

 “I looked at my bed and there were all these skin chips and little chips in it. It was pretty disgusting.”

Twenty-two years ago next month, a good-humored, mullet-haired Wesleyan student returned to his Nics dorm room late on a Saturday night and found his bed already occupied by a rotting, fleshy stranger. The student was Tim Abel ’93, a freshman from Wilmington, Delaware. The uninvited guest in question was a 2,500-year-old Egyptian mummy. And the bizarre incident, which Abel has happily proclaimed “the funniest prank ever,” has since solidified its place in the lore of early ’90s Wesleyan history, providing some semblance of levity during a turbulent academic year characterized by generally unprecedented campus unrest, including a firebombing, a week-long hunger strike, racist graffiti in Malcolm X House, and the fatal shooting of Nicholas Haddad ’92.

It’s also just a damn good story, with or without its retroactive Keep Wes Weird significance. It’s a story about President Chace and P-Safe and loyalty among campus pranksters, about MoCon and O’Rourke’s and frosh life and pretty much every Wesleyan institution of the ’90s, about how campus news spread before cell phones and Twitter and this here blog, about how some kid transformed literally overnight from a random freshman into a minor celebrity of sorts. The mummy incident received local press coverage in 1990 (much to Abel’s delight), and it remains a subject of conversation and folklore among his friends and strangers two decades later.

I tracked down Abel over break (he’s now a facial plastic surgeon in Delaware) and ended up speaking to him at length about the mummy, the unnamed perpetrators, and just what made Wesleyan so batshit nuts in the early ’90s (and an alumnus perspective on how it has changed since). Scroll on for the full interview; click here for original 1990 news coverage of the so-called Middletown Mummy.