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Wesleyan in China

Last week I joined a group of Wesleyan professors and invited scholars for the third Forum jointly planned by the Social Sciences of China Press and our university. The topics of the first two seminars were Tradition and Enlightenment, and this third gathering focused on Modernization. We learned a lot from one another, not in spite of our differences but because of them.

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Topics ranged from the different path of China for economic growth and social change, to comparisons with the Soviet Union, to political education and the legal system, to visualization of science, to education and modernization. We’ve met every two years, and the next gathering will be in Middletown.

While in Asia I attended Wesleyan events in Hong Kong and Shanghai. These were high energy receptions where alumni, parents and pre-frosh could meet and deepen their Wes connections. Here are some photos from the Hong Kong event:

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Here are some photos from Shanghai:

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Just before returning to campus, I gave a lecture at Fudan University on liberal education (what else?) where my host was Vice-Provost Ying Wang P’16. It was great to share ideas on a broad, contextual education with professors and students there. Here are a couple of photos from that event:

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Wherever you go in the world, you can find Wes folks doing great things. THIS IS WHY.

 

 

 

I heard the news all the way in Hong Kong: Wesleyan’s baseball team won another NESCAC Championship! Congratulations to Mark Woodworth and the entire team for an amazing season. The rivalry with Amherst continues, as the Lord Jeffs beat our guys in a Sunday morning match-up. But that was just the first time in five games this year, and the Cardinals came back to win the next game and the championship 4-3 in extra innings. Guy Davidson ’16 hit a home run in the 12th to put Wesleyan ahead, and Ethan Rode ’17 in relief sealed the deal to get his first win of the year. Onto the NCAA tournament!

Speaking of the NCAAs, Eudice Chong ’18  has been named both NESCAC women’s tennis Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year as well as a first-team all-NESCAC choice in both singles and doubles following her tremendous first year. In doubles, usually with Helen Klass-Warch ’18, Chong fashioned a 20-3 record at the #1 spot.  Klass-Warch received a nod to the all-NESCAC first team in doubles. Chong and Klass-Warch are the first women’s tennis individuals from Wesleyan to earn qualification to the NCAA Championship. Congratulations!

Another Wes tennis player is NCAA bound. Michael Liu ’17 has been named first-team all-NESCAC as well as an NCAA Division III singles qualifier. This is just the second time a Wes men’s tennis player has been selected for the tournament. Congrats!!

And they all still have to study for finals!!

 

 

 

The amazing curator/organizer artist and CFA leader Pam Tatge announces a music and art festival at the Connecticut River in Middletown on Saturday, May 9 from noon to 5 p.m. It’s at Harbor Park, Harbor Drive, in Middletown, and it’s FREE!

Here’s the announcement:

Spend an afternoon at Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter, which will feature live music, visual art installations, a kids’ activity zone, environmental education exhibits, plein air painters, a farmer’s market, a craft fair, and much more to bring you closer to the rich culture, history, and science of the Connecticut River.

The festival celebrates the Connecticut River as a source of cultural inspiration and creativity. Admission to the festival is free to the general public. There will be free parking at the Melilli Plaza Municipal Parking Lot, located on Melilli Plaza between Washington Street and Court Street; and at Arcade Parking Lot, located off of Court Street, in Middletown. The festival will be held rain or shine.

For the full schedule of performances and events, a complete list of activities and participating environmental organizations and craft fair vendors, and a festival map, please click here.

Live music will include performances by roots music singer-songwriter Peter Siegel; the acoustic string band Mattabesett String Collective; acoustic indie rock band Honey and the Sting, featuring Gemma Smith ’13, Melanie Hsu ’13, Skip Robinson, Jessica Best ’14, and Sam Long ’12; the folk Americana group Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem featuring Andrew Kinsey, Anand Nayak ’96, and Scott Kessel ’88 MALS ’92; and the sailor music of The Royal Boys, featuring Geoff Kaufman, Craig Edwards ’83, and Dan Spurr on the Main Stage; the youth circus company Circophany’s Circus by Artfarm and Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater; music, yoga, theater, and circus arts with the husband and wife duo Anastasia and Christopher Jankowski; camp singer-songwriter and storyteller Margie Warner; and members of the Middletown High School Band under the direction of Kimberly Everson on the Kid’s Stage.

Kids activities designed for all ages to learn more about the Connecticut River will be organized by Kidcity Children’s Museum, Jonah Center for Earth and Art, Wesleyan University’s Rho Epsilon Pi, and the Middletown High School Crew Team.

Other festival events will include artist Anne Cubberly‘s giant “Water” puppet roaming the festival (from noon to 3 p.m.); drawing and painting boat tours on six-person cata-canoes (departing each half hour from noon to 5 p.m., subject to weather conditions) with Sandbox Arts Collective; a drumming circle organized by The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center (from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.); environmental tours with Wesleyan students; a farmer’s market featuring locally grown and made produce, bread, smoothies, and other delicious goods organized by the North End Action Team; plein air painters organized by the Middletown Art Guild; craft vendors; and installations in the pedestrian tunnel, including sounds by Wesleyan University graduate student Cecilia Lopez and her Buenos Aires-based indie pop band Vigilante Margarita, and artwork by Middletown children.

Food trucks and vendors will include Firedog, Jammed 4 Thyme, Mamoun’s Falafel Cart, Mattabesett Canoe Club, NoRA’s Cupcake Company, Pizza to the People, and Spuds Your Way.

The “Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter” festival was inspired by the Connecticut debut performance by The Nile Project at Wesleyan’s Crowell Concert Hall, which took place on April 10, 2015 and featured a dozen musicians performing collaboratively composed songs drawn from the diverse styles and instruments of the countries along the Nile Basin, including Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, and Uganda.

This event is part of Feet to the Fire, a program of Wesleyan’s Creative Campus Initiative. Partners include The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center, the City of Middletown, Jonah Center for Earth and Art, Kidcity Children’s Museum, Middlesex Community College, Mattabesett Canoe Club, Middletown Garden Club, Middlesex County Historical Society, Middletown Public Schools, and Oddfellows Playhouse.

Made possible by the State of Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development’s Arts Catalyze Placemaking program, the City of Middletown and the Middletown Commission on the Arts, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Wesleyan University’s Green Fund.

There seemed to be music everywhere on campus this past weekend. Concerts and Cabaret on High Street, a capella in the library and the CFA, live bands in the Fountain backyards, and the mighty Wesleyan Orchestra in Crowell. And there is poetry and other forms of creative writing echoing through the halls. I know I’m just scratching the surface. We raise our voices in song, or just move to the beat, as we also struggle to write those last papers, prepare presentations, study for exams.

So much gets bunched up at the end of the semester. It takes a long time to prepare a recital, whether in dance or in instrumental music, and so it’s no wonder that we have so many here in the last week of term. Lectures and conferences abound, even as we are struggling to focus on getting those last assignments completed. Today many heard from students and staff who were reflecting on what it’s like to be a person of color on this campus. Our colleagues and fellow students took the time to share their experiences, their pain and their hopes, even as they also have to get all the work of the end of term completed in a timely way. I am grateful for their efforts.

These days when the spring semester ends it is only a short break before Summer Term begins. Popular fields during the school year are offered in small classes in the summer — like psychology and computer science. And there are also new classes that are not found during the school year — like “Legal Thinking.” So, if you are already worried about aching to be in class, check out the Summer session webpage.

Thoughts of summer are hard to keep at bay as the temperature rises and music drifts over Foss Hill. But I have one more lecture to give and an exam to prepare….and students have miles to go before they can sleep. At least we are moving together accompanied by poetry, song, and the back beat of musical Wesleyan.

 

Many years ago I used to teach the introductory course in European history every spring. We began with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) and worked our way up to the present. Invariably, it seemed, current events would offer powerful reminders that the historical issues such as war and peace, poverty and prosperity, had deep contemporary resonance. When does isolationism become the callous disregard of the suffering of others? When does intervention on behalf of human rights become a new form of oppression? How can war be avoided, and when is military action necessary to create conditions for long term peace and justice? Each year, my students and I would see how the issues from the past weren’t “merely historical.”

This week I had a similar experience in my spring course, “The Modern and the Postmodern.”  I had added an essay by Kimberlé W. Crenshaw to the syllabus this year on the evolution of critical race theory in law schools and the courts. We are currently discussing “postmodern identities,” the issues of performativity, and the complexities of recognizing one another if no one has an essential character to acknowledge. How does race enter in this mix of issues of who we can be and how we can be recognized? How can we pay attention to race without falling into racialist or racist positions? Professor Crenshaw makes the point that contemporary appeals to “color blindness” neglect the ways in which white supremacy is built into our institutions, our educational systems, even our ways of seeing and thinking.

As we began, it seemed obvious that we should talk about the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations and the problematic efforts to jump to “All Lives Matter” as a universal gesture. But Crenshaw asks how we can talk about performing identities without also talking about the way certain kinds of bodies have been subject to violence for much of American history? What are the constraints on performance, and how are gestures and actions read differently in this country depending on the color of one’s skin?

With the death of Freddie Gray while in the custody of Baltimore police and the ensuing protest against both police violence and the conditions of hopelessness in large portions of Baltimore’s African-American community, we had plenty to talk about. The issues in the theory and history we had been discussing were being activated right before our eyes.

As a teacher, these are the moments liberal education feels most powerful to me. The issues we read about are very much part of our world, not just parts of books we assign in class. As a citizen, these are the moments when I recognize the urgency to break out of the cycles of institutionalized violence and despair that plague large portions of our country — and that reverberate on our campus. As W.E.B. DuBois emphasized so long ago, we must use the empowerment of our education to change the conditions that reproduce violence, poverty and injustice.

This is what many of us hope for when we study — that broad, contextual learning can make a difference in changing the world for the better.

UPDATE:

Just received this email about an event on campus Monday.

  On Monday, May 4th, from 11am- 1pm, the Student of Color community will be participating in #BlackoutUsdan. A movement to takeover and speak out against the injustices and trauma that persist on this campus and in the world. We are standing in solidarity with Baltimore and other marginalized communities to reiterate that Black Lives Matter. Your support and empathy for this blackout is very important to us. We want our stories to be heard, our faces to be seen, and for the Wesleyan community to move beyond “diversity university” and embody a socially conscious, just, and welcoming atmosphere.  

          We can make Wesleyan a better place for marginalized and underrepresented students. We can be the true agents of change through open dialogue and expressions of philos love that combats systematic oppression. You know they say “we are the future”, so let’s embody it for ourselves. 
       We encourage all allies to come, listen to and support  your peers.

There will be follow up conversations about how to implement change on our campus.

Please wear black on Monday! #blackoutUsdan

Kim Diver sent around the following message for those who want to lend a hand to relief efforts in Nepal.

Want to help with relief efforts in Nepal after Saturday’s Magnitude 7.8 earthquake? Or learn how to contribute to crowdsourced crisis mapping in general?

Special WesGIS/Mapping workshop:

Introduction to OpenStreetMap.org Relief Mapping for Nepal

When: Friday, May 1, 2:00-3:00 pm

Where: Allbritton 204

Who: Anyone in the Wesleyan community who is interested in helping out by tracing (digitizing) objects from aerial photos. No GIS experience required.

We’ll introduce tools that you can use to contribute toward relief efforts in Nepal through mapping. We’ll get you registered, provide a hands-on introduction to mapping using OpenStreetMap.org, and show you how to find lists of mapping tasks that need completion (following the basic outline presented a  http://mapgive.state.gov). New satellite images and tasks are being posted daily and there is still much work to be done.

Please RSVP at http://goo.gl/forms/PZwWGMAHIu. Feel free to forward this message on to colleagues and students.

Questions? Contact Kim Diver at kdiver@wesleyan.edu, Phil Resor at presor@wesleyan.edu, or Jason Simms at jsimms@wesleyan.edu.

On Monday night this week I had a meeting with a coalition of students concerned with how Wesleyan invests the funds in its endowment. This was a follow-up conversation to one started in my office the week before, when a few dozen students staged a protest to call attention to their demands that the university divest its holdings in companies that profit from (1) the prison industrial complex (2) the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and (3) fossil fuels. The claim was that these three things are inter-related.

When I asked for clarification about what counted as “the prison industrial complex,” big private prison companies were cited as important examples. I agreed with the protestors that Wesleyan shouldn’t be deriving profits from private prison companies, and that I would argue against any investments in these companies. As it turns out, I was happy to be able to report that we don’t hold any such investments. I would certainly argue against the university taking on such exposure in the future. Some people have a much more general sense of the “prison industrial complex,” which would include major financial, juridical and governmental institutions, and here I’ve not been aware of any divestment argument that successfully navigates such byzantine connections.

I was asked about my view of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I despair of current conditions and the policies that make for a relentless, tragic grind of human lives. There is intricate political, military and economic work to be done to create the grounds for an equitable settlement for Palestinians that meets the legitimate security needs of Israelis. But I don’t see Wesleyan’s selling stock as being at all relevant to the creation of conditions for peace in the Middle East. Indeed, I think that the call for selling stock is a distraction from the essential policy and diplomatic challenges ahead.

Try as I might, I have a hard time understanding how Wesleyan (and even all universities) selling stock in fossil fuel companies would have any impact on climate change. I have little doubt that climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, but the idea that we would divorce ourselves from energy companies through divestment seems inappropriate given our use of power from these companies every day. Selling our shares of an energy company to another institution or individual will not have a meaningful impact on climate change. Changing the nation’s demand for non-renewable energy would have such an impact. Taxing carbon use and pricing oil and gas in such a way as to account for externalities would have such an impact. Again, divestment seems to me a distraction from the hard work of changing governmental policies, reducing institutional and personal energy use, and developing deep commitments to research on alternative energy sources.

Wesleyan invests its endowment so as to strengthen its economic foundation. This foundation allows us to offer financial aid and to subsidize programs that would not otherwise pay for themselves. While the integrity of every investment professional we work with is crucial for us, we don’t choose investment managers as a vote of confidence in their moral, political or aesthetic views. We choose them because we believe they can prudently and consistently increase the value of the funds we entrust to them. On rare occasions we may say to managers that this university does not want to make money from x. This is not because we think we can disrupt x but because we don’t want to profit from an enterprise creating massive social harm. I wrote about this some weeks ago in regard to the Committee on Investor Responsibility’s report on coal. The students with whom I met in the past week feel strongly that large energy companies are indeed creating massive social harm, and they have interesting arguments. I very much respect their views. We must also recognize, however, that the energy sector is absolutely necessary for our current institutional needs. That’s why I don’t support the posture of separating ourselves from the sector — divesting from our connection to fossil fuels. Instead, I want us to focus on making Wesleyan more sustainable, increasing our use of solar power and reducing our carbon footprint. Arguing in the public sphere for the development of cleaner, renewable forms of energy is also important, and I’m pleased to see so many faculty and students do that so powerfully.

The students with whom I met expressed general concerns about transparency in regard to the endowment. There is actually much information on the investment office’s website, including annual letters summarizing the work of the previous 12 months and the target asset allocation. In addition, the Committee for Investor Responsibility periodically raises issues with the Board’s Investment Committee as it did recently in regard to coal. The CIR website also has important information.

I am sure conversations with various Wesleyan constituencies will continue. They are most productive when organized through the CIR. In the fall, this committee will sponsor a talk by Chief Investment Officer Anne Martin on Wesleyan’s investment policy and operations.

I have learned much from our engaged students, especially when we don’t start off sharing the same view. I know I will be hearing more from them. I will be listening.

 

 

So many things happening on campus during these last weeks of the semester. Conferences, lectures, musical and theatrical performances…. Faculty, staff and students are getting in whatever they can before the end of term. And all this while finals loom in just a few weeks!

On those chilly days when we’re all running for shelter, and on those lovely Foss Hill afternoons when we try to catch some rays, the Wesleyan baseball team is out there on Dresser Diamond taking batting practice, chasing down fly balls, acting as if it really were a warm spring day. Well, this past weekend the team shut out the Amherst squad in consecutive games, winning the Little Three Championship for the third year in a row! The guys were undefeated against Williams and Amherst, the first time that’s happened in over thirty years! Coach Mark Woodworth and the team have added yet another accomplishment to their great track record, and there are still more games to be played this year!

Speaking of track records, we should all be proud of LaDarius Drew ’15 for yet another strong season. At the NESCAC championships he bested the field in the 100 meters, and also earned first place in the long jump. His jump was almost a foot longer than the 2nd place finisher! Speaking of dominating wins, Evan Bieder ’15 was triumphant in the 5k NESCAC championship race. His closest competitor was more than 30 seconds behind! UPDATE: Ellie Martin ’16 won the conference crown in the 400m race.  Ellie also was part of Wesleyan’s 4x400m relay, joined by Melissa Luning ’15, Ananya Subrahmanian ’18 and Sarah Swenson ’18, for a second-place finish in a Wesleyan-record time of 3:53.64, about three seconds under the previous program record.

There has been no shortage of dominating performances in tennis this year. Let’s just mention Eudice Chong ’18 who is now 10-0 in singles play and combined with Helen Klass-Warch ’18, has amassed a 9-2 doubles mark. Eudice and Helen are leading a superb tennis squad — and the men’s team is similarly on a roll.

I’ve focused on athletic achievements here, but there were plenty of other stand out performances I’ve heard about this weekend.  A group of talented professors gathered together to discuss issues in “queer/art/poetics.” A highlight, I’ve heard, was Wesleyan English professor Christina Crosby’s reading from her new book, Body Undone: Living On After Great Pain. Meanwhile, the Theater Department’s production of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano brought out the best in the students’ understanding of the theater of the absurd. A great group of Wes actors went a more traditional route in bringing Shakespeare to the campus with their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Just before the weekend began, Kari, Sophie and I were treated to a spectacular production of Into the Woods at the Patricelli ’92 Theater. This complex, wonderful musical was executed with panache by a dedicated, talented group of students. It was a joy.

And April continues!

Horrible, horrible images from Nepal after the devastating earthquake that has killed more than 2,000. Katmandu and the surrounding area is struggling with dead and wounded, and with terrifying aftershocks.

Those of you who want to donate to relief and rescue efforts will find many possibilities: CARE, UNICEF, OXFAM, the Red Cross. And here is some information about fundraising possibilities for relief efforts. And today (Monday, April 27th) the New York Times lists some relief organizations already active in the area.

Our hearts go out to those dealing with this tragedy.

 

 

Cathy Lechowicz Day!

Cathy Lechowicz, right, displaying her award with William Dyson, chairman of the Connecticut Commission on Community Service, and Jane Ciarleglio, executive director of the commission.

Cathy Lechowicz, right, displaying her award with William Dyson, chairman of the Connecticut Commission on Community Service, and Jane Ciarleglio, executive director of the commission.

Mayor Dan Drew proclaimed Tuesday, April 28 Cathy Lechowicz Day in Middletown! Many Wesleyan students, staff and faculty make enormous contributions to Middletown, and so it’s wonderful to see one of our colleagues recognized for her profound dedication to the community. Recently, the Connecticut Commission on Community Service and the Office of Higher Education announced the recipients of the 2015 Community Service Awards, and Cathy Lechowicz was singled out for her great work.

In a letter nominating Lechowicz for the honor, Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, pointed to her work with the Center for Prison Education and the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Under Cathy’s direction, the Center for Prison Education “has flourished,” he wrote.

“The Center now provides a program in the women’s prison at York as well as the men’s prison at Cheshire. In the 2013-14 school year, 54 students were taking classes. Over 20 professors (mainly Wesleyan, but others as well) have taught classes ranging from Molecular Biology to Political Philosophy, and always at the same level as they teach these classes to their undergraduate students. Additionally, over 130 Wesleyan undergraduates have served as teaching assistants, writing tutors, research interns, and workshop facilitators. Finally, the Center has been extremely successful securing funding.”

Rob also wrote of Lechowicz’ achievements at Green Street.

“In three years, Cathy has achieved incredible results: Wesleyan’s financial contribution has been cut almost in half, total visitors have more than doubled, student involvement has more than doubled, and faculty involvement has tripled.”

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