Black History Month Has Ended and The Past Continues to Haunt Us

As Black History Month ends this year, education has been playing a larger than usual role in the national conversation about race. Take the fear and trembling provoked by Critical Race Theory.  When I first started teaching, I was amused by the anxieties aroused by Postmodern Theory in people who really cared little about philosophy and literature, but that was nothing compared to the reactions to CRT. Around the country people have been convinced that they must protect their children from a body of scholarship that they know almost nothing about. And they’ve demanded their representatives in government or on school boards do something about it. What’s going on here? It seems that efforts to block CRT are meant to forbid discussion of any scholarship about anti-black racism that doesn’t see it as a wild aberration from the norms of American history. Some of the bills making their way through statehouses or school districts forbid “divisive concepts” that might make a group of people feel uncomfortable or guilty.

Historians know that our understanding of the past is always subject to revision, either because we discover new facts (which rarely happens), or because we have new interpretive frameworks with which to make sense of the facts already familiar to us. This doesn’t mean anything goes, or that inquiry is divorced from reality; it just means that history is a product of interpretations that resonate at a particular place and time. These interpretations are subject to criticism, and through this process our sense of the past evolves in relation to our present. It’s hard to think of a reframing of American history in the last hundred years that has been more resonant — and more subject to criticism —  than Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project. Debates about its framing of the American Revolution, and hence, of the American experiment, will go on for some time, as they should. But the vehemence and nastiness of much of the criticism has little to do with her treatment of sources or her understanding of events. For many, the 1619 Project is a narcissistic blow – a shock to the self-image of the nation. Efforts to ban the work or to marginalize those associated with it are a reminder of how difficult it is to change thinking about one’s national identity. The repression of the Project and the vilification of Hannah-Jones is a sad reminder this month of how far we have yet to go to integrate Black History into the dominant narratives of American history.

In higher education, there is a great deal of worry that the Trump-packed Supreme Court will bring affirmative action to an end. Today, colleges and universities are still free to develop admissions policies that take race into account in relation to a number of other factors in their efforts to create a diverse educational environment. Promoting access to a high-quality education has been key to turning American rhetoric of equality into genuine opportunity. And throughout our history, elites threatened by equality, or just by social mobility, have joined together to block access for groups striving to improve their prospects in life. In the 20th century, policies were enacted to keep immigrants out of colleges and universities and to limit the number of Jews who enrolled. In more recent decades, referenda and legislators in states red and blue have attempted to block consideration of race in admissions at public universities, undermining opportunity for minorities, especially African Americans. Today, higher-ed institutions need more (not less) diversity broadly conceived ― including intellectual diversity ― and we should enhance our efforts to make them inclusive, dynamic places of learning through difference. A retreat from affirmative action will result in more “opportunity hoarding,” and return us to the orchestrated parochialism of the past.

Watching history repeat itself has been especially troubling this month as several HBCUs were forced to evacuate buildings and suspend classes because of bomb threats. Terror has long been used to keep African Americans from pursuing their educational goals, and it has also been used to limit voting rights. The FBI is investigating the bomb threats, but efforts to keep blacks from voting are happening in plain sight. Recently, Trump’s justices ensured that Alabama could solidify its long-standing marginalization of black voters through blatantly racist gerrymandering. Of course, politicians from both parties seek political advantage by redrawing voting districts. This is just a sad fact of American history. But racist efforts to limit the franchise has an especially egregious history, and it is happening again as state legislators pass laws to make it harder for African Americans to vote. History won’t go away. At least not on its own.

We don’t have to stand by passively as forces of racism and oppression emerge from the past.  As Black History Month comes to a close, let us stand in solidarity to defend the right to vote by supporting voter registration efforts across the country. Colleges and universities should inspire their students to take the field, as in the Freedom Summer of 1964, to help people participate in the electoral process. Librarians and other educators should stand shoulder-to-shoulder to stop the banning of books just because they cause discomfort. Professors and administrators should make common cause to defend the right to discuss uncomfortable subjects and to explore new visions of American history and Black history. As we leave Black History month behind, it is vital to remember that how we imagine the past affects how we build the future.

 

 

Support Ukraine Against the Brutal Invasion

Yesterday Professors Katja Kolcio and Barry Chernoff hosted a virtual meeting with students in Ukraine. It was very powerful to hear their feelings of shock and dismay in the face of the brutal invasion by the Russian army, and it was inspiring to hear their courage and determination to fight back. During the conversation several participants suggested these action items:

Send emails and thoughts in support of Ukraine to:

CT senator Chris Murphy is on the National Security and Foreign Policy committee and speaking out on this issue.          www.murphy.senate.gov/contact

 Rosa de Lauro, House Appropriations Committee has been an advocate https://delauro.house.gov/contact/email

 Charitable donations can go to:

A US based organization: https://razomforukraine.org/donate/

List of charities, listed in Fortune: https://fortune.com/2022/02/25/how-to-help-ukraine/

Here’s a link to reputable charities provided by  Melaniya, from Lviv. It provides a number of options of charities,  ranging from medical support, to military support, to support of children, elderly and those infirm. It is in Ukrainian, but otherwise very user friendly. Prof Kolcio has offered to help with translation.

In my previous blog, I listed the plans for the next conversations scheduled with journalists and civic leaders. Ukrainians are facing a dire emergency with courage and determination. People who care about democracy and peace should stand with them. We must not accept the vicious Russian aggression as a normal part of geopolitics.

 

Some Campus Events on Invasion of Ukraine

Cross-posted with the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life

 

Ukraine-Russia Crisis: A Series of International Livestream Conversations

The Wesleyan community is invited to meet in-person and on Zoom for a series of international livestream conversations with students, journalists & civic leaders in Ukraine.

The first event in the series is a student panel that will include students from Taras Shevchenko Institute for International Relations, together with students Melaniya Podolyak, a civic activist and communications expert from Lviv, Ukraine, currently studying at the master’s program at the School of Public Management and Oleksii Diatlov, a QA engineer in the state company Prozorro, Kiev, and veteran of the Russian-Ukrainian war, both currently studying at the master’s program at the School of Public Management in Ukrainian Catholic University.

Remote access link:

bit.ly/ukraineseries

Student Panel
Friday, February 25

noon to 1 pm
Fisk 201 (Global Studies Commons)
Grab-and-go lunch will be provided.

Additional series events:

* Journalist Panel: Friday, March 4, noon to 1 pm, Fisk 201

* Civic Leaders Panel, Friday, March 11, noon to 1 pm, Fisk 201

The series is sponsored by the College of the Environment, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the Fries Center for Global Studies and the Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Program.

All attendees must follow Wesleyan’s most current covid guidelines found at https://www.wesleyan.edu/keep-wes-safe/.

 

 

 

 

Basketball Greats

Have you heard about the latest Wesleyan athletic blockbuster? The men’s basketball team has finished the regular season atop the standings in NESCAC for the first time in school history. This represents a great effort by Joe Reilly and the team. Some of the highlights were massive road wins against Williams and Bowdoin as we came down the stretch. Sam Peeks ’22, who has had an amazing season, was named Player-of-the-Week in this period.

https://twitter.com/JPPierson/status/1491634819108847619?s=20&t=WevkGJTpRo3Jg1ssEsn0wQ

This coming weekend we will be hosting the NESCAC tournament at Wesleyan, and we are looking forward to this next phase of the season. The women’s basketball team closed out the season with a big road win against Bowdoin (Caleigh Ryan was smokin!), and they host Hamilton in the first round of the NESCAC tournament this week.

Wish our basketball players all the best as they enter their championship tournaments!

 

UPDATE:

Both men’s and women’s teams won their first round games this weekend. Go Wes!

 

Black History Month

 

This week I heard some wonderful talks as we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy at Wesleyan. From incisive investigations of power and race to conversations about inclusion and design, the first events of Black History Month were challenging and powerful. Here are some of the upcoming events from Ujamaa, the Wesleyan Black Student Union:

In preparation for a full and fun black history month, your Wesleyan Black Student Union (Ujamaa), has planned a month with activities for you all to participate in! This year we want to honor Black Joy, so our theme this year is adequately named “Joy: Survival Beyond Healing”

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THESE ACTIVITIES, WHO WE ARE, AND HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE visit our WesNest Page  and attend our first event on February 8th, 6pm at Malcom X House: “Black History Month Kickback.”

The RESOURCE CENTER is also sponsoring events this month. Here are two:

  • Restorying Our World: The Narrative Act for Collective Healing and Liberation / Tuesday, Feb. 8th from 4:30pm-6pm (Zoom Meeting ID: 926 1947 7396, Passcode: 970976)
    • This workshop/webinar series explores how stories have shaped our world, and how we can use them to identify and transform conflicts. It helps us see the power of stories in our day to day lives, as well as the dominant narratives and myths that define our societies. We will practice new storytelling methods to imagine new narratives. This is what we call re-storying our world: the narrative act for collective healing and liberation.
  • Combatting Anti-Blackness and Fatphobia with Da’Shaun Harrison / Thursday, Feb. 17th from 5:30pm-7pm (Zoom Meeting ID: 993 4804 6118, Passcode: 314930)
    • To live in a body both fat and Black is to exist at the margins of a society that creates the conditions for anti-fatness as anti-Blackness. Hyper-policed by state and society, passed over for housing and jobs, and derided and misdiagnosed by medical professionals, fat Black people in the United States are subject to sociopolitically sanctioned discrimination, abuse, condescension, and trauma.  In this workshop, Da’Shaun Harrison–a fat, Black, disabled, and nonbinary trans writer– will offer an incisive, fresh, and precise exploration of anti-fatness as anti-Blackness, foregrounding the state-sanctioned murders of fat Black men and trans and nonbinary masculine people in historical analysis.

Here’s To A Great Semester!


This message went out today, and now we are preparing for the arrival of more students AND MORE SNOW! Stay safe and keep warm!

Dear friends,

Welcome back to campus for the Spring 2022 semester! For those that have been steadily working throughout winter session, thank you for your efforts!

As we ended 2021, there was a degree of uncertainty as to how COVID-19 might impact the spring semester and our overall operations. The precautionary measures we’ve put in place for the coming term should help keep us “safe enough” to have a semester filled with exuberant learning in and outside the classroom. While we are starting off the semester with a few restrictions, we hope to ease those as soon as we know our plans are working as expected. You can always find the latest information on our Keep Wes Safe website.

I look forward to seeing you all around campus for what promises to be an inspired semester.

 

Classes Delayed by One Week

The following message will be sent to the campus community this afternoon.

Dear friends,

Given the rise in COVID-19 cases and predictions about the trajectory of the pandemic, Wesleyan will delay the beginning of spring semester classes until Thursday, January 27. Spring break will now be March 12–20.  

Classes on Thursday, January 27 and Friday, January 28 will be held virtually before in-person classes resume on Monday, January 31. This will allow students to be tested for COVID-19 at Beckham Hall, and receive results, before they return to in-person learning. Housing will open beginning Thursday, January 27. For more information, students should contact the Office of Residential Life. Students may attend virtual classes January 27-28 from home or on campus, depending on when they move back into campus housing.

All students will be expected to get a COVID-19 test no later than two days prior to arriving at Wesleyan. A PCR test is preferable, but if that is not possible, a rapid test is sufficient. (You may wish to use the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services nationwide testing locator to find the nearest testing site in your hometown.) Please remain vigilant and follow safety protocols—including wearing a mask indoors. There will be a link in WesPortal next week to upload your negative test results. If you test positive, please contact Davison Health Center and do not come to campus until cleared to do so.

TESTING

  • For those on campus, COVID-19 testing resumes on January 17. All students are required to test twice weekly, and faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to test twice weekly. Employees with approved vaccine exemptions are now required to test twice a week, beginning January 17. January testing schedules for Beckham Hall can be found on Keep Wes Safe
  •  

BOOSTERS

  • As a reminder, all students must have a COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine to register for classes. All faculty and staff must receive a booster within 30 days of CDC eligibility, in order to be in compliance with the University booster policy. The updated vaccination card should be uploaded to WesPortal, reporting the date on which they received their booster shot, by Friday, January 14.

ISOLATION

  • The University will follow the new CDC recommendations regarding isolation. People with COVID-19 must isolate for five days, and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), the isolation period will be followed by five days of wearing a mask to minimize the risk of infecting others. Learn more about the University’s new isolation protocol.

FACE COVERINGS

  • Masks will continue to be required indoors on campus except in one’s own private residential bedroom or in one’s own private office. This includes in shared public spaces, such as classrooms/meeting rooms, the library, dining, and residential common areas. For those who are unvaccinated, masks must be worn indoors and outdoors.

We remain optimistic that with these precautionary measures and your cooperation, our in-person spring semester will be both safe and engaging. We will be holding webinars in the coming weeks to answer questions and offer more detailed descriptions of our plans. A webinar for staff and faculty will be held on Friday, January 14 at 10am; a webinar for students and parents will be held that day at noon. Invitations are forthcoming and will also be found on Keep Wes Safe.

This pandemic has exacted a scarcely imaginable toll around the world. As the new year begins, we acknowledge these losses with sorrow and compassion. We are also hopeful that 2022 will be a year bright with positive possibilities. Thank you for doing your part by keeping our community as safe as possible.

Sincerely,

Michael S. Roth

President

Year-end Appreciation


As we near the end of 2021, there is much for us all to acknowledge and celebrate. This has been a year filled with many challenges, both here on campus and throughout the world. The pandemic’s ongoing devastation has caused great anxiety and sorrow, but it has also stirred countless acts of dedication and generosity. Please take a moment to recognize Wesleyan’s bold and caring accomplishments—this university would not be possible without our entire community.

We hope that this upcoming break allows for some much-deserved rest and rejuvenation. When we return in 2022, we’ll hit the ground with the same exuberance and thoughtfulness that carried us through 2021.

Kari and I extend our warm good wishes for the holidays.

Be safe and stay inspired.

Honoring Academic Excellence

Yesterday I had the inspiring experience of welcoming new members to Wesleyan’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa — the national honor society celebrating academic excellence. Most new members are brought into the society in the spring just before graduation, but an especially distinguished group is chosen in December. I was so impressed by the variety of interests, academic research, creative practice and extra-curriculars shown by the students — and often that variety was found in EACH of the inductees.

Our masks could not conceal our delight as we cheered on these all-stars. Welcome to Phi Beta Kappa!

  • Charlotte Nicole Babbin
  • Shaquille Bowie
  • Courtney Collins-Pisano
  • India Finley Dixon
  • Robert Christopher Dysart
  • Julia Lynne Lanfear
  • Megan Redler Levan
  • Thomas Quinn McKenzie-Smith
  • Caroline Nicole Pitton
  • Shiva Ramkumar
  • Jack Louis Root
  • Quentin Tan
  • Megan Tran
  • Ammie Yuanchen Wang
  • Sophie Anna Williamson

 

Support Students on #GivingTuesday

Tomorrow, November 30, is Giving Tuesday, a chance to support organizations around the world doing important work to alleviate suffering and create opportunity. This is Wesleyan’s eighth year of participating in #GivingTuesday. Over the years, thousands of alumni, parents, students, and friends have chosen to support their alma mater on this day. By giving to Wesleyan, donors have together unlocked millions of dollars in matching funds for Financial Aid.

In this year’s challenge, trustee Sarah Kendall ’77, P’14 will match every gift made on #GivingTuesday with a dollar-for-dollar contribution—up to $150,000—for Financial Aid.

The collective action of alumni to support students has enormous power. Won’t you join us by using this link?