Administration

Campus Urged to Stay Vigilant; COVID-19 Testing Site Moved Indoors

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Wesleyan’s COVID-19 testing site moved to Beckham Hall for the winter season. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

With the holiday season approaching, Wesleyan’s Pandemic Planning Committee (PPC) reminds students, faculty, and staff to remain vigilant and safe.

“We have made it past the election and the Thanksgiving holiday is in sight,” wrote Wesleyan’s Medical Director and PCC member Dr. Tom McLarney in an email to the campus community on November 16. “As you are undoubtedly aware, the coronavirus pandemic has entered an alarming new phase, with cases rising sharply in most parts of the country and moderate increases in Connecticut. Despite the rigorous testing and safety protocols the University put in place, we are not immune from these trends, as we have also seen an increase in cases recently, though our positivity rate remains quite low.”

Earlier this month, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont rolled the state back to “phase 2.1,” reinstating many restrictions on both indoor and outdoor gatherings. Wesleyan continues to follow state and federal guidance closely. Wesleyan’s own campus alert level is currently YELLOW, and students are advised against any unnecessary travel off campus. In addition, the Freeman Athletic Center remains closed.

To keep campus as safe as possible, Dr. McLarney urges everyone to continue to follow COVID safety guidelines, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and practicing careful hand washing. “The current evidence supports that face coverings—whether surgical masks or multilayered cloth masks—protect both the person wearing them along with those around them,” he wrote.

Building an Antiracist Community

President Michael S. Roth and Vice President for Equity & Inclusion Alison Williams sent the following messages to the campus community on June 24, 2020:

To the Wesleyan community:

The virulent and deeply entrenched racism in American society is antithetical to the mission of Wesleyan University, and we pledge to redouble our efforts to combat that racism – on campus and beyond.

In thinking about how best to do this, we recently conducted a public conversation that included a panel of distinguished alumni with important experience in this area. The panel challenged the University to examine the barriers that prevent people of color on our campus from truly thriving and to think more critically about how we empower our students to become change agents – with respect to themselves as well as others. Many of us, especially if we belong to the cultural majority, have never had to think hard about race and are uncomfortable even talking about it, especially with people whose racial identities are different from our own. This can change. We can and must educate ourselves.

Human Resources (HR) is conducting interviews of departing faculty and staff to find out where we are falling short in creating an inclusive community. We are also interviewing African-American students to follow up on survey results that show that they feel less included as members of the Wesleyan community.

In order to create space for open and honest dialogue, the Office for Equity and Inclusion (OEI) and HR will be sponsoring workshops for supervisors on how to talk about race and racism.  Many on campus have already taken advantage of OEI resources to examine their own roles and positionality, and a number have explored their own implicit biases by taking the Implicit Bias Test.  Later this summer we will implement reading groups on antiracism for all who are interested.  The goal is to help participants understand how to combat racist behaviors – be they their own or those of colleagues.

Academic Affairs, in partnership with the OEI, is implementing new procedures for faculty searches to increase the diversity of both the applicant pool and finalists for positions – and to minimize bias in the vetting of candidates.  Departments, programs and offices across campus are working towards being more inclusive and antiracist; Cabinet members have already committed themselves to a process of self-reflection, study and action. Scores of STEM faculty, staff and students met recently to discuss the impact of race in their fields and how to better support one another in ways that are meaningful and sustaining. The Student-Athletes of Color Leadership Council has been in conversation with the coaches and administrators of the Athletic Department and has proposed a number of actions to make that department more inclusive. Students are planning several events including student forums in June and an action to support Black Lives Matter during the first week of classes in the fall.  Finally, the OEI will soon revitalize its Advisory board, offer intensive workshops to those who would like to become equity advocates, and launch a new web page with resources for those who want to do more to help Wesleyan become as inclusive as possible.

We have much work to do and the energy and will to do it. More announcements are forthcoming about further steps we’ll be taking to truly build, in the words of our mission statement, “a diverse, energetic community of students, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit.”

Michael S. Roth
President

Alison Williams
Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer

Wesleyan Announces Initial Plans to Reactivate Campus in the Fall

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Wesleyan President Michael Roth announced that in-person classes will resume for the fall 2020 semester.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 announced in an all-campus message on Monday, June 15, that the University plans to resume in-person classes in the fall, pending the ongoing recommendations of University, state, and federal health and safety experts.

“Given the current public health trajectory for Connecticut, we are hoping to welcome most students, faculty, and staff back to Middletown in safe conditions in late August,” President Roth wrote. “One thing we are certain about: it will be good to be together again—safely—on campus.”

Roth noted that the coming semester will look different than those of the past because of the additional safety measures and adjustments to campus and curricular offerings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The University has convened a contingency planning workgroup, which has proposed that 2020 fall semester classes begin on campus August 31 (one week earlier than initially scheduled), with the possibility of finishing online after Thanksgiving, allowing for more time on campus during the warmer months of the year. Food services and residence halls will be organized with safety in mind, as will classrooms and co-curricular activities, and the University does expect to offer athletes on-campus programs; it will, however, limit visitors to and excursions from campus to reduce the possible spread of any illness. Distance- and hybrid-learning options will be made available to those students unable to return to campus.

Wesleyan Community Reacts to George Floyd’s Death

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After George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed during his arrest on May 25 in Minneapolis, sparking nationwide demonstrations, members of Wesleyan’s administration and alumni are speaking out against racial injustice and offering resources for community members.

On May 30, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 shared a Roth on Wesleyan post titled “Build an Anti-Racist Community in Which Hatred and Intolerance Have No Place.”

Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. We speak their names with sorrow and with anger. In recent weeks, we confront once again the fact that in America some people so radically devalue African Americans that their lives can be just brutally destroyed. The precarity of black lives has a very long history in this country, but now technology makes it possible for people everywhere to witness violent injustice. We witness, and we are disgusted; we witness, and we are enraged; we witness, and we mourn. Black Lives Matter.

As a historically white institution, Wesleyan has struggled with our own history of racism. Over the last several decades, thanks to the work of activist students, faculty, staff and alumni, we have become more aware of the ways in which the ideology of white supremacy has affected this history and our own present. We try to build a different kind of community – one in which racism, hate and intolerance have no place. This is an ongoing project, and we re-dedicate ourselves to it.

Wesleyan Establishes College of Education Studies

Students at Wesleyan have long been interested in studying educational practice and policy, and have been committed to working with local schools and children through a wide variety of programs. Here, Emma Distler '19 plays an interactive reading and counting game with a four-year-old through Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, high-impact, low-cost innovative and nurturing preschool program organized by Anna Shusterman and her students every summer.

Students at Wesleyan have long been interested in studying educational practice and policy, and have been committed to working with local schools and children through a wide variety of programs. Here, Emma Distler ’19 plays an interactive reading and counting game with a 4-year-old through Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, high-impact, low-cost innovative and nurturing preschool program organized by Anna Shusterman and her students every summer.

Wesleyan has announced the establishment of a College of Education Studies, along with a new linked major in Education Studies.

Rooted in a liberal arts framework, the new College will foster interdisciplinary scholarship of education studies that is connected to practice and policy. It is an opportunity for Wesleyan to integrate serious scholarship with the University’s social justice mission, according to Associate Professors of Psychology Anna Shusterman and Steve Stemler, the co-chairs of the newly formed College.

A proposal to establish the College was unanimously endorsed by the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) earlier this year, and was approved by a vote of the full faculty on April 14.

Kolcio, Weiner, Winston to Serve as New Directors

In July, three faculty will begin new appointments at Wesleyan.

Katja Kolcio will succeed Peter Rutland as director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life; Stephanie Weiner will succeed Sean McCann as director of the Shapiro Center for Writing; and Krishna Winston will succeed David Beveridge and Alex Dupuy as director of the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty.

Katja Kolcio

Katja Kolcio

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, received certificates from Free Ukrainian University and from Kyiv Institute of Art and Culture; and her PhD from The Ohio State University. Her work specializes in the role of creative physical engagement in education, research, and social change. She has received choreographic fellowships from the New England Dance Fund and New York State Council of the Arts. Recent projects include collaborating on Facing Disasters: A Provocation/Invitation, and This Side of the Curtain: Ukrainian Resistance in Uncertain Times, a panel and performance designed around the topic of social action in an uncertain political context. She presented her research in Washington, D.C., at an event hosted by the Congressional and Senate Ukraine Caucuses in March 2020.

2020 Commencement Ceremony, Class Reunions Postponed

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Wesleyan’s 188th Commencement Ceremony will be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 announced that Wesleyan will delay its 188th Commencement Ceremony, originally scheduled for May 24, 2020. Wesleyan’s reunion gatherings, typically held during the same weekend, will be celebrated in alternate formats.

“Although I’d been delaying this decision in hopes that we might still have an opportunity to gather together in late May, I’m writing now to let you know that we will have to find another time and place to celebrate the 2020 graduation. There is so much uncertainty about what the next few months will hold, and we don’t think it is responsible to plan to bring a large group together on Andrus Field in May,” Roth wrote in an all-campus email on April 2.

“I know this will be greatly disappointing for many, particularly for graduate students, seniors and their families, who were looking forward to the Commencement ceremony this spring. I do expect the Board of Trustees to vote (remotely) to award degrees at its May meeting. For official purposes, the University will graduate all those who qualify, and we will find a way to mark that event in some festive (if still virtual) way at that time. We will be writing again soon with our plans in that regard. Please know that we have every intention to bring people together in-person at some point in the future to celebrate this year’s graduates. We are reaching out to seniors to ask for their input in designing meaningful alternatives. Similarly, our colleagues in Advancement will work with the reunion committees to seek input regarding reunion celebrations. When this pandemic recedes, there will be plenty to celebrate together. Please stay safe, and take care of one another. I look forward to celebrating these important milestones with you in the future.”

Like President Roth, Frantz Williams ’99, vice president for advancement, hoped that the trajectory of the pandemic might be such that reunions could happen. But under current conditions, the University decided that gathering a large group of alumni, guests, students, faculty and staff in May would pose too large a risk to the health and safety of the community and beyond.

“We are keenly aware that many classes have been actively preparing for and anticipating their reunions and can assure you that we are working on alternate plans for in-person celebrations at a later date,” Williams wrote. “In the meantime, some classes have already been taking advantage of technology to gather remotely, and this spring Wesleyan will encourage and support more of these gatherings. In addition, we will find other new ways to come together at a time when we are physically separated but eager for connection.”

Wesleyan staff are currently reviewing a variety of options for the postponed ceremonies, and actively seeking input from both students and alumni on their preferences and recommendations for both. The University expects to finalize these plans in the coming weeks and in accordance with official local, state, federal and health officials’ guidance about the pandemic’s trajectory, and will be in touch with the Wesleyan community as soon as possible with updates.

Rushdy to Serve as Wesleyan’s Academic Secretary

Ashraf Rushdy

Professor Ashraf Rushdy will serve as Wesleyan’s academic secretary.  (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Ashraf Rushdy, Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language and professor of African American studies, has agreed to serve as academic secretary for a one-year appointment beginning July 1.

The academic secretary facilitates academic decision-making and supports faculty governance by providing advice and support to the Executive Committee of the Faculty, the Academic Council and its committees, and the standing committees of the faculty. He also provides parliamentary advice, helps to administer faculty elections, and generally informs all of the University community on matters related to the academic program and faculty responsibilities.

Rushdy will be replacing William Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History, who is currently completing a three-year term as academic secretary.

Roth, Whaley, McLarney Host Video Forum for Students Remaining on Campus

Spring semester courses resumed on March 23 after the two-week spring break. Faculty contacted students in each of their classes to update them on how the classes would continue to meet. In many cases, classes will continue to meet via Zoom and Moodle, regardless of students' physical locations.

A student works in Usdan University Center on March 23. Approximately 300 students are staying on campus during the coronavirus pandemic. All students are completing their classes remotely due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), regardless of their physical locations. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Another student works inside Usdan University Center on March 23.

On Sunday evening, President Michael S. Roth ’78, Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley, and Medical Director Tom McLarney invited the approximately 300 students who will be remaining on Wesleyan’s campus for the spring semester to participate in a video forum hosted by the University’s virtual Zoom platform. The event was aimed at communicating important information about on-campus resources during the remainder of the semester and answering participants’ questions.

Although the University has temporarily transitioned to distance learning in efforts to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, students who are housing-insecure, who were unable to return to their homes, or who had extenuating circumstances were allowed to petition to continue to live on campus in Middletown.

“It’s a crazy moment at Wesleyan and around the world,” Roth said during the video forum. “There’s a lot we don’t know about what will happen in this country and around the world over the next several weeks. We do know that the best way to defeat this virus is to prevent it from passing from one person to another.”

Roth, McLarney, and Whaley stressed the importance of practicing the best advice of medical professionals for combatting the virus’s spread: washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, using hand sanitizer when necessary, and, most importantly, maintaining a physical distance from others.

“Whether you’re sitting on Foss Hill…or exercising outside, maintaining a physical distance from one another is really important over these next few weeks,” Roth said.

Spring semester courses resumed on March 23 after the two-week spring break. Faculty contacted students in each of their classes to update them on how the classes would continue to meet. In many cases, classes will continue to meet via Zoom and Moodle, regardless of students’ physical locations. Classes are “not going to be the same [as they had been when held in person], but we’re going to do our best,” Roth said. “The faculty is taking this very seriously.”

Grant, Naegele to Lead Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Mathematics as New Deans

Beginning May 4, 2020, Roger Mathew Grant will succeed Nicole Stanton as Dean of the Arts and Humanities division, and beginning July 1, 2020, Janice Naegele will succeed Joe Knee as Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division.

The announcement was made by Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Roger Mathew Grant

Roger Mathew Grant

Roger Mathew Grant, associate professor of music, received his undergraduate degree from Ithaca College and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. In his recent book, Peculiar Attunements: How Affect Theory Turned Musical (Fordham University Press, 2020), he considers contemporary affect theory in relation to European music theory of the 18th century. He is also the author of Beating Time & Measuring Music in the Early Modern Era (Oxford University Press, 2014), which combines music theory, music analysis, and philosophy to trace the history of meter from the 16th century to the 19th century, and for which he received the Emerging Scholar Award from the Society for Music Theory.

Wesleyan Vows to Divest from Fossil Fuel Investments by the End of the Decade

At its most recent meeting on Feb. 29, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees discussed how to better align endowment investment practices with the University’s broad sustainability efforts.

In a recent campus-wide email, President Michael Roth ’78 and Board of Trustees Chair Donna Morea ’76, P’06 shared the following message:

Given the climate emergency, the investment and ecological risks associated with fossil fuels and the Investment Committee’s own environmental, social and governance guidelines, there was broad agreement among trustees not to make new fossil fuel investments and to wind down current investments in this sector as quickly as possible while minimizing the negative impact to the value of the endowment. The University will be divested from direct fossil fuel investments by the end of the decade.

Wesleyan has already made a climate commitment aiming at carbon neutrality and will now be accelerating work in this direction. This weekend, the Board authorized the first phase of converting our energy infrastructure from steam to hot water. When complete, this project will reduce Wesleyan’s carbon footprint by thousands of metric tons per year.

Board of Trustees Approves 4.2% Tuition, Fees Increase for 2020–21

At its meeting on Feb. 29, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition and residential comprehensive fees by 4.2% for the 2020–21 academic year.

Tuition and fees for the 2020–21 year will be $59,386. The residential comprehensive fee for first-year and sophomore students will be $16,384, and for juniors and seniors the fee will be $18,626. The percentage increase in student charges aligns with the University’s average projected increase in total expenses.

Wesleyan meets the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students seeking financial aid and devotes millions of dollars of its operating budget to the support of scholarships. In 2019–20, 41% of students are receiving need-based scholarship awards averaging nearly $51,300.

As always, the University remains committed to exploring new ways to help low and middle-income students and families afford a Wesleyan education.