Happy Thanksgiving!

At Thanksgiving I like to express my gratitude to all those who make Wesleyan such an intense, innovative and joyful place. There is so much here to be thankful for this year—beginning with our ability to remain safely together on campus. With common sense precautions, we have been able to accomplish so much: from the Common Moment with the Class of 2026 to celebrating family and friends during Homecoming and Family Weekend, to theater and music productions. We look forward to ending the semester on a high note.

I am always grateful for our faculty and staff contributions. They keep the campus humming with creative energy and contribute to the world around us. Their achievements are plentiful. Recent highlights that come to mind include the work of Alison O’Neil on Alzheimer’s disease, the efforts of Erika Franklin Fowler’s team at the Wesleyan Media Project, Roberto Saba’s award-winning American Mirror and the interdisciplinary efforts of the Carceral Connecticut Project.

I have been heartened, too, to see so many of our students taking an active role in the midterm elections by casting their ballots. As Gloria Steinem told us this summer during Commencement, “Diversity and democracy are like a tree, they grow not from the top down, but from the bottom up. And they are growing, and you are a part of that growing.” I am proud of how we keep diversity and democracy growing at Wesleyan!

Thank you to our students, faculty, and staff, all of whom allow Wesleyan to continue thriving. And thanks to our extended family around the world whose affection and support are vital to the university’s heath. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Hate, Words, Violence

The shooting at Club Q this weekend brings to mind other acts of terror against minority communities in recent years. Although we don’t yet know much about the motive of the gunman, we do know that the nightclub he attacked was a haven for the LBGTQ community in the Colorado Springs area. The sense of safety and community that such places provide has been deeply shaken. The enormous courage of customers and workers at the club prevented the massacre from being worse than it already was.

The investigation will continue of this latest mass shooting. Family and friends will tend to the injured and mourn those who perished. May their memory be a blessing.

The recent intensification of the scapegoating of the LBGTQ community, like the rise of racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-refugee rhetoric, puts all these communities – it puts all of us – at greater risk when weapons of extraordinary lethality are so easily available. Basic acknowledgement and respect for the traditionally marginalized, even when combined with common sense gun safety laws, won’t protect everyone from senseless violence. But they would make such violent events less frequent and virulent.

As we head into Thanksgiving week, let’s try harder to create communities that don’t have to attack those perceived as different, and let’s work together to remind our lawmakers that we don’t have to live in a world where hate can be so easily connected to weapons of mass destruction. Lives depend on it.

 

Acknowledging Veterans at Wesleyan

Veterans Day at Wesleyan will once again mean many visitors to campus, as high school students making their way through the college selection process come back to Middletown to try to get a feel for our culture. For a long time, veterans have played an important role in shaping who we are. In World War II and through the Korean war, many former (and even some current) servicemen enrolled as students, and they helped shape the modern Wesleyan. David Potts notes, for example, that just after the conflict veterans on campus urged campus leaders to make changes to the fraternities that dominated campus life. They helped dismantle the discriminatory practices that had long been taken for granted.

Last week we held a breakfast with some of our current student vets along with members of the veterans community in the Middletown area. We were able to talk about our recent partnership with “Service to School,” and the Warriors & Scholars project. Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96, Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid,  has discussed our new efforts to recruit vets by meeting them where they are and introducing them to our style of pragmatic liberal education.

Wesleyan is also lucky to have veterans on the faculty and staff, where they contribute to making this university run everyday. We are grateful for their service in so many ways!

A University in Revolution

Over the years, I have had several students from Iran in my online classes at Coursera. Lately, I’ve been reading about student political action at Sharif University in Tehran with a mixture of admiration and horror. Admiration, since the students there have shown such courage in their protests since the funeral of Mahsa Amini a few weeks ago. Horror because of the brutality of the regime’s response to these protests. Human rights groups put the death toll at well over 100, as students and their allies refuse to back down in the face of violent tyranny.

Mahsa Amini had been arrested for “unsuitable attire,” and she then died in police custody after falling into a coma. This is official brutality at its worst, and young women and men across Iran have protested against a regime that denies people their basic freedoms. Universities depend on these freedoms to do their work, and the violence with which they are currently being attacked is deplorable.

Raising our voices of solidarity with Iranian students fighting tyranny may not save them from the tear gas, batons and bullets of the Revolutionary Guard. But if it gives even one protestor a little more energy, we ought to join the chorus of those calling for an end to the oppressive violence in Iran.

 

Players-of-the-Week!

It’s early days, but already some Wesleyan athletes have been recognized for extraordinary achievement. Let’s start with a great volleyball player on a tremendous team. Mariko Tanaka ’24 was named NESCAC Player-of-the-Week last week as she had games where she led the team in digs and then in kill percentage. She’s a force for good things and all of her teammates benefit from her strong play.

Speaking of strong play, Liam Devanny ’23 has been all but unbeatable in the goal for the men’s soccer team. He already has multiple shutouts under his belt, including great games against the nationally ranked teams from Tufts and Brandeis. Like volleyball, the men’s soccer team is off to an excellent start, and I’m so pleased to see Liam recognized as a Player-of-the-Week by NESCAC.

And speaking of excellent starts, the football team looked very impressive on Saturday. And most impressive was defensive tackle Nick Helbig ’23, and his strong play was acknowledged with the New England Football Writers’ Gold Helmet Award. This is a signal award for anyone, and especially rare for a defensive tackle. Nick was also named player-of-the-week by NESCAC.

Come out and cheer on Wesleyan’s wonderful student-athletes. Go Wes!