This past weekend Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees was in town for its first full meeting of the academic year. The Board is a devoted group of alumni and parent volunteers whose role it is to ensure the long-term health of the university. Some have been connected to Wesleyan for more than forty years; a few others are recent graduates. They meet with faculty and students, and they take on some issues facing the school: from fund raising to faculty welfare, from facilities to the quality of the student experience. In addition to the regular business of the Board, this time we also joined in signing the Campus Climate Commitment, which was a topic of many comments on an earlier issue of this blog. The Trustee Chair and I also met with a very thoughtful student group that is urging the university to divest from companies that manufacture weapons. We will be organizing substantial discussions of this issue with students and trustees later this semester.
During the formal board meeting, we’ve added time for an open discussion of an issue of general importance for the university. At this meeting we focused on Recruiting for and Admission to Wesleyan. We discussed at some length what kinds of students would really thrive here. What should Wesleyan be looking for as we recruit our next classes? Based on input from trustees prior to the meeting, we identified five broad categories: Intelligence, Demonstrated Achievement, Independence, Character, and Diversity. There were few surprises, really, but we benefited from a frank discussion of the personality of our campus community, how it is perceived, and how it is evolving. Words like “intensity,” “resilience,” and “experimental” came up often, and so did qualities like adventurousness, and a passionate engagement with ideas. My conclusion: Wesleyan students should have the courage to use their talents and intelligence to lead meaningful lives and contribute to the world.
After the Trustee meetings, we had the great pleasure of seeing the faculty-student production of Oedipus Rex. The play, directed by Theater professor Yuriy Kordonskiy, was staged with intensity and wit. The student actors brought out the political dimensions in their performance (Oedipus Tyrannus!) as well as the psychologically crushing confrontation of ambition and fate. Bravo!
Students in this shortened week have been taking exams, finishing papers, while faculty have been grading and preparing for the final push of the semester. Winter athletics is now underway, and I had great pleasure of watching our men and women swim against Amherst on Monday. Although we did not prevail against our Little Three opponent, we offered tenacious competition, and some races were downright thrilling. I was proud to see our swimmers and divers striving for excellence, and in the process they pushed themselves beyond what they had thought they could attain. Another Bravo!
The campus is beginning to empty out, as students head off to Thanksgiving celebrations around the country, and staff members take some vacation days to prepare their own feasts. The weather now feels like the New England autumns I remember. Yesterday we had our first light snow of the season, and my daughter Sophie ran outside with glee to catch a few flakes on her tongue. “This move to the East Coast isn’t so bad after all,” she smiled. As my family gathers at our new home at Wesleyan, I know we have much to be thankful for.