The Victories Before the Storm…On to Williamstown!

I know that many readers of this blog are still without power and recovering from Sandy’s rain and wind. We wish you all the best as recovery from the storm continues.

We re-start classes tomorrow, and I know that several of our teams are busy practicing for the next rounds of competition. Last weekend the matches were intense!  The women’s volleyball team, led by Kate Centofanti ’14 and Monica Leslie ’14 (with terrific assists from Brenna Tharnstrom ’16) closed out its season with an impressive victory over Hamilton. Meanwhile, women’s soccer, led by the indomitable Laura Kurash ’13 and frosh sensation Isabel Clements ’16, upset top-seeded Middlebury in the NESCAC tournament. Our superb goalie combination of Jess Tollman ’15 and Rachel Hobert ’16 combined for a Wesleyan shutout.

Men’s soccer produced an exciting come-from-behind victory over Trinity in the first round of the NESCAC tournament here on campus. Walter Rodriguez ’13 and Rory O’Neill ’13 scored while Adam Purdy ’13 limited Trinity to just 1 goal.

The football team spotted Bowdoin 14 points (before I even arrived at the game!) and then went on to score 34 in a battle at Corwin Stadium. LaDarius Drew ’15, recovering from nagging injuries, had a great game, as did Jake Bussani ’14 on the defensive side. Jesse Warren ’15 was consistently strong as quarterback and as punter. Congratulations to coach Mike Whalen and the team for putting together the first winning season in a decade!

Next weekend our men’s and women’s soccer teams will be playing in the NESCAC tournament at Williams while our football squad looks to continue its winning ways. Now that the storm has passed, I know our athletes will be preparing to be at their best in this weekend’s contests. On to Williamstown!

After the Storm — Morning Update

Update (10/30): 9:15 am

We didn’t lose power last night, and this morning we can see that cleanup can begin in earnest. Our hearts go out to those still without power or suffering from flood damage.

Here are pics I took before and after the storm in the early morning.



Thanks to all the Wesleyan and Bon Appetit staff who kept us safe and fed, and thanks to the students for hanging in there! We are grateful to the Stonehedge workers who started cleaning up the grounds early this morning. We hope to have the Freeman Athletic Center and the Library open later today. Check the homepage for more information.

Update (10/29) 6:30 pm

Dinner time, and Usdan was feeding many a hungry student. The winds have picked up considerably, and so people are staying put for the night. The President’s House, I’ve learned, can really whistle as the winds blow through. But the campus is quiet. A good time to catch up on reading. Here’s the announcement that went out a short time ago. Next announcement in the morning.

Storm conditions are intensifying and are expected to intensify further. Meal service at Usdan ends at 7 pm this evening, after which students are advised to remain in their residences. Please note that the mayor of Middletown has established a curfew for the city starting at 8 pm this evening, and the “Ride” will not be running tonight.

We have no other news to report at this time, and we will send another update by mid-morning, Tuesday. Storm updates are also available at or by calling the Wesleyan Info Line at 860/685-5678.

Update (10/29) 1:10 pm

Kari, Sophie and I just returned from the Usdan University Center where we had lunch with students who seemed chipper and prepared for what the storm may bring. We talked with dozens of folks who were eager to be on the other side of this storm, but also ready to hunker down tonight when we expect winds to be at their strongest. I let them know that we on the staff are here to help deal with whatever the weather brings.

Here is the announcement we sent out a short time ago:

Connecticut is predicted to experience the worst effects of Hurricane Sandy beginning later this afternoon and extending into tomorrow. Students should remain inside as much as possible after obtaining meals. Please remember to stay away from downed trees and power lines. Safety tips from Residential Life are available here:

Students should remain in their residences unless otherwise notified. If power is lost, students should notify public safety. If power is lost for an extended period, we have a plan to restore power to the campus core, though that may take several hours. In preparation for possible loss of power, please keep cell phones, laptops and other devices charged.

The Usdan Center is open until 7 pm tonight and is providing meals. We expect it to be open tomorrow from 9 am to 7 pm. WesShop will be open from noon to 5 pm today. Libraries and other offices, including Freeman Athletic Center, are closed today and tomorrow.

We will send updated information by 6 pm. Important phone numbers to keep in mind are:

Physical Plant- 860 685-3400 (for problems with your house)
Public Safety 860 685-2345 (for non-emergencies)
Public Safety- 860 685-3333 (for emergencies)
For storm updates from Wesleyan: 860-685-5678
Middletown Police Department, Fire Department, or medical emergencies: 911



Update (10/28):

As many of you know, I really don’t like to cancel classes, and we have been making preparations to continue our operations tomorrow. But the latest forecasts and information from the state have led us to conclude that we should suspend normal operations. We are cancelling classes for Monday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 30.  We will provide updates for plans for Wednesday by early afternoon on Tuesday.

Faculty and those staff designated as “non-essential” should not come to work tomorrow or Tuesday. Students should stay in their residence halls as much as possible, and should certainly stay away from trees. Meals will be available in Usdan, and we will be sending scheduling information to students soon.

If you are on campus and need help with storm related matters, please call Public Safety at 860-685-2345. For emergencies, call 860-685-3333.

We will get through this with cooperation and prudence.



On Friday the following email was sent out to the campus community:

Wesleyan staff members are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy on Monday evening or Tuesday. The storm may make landfall somewhere in the New Jersey, New York, or the New England area, and it has the potential to bring strong winds, heavy rain, and flooding to Connecticut.

Wesleyan is preparing to respond to any problems resulting from the storm, including power outages. If the storm disrupts normal functioning of the University, we will alert the community via the Wesleyan homepage and e-mail. We will use our ConnectEd system for any emergency communication.

Faculty, students and staff are preparing emergency kits, and we have been meeting regularly to test our readiness for wind, rain and flooding. Last year we had our freak snowstorm, but who knows what the new normal will be? Whatever it is, we will do our best to keep our community safe and sound.



Making Up Your Major

One of the programs at Wesleyan that I’m most fond of is the University Major. This allows students who are pursuing an independent course of study not represented in any one department or program on campus to develop their own field of concentration. When I was a student, I had trouble deciding among philosophy, history and psychology, and a kind dean suggested that I develop a University Major that wove the three together. My Wesleyan major was the “History of Psychological Theory,” and I’ve been working at the intersections of philosophy, psychology and history ever since.

Today the University Major process runs through Dean Marina Melendez, who works with a committee of faculty to approve new proposals. In recent years students have pursued disability studies, translational molecular biology, and urban studies. Each University Major receives guidance from a committee of faculty from a variety of departments.

From certificates to minors and extending to a multitude of majors, Wes offers lots of ways to pursue focused studies. For some, a University Major will be the best vehicle for creating “customized coherence” within our open curriculum. For more information, contact Dean Melendez.


Profiles in Academic Innovation

Two of Wesleyan’s many centers of interdisciplinary scholarship have new leaders who are doing exciting things:

Jennifer Tucker is now the interim director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Jennifer is a historian with deep interests in the intersection of visual and scientific cultures, paying especial attention to how this intersection is often mediated by questions of gender and sexuality. She has long been a member of the Science in Society Program and also currently chairs Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies (FGSS). You probably have seen her op-ed on the “science” behind Congressman Akin’s notions of pregnancy and rape, and she is eager to see even more Wes faculty (especially women faculty) contribute to the public sphere through essays, op-eds and editorials. I’ve gotten to know Jennifer better because of our mutual interest in the intersections of photography and history. Nature Exposed, her book on Victorian science and photography, is already a key text in the field, and she recently edited an issue of History and Theory devoted to photography, history and philosophy. At the Allbritton Center, Jennifer will be developing the foundations and frameworks for planning future programs that link the campus to the most pressing issues in the public sphere.


Ethan Kleinberg began his stint as director of the Center for the Humanities this summer. Ethan is also a historian, with a joint appointment in the College of Letters. I first encountered his work many years ago when he was doing research for his excellent book, Generation Existential, a study of the impact of Heidegger on 20th century French intellectual history. In addition to his work in history and COL, at Wesleyan Ethan has been one of the creators of the Certificate in Social, Cultural and Critical Theory, and he is the Executive Editor of History and Theory. Ethan intends to build on the great tradition at the Center for dynamic interdisciplinary research and teaching, ensuring that Wesleyan’s humanities programs remain a crucial node in the networks of international scholarship. Students, faculty, and distinguished visitors make the Center for the Humanities a place where knowledge happens — where scholarship gets jump-started. You can learn more about Ethan’s vision for the Center here.

There are many faculty across the campus doing exciting things across the disciplines — from the College of the Environment to the Center for East Asian Studies. These two new leaders will surely add to our distinctive educational experience on campus — and beyond!

Coming Home to Campus

After the “mock vacation” of Fall Break, the campus is abuzz with increasingly frenetic activity. We’ve passed the mid-point of the semester, and that means research projects, performances, exhibitions and exams are rushing upon us. I just came home to campus from a fundraising trip for Wesleyan, and it was inspiring to see the generous support among our alumni and parent community for financial aid and our core academic programs. While the energy on campus is ramping up, thousands of high school seniors around the country are anxiously preparing applications as the Early Decision deadline is just about a month away. I met some of them at a spirited admissions event in Los Angeles.

Speaking of energy, this weekend we are going to be creating quite a lot of it as we welcome our athletic teams and families back to campus for Homecoming Family Weekend. The volleyball team will be busy with matches against Southern Vermont at 7:30 pm on Friday, and against Worcester Polytechnic at 3:00 pm on Saturday. Amherst, whose aspirations to become a college renowned for athletics grow each year, comes to Middletown for a series of contests. The Lord Jeffs will be facing off against the Cardinals in a suite of sports beginning with field hockey and women’s soccer at noon. Football puts its undefeated record to the test at 1:00 pm, and the men’s soccer contests the Little Three crown at 2:30. Our mighty crew teams will be off campus at the Head of the Charles Regatta.

There are seminars, performances, exhibitions, tours and parties throughout the weekend. You can find a full schedule here.

It’s a great time to come home to Wesleyan!


Fall Break

Students are winding up midterms, writing papers and preparing for performances. The semester has been growing more intense, and that’s why it’s good to have a moment to catch one’s breath during Fall Break. It’s just a couple of days tacked onto this weekend, but for professors and their students it offers a happy holiday before the pressures of the second half of the term kick in.

Lots of folks, though, don’t get much of a break at all. Tennis, cross-country, volleyball and football will all be busy competing. The gridiron crew heads back to Maine after earning a tough victory there last week. Sebastian Aguirre ’14 earned special team player of the week honors for kicking the winning field goal with less than a minute to play. Coach Whalen’s boys are undefeated going into the fourth week of the season, something we haven’t seen around here for many a year. Wes plays Bates this weekend, and they promise to be a challenging opponent.

Here on campus, Dean of the Arts and Humanities Andrew Curran is welcoming more than 100 18th century scholars for a conference that focuses on the Enlightenment. I understand they kicked things off with a plenary talk on the banjo! There are many people on campus getting ready for the Navaratri festival, which gets underway on Wed, October 16. That will lead us right into Homecoming Family Weekend!

I’ll be spending time meeting with alumni and parents, raising money for scholarships and the curriculum. Some of those meetings will be with Jeanine Basinger, recently singled out in Variety’s “Women’s Impact Report” as one of only two academics for her work at “helping turn [Wesleyan’s] film program into one of the best in the nation, as well as developing some of the industry’s most powerful talent, with protégés like Joss Whedon ’87, Paul Weitz ’88 and Alex Kurtzman ’95.” I’m star struck!

The extended Wesleyan family loves hearing news from campus. I hope to be able to return with some news (and support) from them!

Wes Aims High

Last week a distinguished visiting team headed by Vassar president Cappy Hill came to Wesleyan to provide an evaluation for the reaccreditation process under the aegis of NEASC – the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The committee looked at everything from the physical plant to the finances, from the curriculum to the cuisine. Well, they didn’t really evaluate the cooking…

They arrived having already read our Self-Study, developed over the past year by a large group of Wesleyan faculty, staff and students. In that study, which readers have found remarkable for its candor and clarity, we took note of areas in which we know we can improve our performance, as well as some of the areas of which we are most proud. Lots of work went into the Self-study, and I am grateful to all those who put their time and effort into helping us understand how we can become more effective.

One of the traits that stood out to the visiting team was an intense loyalty to the university’s mission and culture. They saw a genuine commitment to Wesleyan’s wellbeing, and a fervent desire among students, faculty and staff to see it thrive. I’ve said many times that Wesleyan stands for something vital and admirable in American higher education, and it was very gratifying to see our guests respond so positively to that.

The next step in the accreditation process is the official report from NEASC, and we will doubtless learn more there. The process of self-evaluation and striving to improve never stops, of course. Together, we will continue to build a sustainable institution noted for “talented faculty” and offering a “superb education” (I’m pleased to quote Cappy here). We will continue to energize the distinctive learning experience we offer and support bold and rigorous scholarship and teaching. Wes aims to provide a transformative education that never stops. Wes aims to shape the future through lifelong learning, through research, through artistic practice. Wes aims high.


Election Season: Listen, Discuss, Vote

There is a definite nip in the air, and each day the sun seems just a little more apathetic as it makes its way over the Connecticut River Valley. Fall is here. So are political elections, and the air has been ringing with the sounds of…nastiness. As the Wesleyan Media Project has shown, both sides are playing the negative game. Here in Connecticut, we are treated every day to a barrage of negative advertising in a Senate race pitting a very rich wrestling magnate against a congressman trying to replace Joe Lieberman. Watching this slug-fest is even less entertaining than watching pseudo-wrestling. We’ve all seen fakery before, and so it’s easy to become cynical about the mudslinging.

It’s easy to become cynical about the political process, too, but that would be a big mistake. This election offers some of the starkest choices that American voters have been faced with in generations. This is a time for students to make their voices heard – whomever you are supporting in November. Wesleyan students have a long history of civic engagement – I saw that first-hand when I met with a large group of concerned students last week to talk about financial aid. You can see a video of the forum here. Public support for education in general and student aid in particular are very much in play in this election – and of course that’s just one of many issues on which candidates differ.

Tomorrow (Wed) night some Wesleyan student groups have set up PAC 001 so that the campus community can watch the presidential debate from 9-10:30pm. Usdan will also have snacks and debate in the café area.

If you plan to vote in Connecticut and haven’t registered yet, there’s still time to register. The website of CT’s Secretary of State has all the information you need.

It’s election season. Participate in the process: listen, discuss. And then let’s turn out to vote!