Happy 4th!

As I write my annual Independence Day blog message, I am still reeling from the recent Supreme Court decisions and from the rhythm of mass shootings that now punctuates all our seasons. Despite the current malaise, when I think back to last year at this time I am very grateful — grateful that COVID has receded and that over the last 12 months we at Wesleyan have managed to learn together while supporting others beyond the campus. Last summer at this time I was struggling with my own COVID infection and about to resume working with colleagues on building a ‘safe-enough’ educational environment. What a difference a year makes! Now, I eagerly anticipate the coming semesters, ones that will be filled with creativity, inquiry and exuberance!

But there is time for that. Today we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document of aspiration often used to remind citizens of our promise but also of our failure to live up to our professed values. These are values worth remembering and celebrating! As an anonymous writer (identified only as a “Black Whig”) said just a few years after the document was signed, “And now my virtuous fellow citizens, let me entreat you, that, after you have rid yourselves of the British yoke, that you will also emancipate those who have been all their life time subject to bondage.” I take this quote from columnist Jamelle Bouie, who wrote “The story of the changing meaning of the Declaration should be a reminder…that we had more than one founding — and far more than just one set of founders.” Perhaps each generation needs a new set of founders!

 Here’s one of those re-founders, the poet Walt Whitman. I Hear America Singing:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
Let’s try to hear that singing even as we await a time when we live our values, a time of re-founding. And with the great poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, we can say “I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder.” So many good things begin in wonder, don’t they!
Happy 4th!! 

On the Supreme Court Ruling

Dear friends,

Today’s Supreme Court decision on the consideration of race in college admissions is extremely disappointing. Appealing to a principle of “color-blindness” at odds with history and law, the Court’s conservative majority says “trust us” while it imposes its will on higher education’s admission policies.

Wesleyan remains deeply committed to admitting a class of students that will lead to a diverse learning community on our campus. By using a reductive sense of how race is dealt with in college admissions, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court has challenged the University’s ability to select and enroll a racially diverse class.

The University is encouraged, however, that the Court has recognized the importance of considering race as a factor impacting the lived experience of an applicant. As the Court ruled, “all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” 

Wesleyan has never simply looked at the box students checked when considering their racial background. We take an individualized, holistic view of an applicant’s lived experience, through their essays, letters of recommendation, and interactions with our community. Our decision to admit a student is based on diverse facets of the individual’s history, talent, and potential. Applicants’ achievements and promises are carefully considered in the context of their respective schools, communities, and personal circumstances.

The liberal arts education we offer is stronger because our campus community is built on a dynamic array of socioeconomic, religious, intellectual, geographic, and racial diversity. Asking people to consider ideas and experiences that might challenge their own preconceptions is a crucial step towards helping individuals become engaged citizens leading lives of purpose.

We are studying the decision to better understand how we can comply with the law while pursuing our mission. We are determined to create a diverse community, and our admission and financial aid teams have been preparing over the last several months to craft policies that will do that. While our ability to do this work has been undermined by today’s ruling, our values are unwavering. We will follow up later this summer with updates and news of Wesleyan’s specific plans for moving forward in the wake of this decision.


Michael S. Roth ’78, President

Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96, Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

Crew! Crew!

Have you seen the bumper sticker, “I Can’t, I have Crew“? Student-Athletes are often incredibly busy as they juggle challenging schedules, but rowers may have the most intense calendars of all. And yet, they get little in the way of cheers and support in the moment. THEY ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A BODY OF WATER, after all. So, let’s take a moment to cheer for the Wesleyan crew teams!!

The women’s team finished the season in the number two spot in the whole country– right behind #1 Wellesley (who clearly has name issues). They had a tremendous season and peaked at just the right moment. You can read more about it here.

V8 NCAA Day 2

The men’s team also finished number two in the whole country (who cares which school was just a few strokes ahead)! Again the team built on success over the course of the season to finish at this most elite level. More on their accomplishments here.

V8 IRA National Championship


Let’s hear it for some of the hardest working student-athletes out there! Go Wes!!

Celebrating the Class or 2023!

The following message was sent to Wesleyan students, faculty and staff.

Commencement is over, and mortar boards, it seemed to me, flew even higher than usual. It was such a beautiful day with strong speakers and a celebratory crowd. The graduating seniors seemed especially joyous. They had every reason to be proud of how they had stayed focused through the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Their achievements were not theirs alone, however, and their enthusiastic applause for faculty and staff showed how grateful they were. I hope all our faculty, staff, and students can take a moment to recognize their individual and collective accomplishments of this past year.

Our commencement speakers stressed the importance of how we develop civic engagement on campus, and they urged our graduates to carry those lessons forward—as citizens. At a time when jarring voices across the country question the benefits of higher education, we can be confident that those who receive a Wesleyan education will showcase its benefits to the world.

Here on campus, we must continue to pursue our mission with passion and purpose. That mission does not change, but we pursue it in light of changes in the world. By fall semester, there will likely be a Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. Regardless, we will redouble our efforts to build a diverse community in which all—students, faculty, and staff—can thrive. Work is already underway on the three organizational priorities identified through the WesThrives Campus Survey—diversity, inclusion, and belonging; performance management; and communications—which we will more deeply focus on when our entire community is together again in the fall.

Summer approaches, and I hope these next months bring you the balance of rest, enjoyment, and productivity that you seek. 


Athletic Honors

This time of year there are just too many prizes and honors to count, but I wanted to signal some really stand-out performers. Let’s start with Grace Devanny ’23, who won the Sabasteanski Award, given to the NESCAC’s Most Outstanding Performer from the track & field championship meet. Devanny is the first Cardinal to win the NESCAC’s highest individual honor. She’s set records in so many races this year, I’ve lost count. And the thrills she’s provided in soccer will long be remembered. Wesleyan’s only first team All-American Women’s Soccer player, a National Champion in the 400M in Indoor Track and a SEVEN Time All-American in Track and Field. No slouch in the classroom, Grace will be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this month!

Speaking of stand-out individual performers, Nika Vesely ’25 was named NESCAC’s Player-of-the-Year just before the women’s tennis team hosted the NCAA’s regional tournament here in Middletown. Nika and her teammates won both their matches and head to the final four! Coach Mike Fried will be guiding the team having earned Coach-of-the-Year honors this year. His leadership of this program is nothing short of remarkable.

I don’t spend enough time talking about our crew teams, but they have had a fine season this year. The men are ranked #2 in the country, and they are heading to the National Invitational on Friday. The women’s team is ranked #7 and will also be racing at the National Invitational on Friday. These scholar athletes have become formidable teams that make the most of coordinated hard work, strength and endurance. 

There are many other athletes to celebrate, and we’ll have a chance to do so at a banquet this week. Go Wes!

Little Threes

Sending out a big cheer for our Little Three Champs in Women’s Tennis and Women’s Lacrosse. These teams have been excellent for several years now, but there is still a great thrill in coming out on top against Amherst and Williams. Congratulations to coaches Mike Fried and Kim Williams and all their players!

How to Choose A (Our) University

Throughout the spring, high school seniors with the acceptance letters in hand are once again visiting campuses as they try to decide where to attend college. They are trying to envision the school at which they will be most likely to thrive. Where will I learn the most, be happiest, and form friendships that will last a lifetime? How to choose? As I do each spring, I thought it might be useful to re-post my thoughts on choosing a college. We have been hosting many campus visitors, and today we begin  WesFestI invite you to visit our Admitted Students website to learn more about Wesleyan.

In the wake of the pandemic, many students today are wondering what campus life will be like in the fall. At Wesleyan we are planning for a normal university year. Sure, we expect to continue to take health precautions, including ensuring that all students are vaccinated and boosted before they begin the semester. Of course, we will monitor the pandemic’s course should things take a turn for the worse.

For many, the decision about where to attend college will be made on an economic basis. Which school has given the most generous financial aid package? Wesleyan is one of a small number of schools that meets the full financial need of all admitted students according to a formula developed over several years. Wesleyan has made a commitment to keep loan levels low, and we have replaced them with grants for high need families. We also offer a three-year program that allows families to save about 20 percent of their total expenses, while still earning the same number of credits.

After answering the question of which schools one can afford, how else does one decide where best to spend one’s college years? Of course, size matters.  Some students are looking for a large university in an urban setting where the city itself plays an important role in one’s education. New York and Boston, for example, are popular college destinations, but not, I suspect, for the classroom experience. If one seeks small classes and strong, personal relationships with faculty, then liberal arts schools, which pride themselves on providing rich cultural and social experiences on a residential campus, are especially compelling. You can be on a campus with a human scale and still have plenty of things to do. Wesleyan is somewhat larger than most liberal arts colleges but much smaller than the urban or land grant universities. We feel that this gives our students the opportunity to choose a broad curriculum and a variety of cultural activities on campus, while still being small enough to encourage regular, sustained relationships among faculty and students.

All the selective small liberal arts schools boast of having a faculty of scholar-teachers, of a commitment to research and interdisciplinarity, and of encouraging community and service. So what sets us apart from one another after taking into account size, location, and financial aid packages? What are students trying to see when they visit Amherst and Wesleyan, or Tufts and Pomona?

As students scan the Wesleyan website, go to chatrooms and listen to current students talk about their experiences, I hope they feel the brave exuberance and ambition of our students, the intelligence and care of our faculty, the playful yet demanding qualities of our community. I would like prospective students to get a sense of our commitment to creating a diversity in which difference is embraced and not just tolerated, and to public service that is part of one’s education and approach to life. Our students have the courage to find new combinations of subjects to study, of people to meet, of challenges to face.

Whatever college or university students choose, I hope they get three things out of their education: discovering what they love to do; getting better at it; learning to share it with others. I explain a little bit more about that in this talk to admitted students a few years ago:

We all know that Wesleyan is hard to get into, but even in the group of highly selective schools, Wes is not for everybody. We aspire to be a community committed to boldness as well as to rigor, to idealism as well as to effectiveness. Whether in the sciences, arts, humanities or social sciences, our faculty and students are dedicated to explorations that invite originality as well as collaboration. The scholar-teacher model is at the heart of our curriculum. Our faculty are committed to teaching and to shaping their disciplines. At Wesleyan, we know how to work hard, but we also know how to enjoy the work we choose to do. That’s been magically appealing to me for almost 50 years. I’ll bet the magic will appeal to many of those who are still in the process of getting to know our extraordinary university.

Spring Senior Harvest Underway

Spring of senior year … a time of celebration, some anxiety, and often great achievement. You can see our seniors performing in all sorts of things across campus over the next month.

I am fortunate to have several tennis players in my classes this year, and this weekend I got to watch some of them play in tough matches against NESCAC rivals. Sunday afternoon was Senior Day and the women were awesome! There was baseball and lacrosse to watch outside as well, and many Wesleyans were already taking advantage of the sun to watch their classmates on Andrus Field from those great seats on Foss Hill. 

Kari and I also had the pleasure of seeing the spring senior dance recital this weekend. The choreography was smart, creative and graceful — the dancers gave their all to an appreciative audience in the 92 Theater. Congratulations to Amaal Ladha, Keren Lebrón Ramos, Charissa Lee, and Halle Newman for their fine work. Today I strolled over to the Zilkha Gallery to catch the end of the first week of senior theses exhibitions. Riya Devi-Ashby, Alec Black, Peter Ketels Fulweiler, Skye Gao, Eden Lanois, and Bell Rush had impressive works displayed in a wide variety of genres.

Week two of the art thesis shows begins Tuesday. Music recitals are also underway, and I hope to be able to listen to some of them this month. You can find out more about all the arts events here

Happy Spring!

PAC Will Now be the People’s Art Collective!

Today I take the opportunity to announce that the construction on the Public Affairs Center is going so well that we want to radically change the use of the building. We have discovered through an iterative process making use of design thinking that the faculty are very happy (ok, somewhat less unhappy) with the temporary offices they have been in during the renovation of the PAC. And we have also discovered that we have plenty of classrooms for the courses on the books. So, we are announcing that for the next several years (at least) the PAC will be a showcase for architecture and art! We won’t move into the building next year – we will use it as a place to look at art, admire architecture, and be inspired to build community without having to occupy the building. Indeed, we will reject the certificate of occupancy process imposed on us by the state. We will BE the People’s Art Collective!

For some, it will seem very wasteful that a construction project of this size results only in a place for contemplation, absorption and community building. But ask yourselves whether your notions of utility and waste are linked to normative notions of occupation that haven’t exactly served people well over the course of history. Ask yourselves.

Together, we will liberate the PAC by making it the People’s Art Collective!