You have worked, implicitly and explicitly, directly and indirectly, to make Wesleyan a hostile environment for people of color, students with disabilities, trans students, survivors of sexual assault and pretty much any student who does not fit into your image of the “conservative oppressed by the liberal arts.” What’s more, you have repeatedly refused to engage with students in any meaningful way about the ways in which you’ve created this hostile environment. So I have resorted to engaging with you on your own terms: in a blog post.
This afternoon, President Michael Roth ’78 sent out an email informing the campus community that DKE has won its lawsuit against the University. The trial, which was public, began on June 6th, and President Roth testified on June 7th.
The original suit was filed by DKE and Kent Literary Society, which is DKE’s alumni chapter. DKE accused the University of discrimination and deceptive practices in its handling of DKE after the decision that all fraternities on campus must be co-educated. DKE had submitted plans for co-education that did not meet the University’s requirements.
The University has not said what will happen with DKE’s house, or whether it will re-achieve program housing status. Roth states that the University is searching for further legal avenues to pursue, and the University must also decide what to do in terms of its plans for coeducation.
The full text of the email is below:
“Through our alumni networks, we are also putting together legal resources for members of the Wesleyan community with questions concerning their immigration status.”
Last week, in solidarity with walk-outs around the country to demand college campuses declare themselves sanctuary campuses, over a hundred students walked out of class and gathered in Usdan to read a petition demanding that Wesleyan become a sanctuary campus. The petition garnered over 1300 signatures within just a few days. You can read more about what a sanctuary campus is and the recent efforts at Wesleyan here.
Several students who organized around the petition met with the Board of Trustees and President Roth this weekend to discuss the possibility of Wesleyan becoming a sanctuary campus. On Wednesday, President Roth said in a blog post (that was cited by CNN and Quartz) that he would be discussing the petition with the Trustees this weekend. Tonight, in another blog post entitled “Wesleyan University a Sanctuary Campus,” President Roth said that Wesleyan will be dedicating resources to provide legal support to undocumented students, and declaring that Wesleyan will not voluntarily assist federal officials in deportations.
“I think it’s a starting point. Even with the center, it will hopefully be an immediate resource that people can turn to and will be a lot more reliable than the administration has been in the past.” – Justina Yam ’19
The creation of a Gender Resource Center has been a long time coming at Wesleyan. Students have been lobbying for identity-based resource centers as far back as 1969, when a group of students demanded the university create cultural center dedicated to black students. In the 1980s the first iteration of a gender-based center emerged in the form of a Women’s Resource Center at 190 High Street (now the University Organizing Center). Unfortunately the center had a touch and go existence. Within two decades of its creation, the center dissipated, went through a period of revival, and dissipated again. Here is some of that recent history and the current status of establishing a permanent Gender Resource Center at Wesleyan:
Earlier today, posters appeared in Fisk calling out various facets of the Wesleyan administration, ostensibly in reaction to the recent revelations about the perpetrator status of Scott Backer. The posters call out University Relations, Michael Roth, and Antonio Farias.
Here are photos of the posters:
This isn’t a thinkpiece. This isn’t #realjournalism. This isn’t a tortured artist declaring that “objectivity is dead!” I know what you’re thinking: if not these, than is this article even Wesleyan? Is this article even real?
Perhaps more pressing a question is: “Is this day even real?” Johnny Lazebnik ’16 thinks so maybe (or at least thinks we should celebrate it). Let me tell you, it isn’t. Today is more extra than the random ass beach volleyball court behind Bennet (but less extra than the GODDAM TUITION INCREASE THAT THE BOARD UNANIMOUSLY VOTED ON). The folks over at the Career Center see today as “24 extra hours to do something productive.” See Instagram post below:
In the midst of reading period, President Roth printed a message to students around the country, and especially those that take his classes, in the Sunday edition of the New York Times.
The article focused on the fact that in many classes, students are often quick to criticize authors and point out seeming contradictions while missing the point of the piece as a whole. As Roth explains:
In campus cultures where being smart means being a critical unmasker, students may become too good at showing how things can’t possibly make sense. They may close themselves off from their potential to find or create meaning and direction from the books, music and experiments they encounter in the classroom.
To criticize this piece would be an ironic twist of fate. However, shunning insightful criticism is not Roth’s point either. It is fair to criticize the author, Roth explains, so long as it is taken in the context of the piece as a whole.
There are new developments from the ongoing controversy around President Roth’s denunciation of the American Studies Association’s recent resolution supporting the academic boycott of Israeli universities. Alums began circulating a still-growing petition earlier this month expressing support for the ASA decision and criticizing Roth for poor argument and hypocrisy.
Current Wes students, it seems, have followed suit. A separate petition has been making the rounds on email and social media in recent days and has already garnered over fifty signatures. Echoing the alumni declarations of support for the ASA’s boycott, the document also calls on the WSA to divest its own holdings from “companies that directly profit from or materially contribute to the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories”.
If such a resolution is adopted, Wesleyan will be following a long and growing line of universities who have endorsed the BDS movement. Read the full text of the petition after the jump or sign here:
Over the past few weeks, it has been difficult to see a newspaper, blog or journal without reading an opinion about the recent vote by the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli universities. The ASA boycott incorporates “formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions” and “scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions.”I think the boycott is misguided and wrong. Boycotting all Israeli universities is a grave assault on academic freedom and does little to achieve peace.
I am glad to see that President Roth condemned the boycott. Roth argued that the boycott lacked consistency. That is, why boycott Israel while ignoring North Korea, Russia or China? This argument has merit and proves a double standard on the part of the ASA. However, many opinions have used this argument to show that the boycott has its foundations in anti-Semitism. The President of the ASA did not help his case when stating that, “One has to start somewhere” when explaining the decision to boycott Israel. However, there is no reason to believe that the ASA had its motives rooted in anti-Jewish sentiment.
To understand the morality of the boycott, I think it is important to explore the purpose of a university. Universities, like many institutions, are concerned with professional, not political, performance. While the ASA will not be boycotting specific Israeli professors based on their citizenship, they will not allow them to participate in academic forums if they are sponsored by an Israeli institution. However, if an Israeli institution condemns the occupation, they are exempt from the boycott. I personally do think that Israeli universities should take a stance in opposition to the occupation, but I think it is wrong to boycott universities based on their views. To explain this reasoning I would like to propose a thought experiment. University X is a progressive, liberal institution. However, Professor Y, who is eligible for tenure, is an outspoken critic of many of the university’s policies. It would be wrong of the board of trustees to deny this professor tenure because he does not conform to the university’s beliefs. Non-conforming ideas lead to progress. A university has the right to define its own beliefs, however misguided they may be.
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.”