Campus News & Events

Students, Alumni Bring Fatal Fire Story to Life through Play


The American Story Project, a theater company comprised of Wesleyan students and alumni, will perform We Can’t Reach You, Hartford at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival held in Edinburgh, Scotland Aug. 7-19.
Posted 07/28/06
In 1944, the Hartford Circus Fire caused more than 150 deaths during an afternoon circus performance. Although the cause of the fire remains officially undetermined, five employees of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus were charged with involuntary manslaughter, and the circus was forced to accept full financial responsibility for the fire that occurred during their show.

This tragic, yet compelling story, will be retold and performed by the American Story Project, a new theater company comprised of Wesleyan students and alumni. The seven-member group will premier We Can’t Reach You, Hartford, a play by Jess Chayes ’07 and Stephen Aubrey ‘06, at the Bedlam Theatre during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival held in Edinburgh, Scotland Aug. 7-19.

Under Chayes’s direction, the audience will witness the story of sad clowns, unlikely heroes and the forgotten tragedy under the big top. Performers include Annie Bodel ’08, Edward Bauer ’08, Elissa Kozlov ’08, Mike James ’07 and Hayley Stokar ’06.

In We Can’t Reach You, Hartford, Bauer plays the role of Emmett Kelly, a sad clown from the Depression-era 1930s who once performed as an actual member of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1942 to 1956. One of the most memorable pictures to emerge from the Hartford Circus Fire depicted Kelly, in full sad clown makeup, attempting to extinguish the flames that had already engulfed the entire circus behind him. Even until his death in 1979, Emmett Kelly never discussed what he saw that day in July.

James plays Meryl Evans, a band director who continued to conduct during the fire until the flames forced his musicians to flee.

“Jess really wanted to make the play a living document without following docudrama rules,” James says. “She and Stephen made something surprising. The play focuses mostly on the disaster’s periphery; it’s an eerie stage poem.”

This will be a second venture to the Fringe Festival for Chayes, James, Stokar and Kozlov. Last year, the American Story Project’s production of Tone Clusters premiered at the Bedlam Theatre and brought critical acclaim. The American Story Project has also performed at venues in Connecticut and New York.

“Each of our plays strives for honest, powerful expression among the more bizarre channels of the human experience,” Chayes says. “Each piece tackles difficult, haunting questions, striving not for answers, but for illumination, insight and a journey into the human condition.”

In 2001, a comprehensive history of the Hartford Circus Fire was published. Novelist Stewart O’Nan, author of “The Circus Fire: the True Story of an American Tragedy,” attended the company’s workshop performance in May. Afterwards, he wrote of the production: “We Can’t Reach You, Hartford re-imagines the tragedy of the Hartford Circus Fire with a strange and compelling immediacy. It’s a weird, nearly overwhelming tale, but director Jess Chayes, writer Stephen Aubrey and the players bring an intimate scale and bracing range to the material. Creepy, funny, touching–it’s a tour de force.”

A benefit performance of We Can’t Reach You, Hartford runs in Manhattan, N.Y., Aug. 2; and in Scarsdale, N.Y. on Aug. 3. For more information visit americanstoryproject.com.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Kay Butterfield Celebrates 100th Birthday at Wesleyan


Friends and family celebrated Kay Butterfield’s 100th birthday July 27 in the Office of the President. Kay Butterfield is the wife of the late Victor Butterfield, who served as Wesleyan’s president 1943-1967. Pictured above is Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano declaring July 27 Kay Butterfield Day in the City of Middletown.
Posted 07/28/06
Kay Butterfield, wife of former Wesleyan President Victor Butterfield, turned 100 July 27. She celebrated the day with friends and family during a celebration at the President’s House.

Kay has lived a life of idealism and service. She was born July 27, 1906 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the daughter of Philip Geyer and Sophie Westerman Geyer. Her grandfather, Philip Geyer, Sr. had emigrated from Bavaria, settling first in Newark, N.J, where he and his brothers established a brewery. The family moved to Brooklyn, and Kay’s father followed his father into the profession of Master Brewer, eventually owning Frank’s Brewery.

In 1919, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibition, caused a reversal of fortune for the Geyer family, which had all its assets invested in the family brewery. One result was that Kay would eventually have to finance her own college education.

Kay graduated from Girls’ High School in Brooklyn in 1922, one month shy of her 16th birthday. In the spring of her senior year, searching the school bulletin board for employment opportunities, she spotted a notice for a city-wide essay contest for a one-year scholarship to the Manhattan Business School. She won the prize, attended in 1922-23, and then earned enough money as a legal secretary on Wall Street to pay for her first year of college.

In 1924, Kay entered Cornell University as a freshman. She was the publicity manager for the Women’s Varsity Council; the women’s editor for the Cornell Daily Sun, a varsity member of the women’s basketball team; and president of Delta Gamma Sorority. She also was involved in Alpha Chi Alpha, the honor society for journalism; Raven and Serpent, the junior honor society; and Mortarboard, the senior honor society.

During her junior year at Cornell, Kay met Victor Lloyd Butterfield at a dance. The duo got married June 11, 1928. Two days later, Kay graduated with a bachelor’s of art in English. She had paid her entire way through college by working as a secretary and typing student papers, and as a legal secretary in Manhattan during the summers.

The Butterfields moved to Deerfield, Mass. where Vic taught and coached at Deerfield Academy and Kay taught fifth and sixth grade in a single classroom in the Deerfield Elementary School. She called it “baptism by fire.”

In 1929, Vic joined the faculty of the Riverdale Country School in the Bronx. Kay taught mathematics to all grades at the Neighborhood School in Riverdale. An apartment and meals were included at Riverdale, allowing them to save all their earnings for graduate school for Vic. In 1931, the couple moved to Cambridge, Mass., where Vic entered Harvard as a Ph.D candidate. Kay became a door-to-door salesperson and typed doctoral theses for extra income. Her habits of thrift and industry enabled Vic and Kay to spend the summer of 1934 in Europe after Vic’s resident Ph.D work was completed.

Vic was hired by Wesleyan as the dean of Admission from 1935 to 1941, and worked as the associate dean from 1941 to 1942, acting president in 1942, then president from 1943 to 1967.

In 1938, the Butterfields built their first house on a four-acre plot on Randolph Road in Middletown. Kay cut all the studs and joists with a power saw, cut rock wool into bats for the insulation, and secured them with slats that she nailed in. They lived there until Vic’s appointment as president in 1943 and, then moved to a brick house on High Street. When the war ended, they moved into the President’s House at 269 High. After Vic’s retirement, they went back to their beloved small house on Randolph Road.

During the years of Vic’s presidency, Kay was heavily involved in college life. She loved the seminars, conferences, concerts, and the sporting events. She was a regular at games and matches, particularly football, basketball, and wrestling. She volunteered for decades at the Wesleyan Blood Drive, registering donors, as well as donating blood herself.

Much of her energy went toward the job of entertaining at the President’s House. Money was scarce in those days, and badly needed to improve faculty salaries. So Kay economized by cooking and baking for receptions and dinners for trustees, faculty, students and honorary degree recipients. On one occasion, during a period of intense rivalry in football between Trinity and Wesleyan, she even cooked and served dinner for both varsity teams on the night before the big game.

Kay became involved early on in the Middletown community. Before her own children were born, she was a Girl Scout leader. The YMCA was her earliest and longest commitment. As a member of the Women’s Board, she help nurture the girls’ club. She also raised large sums of money for the YMCA through her chairmanship of the Y’s annual Tour of Homes. When the women’s lounge needed new slipcovers, Kay and her fellow board members brought their sewing machines for a bee, and made them all themselves. It was through the “Y” that Kay was a long-time member of the Middletown League of Women Voters, as well as its president from 1936-37. She was also a member of the Board of Education (1952-1965), an annual campaigner for the United Way, and a Board member of Connecticut Citizens for Public Schools.

She also had a long connection with the Davison Art Center. In the early 1960s, Curator Heinrich Schwarz, hoping to add to the large print collection left to Wesleyan by George W. class of 1892 and Harriet Davison, proposed to Kay the idea of forming a “Friends of the Davison Art Center” to raise money for acquisitions.

Kay has been the recipient of a number of awards for her service, including the B’nai B’rith “Woman of the Year” award in the 1950s, the Baldwin Medal for service to Wesleyan in 1982, and received an honorary “Doctor of Humane Letters” from Wesleyan in 1997.

In the late 1960s, after Vic’s retirement from Wesleyan, Kay renewed her ties to the First Church of Christ, Middletown, which she had joined in the 1950s. Kay taught Sunday School until she was in her 90s, and after the Vietnam War, she tutored children from Vietnam and Cambodia through the church.

In the mid 1990s, she wrote a series of essays for the Middletown Press on backyard bird-watching, on her particular pleasure in crows, on Elderhostels, on her two hip replacements, and on her decision at the age of 94 to leave her beloved Randolph Road home and move to One MacDonough Place, where she now resides.

Another great love of Kay’s throughout her life has been music, and particularly singing. She had a huge repertoire – everything from Vaudeville to Negro Spirituals. Kay still loves singing – now with the One MacDonough Singers.

In honor of her 100 years, the Governor’s Office proclaimed July 27 as Kay Butterfield Day in the State of Connecticut, and the Mayor’s Office declared July 27 as Kay Butterfield Day in the City of Middletown.

 
Photos by Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor. Text contributed.

Wesleyan to Host Summer Institute on U.S. Citizenship, Race


Posted 07/28/06
Immigration, race and the history of U.S. citizenship are just a few of the topics that will be discussed during a summer institute presented by the Center for African American Studies for secondary school teachers from Aug. 7-10.

“Race and Membership: A History of United States Citizenship,” has pre-registered more than 20 social studies teachers, most hailing from Connecticut. The four-day institute is open to all secondary school educators (grades six through 12), support staff, curriculum specialists and school librarians.

The institute aims to foster a sustained and in-depth discussion among the participants about how to teach United States history, how to bring many different racial groups into the historical narrative, and how to connect historical issues to contemporary problems in Connecticut’s secondary school curriculum. Last year, the institute focused on the Civil Rights Movement.

Participants will examine some of the most recent scholarship on the history of several different racial groups, including Blacks, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics. With its focus on the theme of citizenship, the Institute will draw connections between historical debates about what it means to be American, how membership in the nation has been regulated, and contemporary debates about immigration and Native sovereignty rights.

“The summer institutes are so much fun for the Wesleyan faculty,” says Renee Romano, associate professor of History, African American Studies and American Studies and the institute’s director. “The teachers we work with are so dedicated and engaged and they are just a joy to work with.”

The following Wesleyan faculty members are participating in this summer’s institute: Demetrius Eudell, associate professor of History and African American Studies, Gayle Pemberton, professor of English, African American Studies and American Studies, Melanye Price, assistant professor of government, Kehaulani Kauanui, assistant professor of American Studies and Anthropology and Romano.

Besides engaging in activities and discussion with scholars, participants will also be split into four curriculum development groups to translate content into usable classroom lesson plans.

“It’s helpful to meet with teachers from different school districts and to discuss what effective materials and techniques are being used in their classroom,” says institute participant Doris Duggins, an eighth grade teacher of U.S. History at Silas Deane Middle School in Wethersfield, Conn. “The institute affords me the opportunity to absorb information in the hopes of continually improving myself as a teacher.”

Romano says it is particularly important to explore the history of U.S. citizenship laws and practices given the current political debates about immigration, border control, and how the nation should deal with illegal immigrants.

“This institute will ask what it means to be a full member of the state, how the United States government has sought to control, which people can be considered a member of the nation, and how groups that have been excluded from membership or who have faced restrictions on full citizenship rights have fought for inclusion,” Romano says.

“Race and Membership: The History and Politics of United States Citizenship” is funded by Humanities in the Schools, a program of the Connecticut Humanities Council, the We The People initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Wesleyan University.

For more information about the Summer Institute, please contact Professor Renee Romano at rromano@wesleyan.edu or 860-685-3579.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Wesleyan Breaks Fund-Raising Record, Garners Award


Max Schenkein ’08 chats with an alumnus during a Wesleyan Fund fund-raising drive. Below, Sean Collins ’08 and Ana Lombera ’09 request gifts for Wesleyan. The student callers, along with staff in University Relations, helped raise more than $35 million this past year.
Posted 07/28/06
Wesleyan enters its 175th anniversary year celebration with a tremendous gift from its alumni, friends, and other supporters: a record-breaking $35,054,196 in cash gifts, surpassing the 2005 record by $3.7 million.

These funds will support financial aid, faculty, facilities, and programs. Fifty-four percent of alumni participated in giving to Wesleyan in 2006, equaling 2005’s participation rate.

The official tally, announced this week by Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for University Relations, marks a significant milestone for Wesleyan.

“This generous support ensures Wesleyan’s future and announces to the worldwide Wesleyan community that our University is strong, getting stronger, and will be here for future generations,” Wilson says.

Wilson added that the Board of Trustees, President Douglas Bennet, alumni and parent volunteers including the Development Committee and the University Relations staff, are vital members of Wesleyan’s fund-raising effort.

“This development team represents a rare convergence of talent, skill, professionalism, dedication, and energy,” Wilson says.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) agrees with Wilson. CASE has awarded Wesleyan the CASE-Wealth ID Award for Educational Fund Raising: Overall Performance in the Private Liberal Arts Institutions category. In 2002, Wealth ID, a provider of wealth screening services and fund-raising solutions, joined CASE as a sponsor of the Educational Fund Raising Awards.

“What is best about the CASE Award is that this honor was awarded not for what Wesleyan received, but for what so many alumni, staff, and friends gave,” Wilson says. “The more we give, the more we receive. That defines the Wesleyan experience.”

“Wesleyan, already ranked highly for academic excellence, now demonstrates an exemplary new standard of excellence in support of private education through its fund-raising performance,” says Mark Bailey, director of Development Communications.

CASE, a nonprofit education association, supports educational institutions by enhancing the effectiveness of the alumni relations, communications and fund-raising professionals who serve it.

Other winners in the private liberal arts institution category include Amherst College in Massachusetts; Berea College in Kentucky; Bowdoin College in Maine; Middlebury College in Vermont; and Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

 
By Justin Harmon, vice president for Public Affairs. Photos contributed by Regan Schubel.

Iberian Studies Major Unveiled this Fall


A new Iberian Studies major will enable students to focus primarily on Iberia, mainly Spain, but includes Portugal and former colonies.
Posted 07/28/06
Iberian studies will be introduced as a new major by the Spanish section of the Romance Languages and Literatures Department this fall.

The major is designed for students interested in studying the literature, history, culture and society of the Iberian peninsula. The new major will complement the current Spanish major, which provides students with a broad knowledge of the Spanish-language literatures of Spain and Latin America.

“Over the years students have repeatedly expressed an interest in a Spanish major that would allow them to study Spain in depth,” says Michael Armstrong-Roche, associate professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and head of the Spanish section.

Iberian studies will enable students to focus primarily on Iberia, mainly Spain, but includes Portugal and former colonies.

Lynn Cartwright-Punnett ‘07, was happy to switch from her double major in Spanish and History to Iberian Studies and History this past spring.

“The Spanish major did a great job of integrating aspects of Spanish culture, but Spanish, as a major, also deals with Latin America, which I am less interested in,” says Cartwright-Punnett “Iberian Studies gives me more flexibility and relates more directly to my varied interests than purely literature based major would.”

Incoming Wesleyan sophomore Bryan Jones also plans on majoring in Iberian studies, primarily in order to master the Catalan language of the Iberian Peninsula.

“While visiting friends in Barcelona, I was intrigued by the Catalan language and culture, and have since obtained the desire to master that language as well as Spanish,” says Jones. “Clearly, the Iberian Studies major allows me to do so, as well as looks into the numerous
regions of Iberia, where the culture and language are as rich, profound, and intriguing.”

Armstrong-Roche says that Iberian studies majors such as Cartwright-Punnett and Jones may count up to four courses taken outside the Spanish section in English or Spanish.

“The requirements permit students to earn major credit for coursework on Iberia offered on campus outside the Spanish section, in the History Department, for instance, along with coursework on Iberia in fields other than literature offered by approved study abroad programs such as our own program in Madrid,” says Armstrong-Roche.

Iberian studies majors must qualify for the major with a grade of B- or better in Spanish 221 or the equivalent. Spanish 221 is not required but may be counted towards the major. Students are expected to maintain at least a B- average in the major program and are required to do a minimum of five of their nine required courses in Spanish literature with faculty from the Spanish section of Wesleyan’s Romance Languages and Literatures Department.

Armstrong-Roche says the Iberian studies major may interest students who want to pursue graduate work focused on Spain or other professional options that involve Spanish companies or international organizations.

Cartwright-Punnett plans on turning her thesis about sites of memory from the Spanish Civil War into a tourist guide book about the history of the war and to teach high school, where she can use her European History and Spanish background.

Jones is interested in working in Spain’s Catalonia region or in the U.S. teaching at a secondary school or hopes to land a job in international relations, either within a business or the government.

For more information about the Iberian studies major, please contact Michael Armstrong-Roche at 860-685-3128, e-mail marmstrong@wesleyan.edu or visit  http://www.wesleyan.edu/registrar/catalog/rlant.htm#Spanish.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Research Team Studies Bioluminescent Bays in Puerto Rico


At top, Anda Greeney ’07 and Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, prepare to deploy a bathyphotometer, an instrument that measures bioluminescence, into a bay in Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico.

At right, Tim Ku, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, shows students how to drill a core sample in a bay they are studying.

Posted 07/28/06
Ten miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico, on the island of Vieques, three mangrove-lined bays are illuminated with unicellular marine life known as dinoflagellates. One of the bays has an unusually high abundance of these microscopic creatures that produce their own light through bioluminescence, a chemical reaction similar to the one that makes fireflies glow.

But why do these colorful creatures thrive so well in these bays? That is the question Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences and Tim Ku, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, want to answer.

As part of a grant-funded research study, O’Connell, Ku and Anna Martini of Amherst College took 13 students from eight colleges, including Anda Greeney ’07, Andrea Pain ’08 and Ulyana Sorokopoud ’08, to the Puerto Rican island for a two-week intensive study. The trip was succeeded by two weeks of lab analyses at Wesleyan and Amherst.

“This ecosystem is so special and we’re curious to know why so many dinoflagellates live here,” Ku says, browsing through digital photos of the turquoise-water bays. “It’s most likely very fragile. We hope to learn what could destroy them, and also, how to maintain a bay that supports this type of ecosystem.”

The study, supported by the Keck Geology Consortium (now funded by the National Science Foundation), began June 17. The students and researchers hauled along their necessary research equipment to the Caribbean, including sediment core samplers, water quality monitors and centrifuges.

They rented a house on the ocean, living on the top floor and using the main floor as a laboratory. Ku and O’Connell taught classes on the front porch, overlooking the water.

Every day, the group drove to the south-central side of Vieques, and studied the Puerto Mosquito, Puerto Ferro and Bahia Topin bays, each less than a mile apart from each other. The researchers studied the hydrodynamics of the water, present-day and past sediment sources, nutrient and metal cycles, and satellite imagery to see how the area has changed through anthropogenic development and hurricane activity. Studies were conducted by wading, snorkeling, kayaking or and boating in the bays, and core samples were taken of the layered sediment. These samples will be the basis of the student research throughout the year on campus.

Ku says the most bioluminescent bays in Vieques have a narrow opening to the ocean to maintain the necessary balance of temperature and water flow and; the surrounding mangroves may supply other key nutrients to feed the dinoflagellates. In addition, a nearby salt flat may be crucial in providing proper nutrients. On the neighboring island Jamaica, a bioluminescent bay no longer glows at night when developers decided to build a hotel in the salt flats to better see the bay.

“To conserve these fragile environments we need to understand how they function and how they respond to environmental threats,” O’Connell says.

The bays are a unique find, world-wide. For more than 60 years, they’ve have been untouched by developers. The U.S. Navy used sections of the island for military exercises, blocking access to the bays. In 2003, the land was transferred from the Navy to the U.S. Department of Fishing and Wildlife to become a wildlife refuge. Although the lack of development kept the area pristine, pollution from the Navy’s bombing residues is being studied and activities and plans are underway to clean-up material left by the Navy.

But it’s not only the toxic pollution that concerns the researchers. It’s actually light pollution encroaching on the bays. Light beaming from a full moon alone is enough to hide the brilliant bioluminescence. There are pressures from both individuals and the Puerto Rican government to develop the hills above the bay and in the public beach area to the west.

Wesleyan students Greeney, Pain and Sorokopoud, who were funded in-part by the Mellon and Hughes programs, will continue their research during the academic year. They’ve returned home with core samples, which will be examined in depth inside Wesleyan laboratories. O’Connell and Ku hope to obtain additional grant funding in the future to continue studying the unique ecosystem.

O’Connell made her first trip to Vieques seven years ago and returns each year, most recently to teach courses in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program.

“Once I saw these bays, I fell in love with them, and I want to study them and preserve them,” she says.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos contributed by Tim Ku and Suzanne O’Connell.

Summer Programs Extend Learning Year-Round


Harry Saranchak, a Wesleyan Writers Conference participant, reviews his writing outside the Davenport Campus Center June 19. The conference is one of 31 campus programs occurring this summer at Wesleyan.
Posted 07/06/06
Learning never ceases at Wesleyan, even in the summer.

 

The Cardinal Hoop Clinic. The Russian Intensive Program. The Health Professions Partnership Initiative. These are just a few of 31 on campus programs running during the summer months.

 

The programs are not just for college-aged students, either. Many are specifically designed for younger children and adults.

 

The programs actually began this year before the class of 2006 attended commencement May 18 with the Russian Intensive Program. May closed with the opening of the Hughes Summer Research Program.

 

June’s highlights included 50th edition of The Wesleyan Writers Conference and the beginning of the six-week-long Upward Bound program, which is designed to prepare selected students academically and socially for the upcoming school year. In addition to academics, students participate in activities addressing the issues which affect today’s teens: AIDS, teen pregnancy, drugs and alcohol.

From June 26-August 11, Wesleyan’s Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science  (PIMMS) holds nine day-long summer institutes for area teachers. Teachers can take workshops on problem solving; using math games and activities to teach estimation; helping students master fractions, ratios, proportions and percents; and using technology in the classroom.

The Health Professions Partnership Initiative (HPPI) began June 26 and ends August 4. Through this program, minorities who recently graduated high school can explore health professions. At Wesleyan, the students have the option to study anatomy, biochemistry, biology, biophysics, biotechnology, chemistry, pre dentistry, dentistry, epidemiology, biomedical engineering, genetics, pre-medicine, nursing, nutrition, pathology, pre-pharmacology, pharmacology, psychology, public health, science and biostatistics.

Several programs focus on athletics. The Cardinal Softball Camp, Summertime Sports Soccer Academy, Select Soccer Academy, Adult Baseball Clinic, Cardinal Field Hockey Camp, Fundamental Basketball Camps, The Lacrosse Schools, the East Coast Soccer Academy, the Total Volleyball Camp, and Tennis Camp all begin in July. Wesleyan coaches create the curriculum and teach at many of these camps, and Wesleyan student-athletes are often employed as instructors.

 

Summer activities round out Aug. 25 with International Student Orientation and New Student Orientation on Aug. 29.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Seniors Start Web Site to Spur Balanced Political Dialogue


President Doug Bennet congratulates five Wesleyan seniors on their new endeavor, beyondpartisan.org. The students, who graduated in May, are, from left, Adam Jack Gomolin, Bill Ferrell, David Tutor, Robert Weinstock and Nathaniel Byer.
Posted 06/16/06
Last August, four Wesleyan seniors got together for a friendly chat on political issues, each disenchanted with the nature of Internet politics and the few venues available for American citizens to express their viewpoints in a neutral environment. True, there are hundreds of political-action Web sites, such as MoveOn.org and CitizenJoe.com, online periodicals, and single-view blogs, but the students felt the World Wide Web lacked a site that encouraged balanced and consensus-oriented dialogue.

That’s when the College of Social Studies majors Adam Jack Gomolin, Nathaniel Byer, Robert Weinstock and David Tutor entertained the idea of starting their own Web site.

The group of four asked their political and Web-savvy friend Bill Ferrell, from the Departments of Philosophy and Physics to join. After months of planning and five design renovations, the students registered the domain, beyondpartisan.org, on Jan. 26.

“BeyondPartisan.org is a response, on one hand, to bipartisan political incompetence, and, on the other, the hyper-speed, unilateralism and overwhelming partisanship of the blogosphere,” Gomolin says. “We believe that it represents a new wave of youth-oriented and Web-based politics, the ‘anti-blog’, or at least ‘multi-blog’.”

The site, co-engineered with the design firm Dreampod.com and software architects of Pacific Northwest Software, currently gets more than 500 visitors a day and has close to 1,000 registered users.

“On TV, you have all these talking heads yelling their viewpoints, and it becomes a contest of who can shout the loudest,” Tutor says. “Our goal with Beyond Partisan is to get viewpoints out there and constructively challenge each other. You may think you are red or blue, but read others’ viewpoints, engage with those you don’t necessarily agree with.”

Beyond that, Weinstock and the others see100 U.S. senators and 435 congressmen preaching partisanship and screaming sound bytes.

“The result is a vain discord that impedes honest legislation capable of helping Americans of all creeds and classes,” Weinstock says. “What are we? We’re honest solutions, or at least, honest starting points.”

The Beyond Partisan process begins with an issue-article, a brief and accessible piece focusing on a single policy area, meant to prompt dialogue with and between users. They offer article-specific commentary, independent forums and personal messaging. Ferrell says the site offers a level of administrator-user parity offered in few other venues, certainly none political.

“Simple, short and open dialogue,” Byer explains. “It is a conversation to which each American is invited. We must, as citizens, reflect upon our discussion and draw from it the shared values upon which we may move forward.”

The editors have posted articles on gay marriage, stem cell research, educational vouchers, abortion and ports-management, among other topics.

BeyondPartisan.org, they explain, is partly about going “beyond the beltway” mentality and myopia. For instance, in the cleverly punned “Our Civil Union”, co-written with another Wesleyan student, they offer a simple solution to the hotly-debated topic of gay marriage: limit the government to ‘civil unions’, while devolving the ‘religious bond’ to independent bodies. “If the Catholic church does not want to marry two gay Americans, that is their choice,” they note, “but no tax-paying American should be denied the secular privileges consistent with marriage because of their sexual orientation.”

This is not a new solution, they point out, just one roundly ignored by elected officials.

Charles Lemert, the John C. Andrus Professor of Sociology, is a BeyondPartisan.org reader and contributor.

“I’ve followed this project for most of the year and can honestly say that it is one of the most brilliant student projects I’ve seen in a long while,” he says. “The student leaders are themselves very smart of course, but the brilliance is in their ability to pull together BeyondPartisan.org. I’m pleased but not surprised that the site has attracted so much notice. The essays are very compelling and the political theme quite obviously needed.”

The students used their own out-of-pocket money to start the site and also received additional financial help and enthusiastic encouragement from President Doug Bennet.

Although the students graduated in May and are now in various locations across the country, they will continue to co-manage the site via the Web. Weinstock says the site will become self-sustaining by allowing other writers and patrons themselves to make lead story contributions: “The more patron-produced the site is, the more successful we have been.”

“This is a perfect opportunity for people our age who want to be engaged in politics to log on and discuss today’s issues,” Byer says. “It’s a place to bring and share ideas.”

Beyond Partisan is located online at http://www.beyondpartisan.org. Users can log on and sign up at http://www.beyondpartisan.org/login/register.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Bennet Attends Forum on Education, Democracy


Posted 06/16/06
The Association of American Colleges and Universities invited Wesleyan President Doug Bennet to attend a forum June 22-23 in Strasbourg, France.

The forum, titled “The Responsibility of Higher Education for a Democratic Culture: Citizenship, Human Rights, and Civic Responsibility,” was held at the Council of Europe headquarters. The council co-sponsored the forum.

Bennet was one of 300 higher education leaders, policy makers and public authorities from North America and Europe to attend.

“For this select group, we chose President Bennet because we thought he would be especially effective representing United States higher education and he would likely use his influence to help underscore the importance of educating students to be informed, empowered and responsible local and global citizens after they graduate,” says Carol Geary Schneider, president of the AAC&U.

In addition to 12 years as Wesleyan’s president, Bennet has served as U.S. assistant secretary of state for international organizational affairs, as president of National Public Radio, and as head of the Agency for International Development and as Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations..

The forum addressed a number of key issues including fostering democratic cultures; social cohesion and intercultural dialog; promoting human rights and democratic citizenship; teaching, research and engagement; building sustainable democratic communities; and knowledge, actions and civic responsibility.

“These issues are essential in terms of how we approach liberal education now and in the future,” said Bennet. “Our goal must be to enable students to become thoughtful innovators and conscientious global citizens who can engage the world around them and make it better.”

The forum explored the responsibility of higher education for advancing sustainable democratic culture and invited participants to discuss a declaration and practical follow-up activities.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor and David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Wesleyan Busy with Summer Projects


Installation of fire protection systems in student housing and wiring are ongoing projects this summer.
Posted 06/16/06
Wesleyan’s summer to-do list is 98 lines long. And each must get checked off before the students return for fall semester.

Judd Hall’s fifth floor needs a renovation, student housing needs life safety improvements and the Center for the Arts needs its lighting replaced with energy-efficient bulbs. High Rise needs a security card access system installed, campus roofs need a maintenance plan and the Butterfields need two fire escape landings rebuilt.

“We have close to 100 projects we plan to complete this summer. Our priority continues to be the maintenance and restoration of our existing buildings,” says Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for Facilities. “It’s a never ending process.”

The summer’s tasks range from small maintenance projects like painting houses campus wide, to major construction projects like overseeing the Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center.

Wesleyan’s renovation, construction and maintenance bill averages approximately $30 million a year. Included in the spending is a list of major maintenance projects, which total approximately $7 million according to Cliff Ashton, director of physical plant. Major maintenance projects are performed on campus to extend the life of buildings and their functions, Ashton explains. This can be anything from code and safety issues, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, exterior and structural shortcomings, cosmetics and immediate landscape issues.

For example, Olin Library needs a carpet stretched this summer to extend its life another couple of years. Davison Health Center’s infirmary needs stairwell handrails because they are below code requirements. Student wood-framed homes need carbon monoxide detectors in place.

“Our focus during the summer is generally on student housing and academic spaces while they are vacant,” Topshe explains. “However, major maintenance work will continue throughout the year on the remainder of campus. We have more than 100 major maintenance projects a year, and much of this work occurs during the summer when our buildings are less occupied.”

While projects like these will be ongoing throughout the summer, Wesleyan will pay special attention to safety requests such as installing several new blue light phones on campus, additional lighting in dark places near the Center for the Arts and installation of lighting behind Foss Hill.

With so many projects to handle, Wesleyan needs a capable team to make sure the work gets done. The Wesleyan facilities team employs almost 150 workers year round, about two thirds of which are Wesleyan employees. The remaining staff is contract workers in grounds maintenance, custodial, and project management. The facilities team includes 38 professional trade staff in physical plant. These plumbers, electricians, heating/ventilating/air conditioning technicians, carpenters and locksmiths assist with projects when they’re not busy maintaining existing campus buildings, while yet another group manages the power plant and energy management systems.

“We are fortunate to have a very talented facilities and physical plant staff that have been instrumental in supporting our projects,” Topshe says. “This adds tremendous value for Wesleyan since these are the people who know our buildings the best and are responsible for maintaining our buildings into the future.”

The summer work begins this month, with a major renovation on Foss Hill to install fire sprinklers, upgrade fire alarms, construct four new undergraduate program apartments, plus some general renovations. Work has begun to construct new compact storage in the Science Library basement and construction of a new 15 bed senior house on Fountain will be completed in August. Building renovations will take place in the English and Physics departments’ faculty offices, High Rise’s kitchens and bathrooms and the Athletic Fields.

Wesleyan is approximately three years into a $300 million strategic facility masterplan and several hundred projects have already been completed throughout the 2.7 million square foot campus.

The most notable projects include the renovations to Downey House for classrooms and academic offices, a new Center for Film Studies, an addition to the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies, an addition to the Freeman Athletic Center, renovations to more than 80 classrooms throughout campus, renovations to the Memorial Chapel and ’92 Theater, construction of the new Bessie Schoenberg Dance Studio, renovations to create the Green Street Art Center, construction of new undergraduate student housing for 270 students on Fauver Field and 24 new beds for seniors on Fountain and Warren Streets, and the construction of a new synthetic turf playing field.

To view other major maintenance projects for the summer and the 2006-07 academic year, visit
http://www.wesleyan.edu/masterplan/other.html.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Professors, Alumni Perform and Direct in Tuba Ensemble in New York


Pictured at left, Stewart Gillmor, professor of history and science and professor of science in society, performs during “The Bang on a Can Marathon” June 4 in New York City. Below, Anthony Braxton, professor of music, directs the band. Braxton wrote the band’s composition.

Posted 06/16/06
Strutting outside the World Financial Center in New York City, Stewart Gillmor bellowed his five valve double-belled euphonium for thousands of spectators. He was one of 75 tuba players to march in the annual “The Bang on a Can Marathon” June 4 in New York City.

Gillmor, professor of history and science and professor of science in society, is a member of the Tuba Marching Band, directed by Wesleyan Professor of Music Anthony Braxton. Braxton’s band performed his own opus, “Composition No. 19,” a marching piece for tubas.

“It was quite a show, and quite a good, avant-garde thing to do in New York,” Gillmor says.
The “Bang on a Can Marathon” is a 10-hour eclectic super-mix of boundary-smashing genre-defying music by pioneering artists from around the world. It featured newly commissioned works by classical, electronica, jazz and rock artists. The New York Times heralded “Composition No. 19” as the “biggest spectacle at this year’s … marathon.”

With a baton in hand, Braxton led the tuba band with co-conductors and Wesleyan alumni Taylor Bynum ’98, James Fei ’99 and Matthew Welch ’01. Each conductor led a quarter of the band, with players horning with old European instruments called helicons, and sousaphones, tubas, mini-baritones and euphoniums.

Gillmor’s euphonium was rare. Most have three or four valves, but his 1940 Holton-brand has five, which allowed him to switch between two horn “bells” with the fifth key. It is one octave higher than that of a tuba.

“There were several real musicians there, some were symphony musicians, but most of us were not professionals,” Gillmor says. “Most of us were aspiring artists. It was a very geeky group.”

The uncomplicated melody of “Composition No. 19,” included fluttering notes, growls, 10-second solos, whispery sounds and several “blab, blab, blab,” sounds, Gilmore explains.

In addition to Braxton’s tuba band, performers included Julia Wolfe’s piece for six pianos; Yat Kha, a Tuvan-throat-singing Siberian punk band; Amiina, the all-female Icelandic ambient quartet; Bang on a Can drummer David Cossin with Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche; Björk collaborators Matmos with So Percussion; Evan Ziporyn’s Gamelan Galak Tika; cellist Maya Beiser; the group Alarm Will Sound; and Aphex Twin, among others.

The show finished inside the Winter Garden. Braxton’s group, which is made up of tuba and low brass players from New Jersey, Connecticut and New York, had only two rehearsals prior to the performance, one the day before, and then again on the day of.

“We sounded pretty good and the audience seemed to really like us,” Gillmor says.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos by Stewart Gillmor III.

Wesleyan Celebrates 174th Commencement


Wesleyan held its 174th commencement ceremonies May 28.
Posted 05/28/06
Wesleyan University commemorated its 175th anniversary of its institutional charter during the 174th Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 28. Wesleyan’s charter was granted on May 26, 1831.

Undergraduate degrees were conferred on 742 students. In addition, nine students received Ph.Ds, 29 students were awarded master’s degrees, and 64 Graduate of Liberate Studies degrees were conferred.

Video clips of Wesleyan’s 174th Commencement can be found at: http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/campus/0506commencementvideo.html.

In his commencement address Wesleyan President Douglas J. Bennet reflected on the long and storied history of the institution and said this class had made its mark as undergraduates and will continue to do so in the future.

“You have shown that you will be part of the solutions,” Bennet said. “I know this because of your responses to Katrina, to the Indian Ocean tsunami, to the genocide in Darfur, and to your Middletown neighbors. Where existing institutions seem not to be getting the job done, you have created new not-for-profit organizations to foster everything from micro-credit in Nepal to nonpartisan debate on global issues in America.”

John Hope Franklin, professor of history, emeritus at Duke University gave the principal address. An internationally-renowned historian, intellectual leader and lifelong civil rights activist, Franklin has served on the National Council on the Humanities, as well as the President’s Advisory Commissions on Public Diplomacy and on Ambassadorial Appointments. Franklin’s numerous publications include The Emancipation Proclamation, The Militant South, and From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans. Franklin has received honorary degrees from more than 100 colleges and universities.

Franklin exhorted students to put action behind words that were spoken during the last presidential election, especially in the area of education.

“Not long ago, a victorious presidential candidate said during his victory speech that for the next four years his agenda would be ‘putting people first.’ I am not persuaded that this was his watchword for the ensuing four years, but I sincerely hope that ‘putting people first’ will be your resolution for a much, much longer period of time,” Hope-Franklin said. “It is difficult to imagine, for example, a situation where our schools could be worse than they are at present. It has been a source of great embarrassment for our schools at all levels to rank far below the standards that a great nation can reasonably expect to maintain. And it is equally embarrassing to discover that most of the nation’s educational system could well be designated a disaster area…This need not be. What better way for you who graduate today to make a proper beginning than to make a solemn resolve to rescue our schools from their present degraded status, and thus assist in providing our students with the opportunity for a better start in life.”

Wesleyan also awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Mary O. McWilliams ’71, president of Regence BlueShield, pioneering alumna and trustee emerita.

McWilliams ’71 previously served as president of PacifiCare of Washington where she converted the provider network into groups, expanded statewide, and launched Secure Horizons as a Medicare-Risk plan. She also served as founding chief executive officer for the Sisters of Providence Health Plans in Oregon. She received a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Wesleyan.

Wesleyan awarded the Baldwin Medal to Jean Shaw P‘79 and Biff Shaw ‘51, P’79. It is the highest honor given by Wesleyan’s Alumni Association. The medal is named for Raymond E. Baldwin, a 1916 Wesleyan alumnus who served as a Connecticut Senator, Governor and Chief of the State Supreme Court.

As an alumni leader, Biff Shaw’s diligent effort on behalf of Wesleyan underscores his commitment to public service. Jean Shaw has served Wesleyan since 1969 in many roles including director of the Center for the Arts, coordinator for exhibitions, events manger and coordinator of University Lectures. She has worked to enrich the relationship between Wesleyan and Middletown, played a key role as Reunion and Commencement coordinator and oversaw the joining of Reunion and Commencement into one weekend.

To view President Bennet’s full speech, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/campus/0506commencementbennet.html

To view John Hope Franklin’s full speech visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/campus/0506commencementfranklin.html

To view additional images of R&C weekend, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/snapshot/0506commencement.html