Lauren Rubenstein

Director of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Zimmeck Spearheads Launch of Important Online Privacy Tool

Sebastian Zimmeck,

Sebastian Zimmeck

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sebastian Zimmeck is leading a major initiative to help consumers gain greater control of their personal data online.

On Oct. 7, Zimmeck and his collaborator, Ashkan Soltani of Georgetown Law, as well as a group of partner organizations that includes The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mozilla, and the parent company behind WordPress.com and Tumblr, among others, announced the beta launch of the Global Privacy Control (GPC), a new effort to standardize consumer privacy online.

As Zimmeck explains it, privacy regulations introduced in recent years such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have given consumers more rights to limit the sale and sharing of their personal data than ever before. The CCPA regulations give California residents a legal right to opt out of the sale of their data, and requires businesses to respect their preferences through a signal from their web browser. Zimmeck applauds this progress, but says it “doesn’t amount to much if it is hard for people to take advantage of their new rights.” That’s because there had been little progress on developing standards that allow users to signal through their web browser that they wish to opt out of having their data sold or shared. An early standardization attempt, Do Not Track (DNT), suffered from a low rate of adoption due to its lack of enforceability. In practice, this means users generally need to manually opt out of each site or app they want to stop tracking their data—something most users don’t go through the trouble to do.

According to a WIRED article on the beta launch, “the CCPA includes a mechanism for solving the one-by-one problem. The regulations interpreting the law specify that businesses must respect a ‘global privacy control’ sent by a browser or device. The idea is that instead of having to change privacy settings every time you visit a new site or use a new app, you could set your preference once, on your phone or in a browser extension, and be done with it.”

The idea for the new global opt-out started with Zimmeck, who last spring began building an extension for the Chrome web browser with his students called OptMeowt. Initially, Zimmeck worked with Wesleyan computer science students Kuba Alicki ’22, David Baraka ‘21, and Rafael Goldstein ’21. As the effort gained momentum, Daniel Knopf ’22 and Abdallah Salia ’22 joined as well.

“My students are doing an excellent job,” Zimmeck says. “I am mostly taking on the role as an engineering manager and the students are really the ones implementing the various technologies. I think it is also nice that the students are exposed to how things are done in industry, and that they can acquire real-world software engineering skills.”

“As of today, users will be able to set a global browser opt-out in browsers including Mozilla, Brave, and DuckDuckGo, as well as the DuckDuckGo privacy extensions for Chrome,” the WIRED article further explains. “The code necessary for businesses to respond to the privacy control is publicly available. Publishers who have signed on, most notably The New York Times and The Washington Post, have agreed to honor the signal.”

“For California residents, the global privacy control, if enforced by the attorney general, would have a very different effect than existing privacy controls such as third-party cookie blockers. Those settings have no power over what a website or app does with the data it collects directly from you. The global control, by contrast, would issue a legally binding order that, if violated, would be punishable by major fines.”

Indeed, briefly after its release, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted that “[t]his proposed standard is a first step towards a meaningful global privacy control that will make it simple and easy for consumers to exercise their privacy rights online. #DataPrivacy is the future, and I am heartened to see a wave of innovation in this space.” As Zimmeck told WIRED, “The time is right to do this,” adding that the American public cares much more about privacy than during the earlier DNT effort, and now there is finally law on their side. “I think it’s really important to not just theoretically talk about how this could work,” he said, “but also to actually do it.”

Additional coverage of the beta launch can be read on TechCrunch.com, Neowin.net, and Decipher.

 

Discovery by Chernoff and Students Challenges a Tenet of Evolutionary Biology

Barry Chernoff and students in University of Michigan lab

Barry Chernoff and students in his Tropical Ecology course conducted research at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, where they discovered two new species of fish that challenged an expectation from evolutionary theory.

As organisms evolve over time, changes in size—both miniaturization and gigantism—are a major theme. In fish, which are the specialty of Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, Professor of Biology and of Earth & Environmental Sciences, miniaturization happens in many lineages, though it’s not very common. Evolutionary biology has long held that this miniaturization is often accompanied by developmental simplification or paedomorphisis (becoming sexually mature while appearing juvenile-like).

chernoffLast March, just before the pandemic began, Chernoff and students in his Tropical Ecology course (ENVS/Bio/E&ES 306) took a trip to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., which is home to one of the largest scientific collections of natural history objects, or specimens, and allows visitors to work with their collections. There, they discovered two new species of fish from the tropics—one from Honduras and one from Colombia. In these new species, the data demonstrated the opposite of expectations from evolutionary theory: that miniaturization occurred with developmental acceleration. That is, the miniatures achieve adult morphology in a shorter period of time by accelerating the transformation from juvenile morphologies to adult morphologies.

Roth ’78, Amherst President Issue Statement on DOE’s Investigation of Princeton

On Sept. 24, Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth ’78 and Amherst College President Biddy Martin issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of Princeton University surrounding racism and adherence to federal non-discrimination law:

Across the nation, individuals, families, communities, businesses, corporations, and educational institutions are coming to grips with the country’s legacies of slavery and racial oppression,  which stretch back over four hundred years. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education announced that it will be investigating Princeton University for possible misrepresentations in its reports of adherence to federal non-discrimination law because its president publicly recognized that historic racism has been embedded in the institution over time.

It is outrageous that the Department of Education is using our country’s resources to investigate an institution that is committed to becoming more inclusive by reckoning with the impact in the present of our shared legacies of racism.

As presidents of colleges and universities, we, too, acknowledge the ways that racism has affected and continues to affect the country’s institutions, including our own. We stand together in recognizing the work we still need to do if we are ever “to perfect the union,” and we urge the  Department of Education to abandon its ill-considered investigation of Princeton University.

Michael S. Roth ’78, President, Wesleyan University
Biddy Martin, President, Amherst College


Jeff Abernathy, Alma College
Barbara K. Altmann, Franklin & Marshall College
Carmen Twillie Ambar, Oberlin College
Teresa L. Amott, Knox College
David R. Anderson, St. Olaf College
Lawrence Bacow, Harvard University
Bradley W. Bateman, Randolph College
Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Trinity College
Scott Bierman, Beloit College
Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University
Leon Botstein, Bard College
Elizabeth H. Bradley, Vassar College
John Bravman, Bucknell University
Mark Burstein, Lawrence University
Alison Byerly, Lafayette College
Michael T. Cahill, Brooklyn Law School
Roger Casey, McDaniel College
Kimberly Cassidy, Bryn Mawr College
Shirley M. Collado, Ithaca College
Marc C. Conner, Skidmore College
Elizabeth Davis, Furman University
Sean M. Decatur, Kenyon College
Kent Devereaux, Goucher College
Harry J. Elam, Jr., Occidental College
Margee Ensign, Dickinson College
Damián J. Fernández, Eckerd College
Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Albright College
William L Fox, St. Lawrence University
Michael L. Frandsen, Wittenberg University
Jorge G. Gonzalez, Kalamazoo College
Jonathan D. Green, Susquehanna University
Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania
Philip J. Hanlon, Dartmouth College
Kathleen Harring, Muhlenberg College
David Harris, Union College
Majorie Hass, Rhodes College
Jonathan Holloway, Rutgers University
Joyce Jacobsen, Hobart & William Smith Colleges
Paula Johnson, Wellesley College
Rock Jones, Ohio Wesleyan University
Cristle Collins Judd, Sarah Lawrence College
Thomas Katsouleas, University of Connecticut
Water Kimbrough, Dillard University
Maria Klawe, Harvey Mudd College
John C. Knapp, Washington & Jefferson College
Frederick M. Lawrence, Phi Betta Kappa Society
Hilary L. Link, Allegheny College
Maud S. Mandel, Williams College
Biddy Martin, Amherst College
Michael C. Maxey, Roanoke College
Kathleen McCartney, Smith College
Patricia A. McGuire, Trinity Washington University
Anthony Monaco, Tufts University
Kathleen Murray, Whitman College
S. Georgia Nugent, Illinois Wesleyan University
Melvin L. Oliver, Pitzer College
Lynn Pasquerella, Association of American Colleges & Universities
Laurie L. Patton, Middlebury College
Martha E. Pollack, Cornell University
Vincent Price, Duke University
Wendy Raymond, Haverford College
Ravi S. Rajan, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
L. Rafael Reif, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Suzanne Rivera, Macalester College
Clayton Rose, Bowdoin College
Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan University
Peter Salovey, Yale University
Ruth J. Simmons, Prairie View A&M University
Valerie Smith, Swarthmore College
Clayton Spencer, Bates College
G. Gabrielle Starr, Pomona College
Sonya Stephens, Mount Holyoke College
Tania Tetlow, Loyola University New Orleans
Lara Tiedens, Scripps College
Stephen E. Thorsett, Willamette University
Laura Trombley, Southwestern University
Laura R. Walker, Bennington College
Jianping Wang, Mercer County Community College
Wim Wiewel, Lewis & Clark College
Edward Wingenbach, Hampshire College
David Wippman, Hamilton College

Gilmore Featured in Venus Documentary

Martha-Gilmore

Marty Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, is featured in a suite of films exploring the past and possible future of the planet Venus, often called Earth’s “sister” or “twin” planet.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, is prominently featured in a recently released suite of five documentary films about the history, science, exploration, and possible settlement of the planet Venus.

In the films, Gilmore, who is co-coordinator of planetary science at Wesleyan, along with other experts in a range of fields, help to illuminate and elucidate the fascinating history and possible future of the second planet from the sun, commonly known as Earth’s “sister planet.” The suite of films was produced by filmmaker and space exploration advocate Dave Brody P ’24. The main feature, “Venus: Death of a Planet,” the special feature, “Cloud Cities of Venus,” and the three short films of the “Exploring Venus Series,” can be viewed online through early September, and on the MagellanTV (broadly available through various streaming platforms).

In February, two spacecraft mission concepts co-developed by Gilmore to study Venus received second-round backing from NASA’s Discovery Program. Both concepts, which were awarded $3 million each, would assess whether Venus was ever a habitable planet by examining its landscape, rocks, and atmosphere.

Gonzalez Discusses How COVID-19 Has Changed College Admission

Amin Gonzalez

VP and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96. (Photo by Adrienne Battistella)

In late June, Wesleyan was among more than 300 colleges and universities to issue a joint statement, “Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19,” organized by the Making Caring Common Project and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The movement underscores a commitment to equity and to encouraging students to balance self-care, meaningful learning, and care for others. We spoke to Wesleyan’s Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96 about this shared commitment, as well as how admissions at Wesleyan has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has obviously affected just about every realm of everyday life. How has it impacted high school students and the college admission process?

The disruptions caused by the pandemic have significantly set back students who were on a traditional trajectory of exploring colleges. Junior year spring is typically a launching point for students to research and visit schools, but this spring most college campuses were closed to visitors. With regard to their high school experiences, not only were academics and extracurricular activities interrupted—you can imagine the impact on student-athletes and talented musicians who plan to pursue these passions in college—but students were largely cut off from peers and adults who help them grow and think through important questions about their future. We’re also finding that inequities amongst students are being exacerbated by the pandemic, and that’s only going to become more pronounced over time.

Ryan’s Courses Teach Effective Communication with Diverse Audiences

Sarah Ryan

Sarah Ryan

Sarah Ryan is Wesleyan’s first associate professor of the practice in oral communication. She is an interdisciplinary scholar and attorney whose research explores public deliberation, civic participation, and criminal justice reform. We spoke to her about her distinctive interdisciplinary background and why learning communication skills is important for students’ future success.

Your position, associate professor of the practice in oral communication, is a new one at Wesleyan. Can you please explain the genesis of this position, and what it adds to the Wesleyan curriculum?

Sarah Ryan: In 2017, Wesleyan received a Davis Educational Foundation grant to create a regional consortium on best practices in the teaching of oral communication skills. Discussions during that initial one-year planning grant led to the development of my position. I was hired in 2019 to teach undergraduate courses in oral communication and to serve as a resource to faculty and staff who want to teach debate, group discussion, interpersonal communication, public speaking, etc.

What did you teach this past year?

SR: This past year, I taught [courses titled] Diffusion of Innovation, Communicate for Good, and From Litigation to Restorative Justice. In Diffusion, students learned how to spread pro-social practices and technologies through planned communication. In Communicate for Good, students learned how to promote public good through storytelling, informational messaging, and persuasion. In From Litigation, students learned to negotiate for their own interests and collective gain.

You have quite an interesting background as an interdisciplinary scholar and attorney. Can you fill us in on your career path?

SR: As an undergrad at Capital University, I joined the debate team. My first topic was “more severe punishment for violent crime.” To win debates, we had to research policy, law, and ethics, and develop recommendations for change. I was hooked immediately. After graduation, I became an assistant debate coach and started graduate school at Ohio University. My master’s and doctoral work were on welfare policy and perceptions of women receiving government assistance.

One summer, I taught at a high school debate camp in Vermont and became close with my debaters. They urged me to come to their tournaments. They debated for the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL). So, my college debaters and I started driving to New York City to NYUDL tournaments. Two years later, the NYUDL needed someone to run its after-school center. I landed the job, promised my PhD advisor that I would write a dissertation someday, and moved to the Bronx. During my time at the center, my students won the state championships and we traveled to Belarus on an international debate exchange. On the side, I wrote a public affairs curriculum for Baruch College.

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 in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Beware the Doyens of Disruption”

In this op-ed, President Michael Roth ’78 responds to predictions that COVID-19 is going to “change everything” in higher education with a reminder that “the desire of bright young people from all over the world for an on-campus education remains strong.” He writes, “It’s because the connectivity among people and practices that takes place in person intensifies the learning experience.”

2. HxA Podcast: “Michael Roth, Safe Enough Spaces”

President Michael Roth ’78 is interviewed on the Heterodox Academy’s podcast about his book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Heterodox Academy recently chose Safe Enough Spaces as the subject of its first ever book club. Roth was also recently interviewed on “The Way We Live Now,” a podcast from Dani Shapiro P ’22.

3. The Wall Street Journal: “Noted: Class of 2020”

The Wall Street Journal featured remarks by Caroline Bhupathi ’20 delivered at Wesleyan’s virtual commencement ceremony on May 24.

4. TLS: “Respect New Haven”

Assistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney reflects on the past, present, and politics of New Haven as he takes long, rambling walks through his city with his dog Pinky, a tiny chihuahua-dachshund mix.

5. PIX11: “College Students Create Program Connecting Young People with Senior Citizens in COVID-19 Isolation”

Marysol Castro ’96 features “Support a Pal,” a program created by Walker Brandt ’22 and Lars Delin ’22 to form connections between college students and elderly people in order to combat social isolation during the pandemic.

5. NJ.com: “‘A Smile Never Left His Face’: Steve Pikiell’s Forgotten Season Leading a Division-3 Underdog, 20 Years Before Rutgers”

Wesleyan alumni recall Steve Pikiell’s brief but memorable time as head coach of Wesleyan’s basketball team, long before he became head coach of Rutgers’ men’s basketball team. “I needed a guy like that in my life when he came along,” said Josh Schaer ’96, one of the senior captains on the team. “He had this infectious energy about basketball. He made me love the game again. He was just able to give us a boost. He lived up to expectations. He was a breath of fresh air. A smile never left his face. He loved where he was and he loved what he was doing.”

Wesleyan Awards 2020 Hamilton Prize for Creativity

HamPrize2020_Winner_Brianna Johnson

Brianna Johnson ’24 is the recipient of the Hamilton Prize for Creativity which comes with a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan.

For the fourth consecutive year, Wesleyan has awarded its prestigious Hamilton Prize for Creativity to three students whose creative written works best reflect the originality, artistry, and dynamism of Hamilton: An American Musical, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99.

Brianna Johnson of The Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, N.Y. was awarded the grand prize—a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan. She was recognized for three songs comprising an album/mixtape titled, “Tell ‘Em The Truth.” In addition, Wesleyan awarded two honorable mentions along with $5,000 stipends to Luka Netzel of Kansas City, Mo. (The Pembroke Hill School) for his musical, “Heartful Dodgers,” and Chiara Kaufman of Rye, N.Y. (Hackley School) for two works of flash-fiction, titled “The Maid” and “The Burials.”

The winning works were chosen from a pool of over 400 submissions this year. Faculty members reviewed entries, while an all-star selection committee of Wesleyan alumni in the arts, chaired by Miranda and Kail, judged finalists.

About the Honorees

Johnson was honored for “Tell ‘Em The Truth,” an album/mixtape comprised of three songs: “Dreams to Reality,” “These Chains,” and “Damages of Duality.” She wrote these songs, among several others, in 8th and 9th grades as she struggled to acclimate to a predominantly white school as one of the only black students in her classes. Around the same time, the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man, by a white police officer, and many other senseless killings of black people left her feeling scared and resentful.

“My own America wanted to eradicate me, dehumanize me, make me feel like I was nothing. I was a blank corpse with no identity, no face and in America, no voice,” she wrote in her submission for the Hamilton Prize. “I wanted to change that and so I traded in my anger and disappointment for a pen and paper. I transcribed my emotions into lyrics.”

“When experiencing Brianna’s work, I was struck by the honesty, perspective and structure already present in what she’s creating,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda, ’02. “I’m so glad that she’s chosen Wesleyan as the place to continue developing her artistic talents. I look forward to following her artistic journey.”

Committee member and actress Beanie Feldstein ’15 called Johnson’s work a “powerful, moving example of infusing one’s own life-experience into art,” with Johnson putting “her whole being into each lyric, each melody, each performance. […] Her work is wholly raw, vulnerable and masterful. In addition, her art displays radiant strength and an essential commitment to morality that is inspirational. I was rapt and enthralled. It is the work of a young artist you know will do great things and help heal our society.”

Luka Netzel

Luka Netzel ’24

Netzel received an honorable mention for his musical, “Heartful Dodgers.” Set in Cleveland, Ohio in 1969, the play follows twins Barry and Fitz who decide to dodge the draft by joining a nearby Amish community after they are conscripted to serve in the Vietnam War. There, they meet Sarah Ann, daughter of the town’s Minister, who longs to experience the world outside the Amish community.

Author Mary Roach ’81 said she had a “big goofy grin on my face” while reading “Heartful Dodgers.”

“Everything about this piece is fresh, pitch-perfect, professional. Luka has so expertly and lovingly nailed the classical musical genre—the stage directions, the characters’ moves and their back-and-forth singing. And the lyrics! Hilarious and charming. I could see and hear Luka’s vision so clearly in my head as I read. I expect to one day be seeing some of that same creative vision on a Broadway stage.”

Kaufman

Chiara Kaufman ’24

And Kaufman received an honorable mention for two works of flash-fiction. “The Maid” is a stream-of-consciousness narrative from a distressed woman, a wife and mother contemplating a grim future. Committee member Carter Bays ’97, executive producer and writer of How I Met Your Mother, said “The Maid” “captured the mature, complicated voice of a character that I can’t imagine a teenager being able to access.” Kaufman’s other piece, “The Burials,” tells the story of a family, generation after generation, with a dark, secret history.

About the Hamilton Prize

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in 2016 in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, which that year won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. A filmed version of Hamilton will be released on Disney Plus beginning July 3.

Over the past four years, about 2,000 students have submitted stories, poetry, songs, plays, and screenplays for consideration for the prize. Read about past winners in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Learn more about the Hamilton Prize.

Wesleyan Student Assembly Commends Faculty on Distance Learning Efforts

wes fest andy

After the Wesleyan Student Assembly commended Wesleyan faculty for their efforts transitioning to distance learning, Andy Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, penned a responding resolution, expressing gratitude to the students.

When President Michael Roth announced in mid-March that Wesleyan would suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester because of the increasing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty had less than two weeks to prepare their courses for distance learning before classes resumed after spring break. Trying to recreate the immersive Wesleyan classroom experience in a digital format presented a variety of challenges, particularly for faculty who had never taught online previously.

It’s become clear over the last month that faculty have been able to rise to those challenges, and the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) formally recognized their efforts on April 19 with the unanimous passage of a resolution “Commending the Wesleyan Faculty for their Efforts in the Transition Towards Distance Learning.” Chair Jake Kwon ’21 and vice-chair Ben Garfield ’22 of the WSA’s Academic Affairs Committee sponsored the resolution in order to recognize the faculty’s hard work and advocacy for students.

“Faculty are going through a lot of similar extenuating circumstances as students are” in transitioning to distance learning, said Kwon. “This has definitely proven difficult, and I wanted to make sure that the faculty knew how appreciative the students were of their efforts, and that in fact they are not unnoticed.”

The resolution recognizes “the faculty’s efforts to maintain the integrity of Wesleyan’s liberal arts education.” It expresses appreciation for “the empathetic faculty who have provided accommodations for students encountering various challenges surrounding the transition to distance learning and the determined professors who aim to continue providing learning opportunities while being conscious of the various potential stressors that could befall the student body and seek to alleviate additional stress from academic work.”

Kwon noted that while the WSA has passed resolutions in solidarity with many groups on campus, “I do not think we have addressed the entire faculty before in a resolution.”

“Many of my professors have been very understanding about deadlines, and many prioritize student health over academia, which I am so thankful for,” Kwon said of his personal experience with the transition to distance learning. “Some have changed testing formats to accommodate online learning, and many professors had to change their entire course design to allow students to learn at home. For me, I have been fortunate to remain healthy amid the crisis, so I have been able to focus on academia, but it is nice to know that I have a safety net to fall onto if I ever get sick as we finish off the semester.”

Faculty have responded to the resolution with deep gratitude. Sean McCann, chair of the faculty, said that at their next meeting on May 20, faculty leadership plans to ask the faculty to endorse a responding resolution written by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, Professor of Classical Studies. It states: “We, the Wesleyan faculty, collectively express our gratitude to you, our students. During the immense upheaval in all our lives and our difficult transition to online teaching and learning, you have been patient, thoughtful, good-humored, and responsive. We deeply appreciate your good will and engagement, and we will do our best to ensure that you continue to get the excellent education you deserve.”

“Personally, I was deeply touched by the WSA resolution, and I know many other Wes faculty were as well,” said McCann. “It was such a very kind and thoughtful thing to do.

“In general, I think many of us have found teaching-by-Zoom a trying experience, and a pale substitute for in-person learning. But I’ve also just been very grateful for the opportunity to work with students, even if virtually. Seeing them pop up on the computer screen is one of the best parts of my day and always a mood lifter—very welcome indeed in a time that can seem so bleak and isolating.”

Bill Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History and academic secretary, echoed this sentiment. “I tell my students that my meetings with them are the highlights of my week, and I really mean that. Many write to say that they do find the virtual classes challenging, but I very much appreciate the efforts they are making to learn through Zoom meetings, emailed papers, and Moodle posts. Not perfect, but it is working.”

McCann noted that the faculty will also be expressing their gratitude to staff, administrators, and librarians through a tandem resolution.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Washington Post: “Biden Makes End Run Around Trump as the President Dominates the National Stage”

Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, comments on Biden’s unusual strategy during an unprecedented time for the 2020 presidential campaign. “There is not a ready off-the-shelf playbook for how you campaign in this environment if you are a nonincumbent, so that’s part of what you’re seeing,” she said. “We’re all being thrown into this new environment, where campaigns are going to need to reinvent, to some extent, how they go about things, how they going to go about reaching citizens.” Fowler added, “I think we’re at a stage of this event where people are starting to feel coronavirus fatigue. So it seems like to me that the local television news strategy and reaching around is probably a good one at this point.”