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On this last day of classes, the campus is really singing. Tonight the Wesleyan Spirits will hold their annual Fall Jam in Memorial Chapel. The concert begins at 8 p.m.  Rumor has it that some alumni spirits may float in…

If a cappella isn’t your thing, but you like to move your feet, you may want to check out Contra Dance in Beckham Hall — also at 8 p.m. And if you like to watch other people move their feet, there’s the Dance Department’s Winter Concert in the CFA Theater (also at 8).

At 9 p.m. in the World Music Hall, students of David Behrman, visiting assistant professor of music, will be performing their new compositions. Professor Behrman has been making experimental musical for more than 40 years, and he has inspired students throughout that time.

Finally, tonight (9-12 p.m.) is the last Late Night Music of the Week for the Semester! Featuring….Thread Count  Here’s what the organizers say:

ThreadCount is Wesleyan’s premier R&B Fusion Band. Comprised of your favorite jammers on campus, ThreadCount has everything you need for a fun and funkadelic night. Come out and enjoy the vibes as we perform originals and covers spanning Rock&Roll, Rap, R&B, Soul and Jazzy influences. You don’t want to miss this!

Tonight, Friday December 5! 9 p.m. – midnight West Dining Bay, Usdan

Musical catharsis before reading and finals week!



Yesterday I was in New York for Wesleyan meetings and was shocked when the grand jury there decided not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner with a chokehold. The streets were filled with folks demanding justice. The death was ruled a homicide, and through a video we could all witness the horrible attack on an African American man, who just asks to be left alone. Yet, the officer said he didn’t intend to hurt Eric Garner, and that seems to have been enough for the jurors.

Charles Blow put it this way in a column this morning:

Racism is interpersonal and structural; it is current and historical; it is explicit and implicit; it is articulated and silent.

Biases are pervasive, but can also be spectral: moving in and out of consideration with little or no notice, without leaving a trace, even without our own awareness. Sometimes the only way to see bias is in the aggregate, to stop staring so hard at a data point and step back so that you can see the data set. Only then can you detect the trails in the dust. Only then can the data do battle with denial.

Our desire to live in a world without racism, without prejudice and brutal bigotry, shouldn’t blind us to the realities of oppression all around us. Let this desire energize us to make change, to not only alleviate suffering but to fight injustice. Education should help us acknowledge the realities in the world — not simply to accept them.

Education should empower us to change the world. To make it a place where all can breathe more freely.

Holidays focus our attention. We may be grateful during various times of the year, but on Thanksgiving many of us really focus on what we are thankful for. At our house, I ask each person at dinner to say a few words about what inspires her or his gratitude. Sure, I get my share of eye rolling — in some moods, taking a moment to say out loud what we appreciate and are grateful for feels pretty odd. But once we get in the rhythm, I think, it feels pretty good.

For a long time here in America we have liked to attach commercial transactions to our holidays. Why not have a sale, or some other special event to get folks out and shopping. Although I righteously stayed away from stores on Friday (phobia more than virtue, actually), I have to admit that I was online Monday, looking for some of those cyber deals. But today presents an opportunity for a different kind of transaction.

Today, December 2, is Giving Tuesday. The brainchild of Henry Timms, now director of the 92nd St Y, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become recognized as a special day to act philanthropically. People all over the world are going to make donations to their favorite causes. Why not join in this campaign to take a pause from the momentum of the commercial to give a gift to a not-for-profit organization?

Here at Wesleyan, we have a special opportunity on Giving Tuesday. When the Wesleyan community reaches its goal of 1,000 gifts on Giving Tuesday, Catherine Klema P’13 and trustee David Resnick ’81, P’13 will establish a scholarship for an incoming frosh in the class of 2019. All the gifts given to financial aid on December 2 will add to this scholarship and help fund four years of Wes for this new student.

We know that lots of people aren’t able to make big gifts, but we are hopeful that many, many people will support our students with donations that suit their budgets. Please join the campaign to increase financial aid.



Thank you in advance for your support of Wesleyan’s students on Giving Tuesday – Because a Wesleyan Education is Our Cause.

You know why.

This is Why.


For many of us the Thanksgiving break was marred by the news from Ferguson Missouri. In an extraordinary grand jury proceeding, atypical in so many ways, nine citizens decided not to bring charges against the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown. I am not in a position (and neither are readers of this blog) to describe what really happened in Ferguson that day, but we can let this event shine a bright light on more systemic issues of how African Americans are treated by law enforcement. Of course, how one looks at these issues will be affected by one’s own experience or race and power. As sociologist Michael Eric Dyson recently wrote: “The instrument through which one perceives race — one’s culture, one’s experiences, one’s fears and fantasies — alters in crucial ways what it measures.”

When Wesleyan students protest the grand jury’s decision today and in the coming weeks, they will be protesting not just this event but the foundational injustice that results in mass incarceration, and radically different police tactics for blacks and whites in this country. Of course, there will be those who mock privileged college students protesting decisions made in very different communities far from the campus bubble. Why are students protesting events that they can’t affect? Are they just being politically correct?

No, students raise their voices in protest to express their desire for a different kind of world. They come together to march, shout and sing to rediscover feelings of solidarity in hopes that the world can be otherwise. Recognizing racism’s pernicious effects is part of imagining a different kind of world.

At Wesleyan we have a long history of supporting student engagement, recognizing racism and promoting equity and inclusion. But of course, things are far from perfect at alma mater. For me, this sometimes results in the paradoxical situation of being asked to support protests against the administration (and its president!). Be that as it may, we can be proud of students (and faculty and staff) expressing their concerns and advocating for change whether we agree with their specific goals or not.

Part of a liberal education is learning to become a full citizen, learning to participate in the public sphere. In order for this to really work, we need diversity — of identity, of interests, of points of view. Intellectual or political homogeneity is an enemy of education, as is blindness to how our own “instruments of perception” might be marinated in prejudice. This is yet another reason why recruiting students from diverse backgrounds is key to the learning environment we create. We don’t want political correctness, but we very much want insightful political engagement.

And we are fortunate to have that engagement at Wesleyan.


Giving Thanks!

Whether you are in Middletown or on the other side of the globe, I hope this message finds you among friends and family with a cornucopia of reasons for feeling thankful. We are just a couple of hours north of campus, where we will enjoy good company and food…and plenty of snow.


Mathilde at Lake Garfield

Mathilde at Lake Garfield


Thankful for snow

Thankful for snow

Mathilde & Kari Thanksgiving morning

Mathilde & Kari Thanksgiving morning











Mathilde is a happy camper, as are we. Thankful, too.

As we approach the Thanksgiving break, students are busy choosing their classes for the spring semester. Wesleyan offers almost 1,000 classes and dozens of programs, and so this can be a daunting process. I always have many first-year students in my classes (in the spring I’ll be teaching The Modern and the Postmodern again), and I know many of them are exploring a variety of fields even as they get closer to a field of concentration.

In recent years, we have tried to provide students with even more paths towards their degree. Some students choose to take classes during the Winter Break or in the Summer Session. Registration for the winter courses closes just after Thanksgiving, and so now’s the time to lock in those decisions:

Students considering a lighter course load in future term, or who are thinking of graduating in three years — or who simply wish to put their winter break to good use — may want to make a Winter Session course part of their academic plan. Housing and meal plans are available.

Students complete reading and writing assignments before arriving on campus. Classes meet 5 hours per day for 8 days in January.

A quieter campus, and a singular focus on just one course, allows students to connect more closely with faculty and classmates. These intensive courses provide opportunities for new insights as students engage with topics in a truly different format.

To review past courses, click here. For information about other Winter at Wesleyan programs, please visit wesleyan.edu/winter.


There is still plenty of time to think about summer, but that’s what I start to do when the weather gets nippy. Here’s the info on the summer session:

Wesleyan University offers an intensive Summer Session in which students can complete semester-long courses in only five weeks; courses are offered in June. Wesleyan Summer Session is open to students who feel they have the academic qualifications and stamina to complete an intellectually challenging course in a compressed schedule. Residential options are available for both Wesleyan and non-Wesleyan undergraduates. Local precollege (high school juniors, seniors, and PG students) are invited to attend courses as commuting students.

You can find more information on recent summer classes here.

Students take classes outside the semester framework for a variety of reasons, and some find that it allows them to graduate in three years (saving a considerable amount of money).

Students who graduate in six semesters (three years of normal course loads plus summer courses) may expect to save about 20 percent of the total cost of a Wesleyan education. The three-year option is not for everyone, but for those students who are able to declare their majors early, earn credit during Wesleyan summer sessions, and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities on campus, this more economical path to graduation can be of genuine interest. A maximum of two pre-matriculant credits (such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or college credits earned during high school) may be applied toward an accelerated program. Students pursuing the three-year option will be held to all the graduation requirements for the Wesleyan bachelor of arts degree. Students considering this option should consult during their first year with Dean David Phillips to review policies and procedures.

More on the three year program here.

Good luck planning the best pathway for YOU for YOUR diploma!

Winter Sports Taking Off!

Walking Mathilde early this morning, it really did feel like winter was on its way. You could see a dusting of snow on the ground yesterday, as the sun was coming up.



This means that winter sports are here! Today, Sat., Nov. 15  nine of the 11 Cardinal squads are in action, six of them at home.  Men’s and women’s squash both take on NESCAC rivals Tufts (1 p.m.) and Middlebury (4 p.m.) as part of the Wesleyan Round Robin while men’s and women’s swimming & diving face Brandeis (1 p.m.).  Also at home against a NESCAC foe, and Little Three rival to boot, is women’s ice hockey vs. Williams (3 p.m.)  Men’s basketball gets underway in the Herb Kenny Tip-Off Tournament with a first-ever meeting against Sarah Lawrence (3 p.m.).  On the road are women’s basketball vs. Framingham St. in the ECSU Tip-Off Tournament (3 p.m.); men’s ice hockey at Tufts (7 p.m.) in the NESCAC opener; and wrestling in the Roger Williams Invitational (10 a.m.). See Athletics page for more info.

And let’s acknowledge a stand-out performance from the fall. Adam Cowie-Haskell ’18 was awarded NESCAC Men’s Soccer Rookie of the Year!

And just a reminder of winter from last year:


In the Heights Will Soar

Tonight Wesleyan’s Theater and Music Departments present “In the Heights,” a fabulous musical that originated here on campus before taking New York by storm.

Here’s what the departments say:

“In the Heights” tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood—a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams, and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.

With book by Wesleyan’s Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater Quiara Alegría Hudes, In the Heights is the winner of the 2008 Tony Awards for “Best Musical,” “Best Original Score” (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Theater ’02), “Best Choreography,” and “Best Orchestrations” (Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, Music ’02). The Wesleyan production is a collaboration between the Theater Department and Music Department, directed by Associate Professor of Theater Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, with music direction by Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina, and design by Assistant Professor of Theater Marcela Oteíza (set and videos), Jiyoun Chang (lighting), Artist in Residence Leslie Weinberg (costumes), and Mike Skinner (sound).


Still tickets left for tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday at 8 p.m.


Every year I attend the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast to honor military veterans. This morning we began the event with bagpipes from a Middletown group, and we ended with taps. There were hundreds in attendance, many wearing insignia for the branch of the armed forces in which they served, or the VFW post with which they are now affiliated. Some Wesleyan students were in attendance, including members of our Posse group.

Middletown Pipes and Drums

Middletown Pipes and Drums

Tuesday, November 11 is Veteran’s Day.  I ask you to take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of those who’ve put on the uniform and of their families. The Middletown Council of Veterans and City of Middletown invite everyone to come together on the northern edge of campus, on Veteran’s Green just off Washington Street at 11:00am where a Veterans Day Ceremony will take place.

Veteran’s Day is celebrated in many countries in the West as Armistice Day, marking the end of the brutal fighting of World War I. So this is also a day to think about peace, how we achieve it, preserve it, and whose responsibility it is to defend it.

Veterans often think very seriously about peace, and also about healing. It’s the healing part that is at the core of Rev. Tracy Mehr-Muska’s efforts to bring a broad spectrum of the Wesleyan Interfaith student group to the Veteran’s Home retirement community in Rocky Hill. Here’s a photo of a recent visit, with two members of our Posse Group holding the flag.


Wes folks visit Veterans' Retirement Home

Wes folks visit Veterans’ Retirement Home

Honor Veterans. Think Peace.


Had the great pleasure today to hear Sam Friedman’s ’13 concert, “Just Breathe” at Russell House. Sam was joined by Howe Pearson ’12, Derek Frank ’15, Zack Rosen ’11 and vocalist Jackie Soro ’14 (Sam Wagner, who hung out here without picking up a diploma, joined on drums). From blues to more experimental polyrhythms, Sam led a magical hour of music.


Singer Jackie Soro '14

Singer Jackie Soro ’14

I first met Sam when he played piano at our holiday parties in the President’s House. His astonishing senior recital was a display of harmonica virtuosity and musical imagination. These were on display today. His teacher (and wonderful jazz musician) Noah Baerman wrote, “Wesleyan isn’t thought of as a place to get an undergraduate education that directly relates to a performance career in music. However, the resources are vast for someone with the right mix of discipline and broad-mindedness. The poster-boy for this in recent years is Sam Friedman, a multi-instrumentalist and multi-genre powerhouse.”

From now until the end of the semester there will be several opportunities to hear and watch amazing performances. I can’t write about most of them, but I am so glad they are happening.


Sam Friedman '13 breathes music

Sam Friedman ’13 breathes music

Sam Friedman '13 plays the blues

Sam Friedman ’13 plays the blues

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