Now, More than Ever: Vigilance and Inclusivity

This morning I sent the following message to the Wesleyan community:

Dear friends,

Early this morning when it became clear that Donald Trump would become our president-elect, my thoughts shifted from the good of the country to the good of the University. An international student here, and a friend, texted Kari to ask if the University would be alright. Yes, we will. This election has heightened feelings of alienation and vulnerability. The pain of targeted groups is real, and we must acknowledge it and work to mitigate its effects. But we will be alright because we will continue to strive to build the inclusive community that rejects white supremacy, bigotry and fear; we will be alright because we will express our care for one another in a context of fairness.

It just so happens that in my class on Virtue and Vice this week, we are focusing on how some artists retreated from the public realm after the crushing failures of the revolutions of 1848 in Europe. Around that time, Karl Marx wrote: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves.” But many great poets, novelists and painters grew bitterly ironic about making history and the possibilities of progress. Recognizing that there are no guarantees about who was going to end up on the “right side of history,” they became cynical about change, detaching themselves from any possibility for a meaningful work in the public sphere.

My friends, we must resist any temptation to abandon the public sphere to those who would return to a past in which people of color, women and queer folk were even more systematically excluded from access to basic rights. As engaged participants in the polity, we have to remain vigilant to protect the people and values we care about. This is not the time to close one’s eyes or to stop listening. We need more conversation across political and cultural differences – and we need new modes of engagement. Faculty, staff and students will be thinking hard about this in the coming days and weeks. We must continue to work to defend those who are disenfranchised and oppressed, and to create opportunities for greater numbers of people.

Cynicism and irony are too easy a response to disappointment. Regardless of political affiliation, we can work together—beyond the university—to solve specific problems and create opportunities. And here on campus, we will create a community that offers opportunities to all our students, staff and faculty to thrive, to be challenged, to be at home.


Michael S. Roth


7 thoughts on “Now, More than Ever: Vigilance and Inclusivity”

  1. Who in the hell are you talking about Mr. Roth? Is it a case of “self projection”? It always appears that you transform many of the main stream media’s bogus narratives into “systematic” problems. It’s really not that bad out here away from Wes. It’s bad in S. Chicago but apparently you don’t care about those black lives. Sure there are problems but listening to you, one would think the world is about to implode. The NY Times and its brethren (is that not PC) live in a world full of modern liberal abstractions but Walden Pond was a dream, not a reality no matter how hard you wish.

  2. Karl Marx’s heirs erected a social system arrogating to its agents the right to destroy the individual and private sphere of autonomy, no matter what theoretical insights are derivable from Marxism qua theory. Qua praxis it was lethal to its own citizenry. Your response to Trump’s election (and he was elected via our representative system) is reflexively stereotypical–it’s purpose as a call to (generalized) action is subservient to virtue-signaling in vague search of a mission statement. Donald Trump will not confiscate the Wesleyan endowment or threaten your internal policies of admission, governance, or teaching.

  3. So you quote the father of Communism. Are you completely ignorant of history? You know that Stalin had over 50 million of his own people starved or outright murdered??? You call that inclusive??? What about your darling Hillary, calling people “deplorables”?? The problem with you liberals is that you are all for inclusiveness EXCEPT for the people who disagree with you. It’s unbelievable.

  4. @Richard Larson: I think you’re missing the point about President Roth’s remarks about Marx. He was quoting Marx precisely to show why such an attitude–by Marx and other fellow intellectuals and artists–towards the public sphere should NOT be adopted in times like ours. And therefore the need to engage more and understand each other from both sides of the political spectrum. Read the statement in full carefully before jumping to such a conclusion. It’s the least we can do in times like this.

  5. I’m sure the Wesleyan community was comforted to read the words of Karl Marx, a man whose example and teachings have done so much for the good of the world.

    Can’t you do better than that, Mr. Roth? How about a quotation from Lincoln, Kennedy, or even a few words from Hillary Clinton’s concession speech? It boggles the mind that in such a teachable moment, you would quote Karl Marx.

    The fact is that the academy—Wesleyan surely included—missed this election badly and continues, through its knee-jerk and all too predictable response, to miss its significance. There is another America out there between the coasts and beyond the ivy walls. It would behoove Wesleyan to learn something about it.

    On his Twitter blog, which is reflected prominently on Wesleyan’s website, President Roth made the following post: ‘Reporters seem to think big problem is that polls were wrong not that we elected a fascistic demagogue. ‘ It is very disappointing that Mr. Roth lowered himself –and Wesleyan–by engaging in child-like name calling. While Mr. Roth states that this is his official account but his opinions are his own, it is a distinction without a difference. He is de facto representing Wesleyan by making those comments on the Wesleyan website in his official capacity. He has stepped well beyond his role and put Wesleyan in a partisan position, which is not appropriate. He ought to know better.

  6. The Methodist Churches university is showing why the Methodist Church is failing. It keeps going more and more toward the communist side just like the Pope

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