Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Cardinals Open Football Season with High Hopes

With the football season officially opening Saturday at Middlebury, The Hartford Courant profiled Wesleyan Head Football Coach Michael Whalen and the football team.

According to the article, this year’s senior players, one of the first classes recruited by Whalen, was envisioned as the class “that could forever change the program. The class that would nearly double in size any other in his time at Wesleyan or his six years as coach at Williams. The class he envisioned being at the heart of the Cardinals’ first NESCAC championship and first perfect season since 1969. Freshmen in 2011 and seniors today, the players who make up that class have grown together over three years and now find themselves surrounded by the highest of expectations. Wesleyan returns just about every key player — 47 letter winners, 29 seniors, 19 starters — and, one would think, has a chance to put together one of the best seasons in program history.”

“Coming in as freshmen, we always had this year in mind,” said Donnie Cimino ’14, a first-team All-NESCAC defensive back last season. “Last year ended up being a success in many ways. We don’t want to take a step back now. This is what we came here for. When Whalen was recruiting us, it was really about this season. He was selling the turnaround, turning a corner, changing history.”

Watch a live stream of the game against Middlebury, Sept. 20 at 12:50 p.m., here.

Wes Media Project Analyzes Campaign Advertising

The Wesleyan Media Project is back with a new analysis of campaign advertising in this year’s midterm elections. As Vox reports, WMP’s new analysis shows Democrats holding a clear advertising advantage in Senate races in many key states. The story explains:

Some of the largest ad advantages for Democrats have been in Colorado and Michigan, where they are leading, as well as Arkansas and Georgia, where GOP candidates appear to have the edge. Republicans only had a sizable ad advantage in one key state — New Hampshire, where Scott Brown seems to have recently gained a bit of ground in polls. [...] Some of this advantage is because more Democratic incumbents are at risk, and incumbents usually have an easier time raising money than challengers. But Democrats are getting substantial support from Super PACs and dark money groups as well…

 The Washington Post cites the WMP report in its story on how pro-Democratic independent groups–especially, Senate Majority PAC and Patriot Majority–are playing an aggressive role in Senate races this year:

Perhaps most notably, the super PAC has held its own on the air against Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group that is the primary political organ of a network backed by the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors on the right. By the end of the summer, the two groups had run nearly the same volume of television ads nationwide, according to Kantar Media/CMAG data analyzed by the Wesleyan Media Project.

And the National Journal picked up on WMP’s finding that the 2014 ad campaign is opening with more negativity than 2012 or 2014:

In U.S. Senate races, 55 percent of ads aired over the last two weeks were negative, meaning the ad only criticized the opponent. Another 17.5 percent of Senate ads aired in the past two weeks were “contrast ads,” or ads that mention both the opponent and the sponsor’s favored candidate. Just 27.5 percent of the ads were positive. By comparison, ads for gubernatorial and House races over that period were more than 40 percent negative. Ads for both House and Senate races have become increasingly negative since 2010. Between 2012 and 2014, the share of negative ads for gubernatorial campaigns jumped by 20 points—from 23.3 percent to 43.8 percent. “So far the 2014 midterms are seeing increased volume and increased negativity over 2010, which is going to make citizens even less happy with the tone of the airwaves,” Michael Franz, the Wesleyan Media Project’s co-director, said. “Evidence from political science suggests, however, that citizens may be more informed as a result of the negativity.”

Read the entire new study here. Read more coverage of the study in FiveThirtyEight, USA Today here and here, The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription), The Hill, Scripps News, and The Huffington Post.

Wesleyan is an “Oasis of Electricity” With Microgrid

Government Technology featured Wesleyan’s efforts to protect itself from losing power during storms and other disasters by installing a microgrid, a concept gaining popularity across the country. As the article explains:

Wesleyan can insulate itself from widespread power outages by generating its own power and making sure it can distribute that electricity to the 312 buildings on campus without depending on the outside grid. As an oasis of electricity, the college can now better serve its students and act as a staging area to coordinate disaster response for Middletown.

[...] “When we talk about microgrids, it’s a wicked hot topic. It’s going to be in the dictionary next year as a new word, like ‘Twitter,’” said Alan Rubacha, director of Wesleyan University’s physical plant. “But it’s existed for a long time.”

Student Programmers Compete in 48-Hour App Competition, Tech Bootcamp


Julian Applebaum ’13, co-founder of the Hackathon, presented at the Bootcamp on Sept. 6.

Experienced programmers and tech newbies alike gathered Sept. 5-7 for WesHack 2014, a two-part conference that included a daylong tech crash course for students, alumni and friends, and a 48-hour “Hackathon” app-development competition.

WesHack was founded in May 2013 by Julian Applebaum ’13, Evan Carmi ’13 and Anastasios Germanidis ’13, who, shortly before graduation, “decided Senior Week would be even more fun if they stayed awake for 36 hours writing software to solve the pressing problems of Wesleyan students,” according to the WesHack website. In fall 2013, WesHack 2.0—a second Wesleyan-themed Hackathon and day-long intro tech bootcamp for students and alumni—was organized by students with Instructional Media Services and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The dual-track approach was repeated this year, and the organizers hope to make it an annual event.

Applebaum, now a software engineer at Squarespace, the presenting sponsor of WesHack 2014, returned this year to present at the Bootcamp, along with about a dozen other recent alumni, students, and faculty. See all presenters here.

A team starts to map out ideas for their app on Sept. 5.

A team starts to map out ideas for their app on Sept. 5.

According to Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, “There is an alumni affinity group called Digital Wesleyan that is extremely active, engaged, and supportive of students.” Some of the presenters came from that group, while others were people Kingsley has worked with over the past few years.

Seventy-three people attended the Bootcamp, which covered basic tech skills such as creating a website from scratch and graphic design and video production. Kingsley said most who attended had limited or no tech skills, though the event also drew students who are aces with hardware, highly-regarded bloggers, and those who have a background in one specific skill, such graphic design or data analysis.

Chakravarti on Why Obama Can’t Show His Rage

Sonali Chakravarti, assistant professor of government, tutor in the College of Social Studies, writes in Salon about President Barack Obama’s cautious response to the shooting of an unarmed young black man in Ferguson, Mo., and other incidents. She writes that “Obama’s refusal to engage with anger makes sense as a strategic calculation, one that buffers against race-baiting criticism while consistent with his overarching philosophy of pragmatism and bipartisanship.” Chakravarti looks to how black leaders of the past, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, have shaped Obama’s own vision.

She concludes: “Obama’s calculation is to distance himself from anger in public while trusting that allies of a certain type will be able to see the conversation he is having with the legacy of black leaders. His strategy is to acknowledge in private, as in his memoir, that anger was at the core of his call to social justice and public service and that an appreciation of the complexity of anger is central to being able to understand the worldview of another person. Anger, based on his lived experiences, cannot easily be metabolized into compromise and professorial detachment.”

Read the whole essay here.

Martin Oversees Student Employment, Counsels Families on Financial Aid Issues

Sean Martin.

Sean Martin, senior associate director in the Financial Aid Office, says most students work an average of five to 10 hours per week. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

This year, The Wesleyan Connection will feature conversations with students who perform important work all over campus, and out in the Middletown community. In this issue, we speak with Sean Martin, senior associate director in the Financial Aid Office, who oversees student employment.

Q: Sean, please tell us about your role as senior associate director in the Financial Aid Office.

A: I’ve been working in the Financial Aid Office at Wesleyan for going on 10 years, and my responsibilities there have expanded over time. One aspect of my job is overseeing all facets of student employment. I spend a good amount of my time reading files of applicants and current students, and counseling students and families about financial aid issues. I also do various other things, including serving as liaison to Athletics and ITS.

Q: How many students have jobs at Wesleyan?

A: Students can work on campus whether they are eligible for work-study funding or not. Approximately 1,500 students work on-campus each year, roughly 1,100 of whom are work-study eligible students.

Q: How many hours do students typically work each week?

A: Most positions require students to commit to an average of five to 10 hours per week.

Update on Injured Student

Michael Whaley, vice president for student affairs, sent the following message to the campus community Sunday evening:

I am sorry to report that early Sunday morning a female sophomore suffered multiple and serious injuries in a fall from a window at Beta Theta Pi. Wesleyan Public Safety responded, as did Middletown Police, and the student was transported by helicopter to St. Francis Hospital. Family members are with her.

 Public Safety and Middletown Police are investigating this incident.  Here on campus Residential Life and CAPS staff are available to speak with concerned students. Our thoughts are with the injured student, who is improving, and we hope for a full and speedy recovery.

Matesan Studies Contentious Politics, Violence in the Middle East

This fall, Ioana Emy Matesan is teaching two sections of GOVT 157 Democracy and Dictatorship. Matesan is an expert on Middle Eastern politics. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Ioana Emy Matesan, assistant professor of government, is teaching two sections of GOVT 157 Democracy and Dictatorship. Matesan is an expert on Middle Eastern politics and joined the faculty this fall. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Q: Welcome to Wesleyan, Professor Matesan! Can you please tell us a little about your background?

A: I’m originally from Romania. I came to the U.S. for undergrad in 1998, and earned a degree in economics and political science from Monmouth College in Illinois. Coming from Romania, I had no sense of differences in states. I got together with a couple friends, and we looked at the admission of international students and amount of aid for them at different colleges, and we applied to the colleges with the most aid per international student. It was very much a cost-benefit analysis. I loved the small liberal arts college experience, which is one of the reasons why I love Wesleyan. It was a very good transition coming from Romania on my own at 18—I made meaningful connections with both faculty and students. After undergrad, I worked with a Romanian-American nonprofit, which I had volunteered with in Romania. They had incorporated as a 501(c)(3), and were looking for someone to start the fundraising arm in the U.S. We worked with families who were at risk of abandoning their children to orphanages because of economic or social problems. We offered tutoring and social activities for the children; we helped the parents get jobs, training, etc. After three years at the nonprofit, I decided to go to grad school at Arizona State, where I got my master’s in political science. Then I went on to Syracuse University and got my Ph.D. in political science. From there, I came to Wesleyan.

Q: How did you become interested in studying Middle Eastern politics?

A: I specialize in contentious politics and political violence, with a regional focus in the Middle East. The very first time I became interested in this topic was when I attended a youth UN conference in 1993. There, I met children from Israel and Palestine. I learned a lot about the conflict, but it also became very real, and I suddenly had friends I could associate with both sides.

Fowler Joins The Campaign Finance Institute Board

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, recently joined the Campaign Finance Institute’s (CFI) Academic Advisory Board.

Fowler was one of 16 academics appointed to the board, which advises CFI as it plans and works through its research agenda. Also appointed was Michael Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project and a professor at Bowdoin College.

Founded in 1999, CFI is a campaign finance policy think tank. According to the website, its original work is published in academic journals, and is regularly used by the media and policymakers. Its tools are made available to stimulate new research by others, while its bibliographies bring the results of recent scholarship to the attention of the policy community. More information about the board is available here.

Fowler, Baum, Students Present Paper at Political Science Association Meeting

Leonid Liu '14, Laura Baum, P. Marshal Lawler '16, Michael Linden '15, Eliza Loomis '15, Zachary Wulderk '15, Erika Franklin Fowler at the American Political Science Association meeting.

Leonid Liu ’14, Project Manager Laura Baum, P. Marshal Lawler ’16, Michael Linden ’15, Eliza Loomis ’15, Zachary Wulderk ’15 and Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler attended the American Political Science Association meeting.

Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, Project Manager in the Government Department Laura Baum, and four students presented a paper titled, “A Messenger Like Me: The Effect of Ordinary Spokespeople in Campaign Advertising” at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association Conference, Aug. 30 in Washington, D.C.

The student authors are P. Marshal Lawler ’16, Michael Linden ’15, Eliza Loomis ’15 and Zachary Wulderk ’15.

The paper considers the effects of using non-elite spokespeople (ie. “the everyman”) in political advertising. The authors draw upon the Wesleyan Media Project’s vast database of political advertising, as well as original coding on almost 300 ads, and a new large-scale survey data set assessing the effectiveness and credibility of 2012 campaign ads. They found that using ordinary spokespeople is a common tactic, particularly in negative campaign advertising, and that their use is associated with higher credibility scores than ads without them, even after controlling for partisanship and political sophistication.

The paper grew out of a fall 2013 pilot course at Wesleyan, GOVT 378 Advanced Topics in Media Analysis. Read the full paper online here.

Plous on Social Psych and the Michael Brown Shooting

Scott Plous, professor of psychology.

Scott Plous, professor of psychology

Professor of Psychology Scott Plous spoke to the Associated Press about the tendency of observers to see the Michael Brown shooting as black and white. Those who support Officer Darren Wilson, and those who are convinced he unjustifiably shot and killed an unarmed man, look at the same facts and see no gray area largely due to “confirmation bias,” said Plous.

“It’s the tendency to seek out and give greater weight to information that confirms what we think rather than contradicts it,” he explained.

In this particular case, with little unambiguous evidence, “people are actually acting very reasonably,” said Plous.

“There is a void, and into that void, people will bring whatever they regard as the most reasonable evidence,” he said. “People are trying to make sense of this tragedy using the most compelling evidence they have available.”

This includes their own perspectives and experiences.

“We’re forced to reconstruct, to remember, to imagine what could have taken place,” Plous said, “and those are precisely the conditions when we’re likely to see bias.”

President Roth on Why Liberal Education Matters

President Michael Roth appeared on “Open Mind,” a PBS program on New York’s Channel 13, to discuss his new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters

Roth tells host Alexander Heffner that while in Europe, liberal education has historically been the path for those who did not need to work, that has not been the case in America.

“Liberal learning has been seen as a vehicle for democratric citizenship and for an active life, either in commerce or science, in industry or the arts,” says Roth. The founding fathers saw a “broad contextual education as the key to creating free citizens who were active–people who could do things in the world.”

Today, just as throughout American history, some people view a broad contextual education as luxurious or wasteful–”not efficient enough.”

“But these guys, as they were in the early 1800s, they’re missing the forest for the trees,” says Roth. “They’re trying to train us for a job that’s in existence this morning, but not for a lifetime of creative work over many, many years.”