What a Year! Hello Summer!!

We just concluded the 2009-2010 academic year by saying good-bye to the class of 2010, and it was a wonderful Commencement. Our student speaker, Latasha Alcindor ’10, delivered a stirring and poetic oration, and John W. Hickenlooper ’74, MA ’80 gave us a funny, thoughtful and moving address. I was particularly delighted to participate in the conferring of honorary doctorates on President Ruth Simmons of Brown University, composer Richard K. Winslow ’40, philosopher Stanley Cavell of Harvard University, and Mayor Hickenlooper.

One of the benefits of combining Reunion Weekend with Commencement is that we do have the opportunity to welcome back to Middletown old friends. I said to many a senior yesterday: “Your 5th Year Reunion isn’t that far off!” But still, Commencement always fills me with mixed emotions. It is a very happy occasion for our graduates, but at the same time I know I will miss seeing many of our students in classes or during my walks around campus.

This year we will have more students on campus for our Summer Session. There is still room in many of the classes, so if you are still making plans, check out: http://www.wesleyan.edu/summer/courses.html

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A Framework for Planning

In the spring of 2009 I had extensive discussions with faculty, students and staff about the distinctive aspects of the Wesleyan experience, and then I spent the summer developing a framework for strengthening these aspects. In the fall of 2009 we posted Wesleyan 2020: Preliminary Reflections on Planning. Since September, responses and suggestions have been coming to us regularly from faculty, staff, students, and alumni — mainly through a number of fora and other meetings devoted to discussion of the plan. On the basis of these discussions, we have a revised document Wesleyan 2020: A Framework for Planning which is posted below.  As a “framework for planning” it is not so much a checklist as a flexible paradigm to guide our decision making. It will doubtless engender more responses in the future, and we are prepared to revise it as a “living document.” I hope that the trustees, who have been deliberating on the goals and strategies in this plan for some time, will agree that this revised document broadly reflects the ideas of those who care about the future of our university and that it will help us make the right decisions going forward.

To all of you who responded to Wesleyan 2020 formally or informally, directly or indirectly, I express my thanks.  To all who care about Wesleyan, I look forward to your help in building Wesleyan’s future.

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Recognition of Wes Work on Climate Change

This week we received a most welcome letter from Department of Environmental Protection of the State of Connecticut. It read, part:

Dear President Roth:
Congratulations! On behalf of the Governor’s Steering Committee on Climate Change, I am pleased to inform you that Wesleyan University has been selected to receive a 2010 Connecticut Climate Change Leadership Award. You were nominated for this award by William S. Nelligan.

Now in its fifth year, the Connecticut Climate Change Leadership Awards Program is an ongoing effort to increase public awareness of climate change solutions and recognize Connecticut individuals and organizations that have taken exemplary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change….

We are pleased to acknowledge Wesleyan’s successes in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through many different initiatives on campus. As we recognize your work and dedication, we hope that others will follow your lead.

Congratulations to Bill Nelligan and to the students, staff and faculty who have been actively involved in moving our university to more sustainable practices. We have a long way to go in reducing our energy use and the amount of waste we produce. But it’s very encouraging to receive acknowledgment for our efforts in this direction.

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Finals Week

The campus during the day is quieter than usual. The library is full, but the Usdan Center is calm. Maybe it’s the brisk wind that’s dropped temperatures down again this week, but Foss Hill is not attracting the same number of students seeking sun and good company. It’s Finals Week at Wesleyan. Time to finish up those papers and study for those exams.

I remember well the pressures and pleasures of staying up all night writing, or looking for that one book or article that you imagine will clinch the argument you are trying to make. I remember friends heading into their science labs hoping to gather the data points necessary to complete experiments, and others who were consulting various oracles to take their best guess as to what Prof. X might ask on the notoriously difficult exam. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the thrill of turning to the last page of a paper I wrote to see the comments and the grade. I remember my excitement at learning that Prof. Abelove thought I might have something interesting to say about Freud. And I also remember a comment from a visiting philosopher – Michael Davis —  suggesting that, if I were going to make the claim that Nietzsche was among the most important philosophers ever (a claim I was in no position to make after one philosophy course!), I ought to at least spell his name right. Ouch!

But mostly I remember the camaraderie of this time of year, when friends stood by you as you stressed out, or celebrated with you when you got things done. It always felt just a little sad to finish up the work of the semester since it often meant that we would all be heading off in different directions for the summer. This year, of course, there is the possibility of staying around to take summer classes; and for those not graduating there’s always the anticipation of returning to campus to find new challenges, and old friends, in the fall.

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Softball Champs!!

The Courageous Cardinal softball team recovered from losing the opening game on title day and came back to trounce Bowdoin 10-1 to claim the NESCAC conference championship. Meaghan Dendy ’10 and Dana Levy ’12 combined to hold Bowdoin to a single run, and Taylor Zavadsky ’10 had four RBIs.

Congratulations to coach Jen Lane and all the Wes Women!!

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Playoffs Bound

This weekend Wesleyan has three great teams moving into the NESCAC playoffs.

Women’s softball had a decisive series up in Middlebury last weekend. Having been shutout in Friday night’s contest, they needed to sweep a double-header to keep their season going, which they did with great efforts from several key players including Meaghan Dendy ’10 and Dana Levy ’12. This weekend they travel up to Williamstown where their first opponent will be Tufts.

The baseball team opens its tournament on Saturday at Tufts. After the Dresser Diamond dedication last Saturday, the Cardinals split a double-header with Trinity on Sunday. Brett Yarusi ’12 tossed a six-hitter for the first shutout vs. Trinity since 1984, but the Red and Black lost a big lead in the second game late in the afternoon. It’s been a strong season for Wes baseball, and there is plenty of optimism heading into the tournament.

The men’s lacrosse season has been full of highs and lows, but rarely can one find more excitement than there was in last week’s upset victory of top-seeded Conn College. Jon Killeen ’10 scored the game winner and was named NESCAC player of the week.  This is the first time in NESCAC history that an 8th seed knocked off the #1 team. But we are the defending conference champs, and we’ll have a chance to show our mettle against a tough Tufts opponent in the semis on Saturday.

If you can’t get up to Massachusetts, you can find many of the games on webcasts (see http://www.wesleyan.edu/athletics/ for more information). Cheer for the Red and Black, from near or far!

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A Time for Recollection

In the weeks leading up to the end of this semester, my thoughts have often turned to the awful events of a year ago when a vicious attack took the life of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10. Our community was profoundly shaken by this murderous hate crime, and the sorrow we felt then will continue to ripple in our lives.

I recently received a message from Johanna’s uncle, Eric Justin, who was sending me news of the family members I’d been in contact with last spring. He related how pleased he and the family are to have grown closer to Johanna’s friends from Wesleyan. He described them as a “Godsend,” and was so proud to learn that a group of Wes students are naming a women’s health clinic in Kenya in his niece’s honor.

I was particularly moved by a letter I received earlier this year from Johanna’s grandmother, Renate, a holocaust survivor who now is writing her own life story in book form.  Renate also sent me a book that Johanna had written and illustrated when she was about the age of my own daughter. The subject was anti-Semitism and how to acknowledge and overcome it.

Tomorrow, the anniversary of Johanna’s death, we will gather for a brief moment together on the steps of Memorial Chapel. The bells of South College will ring at 1:00 pm. A few words will be offered, we will say Kaddish, the ancient Jewish prayer of mourning and praise, and then we will be silent together. I hope that wherever members of the extended Wesleyan family may find themselves tomorrow at a few minutes after 1 o’clock, they will join with us in this community of silence and remembrance.

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Let’s Prevent Sexual Violence

All colleges and universities in this country have developed policies and procedures to prevent rape and other violent crimes. But still these problems continue. No institution can afford to be complacent in this regard. At Wesleyan there have recently been a number of important conversations concerning sexual (gender) violence/prevention, and I applaud the efforts to bring these important and difficult issues to the fore.  I also want to acknowledge the work of faculty, students, and staff, which not long ago led to the revision of our sexual misconduct and assault policy as well as to the creation of our Sexual Assault Resource Team (SART). SART consists of staff who serve as resources and advocate for students reporting offenses along with an intern for Wesleyan’s Health Services.  We are engaged in a search to hire a Director of Health Education whose responsibilities include prevention and education around sexual violence and health. We also will continue to seek advice and recommendations from students, faculty and parents — whether they call for a dedicated staff position or any other idea for how to better deal with these issues.

Far too often on college campuses incidents of sexual violence go unreported, and I want to express my admiration for those who courageously come forward. Irrespective of questions of guilt or innocence in any particular case, the more attention we can bring to this awful problem, the better we can address it. There have been student, parent, staff, and faculty meetings this year to discuss the steps necessary to make Wesleyan an even safer environment in which all students can thrive. In order to build on these efforts, I have asked vice-presidents Sonia Manjon (Diversity and Strategic Partnerships) and Mike Whaley (Student Affairs) to lead a task force to gather the best thinking from the faculty, students and staff that should lead to further improvements to our policies and staffing. I expect to receive their recommendations by the end of the calendar year.

Violence, including the heinous crime of sexual violence, has no place on this campus. This is a lesson that was seared into our community’s memory a year ago. It is a foundational principle here, and we welcome the opportunity to review our policies and procedures with the goal of asserting and living up to that principle as strongly and consistently as we can.

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