On February 15th, President Roth emailed an announcement of this year’s commencement speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients. The 186th Commencement Address will be delivered by Daniel Handler ’92, also known under his pen name Lemony Snicket. Fellow degree recipients are Anita Hill, Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University, and Joshua Boger ’73, scientist and chair emeritus of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees. Commencement will be Sunday, May 27, 2018.
The decision has sparked conversation among students, both in light of Handler’s past controversial remarks and the ongoing #MeToo movement, for which Anita Hill laid the foundation when, in 1991, she testified against Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination on the basis of sexual harassment. Sarah Chen Small ’18 has written in with a response to the commencement decisions, which you view below along with President Roth’s original announcement email:
“Admitting that a man with a long history of sexual predation acted inappropriately and hurt students’ lives in his role as Associate Dean of Students for almost ten years is a necessary first step, and further changes and amends also need to follow.”
Content warning: This article discusses issues of sexual assault involving current and former Wesleyan students, faculty and staff.
Since last Monday’s news of Scott Backer’s arrest, many in the Wesleyan community have been responding with renewed frustration and anger at the current administration for their present and past handling of sexual misconduct cases.
One survivor has stated publicly that Scott Backer allowed for statements about a respondents character (e.g. “He’s such a good guy.”) during a hearing, despite this being against University policy, according to their account. Other accounts tell of Scott Backer asking invasive personal questions during the investigation process.
As a result of these stories and others, a petition was created calling for Wesleyan to admit that Scott Backer mishandled cases of sexual assault during his time on campus. Back in October, when the Wesleyan community was notified of the real reasons for Scott Backer’s firing 3 months after Wesleyan announced his departure sans commentary, President Roth mentioned that after a consultation from Pepper Hamilton, they found “nothing amiss” in the four years’ worth of sexual misconduct cases that Backer oversaw. Since then, there has been no detailed public mention of how Pepper Hamilton went about reviewing cases.
The petition has been circulating on social media and in other channels. It demands for an acknowledgement of Backer’s mishandling of Title IX cases; a disclosure of how Pepper Hamilton conducted its review; and a commitment to “[taking] real steps to make amends for the harm [Backer] caused,” suggesting a task force made up of more students than administrators to conduct Title IX reform as a possible solution. The petition was later updated to include a demand that Wesleyan acknowledge Backer’s mishandling of disability services, which he also oversaw as Associate Dean of Students. Read past the jump for the full text of the petition.
“Our international programs, our financial aid policies and employment programs comply with all applicable Federal and State laws. However, we will object to and oppose administrative dictates that violate the law and the Constitution and, if necessary, we will work with others to do so in court.”
This morning, President Roth published a piece entitled “We Are All Immigrants!” on his blog, which detailed Wesleyan’s continued support for its “students, faculty and staff, regardless of their country of origin or their religious beliefs.” The post re-affirmed Wesleyan’s status as a Sanctuary Campus and reiterated what that means for current and future students. The post also included a continued commitment to treating undocumented students the same as U.S. citizens and permanent residents in the admissions process. This comes after yesterday’s reactions to Trump’s now-infamous ban on immigration from 7 majority-Muslim countries.
Shortly after publishing the post on his blog, President Roth sent out an all-campus email with the same text, saying that Wesleyan is confident in the legality of all its policies with respect to its international programs, financial aid policies, and employment programs, and is prepared to work with others to challenge unconstitutional dictates by the Trump administration in court. Read past the jump for the full-text of the email:
Over the past few weeks, students have been calling for the removal of President Roth and Dean Antonio Farias. This afternoon, Roth sent an all-campus email with subject line “Campus Update,” asking hard-hitting questions like, “What can we do? What will the administration do?” and seeming to once again expect students to provide him with answers. The email makes no mention of calls for his removal, but does identify three areas of concern: transparency, Title IX processes, and the results of the Equity task force created last spring in response to the IsThisWhy campaign. He calls for more student input on each topic, because the administration can “only do so much.”
Many survivors have been expressing their pain with strength and eloquence, and Roth apparently acknowledges that. His response, however, is yet another call for others to take on much of the work necessary, work that will somehow, inexplicably, lead to “real results.” Full text of the email can be found after the jump.
PSA from Joel Michaels ’18:
The Committee for Investor Responsibility is hosting a panel open to all Wesleyan community members that will address the University’s endowment. Panelists will discuss how ethical considerations factor into investment decisions and choosing external managers.
President Roth will introduce the event and discuss the role of Wesleyan’s endowment in supporting academic programs and financial aid. The panel will feature Anne Martin, Wesleyan’s Chief Investment Officer, alongside Gil Skillman, Wesleyan Professor of Economics, and Noah Markman ’13, a Wesleyan alum who now works in the area of responsible investing. After presentations by the panelists, the space will be opened for questions from the audience.
Date: Thursday, November 5th
Time: 7:00 PM
Place: PAC 001
we weren’t sure what picture of roth to use so here is an older one from 2009 that we dug out of our media archive. this is just a placeholder until i take a picture of the actual setup in the chapel, okay
Dasha, astag_rocky, and I are here in the Memorial Chapel for the first annual State of the School address! This is mostly a production of the Wesleyan Student Assembly, but we are co-sponsoring it with The Ankh and The Argus.
The format is as follows: the WSA will have a five-minute introduction, then Pres. Michael Roth will speak freely for 20 minutes. The following hour is all Q&A, with the questions having been submitted throughout the past week. After Q&A, the moderators will offer final thoughts and encourage you to eat ice cream and attend the following student-only debrief, which will happen from 9:30-10:30. Out of respect for its student-only nature as well as its role as a safe space, we won’t be liveblogging the debrief.
Tonight’s address will be moderated by Henry Vansant ’18 from the WSA, Hailey Broughton-Jones ’18 from The Ankh, and Jess Zalph ’16 from The Argus. There will be paper in the chapel for people who have questions in real time and members of the WSA will also be monitoring their twitter (@wsanews) for any relevant and pressing questions.
If you still have questions when this event and this liveblog are over, the WSA will also be sending out a form for you to submit questions to the Board of Trustees, who meet on campus this weekend. We’ll keep this post updated with info about that as we get it.
For me, there are only two reasons to go to the gym: so people see me working out and so later I can brag that I worked out. Today, as I was checking out my biceps in the mirror, I saw someone familiar working away on the stair master. No, it wasn’t a past hookup that I was awkwardly, yet cordially, avoiding. It was President Roth! I had to find out his secret. What is the elusive Michael Roth’s workout like?
I caught Roth as he was getting off the stair master. He prefers the stair master or the elliptical because he has a chance to read. Along with that, he explained, “the handles are convenient so I don’t fall off.” He usually does cardio for at least 30 minutes before hitting the floor for some weight training. As seen in the picture above, Roth prefers to stick to the machines. All throughout, he listens to Richie Havens, the Laura Nyro Pandora station or Wilco. Best of all, he uses his cardio time to read Wesleying on his iPad. While we appreciate the loyalty, if you’re able to read, you’re able to workout harder… No excuses!
Well there you have it: 30 min cardio and some weight training on the machines. Next time you’re at Freeman and looking for a spotter, President Roth is your man.
President Roth will join the Wesleyan Student Assembly tonight at 7:30pm for the WSA’s weekly General Assembly meeting. All students are welcome to join for part or all of the meeting, and to bring issues to President Roth’s attention, ask questions, or give feedback on University policy and initiatives. We hope to see you there!
Time: 7:30PM to 8:30PM
Place: Usdan 108
In case you missed it, Wesleyan’s own Great Helmsman, Michael Roth, was all over the headlines during winter break for his crushing denunciation of the American Studies Association (ASA) and their decision to join the global academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The controversial op-ed ran in several major papers, including the Hartford Courant and the LA Times, drawing mixed reactions. Alums have responded with a petition, calling Roth out on his participation in anti-apartheid organizing at Wes in the 1970’s and critiquing his position. Roth has called the ASA resolution (it’s short, I encourage folks to read it for themselves) a “repugnant attack on academic freedom.” The ASA says their resolution is an act of scholarly solidarity with longstanding calls from Palestinian civil society for a boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against the Israeli state and the apparatus of occupation.
Roth’s basic argument is that the resolution restricts the “academic freedom” of scholars inside Israel and unfairly singles out the country. His critics have said that such restrictions are exactly what the resolution seeks to address, pointing out that the resolution in fact stresses greater dialogue with Israeli academics, albeit free of their official institutional affiliations.
Wesleying finishes off the year by catching up with the presidents who used to run this place.
President Colin Campbell’s portrait on the main floor of Olin.
At 35, Colin Campbell was the youngest president in Wesleyan’s history, and after 18 years at the helm, he became one of its longest-serving leaders. Though he wasn’t a Wesleyan alum and has never earned a Ph.D., President Campbell succesfully presided over some of the most immense change in the University’s history, from coeducation to the construction of the Center for the Arts and the Williams Street apartments. Beloved by a wide range of alumni and faculty, Campbell got to hang out with everyone from Joss Whedon ’87 and Michael Bay ’86 to Bill Belichick ’75 in the process. He left academia in 1988, but if you try to schedule a phone interview with him today you’ll learn that Campbell is Wesleyan’s busiest former president: he serves as president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which is funny considering a lot of Wesleyan alums end up in Williamsburg, but usually not that Williamsburg.
Back in the fall, Wesleying rather ambitiously set out to catch up with each of the three surviving former occupants of South College and give them a chance to reflect on their time in office. We weren’t entirely successful (we couldn’t get President Bennet ’59 to reply to our emails), but President Campbell enthusiastically replied within the hour to express his delight at the idea. pyrotechnics and I called him up one morning in February and chatted about everything from South African divestment to Das Racist to the time he nearly got pied in the face. Oh, and he also told us about the time a young Michael S. Roth ’78 occupied his office in protest in the 1970s. We found President Campbell to be a remarkably friendly dude. Read on for the interview.