Coming Home

I am finally coming down from the amazing experience of the events of the inauguration weekend. I was delighted to see how many people attended the ceremony in the Silloway Gymnasium, and I was especially grateful that my family and some of my childhood friends were able to attend. There were also some Wesleyan classmates whom I hadn’t seen in decades. Having my teacher, Carl Schorske (from my frosh year at Wes, who later supervised my dissertation), introduce me at the ceremony was intensely moving for me. Carl is now in his 90s, and his perspective on Wesleyan and on me was memorable. The combination of tradition and experimentation in the ceremony was so Wesleyan! I loved seeing the academic procession in regalia to the funky beat of Jay Hoggard’s great music.

An inauguration ceremony itself is an affirmation of both institutional legacy and new beginnings. I was privileged to have three former Wes presidents in attendance, each of whom had an investiture with many similarities to my own. The alumni, faculty, and the board of trustees are also a powerful expression of institutional continuity. On the other hand, the marking of a new presidency, combined with the students’ incredible energy, are potent symbols of the importance of change. I tried to reflect on both of these dimensions in my speech. I spoke about the ideals behind Wesleyan’s approach to the liberal arts, but also about concrete initiatives (on the environment, on financial aid) that we are getting underway now. There is a link to my speech on the Wesleyan Web site: http://www.wesleyan.edu/president/speech.html. I must have made nine speeches over the weekend to various groups, but the most nerve-wracking performance was playing “I’m Old Fashioned” in front of all those people. I was sweating bullets!!

There were so many memorable moments. The football team put up a valiant effort in very difficult conditions. The Wes seminars were incredible, and I had the treat of hearing my former student, Darcy Buerkle, and former teacher, Henry Abelove, give back-to-back seminars. Walter Mosley was a very powerful speaker as we dedicated Beckham Hall during the Dwight Greene Symposium. I was delighted with the fundraiser for the Green Street Art Center, and my old friend Andrea Marcovicci gave a lovely concert of WWII songs to benefit our work in the North End of Middletown. I thought I was going to faint when she sang to me on stage, but instead I just took it all in.

Another highlight of the weekend for me was strolling over to Psi U with my brother, sons, and nephews around midnight on Saturday night. I got to sit in for a blues number with the amazingly talented Wesleyan faculty musicians of Busted Roses. It was great fun, and the students’ enthusiasm was exhilarating. The last time I was in Psi U was probably in the 1970s. I certainly never imagined back then that I would one day become the president of Wesleyan. I would have been more likely to fantasize about being in a rock and roll band. So, this weekend I got to rock a little as the prez. Pretty cool…. at least for one song!

I want to thank the Wesleyan community for the incredible welcome of these last few months, which all seemed to be crystallized in the weekend’s festivities. On this Homecoming Weekend, I really felt as though I had come home.

On a more sober, scholarly note: On Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle published my review of John Brenkman’s recent book in political theory. Here’s the link:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/04/RV0BRUT9V.DTL&type=books

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Stars

Flying home from yet another trip to visit with alumni, I reflect on some of my recent conversations. In Chicago I had lunch with Burt Kaplan ’62, a dedicated alumnus who continues to draw on the liberal arts education he experienced at Wesleyan more than 40 years ago. I was delighted to discover our common admiration for Norman O. Brown, whom Burt knew while a student, and who became a hero of mine when I read Life Against Death as an undergraduate. A classics professor at Wesleyan, Brown had authored one of the great books on Freud and politics. He was confined by no disciplinary boundaries, and he was a truly learned man and an inspiring teacher.

Burt showed me his extraordinary home on Lake Michigan, designed by Peter Gluck, and his wonderful painting collection. We talked about how Wesleyan’s education transforms lives, and his interest in helping his alma mater. Though neither of us were music majors, we agreed that one of the great gifts that the university gave us was an openness to music from a variety of cultures. We spoke about enhancing Wesleyan’s ability to do that in the future because it is a gift we will always carry with us.

I went on to Los Angeles to meet with Jeanine Basinger and a few members of what in L.A. is called the Wesleyan Film Mafia (Professor Basinger calls them “my babies”). Jeanine has a wonderful new book out with Knopf, The Star Machine, and she is on a book-signing tour. It was exhilarating to see her effect on her former students. They positively light up when she enters the room, and then they restart conversations that date back to their undergrad days. Studio heads, award-winning writers, producers, directors, and actors become engaged students once again. Their affection for their teacher and for Wesleyan is palpable. We celebrated with Jeanine at a lovely dinner party at Michael Bay’s incredible house overlooking the city. Michael (’86) was recently at Wesleyan to donate a copy of his latest film, Transformers, as well as to make a gift for the new film building.

At the dinner Jeanine turned the conversation to Wesleyan. But she and her former students didn’t want to just dwell on the good old days of their youth; they wanted to talk about Wesleyan’s future. I told them about our priority-setting process, and about how we were continuing to cultivate an experimental community that is demanding and productive. The combination of spirited, passionate learning, jubilant play, and of compelling creative work is what we all value. The Film Studies department exemplifies those qualities and has become an essential part of the university as a whole. As it turned out, that’s what we were all celebrating, led by Jeanine.

I am eager to get back to Middletown to see my family. This week will be especially intense, as we prepare for my inauguration (and Family Weekend, Homecoming, the dedication of Beckham Hall). Monday night starts President’s Picks, a series of movies the film dept asked me to put together for the week of my inauguration. We begin with Ernst Lubitsch’s Shop Around the Corner, a perfect little gem of a movie.

P.S. There was a lovely review of Prof. Basinger’s The Star Machine in this morning’s (1/31/07) New York Times. Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/31/books/31grim.html?_r=1&oref=slogin.

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Adaptive Capacity

Last week we had the stunning news that one of our faculty members, Gary Yohe, was recognized as part of the team awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work on global warming. Gary is a senior member and coordinating lead author on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the prize with Al Gore. We are very proud of this Wesleyan economist’s scholarship, which lies at the intersection of liberal learning and public life, of public policy and quantitative analysis.

Gary has taught at Wesleyan since 1977, and is now the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics. His recent work on climate change has focused on modes of measuring relative vulnerability to global warming. He has been able to show the dramatically unequal effects of changes to climate, allowing for a more empirically based discussion of the social justice issues that we face in regard to the costs of adjusting to a warmer planet.

Gary and his colleagues have developed a concept of “adaptive capacity” as a vehicle for understanding how various species cope with changes to the environment. Some species of dragonflies now can be found more than 90 kilometers north of their traditional habitats. Birds are laying eggs earlier; hibernation schedules have found a different rhythm. Some species will adapt; the most vulnerable will disappear.

I’ve been thinking about this notion of “adaptive capacity” as I consider how we at Wesleyan can commit to having a less harmful impact on our environment. Do those with more resources, with a capacity to change, have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable? Wouldn’t this extend beyond the environment to other issues of social justice?

How adaptive are we? At Wesleyan we cultivate the courage to change, the ability to adapt by creatively responding to our culture, our environment. And we want to cultivate a productive self-consciousness of how change affects the most vulnerable. Courage should entail responsibility.

Wesleyan has been learning from Professor Gary Yohe for decades. We are delighted that the world has recognized the importance of his teaching. Congratulations, Gary!

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Old Haunts, New Challenges

I am writing this blog entry from San Francisco, where I went for a quick trip to participate in the centenary celebrations of California College of the Arts, where I was president from 2000 to 2007. CCA had organized an alumni reunion for the weekend, and it was a treat for me to catch up with faculty, my colleagues in the administration, board members, and my old students. The school seems to be thriving, and I was especially pleased to see the new Graduate Center, which was recently completed in the South of Market section of San Francisco. This was a project that we had planned over the last few years, and it was exciting to stand in the new buildings that look over what is now an SF campus that also offers a perspective on downtown San Francisco. CCA emphasizes learning through the arts, and I know that some of our Wesleyan alumni have gone onto its graduate programs in design, architecture and fine arts. Larry Sultan, who has taught photography there for years, told me that his studio assistant is coming to Wes to teach in the spring.

Before heading out to California I visited with alumni in New York to talk about, among other things, our plans to enhance financial aid. This is a project that the Wesleyan family can support no matter when they graduated, no matter what their particular majors. We want our school to maintain rigorous admission standards, and these are only meaningful to us if we are sure that access to the university is open to people regardless of their ability to pay. Fellow blogger (and Sun CEO) Jonathan Schwartz encouraged me to ensure that our students have the support they need to succeed. He reminded me that he had no resources when at Wesleyan, and that if not for a scholarship he would never have graduated. Alumni support equitable access, and their financial contributions actually make it possible. Tuition only covers about 2/3 of the cost of a student’s education, and so we are dependent on the generosity of our alumni, parents and other supporters to subsidize the college careers of all our students. This generosity is especially important to ensure that our financial aid packages allow students with high economic need to thrive once they enroll (and not to graduate with too much debt!). Later this semester I hope to be writing more about new initiatives at Wesleyan in this regard.

While I was away (and many of our students are away on fall break), our student athletes had another great weekend of contests. I was able to watch parts of the football game on the web, and I heard about the other contests from excited fans who emailed me. Congratulations to all, and let’s all of us maintain the momentum in the second half of the semester. GO WES!!

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Looking back, Looking forward

One of the most interesting aspects of returning to Wesleyan is the combination of tradition and change that I experience in meeting with members of the university family. This week that combination was especially powerful.

Looking back. This week I met with alumni groups in Philadelphia and Washington. The discussions were lively and heartening. It was great to hear an alumnus who graduated 50 years ago talk about diversity as a value he has learned through his long-term connection to our alma mater. We all agreed that we valued an education that taught you how to have an open mind – how to keep listening to ideas that were disturbing or that caused you to “stretch” from your assumptions, your comfort zone. We also agreed on how important faculty relationships had been to our learning experience, both formal and informal. And we agreed that we were committed to giving Wesleyan the resources to continue to offer robust financial aid so as to remain accessible to anyone who has the talent and ambition to thrive here.

Looking forward. Before heading to Philadelphia I attended my second faculty meeting. I talked about the planning process of the next few months, and how I hoped that after consultation with key university stakeholders we would develop a handful of key priorities on which we can work for the next five years. There were important questions concerning the process (will it be inclusive enough? will there be opportunities to critique results before they become finalized?) and the results (what happens to elements of our curriculum that don’t make it into the final handful of priorities?). I am looking forward to ongoing discussions of these issues so that we can focus on some key objectives in our fundraising, but also so that we can continue to support a wide-ranging curriculum with plenty of room for studies that don’t cultivate popularity or donors.

Looking back. On Friday I participated in a memorial service in the Chapel for Stephen Crites, for decades a beloved professor of religion and philosophy at Wesleyan. Although I didn’t study with Steve, we knew one another when I was a student in the 1970s. Somehow, he knew that I was interested in Hegel (he was a great scholar of Hegel and Kierkegaard), and we would chat about this from time to time. He offered me suggestions on some key texts, and I would always look forward to his interventions at public lectures. He was generous and jovial, acute yet open. At the memorial I met his former students, some of them now professors with their own followings. We heard from colleagues from Wes and elsewhere, and their eloquence was matched only by their affection for our departed colleague. The glorious music (Steve was a formidable singer) brought us together in a community of remembrance and gratitude. As a philosopher, Steve had explored how narrative shapes our very experience. As a faculty member, he is forever part of this university’s narrative, and his legacy still shapes and deepens the many lives he touched.

Looking forward. I was delighted to learn that a faculty/staff/student committee recently met and unanimously recommended that I sign the Presidents’ Statement on Sustainability. The committee is also looking for ways that we can go beyond this statement, so it’s not just my signature on a document, but a community-wide commitment to becoming more environmentally responsible. Once I receive the recommendations, I will be able to write more specifically on what we will be doing. Meanwhile, I am grateful for all the input on the blog, and I am looking forward to signing the document in the context of a wide-ranging effort to ensure that Wesleyan has a more positive impact on our environment.

Our campus community exists to educate students to think more deeply and effectively, and then to connect that thinking to the world in ways that are fulfilling and effective. That’s at the core of what makes an education at Wesleyan meaningful decades after graduation. The president, too, must find ways to stretch his mind, and to keep it open! I have been reading with great interest the comments on my blog posts, and I am trying to learn from them. Our campus community is a learning community. And it’s making me think harder about how we can be more effective in our teaching, and in our engagement.

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“Michael Roth, What Are You Doing About Global Warming?” Or, Politics at Wesleyan

Michael Roth, What are you doing about global warming? These were the words I saw graffitied on the sidewalk near my office this week. There were a few more global warming tags at the Usdan Center and walkways. What an important subject, but what a dumb way to articulate it! We asked physical plant workers to clear the surfaces, using even more energy resources than we already were doing. And how was I supposed to respond – with graffiti? I don’t think that would be very effective.

But it is such an important question. Michael Roth, what are you doing about global warming? I don’t think I’m doing enough. I am more conscious now of the energy I use, be it in the car, or in the office, or at home, and my family has become pretty good at recycling and composting. But we should do more, and we are working at it. But whoever scrawled the question near my office probably wanted to know what Wesleyan is doing about global warming. This is a great question, and my answer is similar. We have started to become a much greener, more sustainable campus, but we have much more to do. Recently I met with a group of students, the Environmental Organizers Network, and this group is very well informed about what steps Wesleyan can take to become a more responsible user of energy. We have appointed staff who are now responsible for ensuring that the university moves in a green direction. Our major facilities projects will all be subject to evaluation on their use of energy, and we will hold ourselves to high standards. And I will continue to meet with EON, with faculty and staff to get ideas about how we can do better as an institution to reduce our negative impact on the environment. Finally, we are developing curriculum, from the Center for the Arts to the Exley Science Center (with the Public Affairs Center as hub) to educate our community about the dynamic of climate change and how we can change it. This is not a subject for sloganeering, but it is an important topic for curriculum development and institutional change.

Last week I met with Ashley Casale ’10, who, along with Michael Israel just returned from a walk across the country for peace. I had heard about her efforts when I was in Berkeley, and I was filled with pride that a Wesleyan student was asking the country to wake up to the importance of the struggle for peace in our current political context. We had a small reception for Ashley and some of her friends in South College, and we talked about what Wesleyan is doing to call attention to the war in Iraq, and to efforts to promote peace and justice more generally. We are not doing enough, I said, but if the students have ideas as to how we can promote education about the dynamics of the current war, or about education for political engagement on issues from the war to global warming, I would do my best to support these ideas. I’ve already received some suggestions. Wesleyan should be the place where we can connect our liberal arts education to issues in public life – be they about mismanaged wars, global warming, or threats from terrorism. The connections are not simple (they can’t be reduced to graffiti), but they can be productively explored in classes, in “teach-ins,” and in a variety of co-curricular programming. We are working on it.

Let’s work together – faculty, staff, students – to use our educational resources to have a more positive impact on the culture and on the environment around us!

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Discussing Science with the Scientists

Just a quick note about a fascinating discussion I had with a group of Wesleyan science faculty on Friday over lunch. I was asked to speak on what was distinctive about science education at Wesleyan. There is much to be proud of. Wesleyan receives extraordinary support for our research in the sciences in the competitive world of foundation and government funding. Our undergraduates co-author papers (and go on to do Ph.D. work) at rates that surpass almost all our peer institutions. Our small graduate programs in the sciences add an element of peer mentoring to our educational context, and the grads continue their research and teaching at institutions across the United States.

The scientists turned out in large numbers for my brief remarks (maybe it was the free pizza!). I explained how I thought that the culture of experimentation and research characteristic of our science programs should become a key part of our university-wide culture. I had questions about the graduate programs, about the makeup of our academic Division III (which includes psychology and mathematics), and about what we could do to get the word out about the quality of science education at Wesleyan. There was a lively conversation on topics such as merit scholarships, graduate admissions, and whether math was empirical. I had several e-mails over the weekend that followed up on these and other issues. Clearly, our scientists are eager to engage with academic planning and innovations to curriculum. And this doesn’t even include talk about the great new science facility that we will be building! On this, I knew they had strong views.

I believe that science at Wesleyan has always managed to combine excellence in specific disciplines with a consideration of the context for scientific research. We are committed to understanding the relation of the sciences to public life, and this has never been more important than it is today. That’s the beauty of studying science at a small university: you get to do high level research, but you also stay connected to other fields, and to a broad cultural context.

The work in psychology that I pursued as a student at Wesleyan had little relation to the natural sciences. As someone who studied Sigmund Freud’s contributions to 20th century culture, I was eager to explore the critical social theories that were part of Freud’s writings. I have grown more interested in Freud’s relation to the sciences, but have also continued to explore the political dimensions of his ideas. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review published my review of Mark Edmundson’s wonderful new book on Freud’s last year, and on the legacy of his ideas. Here’s the link:

www.latimes.com/features/books/la-bk-roth23sep23,0,4392115.story?coll=la-books-center

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Renewal of Possibility

It has been an eventful week, and there are many things that were striking about my experiences of Wesleyan since my last posting. I have had a range of contacts with staff, students, faculty, and alumni over the past seven days, and the experience brings home to me some of the challenges in being president of this great university.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we were celebrating the opening of the university center, and this week I find myself listening to students who feel that it isn’t meeting their needs in the ways they expect. Some of this, I am told, is part of the beginning of each academic year. There are lines at certain times of day; some people don’t feel they are getting the choices they want. A part of this, I can see, is working with a new food vendor who is also trying to adjust to the Wesleyan context. I take the students’ concerns and the parents’ concerns very seriously. I want us to be offering quality food at affordable prices, and I will make sure we are doing so. I also have to ensure we are getting the input we need from students, from workers at the facility, and from staff so that we make the most helpful adjustments. The Wesleyan community should know that we have a labor code that describes our community standards for fair treatment of those who work on campus. We will abide by this code, and we will monitor our compliance. Still, I doubt that we will be able to satisfy everyone, because we are a community with diverse needs, tastes, and expectations. We will, however, listen to all suggestions as to how we can do a better job for our students in a context that treats all employees and customers fairly.

In the middle of this week I was in Boston for meetings with our Science Advisory Council and with parents and alumni. The SAC meeting was at the Cambridge offices of Vertex, a biotechnology company founded by Joshua Boger ’73. Josh is on Wesleyan’s board of trustees, and he is a great supporter of the institution. He majored in chemistry and philosophy (!) while here, and has gone on to become a pioneer in the development of new drugs for viral diseases, including HIV, cancer, pain, and inflammation. The discussion centered on the quality of scientific research at Wesleyan and on how we can enhance it. We were very lucky to have input from Geoff Duyk ’80, who helped us think more clearly and precisely about our needs and goals. A key component of our efforts will be to connect research in the sciences to other aspects of the curriculum. When we talk about scientific literacy at Wesleyan, we mean learning habits of thinking, investigation, and evaluation that work in fields seemingly quite distant from biology and chemistry. Another crucial aspect of our work with the SAC is the planning and construction of a major new facility for the life sciences. We saw some very exciting plans at this meeting, and I am sure to be writing about this project in subsequent postings.

The meeting with a small group of Boston parents and alumni was very interesting. It was hosted by Tim Dibble ’86, the son of a beloved Wesleyan faculty member. The conversation was very engaging, and I heard from graduates from the 1950s and the most recent decade. What did they have in common? The first thing was the strong commitment to financial aid at Wesleyan. We must keep the university accessible to people from all social classes. The second thing was the importance of faculty-student relations at Wesleyan. People spoke movingly about how professors made a powerful difference in their lives, inside and outside the classroom. We also spoke about how the relationships formed at Wesleyan continued to be our networks later in life, and about the importance of our school remaining a culture in which accidental encounters can lead to lifelong friendships. I left the meeting reinvigorated about Wesleyan’s potential.

After the meeting I spent an hour or so with Bill Belichick ’75, the coach of the New England Patriots. We talked about the difficulty of getting a team to play together, to have the combination of discipline and passion that makes for the most satisfying experience, that makes for performance at the highest level. Coach Belichick emphasized practice and preparation, the goal of improving each time you work on a specific task. As we drove back to Middletown, I started to think about some of the ways I might work at becoming a more effective president, starting with listening more closely to students and faculty.

I wish all our teams the best in this weekend’s contests. Tomorrow is Wesleyan’s opening football game, but I won’t be there to watch very much of it. Tonight begins Yom Kippur, a day that in my tradition calls for reflection, repentance, and a renewal of possibility. In retrospect, “the renewal of possibility” may be the theme of this past week. May it last!

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Turning

This week marked the beginning of the High Holiday season for Jews, and for Muslims the beginning of Ramadan. Over the last few years I had grown close to a group of people at my schul in Berkeley (the minyan at Temple Beth El), and I wondered how I would feel this time of year in a new town. I’d met the wonderfully energetic rabbi, David Leipziger, but what would the community be like?

Although my brother and his family live within driving distance in New York, I decided to attend the services at Wesleyan this year. I thought it would be a good way to see how some of our students celebrated the Jewish holidays. It was a lovely experience. I understand from various people that religious (or spiritual) practices of various sorts now play a more important part on campus than they did, for example, when I was a student in the 1970s. It is worth being reminded that students at Wesleyan don’t conform to any rigid stereotypes, except perhaps that they are questioning, searching people. Some of them search through religious practices. Some, through a critique of those practices. Some even do both!

The Rosh Hashanah celebrations were thoughtful, musical, welcoming. I found them very moving. I even got to carry the Torah around our makeshift schul (long ago a gym!), in the tradition that allows congregants to reach out and touch the scroll with a gesture that combines respect and affection. At this time of year, we ask to turn ourselves towards a more meaningful life, and also towards our “best selves” — who we really are and who we want to become. In the Jewish tradition these days of “turning” are called the Days of Awe.

Yesterday, the rabbi asked Imam Sohaib Sultan, the Wesleyan Muslim chaplain, to join him for the sermon. Since Ramadan has just begun, he explained that his voice might be weaker than usual, since he had not eaten or had water since sunrise. In fact, he spoke quietly and powerfully about his traditions. It was a new year’s gift. It was also a “teaching moment,” time for us to think about how our practices overlap, how they differ, how we can learn from one another. Perhaps Sohaib was “turning,” too.

In a community that so values innovation and experimentation, it is also good to find our traditions thoughtfully explored and thus preserved.

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Beginning Conversations: The Board Retreat, A CSS Lecture

The past few days have been extraordinarily busy. On Friday (9/7) we dedicated the new Usdan University Center, and there were many alumni, former trustees, and other friends of Wesleyan in town to help us celebrate. We were able to recognize a variety of contributors who made the planning and construction possible over the last ten years (!), and for me it was an opportunity to connect to many people who care about our school and who help move things forward. Standing on the third-floor terrace of the Usdan Center (or “the Suze,” as I’m told students call it) and looking across Andrus Field and Foss Hill, I am very grateful for the work of Doug Bennet and the trustees who envisioned this building at this location years ago.

Now, I know from reading the parents’ listserv and by talking to students, that our operation of the building has had some bumps in the last couple of weeks. As was true with MoCon, lines at the beginning of the year can be long, and we are still fixing issues in the building and in our getting food to students in a timely way. I can see progress, and we will continue to try to improve service to students, faculty, and staff who use the facility. Indeed, we expect “the Suze” to become a friendly hub for eating, conversation, and student committee meetings. Someone wrote in, concerned about it being “bland” and ordinary. This is a very traditional concern at Wesleyan, and often it is an expression of a desire to see things stay the way they used to be (for whomever is waxing nostalgic). I don’t share this concern myself, as I see students making the place their own, inventing their own education even as they learn from others.

The Wesleyan Board of Trustees begins the academic year with a retreat, which means here a day and a half of meetings focused on strategic issues facing the university. This was an occasion for me to talk with the Board (which includes representatives from the faculty and students) about my first impressions of coming back to Wesleyan, and to lay out some of the planning and research work we are taking on. There were three major areas of focus: endowment growth to make possible more robust financial aid and exciting innovations in the curriculum we offer our students; facilities enhancement, especially in the life sciences; communication effectiveness to clarify what Wesleyan stands for in the world of progressive liberal arts education. We discussed many other topics, but we kept returning to these key themes. I am sure to be writing about them again and again in the months to come as we consult with students, alumni, faculty, and staff about these priorities.

On a very different note, yesterday I had the great pleasure of giving a lunchtime talk for the College of Social Studies. It was wonderful to discuss my academic work in intellectual history, philosophy of history, and political theory – rather than the administrative side of my life. I focused on my work on contemporary French philosophy, psychoanalysis, and American pragmatism. At the beginning of the summer, I published a piece in Bookforum about the work in aesthetics of Jean-Luc Nancy, and I am now trying to finish a piece about my teacher, the great American pragmatist, Richard Rorty. Recently I sent off reviews of Mark Edmundson’s new book on Freud’s final year and of John Brenkman’s on political theory since 9/11. Today, of course, is the anniversary of that awful day. My remarks were about how my recent short writing is connected to my long-term intellectual interests.

The students at CSS are as tough minded and engaged as I remember them. In this program they learn to connect the kind of philosophical issues I was talking about with contemporary social, economic, and policy issues. They seemed engaged with one another and with the issues I brought up. It was only an hour, but it was a great sign to me of the energy and curiosity that have been the hallmarks of this program. We were fortunate last week to announce in The Wall Street Journal the Zilkha Chair in CSS, which is a wonderful way of enhancing the quality of this interdisciplinary program.

Here is the link to my Bookforum review of Nancy. I’ll post the links to the other reviews when they are published.

Thanks again to those people who have commented on what I’ve posted thus far. As I said initially, I won’t be able to respond to individual messages, but I do connect those posts that offer suggestions and criticism to the appropriate offices. I will try to find some time to introduce some more visual interest to the blog, but it may take a little while as I learn my way around the university.

My introduction to Wesleyan continues. THANKS FOR ALL THE HELP!

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