Nietzsche, Fate, and Frisbees

I was preparing for class this morning (teaching Nietzsche and the problem of fate in Out of the Past) when I heard that Wesleyan’s indomitable men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, Nietzch Factor, qualified on Sunday to play in the National Tournament. It’s the first time in eight years and “only the second time this century.”

Congratulations to this merry, talented, group of athletes!

These often unsung heroes are raising money to get to the tournament in LA. Want to help? They have a GoFundMe page.

In any event, wish them well and cheer them on! Amor fati!!

Challenging Cardinals to Support Wesleyan

Every June we make a year-end effort to garner support for Wesleyan — from current use scholarships to athletics, to support for research and creative practice. This year’s Cardinal Challenge comes from Trustee Susannah Gray ’82, who will give $1M to Wesleyan when we receive 1,000 gifts (from alumni, parents, and friends) by June 30.

Many colleges and universities were in survival mode this year, which is understandable given the pandemic crisis and its reverberations. Thanks to the cooperation and support from students and their families, alumni, faculty and staff, we were able to plan for the decade ahead and to build capacity to invest in our institutional priorities. Progress means very different things to different people, but here at Wes we have a tradition of envisioning a future and then working towards it. We have a tradition of commitment to expansive and pragmatic liberal learning.

What does progress at Wes mean to you? Do you want to inspire others to join you in moving Wesleyan forward? At our Challenge Website donors can make a gift and set up their own matches/challenges to encourage more support for Wesleyan this year.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

Student Art for All to See

As many of you already know, these are the weeks of the Senior Thesis Art Exhibitions. WOW! Kari and I have caught the first two weeks, and we are mightily impressed by the creativity, engagement and power of the work across a variety of media. Just today we saw installation, video, architecture, painting, drawing and mixed media.

Zilkha Gallery

Last week we were surprised and delighted by this Amy Schapp installation.

Amy Schapp installation

 

As one of my Wesleyan teachers used to tell me, “Don’t deny the pleasure any longer.” Next week’s exhibition opens on Wednesday, and you can reserve a time to see the work here.

Standing Firmly for Justice and for Change

Five years ago, Brian Stevenson delivered a powerful Commencement Address upon receiving an honorary doctorate from Wesleyan. He shared his decades of work fighting racial injustice and discrimination in the criminal justice system and told the Class of 2016 that changing the world requires four things: getting closer to the places “where there’s suffering and abuse and neglect”; “changing the narrative” about race in this country; staying hopeful; and being willing to do uncomfortable things.

Over the last year, many of us have felt uncomfortably close to the places where suffering, abuse and neglect are part of daily life. That proximity can be painful, but it is through this closeness, with hope for a better future, that we create change, that we pursue justice. This is a tradition of secular society and of the major faith traditions. “Justice, justice you shall pursue,” it is written in the Book of  Deuteronomy. And the Qur’an tells us to “stand out firmly” for justice — and to be its witness. We rededicate ourselves to this task.

Today Alison Williams (Vice-President for Equity and Inclusion) and I sent the following message to the Wesleyan community. 

Many of us breathed a sigh of relief when the Chauvin trial ended in guilty verdicts. But before we took our next breath, we remembered that acts of hate and injustice remain an ever-present reality for so many in our society. We acknowledge the fear, pain, and outrage over not only the terrible murder of George Floyd, but also over the racism, religious bigotry, transphobia and misogyny that continue to plague our country. We are not, of course, immune from these forms of injustice. The impact on our campus community is very real.

Advancing racial equity, inclusion and justice for people of all races and ethnicities is critical to achieving the safety and security of everyone. We will work collectively to stand against everything that perpetuates and fuels hatred, discrimination and violence against any members of our community.

To that end, we want you to be aware of the following virtual events hosted by the Office for Equity and Inclusion:

4 p.m. on Wednesday: An open Community Conversation and Reflection

https://wesleyan.zoom.us/j/2575792363

Password:  inclusion

Noon on Thursday: BIPOC Community Space

https://wesleyan.zoom.us/j/2575792363

Password:  inclusion

Both of these events will present opportunities for sharing and healing. In addition, students have organized a vigil for students of color on Friday afternoon, April 23.

If you are in need of well-being resources or support, students may reach out to CAPS at 860-685-2910 and faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 800-854-1446.

Also, you may go on-line to Report a Hate Crime or Bias Incident at Wesleyan (you may remain anonymous if you wish) or incidents can also be reported directly to Public SafetyThe Office for Equity and InclusionHuman Resources, or the Office of Dean of Students.

The Office For Equity & Inclusion serves as a resource for and leader in equity initiatives on campus. As we continue to develop programming and advocate for initiatives that center equity and inclusion, we welcome the insights and ideas of all members of the Wesleyan community. We invite folks to reach out to any of us, or to send an email to inclusion@wesleyan.edu.

We continue to mourn those lives lost to violence, and we continue the work toward a more just future.

One Year In: Loss and Learning Together

Looking back at some of my blog entries in March 2020, I was struck by the rapidly increasing urgency of my communications to the campus community, and the evolving understanding of the seriousness of the situation in which we all found ourselves. On March 1st I actually posted a book review I wrote on ruins, and little did I know how apt that would seem just a short time later. On March 31st I wrote about our Design and Engineering program making face shields for first responders. In between there were many messages about how we were moving classes online and striving to protect the most vulnerable members of our community.

A year later, I am filled with sadness for all of us who have suffered losses over the last twelve months, and I am filled with gratitude for the many contributions of our students, staff, faculty and alumni as we navigated the crisis. As I say in this video message, we must remain vigilant and strive to limit opportunities for virus transmission, but we can also see in the not-so-distant future a return to campus life of supportive intimacy rather than social distancing. It isn’t here yet, but with lots of hard work, cooperation, and some good luck, we should get there.


 

Dedicated Gratitude

As Kari, Lola and I walked around campus this weekend, we saw many students packing up. Since Wesleyan decided to transition to remote classes a few days early, and since it’s good to isolate before Thanksgiving, we were not surprised to see students preparing to leave, having, we hope, received a negative COVID test in the last day or two. Still, I felt a pang of sadness as I watched the cars fill up with suitcases and furniture. It is already quieter. Even during the pandemic, the energy students bring to campus – masked, distanced and all – has been so enlivening.

“Enlivening” is a fine word for Wesleyan – and by it I mean something more than making the campus “appealing” or “entertaining,” which the dictionary tells me are the primary meanings of the word. I mean that our students, in concert with staff and faculty, make our campus come alive. They make it sing, and I’ll miss the amplitude and resonance of that song over the coming break. Of course, there will be some students on campus over the break, and we’ll do our best to support them. I’ll listen attentively to their singing until our friends return to our chorus when the next semester begins.

Enlivening is a good word, too, because it reminds us of our responsibility to keep one another safe, to keep the most vulnerable members of our community – literally – alive. More than a quarter of a million people in this country alone have died due to COVID-19. We should never lose our ability to be shocked by this public health tragedy. We can do better.

As we remember our losses, we should also remember our achievements: how we at Wesleyan pulled together over the last months to provide a “safe enough” place for liberal education. I am so grateful for the dedication of our staff, faculty and students, because it’s that dedication that made it possible for us to have a campus on which we could navigate with confidence, make new discoveries and find joy with friends.

I feel enlivened by that dedication. Here we may be masked, but we are not anonymous to one another. We connect, despite the pandemic restrictions. With all the tumult around us, I am so thankful for the efforts, the exuberance, and the caring attentiveness of the Wesleyan community. My Thanksgiving will be smaller this year, but my heart is filled with gratitude.

Wishing you a safe and joyful holiday!

Towards a Healthy Thanksgiving and End of the Semester

For those of us on campus, we have two weeks of classes and residential life before the Thanksgiving holiday and long winter break. Kari and I have been very impressed with the mask wearing on campus. When we walk around with puppy Lola, folks are keeping their distance, though we also see people exercising, eating meals, and generally hanging out in small groups. It’s seemed safe enough, though everyone is conscious that the safety is fragile, and that we must remain vigilant against the spread of Covid.

Of course, now we are in mid-November, and the spread of the pandemic is accelerating around the country. Even Connecticut, which had been very successful in keeping the virus more or less under control, has seen an increase in the number of cases over the last month. For that reason, we have restricted our students to campus for all but essential local travel, making sure we maximize our chances to keep contagion at bay. There has been a moderate increase in positive tests over the past week, and so we want to be especially vigilant for these last 10 days. Wear your masks, maintain social distance, and keep washing your hands thoroughly—wherever you are. And of course, avoid large groups and keep your testing schedule as long as you are on campus. We want everyone to have a healthy holiday, and the Connecticut Department of Public Health has issued a holiday gathering preparation guide with good advice to reduce risk associated with holiday celebrations.

The last weeks of every semester can be stressful, and they can also be rewarding. Let’s stay healthy and get the reward of a more relaxing, healthy, holiday break.

 

On Two of My Great Teachers & Intellectual Diversity

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed about teachers who made an impact on my life. I’ve been very fortunate in this regard, having benefitted from mentors who very generously helped me set out on a path of learning and teaching. I chose to talk about two of my Wesleyan teachers, Henry Abelove and Victor Gourevitch. They were very different kinds of teachers, but what united them was an uncanny ability to invite students into deeply attentive modes of reading. That kind of attention, I think, is a model for so many other things in life.

I was also asked by Bob Greenberg (who puts together the Brainwaves video anthology) about why I think intellectual diversity is so important. Here’s my response.

These ARE dangerous times. The election is only 10 days from now. Make a plan to vote!

Tough Times, But There ARE Jobs Out there!!!

After folks have gotten settled in to their semester routines, Octobers are usually a very busy time at the Gordon Career Center. And this year is no exception. Surprised? I was, too. After all, unemployment is high, and the pandemic is having a dramatic impact on the workforce. Yet, companies and not-for-profits are still recruiting, and many of them are interested in college graduates with a well-rounded education. In changing times, those practiced in liberal learning are empowered to continue to adapt and make contributions to the organizations of which they are a part.

The Gordon Career Center has many resources to help Wesleyan students navigate the current internship and job environment. Most importantly, a visit with the staff at the GCC will help students reflect more deeply on the connections between what they are studying at the University and the the kinds of work they would like to explore after their undergraduate years. Becoming more intentional and strategic about their work goals will serve them well in the long run.

The GCC is open for operation virtually, with 100 events still to go this semester. They include information sessions with employers like the National Health Corps, Urban Teachers, and Venture for America; “Ask Me Anything” conversations with career advisors; and Cardinal Connection meetings with alumni in a variety of fields.

The Executive Director of the GCC, Sharon Belden Castonguay recently answered questions on Coursera Live about finding meaningful work in our current context. You can find a link to her presentation here, and, better yet, you can find out more about connecting with the staff at the Gordon Career Center here.

Good luck!