Credit for this photo goes to Karmenife Paulino and Tess Altman at Reclamation.
Note: This interview discusses sexual assault. It was also conducted prior to Winter Break and doesn’t reflect certain changes on campus since then.
I knock at some small senior house right off of Cross street, and a muffled cry of, “Be right there,” can be heard from behind its chipping red door. The door opens, and this is the first and last time that I ever meet Karmenife Paulino ’15 – I follow curly, auburn hair up the narrow staircase as we say our hello’s and I am taken to her room. Her room is cozy and dim, with colored lights strung up on the left wall next to artwork and posters. My eyes graze over the mid-packing mess that I’ve interrupted, led to a mannequin in bondage gear leaning on the right wall.
She sits on her bed, crosslegged and comfortable, her body turned at an angle from mine, as I take a seat on the bottom most edge and gracelessly stumble through introductions. She’s patient as I rummage through my bag for my questions, and we begin.
What exactly is Reclamation?
WELCOME to the FIRST re-installment of Wesleying’s NEWLY REINVIGORATED SERIES: IN DEPTH! This series will go ~*~in depth~*~ (see what I did there) to bring some of those well known and some of those not so well known clubs to light. We want to help the student body learn more about all the unique things Wes has to offer in order to help them discover their ~interests~.
We’re starting off the series with an interview from one of QuestBridge/First-Class’s own Brenda Quintana ‘18. (For those who don’t know what QuestBridge is and want to find out more about it you can do so here. And if you feel so compelled, spread the word! Recommend Quest to someone you might think qualifies/could benefit from knowing about the program and the ~amazing~ things that it does.) Let’s kick it off! Oh- and P.S. I am also in QuestBridge.
Beginning this semester, Wesleying will hold semi-regular meetings with President Michael Roth to ask all the questions about Wesleyan University that we have wanted, but never previously had the chance, to ask him. We have quite a bit of catching up to do. As Thursday, Nov. 20 was the first of these meetings, editors Samira, kitab, and Gabe, with input from Wesleying staff, used our time to ask a variety of questions about relevant issues from the past few years. As per their request, we informed the President’s Office beforehand on the general topics we wished to cover.
Our half-hour conversation, which we are posting here in its entirety, covers sexual assault procedure, coeducation of residential fraternities, fundraising, the endowment, need-blind admissions, and academic programs. This interview was edited for clarity.
“You’re having conversations about movies and about the work and about questions and disagreements… there’s so much that grows out of that so when someone graduates you’re not through talking to them yet about it all.”
Basinger is here pictured in the Goldsmith Family Cinema. This picture was taken from a New York Times Article featuring her book The Star Machine, about the height of the studio system in the 30s through 50s [Source].
As a newly admitted film major, one can imagine the anx-citement surrounding this interview. Jeanine Basinger, who is on record as “one of the most important film scholars alive today” and who built Wesleyan’s world renowned film program from the bottom up, is a name I have learned to revere since day one as a prospective film student. At the scheduled time, I dialed Professor Basinger’s office to be greeted with enthusiasm and an eagerness to get right to business. She expressed her hope that her husband would bring her a cup of coffee amidst her busy workday and we jumped right into the questions. She made the interview very easy for me, answering with depth and segue-ing effortlessly into questions I hadn’t even asked yet. We discussed the establishment of the College of Film and the Moving Image, which was announced just over a year ago, the liberal arts approach to cinema, and her relations with past film majors. By the end of the half hour, I was feeling reenergized, inspired, and more excited than ever to begin my journey as a Wesleyan University film major with Professor Basinger as a guide.
The following is the transcript of our interview, edited for clarity.
Could you tell me about the College of Film and the Moving Image – why the initiative was taken on and what differences it brings to the department?
The interesting thing is that all of the components that make up the college are things that we have in fact been doing for years. The designation of making it into the college is less of a change and more of a recognition of what we are and what we do.
On February 22, Mel Hsu ’13 and Josh Smith ’11 came together with a cohort of their friends—students and recent alumni—to play an intimate living room show on campus. Although the concert was ostensibly a Mel and Josh reunion, it also marked the official release of Hsu’s second album, Call Home the Crow, comprised of music written for her senior recital. Hsu and I agreed that instead of having an interview, we wanted to just talk as friends and have a conversation in the spirit of Hsu’s music: honest, slow, and maybe even vulnerable.
Mel Hsu: There’s just a lot in my head right now. At this point, I have no idea what to do next with this thing. But in a lot of ways, Wesleying seems more intimate than Facebook because it’s a community that I know, as opposed to this giant abyss.
Gabe: Which is why I thought we could just have this as a conversation. I have a few questions, and we can just abandon them as we go.
MS: I’m excited for the slow-going-ness of this. Right now I’m feeling really anxious, so I’m excited to have a slow-going conversation.
G: Let me pull this up in iTunes, because I put the new CD on my computer as soon as I got home from the living room concert, actually. The album is called Call Home the Crow, and it was your senior recital concert. Did you write each song individually, or did you the write the concert as one long piece?
MS: Let me think about this for a quick second. I feel as though it became more cohesive as the songs were written. When I began, I had no idea what was going to happen, and so it wasn’t a full work until probably the Monday before my recital.
If you’ve missed your favorite late-night Espwesso barista, you’ll be happy to hear that he’s now making waves as a Venture for America Fellow in downtown Las Vegas. Since the final VFA deadline (Monday, March 24th) is approaching rapidly, Jacob Eichengreen ’13 agreed to an interview about his post-graduation experiences, and the takeaway is honest and encouraging: “Life after graduation is uncomfortable,” but there’s great personal and professional growth to be found in taking risks and embracing discomfort.
For more information on risk-taking and growth with VFA, contact Jacob at jacob.eichengreen[at]gmail[dot]com or the campus ambassador at scapron[at]wesleyan[dot]edu.
What sparked your interest in VFA and what led you to choose the fellowship over other options you had during your senior year?
I chose VFA early on. I did the second Selection Day and it was one of those things where the more I went through the process, the more I started focusing on VFA and the less I was focusing on everything else. Lauren Gill actually gave me a cold call at some point senior year and I was a huge jerk and hung up on her. She then emailed me and said that Josh Levine ’12 had put my name down as someone who would find the program interesting. We ended up having a good conversation and I said okay, I really respect Josh, let’s just see what happens.
“It’s almost like being a freshman again.”
Nothing says “welcome home” like a polar vortex.
We’re back. You’ve spotted us at Usdan. You’ve done a double take on your way to class. You’ve drunkenly accosted us at a party and asked that question that has no easy answer:
“HOW WAS YOUR SEMESTER ABROAD?”
As you’ve quickly found out, some us of haven’t quite found the words to fit an entire semester into a sentence. How could we? Going abroad is unreplicable. It’s complicated. It’s contradictory. Sometimes it actually feels like a Taylor Swift song: after living in Europe for four months, I can report that I have actually felt happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.
After I provide some kind of satisfactory answer to describe my semester abroad, I’ve often found that people ask a second question:
“HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK AT WES?”
Sometimes this is a harder query than the first. Most of us have some kind of response prepared to illustrate our experience or a go-to anecdote about our time abroad. But after making our home on another continent it’s difficult to pinpoint how it feels to be back in America, and more specifically back at the institution that launched us into the world in the first place. To get a sense of how others are feeling about the re-orientation process, I interviewed some other globe-trotting Weskids. Below are our best attempts to describe coming home.
Not too long ago, Sharon Wade – one of the Bon Appetit employees that we all know and love – agreed to meet me in Usdan for an interview. She greeted me with kind blue eyes and a genuine smile. I knew she had been here a very long time and I wanted to pick her brain about her experiences at Wesleyan. She had warned me in advance, the week before at work, about how she’s prone to going on and on and reassured me that I shouldn’t be afraid to cut her off if necessary. As we got into the flow of the interview, which was not very difficult with Sharon’s enthusiasm, I certainly knew what she meant, but by no means was I going to stop her. Sharon sat with me in Usdan for approximately an hour, during which she told me about what she’s learned during her time at Wesleyan, expressed both her loves and her qualms with campus issues, and shared some wonderful anecdotes about students. The following is a transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity.
How long have you been working at Wesleyan?
Probably… around 29 years. A long time – flown by, just like that. It has flown by!
Has it been at Weshop the whole time?
No, this is my second time at Weshop. Because we can move all around. We just have to bid on jobs, awarded by seniority, throughout the campus. We’ve all done probably most everything. I’ve been a cook. For overtime, I did tons of utility. That took me around the world… I’ve done register at the old campus center, I’ve done it [at Usdan], I’ve done at Weshop, so everybody has really moved around, which is a great part of the job because [you can say,] ‘you know what, I think I’ll do that.’ As long as you’re qualified and you’re the most senior person signing – and everybody signs – you get to the job.
Dear Wesleyan, I have a confession. I haven’t been as involved with the music scene as I would have liked. It’s not that I didn’t know about when concerts were happening – I lived across the street from Eclectic for two years – I just never got in the habit of incorporating “go to [insert band name here] concert” into my Friday and Saturday night schedules. But if there was ever an exception, and there is always an exception, it was for the soul-grabbing, dance-inducing, heart-pumping rhythms of The Rooks.
Seeing as my concert track record is so poor, it’s a miracle I went to a Rooks concert in the first place, but after I did, I never missed a performance. So imagine my sadness when, eventually, all the band members graduated, and The Rooks migrated elsewhere, performing their music in a place with far too long a commute for me to attend.
But then, a miracle! I was up at Middlebury, visiting my sister with my dad for her parent’s weekend. We were looking over the schedule of events for families, and I saw a concert listing for “The Rooks”. At first, I was incredulous. Could this be the Wesleyan Rooks? Was I just so desperate for their music that I was hallucinating phantom shows? Either way, I had to see for myself. My sister gave me directions to the Middlebury version of Usdan as she prepared for a party, and I made my way across campus, guided the final few meters by a musical sound that couldn’t be anything except what I wanted it to be.
Jennifer Ives ’13 has proved that it really is possible to get hired with an English degree. After graduating in May, she has been working at The Innocence Project, a non-profit, pro-bono law firm that helps prove prisoners innocent using DNA testing, along with two other Wes Alums — Liza Parisky ’12 and Jo Oh ’09. The firm was founded in 1992 and as of date, there have been 311 innocent prisoners released due to DNA testing. Of these 311, the prisoners served an average of 13 years behind bars, with some spending as many as 25 years, and 18 prisoners have served time on death row. Ives contacted us because she will be running the NYC Marathon with colleagues from the IP to raise money for the cause — you can find her fundraising page here. I decided to ask her a few questions about the IP.
What did you major in at Wesleyan?
I majored in English, though I also took a fair amount of Religion courses. After my time at Wes, I felt like I majored in everything– I got a taste of so many different disciplines while there.
What was your favorite class at Wesleyan?
Religion and the Social Construction of Race with Elizabeth McAlister. Incredibly thought-provoking material and the most inspiring professor I’ve ever had.
How did you get involved in the IP?
I became interested in prison reform after a shocking experience I had this past spring. I had to testify in open court against two boys my age who had (albeit stupidly, and illegally) broken into my apartment in July of 2012. Despite the fact that they broke the law, the sentence they were handed down seemed extremely harsh to me considering their offense. I was deeply troubled by the outcome, especially since they were so close to my age. The negativity of the experience as a whole sparked my interest in prison reform and inspired me to research organizations that seek to fix the many problems plaguing our judicial system. The Innocence Project was one of the first organizations I found that really grabbed me. So after graduating this past May, I applied and was hired. I started working in June.