Editorial Staff

President Roth on the New Year, New Semester

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Students return to campus Feb. 5–8, and classes are scheduled to begin online Feb. 9.

Wesleyan’s 2021 spring semester is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Feb. 9, with university housing opening Friday, Feb. 5. All incoming students will be required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival and be tested for COVID-19 on campus.

Classes will take place online only for the first two weeks.

“Starting a few weeks later than usual, combined with careful testing and quarantine protocols around arrival, should allow us to start off on the right foot, despite the high positivity rates around the country,” wrote Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a Jan. 20 post. “Of course, we will have to be vigilant about contagion throughout the semester. The vaccine rollout is making progress, but we still have a long way to go.”

Crosby Remembered for Being a Brilliant Scholar-Teacher

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Christina Crosby (Photo by John Van Vlack, Image Pro Photography)

Christina Crosby, professor of English, passed away Jan. 5 at the age of 67. She also was professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies.

Crosby arrived at Wesleyan in 1982 after receiving her AB from Swarthmore College and PhD from Brown University. She was a respected Victorianist, feminist, and theorist who was widely published, including two books, The Ends of History: Victorians and “The Woman Question” (Routledge, 1990) and A Body, Undone: Living on After Great Pain (NYU Press, 2016). She received Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1994.

“Christina was a brilliant scholar-teacher,” recalled Natasha Korda, professor of English, “and an uncommonly generous colleague and mentor. Suddenly bereft of her presence, many of us are reeling, and at a loss for words, wishing that we could channel her eloquence to convey fully the contours of her extraordinary life and achievements. Our only solace is that Christina is now beyond the ‘great pain’ through which she lived on after her bicycling accident, and about which she wrote so beautifully in her recent book, A Body Undone. She was, as one colleague put it, the ‘heart and soul’ of the FGSS program over many years.”

Adjunct Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Literatures, Emerita, Sheng Dies at 95

Frances Sheng, adjunct associate professor of Asian languages and literatures, emerita, passed away on Jan. 3 at the age of 95.

Sheng completed her undergraduate degree at Fu Jen Catholic University in Beijing, and her MA at the University of Connecticut. In 1972 she arrived at Wesleyan, where she founded Wesleyan’s Chinese language program and inspired generations of students by teaching Chinese faithfully until her retirement in 1994. During her 22 years at Wesleyan, Sheng was involved in the establishment of the East Asian Studies program as well as study abroad in China, and she founded the Frances M. Sheng Prize, which is still awarded today for excellence in Chinese language and excellence in Japanese language.

“Frances’ students loved and admired her for being a demanding but caring teacher,” said longtime colleague and John E. Andrus Professor of History William Johnston. “Frances created a foundation for our program in Chinese language instruction, whose continued success is itself a tribute to her earlier efforts. CEAS and Wesleyan owe a debt of gratitude to Frances.”

Ellen Widmer, professor of Asian languages and literatures, emerita, remembers Sheng as being “full of dignity but also humor. She cared about people’s qualities as a person.” Widmer also noted that although Sheng ran a “tight ship,” her classes were also always full of laughter.

“How well I remember Frances’ kindness in my first years at Wesleyan,” said Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, Emerita, Vera Schwarcz. “Her great sense of humor. How she pushed her students to do their best. May her soul rest in peace.”

Sheng is survived by her sister, Rita Mao Hechler; her brother, Mao Yuan; her daughter, Diane Sheng; her niece, Lucille Sheng-French; and four grandchildren: Stacy Tarver Patterson, Andrew Herzer, Aaron Tarver, and Alexandra Herzer. If desired and in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the CAF/Suzanne Sheng Fund, a scholarship fund for Connecticut architectural students, c/o Connecticut Architecture Foundation, AIA Connecticut, 370 James St, Suite 402, New Haven, CT 06513.

Wesleyan University Press Authors Longlisted for PEN Awards

Wesleyan University Press authors Hafizah Geter, Rae Armantrout, and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers were recently longlisted for awards from PEN America.

Un-American book

Un-American, published by Wesleyan University Press, is longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award.

Hafizah Geter’s debut poetry collection, Un-American, is longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. The PEN Open Book Award honors a work of fiction, literary nonfiction, biography/memoir, or poetry written by an author of color. The award was created by PEN America’s Open Book Committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

Geter’s collection moves readers through the fraught internal and external landscapes—linguistic, cultural, racial, familial—of those whose lives are shaped and transformed by immigration. The daughter of a Nigerian Muslim woman and a former Southern Baptist Black man, Geter charts the history of a Black family of mixed citizenships through poems imbued by migration, racism, queerness, loss, and the heartbreak of trying to feel at home in a country that does not recognize you.

Rae Armantrout’s Conjure and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis are both longlisted for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. The PEN/Voelcker Award honors a distinguished collection of poetry that represents a notable and accomplished literary presence.

Armantrout takes pleasure in uncertainties and conundrums, the tricky nuances of language and feeling. In Conjure that pleasure is matched by dread; fascination meets fear as the poet considers an increasingly toxic world.

The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Phillis Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley’s “age”—the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade.

According to PEN America’s press release, the 2021 Literary Awards Longlists span 11 book awards and encompass more than 125 writers and translators, representing the year’s most extraordinary literary talents. Over 80 judges have selected the longlists, which are made up of categories including the novel, short story collection, translation, poetry, science writing, essay, biography, and more. (Read the full release here.)

Finalists for PEN America Literary Awards will be announced in February 2021.

Wesleyan University Press publishes books of poetry, and scholarly books in dance, music, and literary studies. The Press has garnered national and international accolades for its work, including six Pulitzer Prizes, three National Book Awards, three Griffin Poetry Prizes, and an Anisfield-Wolf Award, among many others.

Docter-Loeb ’22 Serves as Panelist on D.C. Statehood, Racial Justice Discussion

Hannah Docter-Loeb ’22, a features editor at The Wesleyan Argus, participated in a public discussion about the intersection of D.C. statehood and racial justice Sept. 18.

The “Panel on D.C. Statehood and Racial Justice” was hosted by Georgetown Students for D.C. Statehood and featured Docter-Loeb; Anthony Cook, professor of law at Georgetown University; Jamil Scott, assistant professor of government at Georgetown University; and Cosby Hunt, adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia and senior manager of social studies education at the Center for Inspired Learning.

Docter-Loeb, a D.C. native, was invited to be a panelist after writing an article for Study Breaks on the same topic. She believes one reason D.C. statehood is meeting resistance is that the area is rooted in white supremacy and racism.

“D.C. residents have advocated for D.C. statehood since the 1980s, with no luck,” she wrote. “However, on June 26, the House approved the Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51). This bill, if approved by the Senate and the president, would establish D.C. as a state and provide us with adequate representation in proportion to the city’s size, as well as other features that accompany statehood. . . . [Representatives’] comments reflect the racist belief that Black people are unfit to govern or play a role in our democracy by voting. These beliefs are still apparent in the current debate for D.C. statehood.”

Wesleyan Joins Amicus Brief in Support of International Students with F-1 Visas

Wesleyan University recently joined with 58 of our peer colleges and universities in filing an amicus brief to halt the implementation of the July 6 directive by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding international student enrollment for the fall of 2020. The brief is in support of the petition filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week that seeks to enjoin DHS/ICE from implementing a rule that would deny visas and deport international students whose campuses are unable to resume in-person courses in the fall due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

“While colleges and universities are working tirelessly to make plans to ensure our students can continue their educations, we are now being asked to contend with this illogical and draconian regulation,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78. “Rather than focusing on being productive partners in helping to ensure the safety of our communities and the country, the administration has resorted to cruel actions that continue the Trump Administration’s three years of open demonization of immigrants that undermines the security of many who are temporarily in the United States to work or study. From threats of deportation to the “Muslim Ban” and fulminations on the “Chinese virus,” the Trump administration has stoked hostility to foreigners—or at least to foreigners it paints as undesirable.

“The latest proposal does nothing with regards to stemming the seemingly unchecked spread of COVID-19 throughout our country; in fact it just adds yet another unnecessary hurdle to making decisions and plans that will allow colleges and universities to identify the safest ways of returning and providing instruction this fall,” added Roth.

The amicus brief filed in United States District Court in Massachusetts included such diverse colleges and universities as Yale University, Stanford, Amherst College, Brown University, Dartmouth College, Princeton University, Rutgers University, and Smith College.

For more information contact Deborah (Deb) Katz at Dkatz02@wesleyan.edu or 860-919-7261.

Gershberg ’95 Plays Key Role in Reuters’s Pandemic Coverage

Michele Gershberg '95

Michele Gershberg ’95

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in February, and as doctors and scientists intensified their search for ways to stymie the virus, it quickly became clear to Michele Gershberg ’95 that her already challenging job was about to get even more complicated.

As the U.S. health editor for the Reuters news agency, Gershberg leads a team of eight reporters covering health and scientific innovation, as well as the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. “It runs the whole gamut,” Gershberg said. “We are part of a larger global team of health and pharma industry reporters, with reporters in London, Paris, Zurich, and Beijing, so we really work together very closely to try to tell the global story.”

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 Athletics Hosts Virtual Marrow Donor Drive

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Wesleyan Athletics is hosting its fourth annual “Be The Match” Marrow Donor Drive. This year the drive will be held virtually.

What is Be The Match?

For the thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers or diseases like leukemia and lymphoma, a cure exists. These patients can receive blood stem cells as a cure. Unfortunately, 70% of patients cannot find a match within their family and therefore look to the Be The Match registry for that life-saving match.

Over the past 25 years, Be The Match has managed the largest and most diverse marrow donor registry in the world (20 million and counting). Our first three Wesleyan drives have added around 500 potential donors to the registry. We have saved one life that we know of and we currently have other pending matches.

6 Alumni Receive Fulbright Awards

Six recent Wesleyan alumni are the recipients of 2020–21 Fulbright Awards.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 2,000 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.

The recipients include:

Inayah Bashir ’20

Inayah Bashir ’20

Inayah Bashir ’20, who majored in the College of Social Studies, won a Fulbright grant to teach English in Kenya. Bashir will work with Kenyan students to place their identity and interests at the center of their learning experience. She looks forward to learning from the teachers and students while following her passion for developing student-centered curriculum and programming. In the future she wants to attend law school with a focus on education and international law in order to prepare for a career as an advocate for equality and education.

Wesleyan Hosts 188th (and First Virtual) Commencement


On Sunday, May 24, for the first time in its history, Wesleyan University held its Commencement virtually, awarding 771 Bachelor of Arts, 3 Bachelor of Liberal Studies, 4 Bachelor of Arts on completion, 36 Master of Arts, 19 Master of Liberal Studies, 1 Master of Philosophy, and 10 Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

Streamed on both the Wesleyan website (on the Commencement 2020 page) and on the Wesleyan University Facebook page, the ceremony—the University’s 188th—saw more than 3,000 family, friends, faculty, staff, and alumni gather together online for a common moment in celebration of the members of the Class of 2020. Graduates had just completed one of the more unusual and challenging semesters in recent memory as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the University moved to a distance learning model to ensure student and community safety.

President Michael Roth ’78 delivered a live welcome address from the Wesleyan campus.

The virtual proceedings were led by President Michael Roth ’78. In his welcome address, President Roth said, “Class of 2020, we have already seen what you are capable of when you have the freedom and the tools, the mentors and the friendships, the insight and the affection to go beyond what others have defined as your limits.

President Roth Delivers Welcome Address at 2020 Commencement


Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 made the following remarks (as prepared) during the 188th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 24. President Roth’s remarks were delivered live on campus to a virtual audience:

Members of the Board of Trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees, and the mighty Class of 2020—I welcome you to the 188th annual Commencement of Wesleyan University! I am honored to present some remarks on this joyous occasion.

First, let us pause to recollect those members of our community who have passed away over the last year. We hold them in our thoughts because they are part of our family, part of a community that extends far beyond classes and diplomas. Our beloved teachers, our colleagues, and our fellow students—citizens and scholars, researchers and artists who have changed the world, and friends who have changed our lives. Let us pause also to acknowledge the death and devastation caused by the pandemic in our country and around the world. Wherever you are watching this, please join me in a moment of silence for those who are no longer with us.