I sent this message to the campus a few days ago. My class, The Modern and the PostModern, begins tomorrow….so for me it seems we are just getting underway. I’ve been teaching versions of this course since the 1980s, and around 2000 I thought I’d retire it. But postmodernism, often a bogeyman for one group or another, is back in the news — mostly in relation to President Trump. I’ll share these articles from the New York Times and this video from the Wall Street Journal (start at 5 minutes), as recent examples, but we start with Rousseau and Kant.
Here’s the message that went out to campus:
After a long winter break, I am looking forward to the new semester. Like many faculty, I’ve spent many hours preparing for my upcoming classes, and I’ve tried to dig into some research, too. The teacher-scholar model is at the heart of our enterprise, and Wesleyan is making new tenure-track faculty hires to further strengthen the distinctive education we offer. We have already signed up additional faculty in departments and programs such as Government, Psychology, Music, Science in Society, and Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies.
Promoting civic engagement is part of our educational mission, and shortly we will be sharing a new civic action plan and asking for your views. Ours is an “Engaged University,” and here the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships plays a key role. On February 5, we welcome to campus the Center’s new director, Clifton Watson. On February 15, students, faculty, and staff have another opportunity to be engaged as we host Dr. Joi Lewis, the CEO and founder of Joi Unlimited Coaching and Consulting and the Orange Method, as the speaker at our annual event honoring the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. More information on the program will be forthcoming.
Wesleyan has set yet another record in admission applications: a total of 12,673! That more talented high school grads than ever want a Wesleyan experience is something about which we can all be proud, because it is our combined efforts that create that experience. Faculty do it through powerful teaching and research, staff do it through effective work on behalf of the university, and students do it through avid appetite for learning coupled with an exuberant, joyful building of community.
Expressing support for the university also contributes – be it by talking to others about Wesleyan or by making a financial contribution. In this last regard, the news is also good. As 2018 begins, we have already raised $27 million towards our annual goal of $35.6 million! We use much of these funds to invest in the long-term future of the institution through endowments that support financial aid, academic programs, and campus learning.
The economic basis on which the Wesleyan experience depends is stronger than ever, though still not strong enough given our ambitions and needs. Of these, improving our facilities is especially important, and how best to do that is something we look forward to discussing with you. We have scheduled forums dedicated to facilities planning on February 6 during common time and on February 13 at 4:30 p.m., both in the Kerr Lecture Hall (Shanklin 107). These forums are open to all faculty, staff, and students, and we want your input.
All of this work, from faculty hires to civic engagement, from admissions and financial aid to facilities enhancement, is in keeping with the planning framework developed in Beyond 2020.
Someone said to me recently that young people have to be brave to pursue a liberal education these days – courageous in the context of environmental and political challenges, in the face of political polarization and economic competition. Yes, I thought, the students I know at Wesleyan are brave, and with the support of faculty, staff, and alumni, defy contemporary pessimism with boldness, rigor, and practical idealism. Let the new semester begin!