In the Media

Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education Featured on ‘Where We Live’

WNPR’s “Where We Live” explored college prison programs, a dwindling resource that has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to prevent recidivism, in a conversation featuring Dara Young, program manager for Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education, and Michael McAlear, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, who teaches in the program.

Young was asked why teaching the liberal arts is effective in prison programs.

“The type of thinking that we hope to encourage through a liberal arts education is particularly important when we’re talking about people who are incarcerated,” said Young. “We regularly hear from our students that the experience of taking liberal arts classes is just transformative. When you expose people to new ideas, to new ways to thinking about the world, it helps them to understand how they got to where they got, and what the mistakes were that they made along the way that helped them to reach this point in their life. I think it also helps them understand what the opportunities are for them to change and to become different, so when they are released, […] they come out as better people than they were when they started.”

Mehr-Muska, Ottaviano ’17 Discuss Interfaith Relations at Wesleyan

University Protestant Chaplain Tracy Mehr-Muska and Lydia Ottaviano ’17 were interviewed on the WESU 88.1 FM show “Reasonably Catholic” about a new interfaith organization on campus that is working to build ties between the various faith traditions.

Ottaviano is a member of the new interfaith council, which planned the first Faith Shadowing Week this spring. During the week of April 19, students attended regularly scheduled meetings of various religious and spiritual groups other than their own, including several Christian fellowship group meetings and bible studies, Shabbat services, Buddhist Faith Fellowship, Wesleyan Mindfulness Group, Quaker Meeting, Catholic Mass, Muslim Jumma Prayers and Vespers. The week concluded with a campus-wide interfaith dinner that was attended by about 30 students

“It really came from a genuine interest on the part of the students,” said Mehr-Muska said of the interfaith council’s planning.

 

Ottaviano explained that while the council had originally intended to pair up students of different faith traditions, the high degree of interest in Faith Shadowing Week led them to change that plan. Instead, students in small groups attended events held by different faith traditions. This helped students learn about and get comfortable with the unfamiliar traditions.

“Those who were able to participate and attend events other than their own really found it enjoyable and enlightening, in that they were able to learn and appreciate a little more about their own traditions just by experiencing those of others faiths,” said Ottaviano. She also got some new ideas by observing meetings of other faith communities.

 

“I think that the sense of community is really what bubbled to the top” for students visiting other faith communities, said Mehr-Muska. She said the week allowed the students to identify and celebrate common ground.

Read more about the Faith Shadowing Week here.

 

President Roth Discusses the History of Freud’s Couch

Seventy-five years after Sigmund Freud’s death, the father of psychoanalysis’ couch has remained a powerful symbol in our culture. The public radio show 99% Invisible interviewed President Michael Roth, a Freud historian, for an episode exploring the history and cultural significance of Freud’s couch.

Freud, and others of his time, used a couch as part of hypnosis–a cutting edge but controversial treatment. One of Freud’s patients, a wealthy woman named Franny Moser who was struggling from multiple ailments, proved difficult to hypnotize.

“He wasn’t a very good hypnotist. He was kind of a clumsy hypnotist,” explained Roth. “Freud would say, ‘You’re getting sleepy, you’re getting sleepy,’ and she’d say, ‘No I’m not! I’m not sleepy at all.'” Instead of getting sleepy, Moser would talk. At first, Freud tried to interrupt her with his theories, but she insisted on talking.

Then, Roth said, Freud realized that if he just let patients talk and didn’t say anything, they would let down their defenses, revealing their unconscious.

“This is the moment when the pre-Freudian Freud becomes the Freudian Freud,” Roth said. These new techniques and theories for therapy would come to be called psychoanalysis.

“The couch, especially Freud’s couch, it came to symbolize an invitation to open your mind, to let someone see inside,” Roth said. “It’s a reminder that we have the ability to reveal ourselves. And it’s irresistible, right? It’s like a magic carpet. I can get on the couch and suddenly I’ll say things that reveal what I really love…when my whole life I’ve been pretending to love other things.”

Ulysse Reflects on Violence Against Blacks in Charleston, Dominican Republic

In a blog post on Africa is a CountryProfessor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse reflects on two horrific stories in the news: the mass deportation of thousands of migrant workers and their families of Haitian background from the Dominican Republic, and the killing of nine people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

The “ethnic purging” taking place in the Dominican Republic, writes Ulysse, “is a rejection of a certain kind of Black. Blackness that is too African.”

She continues:

Despite our somatic plurality and the color gradations we encompass, Haiti and Haitians have always been portrayed and understood as that kind of Black. A Blackness of a particular kind that, truth be re-told, radically changed the world. It was an avant-garde Blackness that not only pulled off a successful slave revolution, which caused the disorder of all things colonial, but also brought the sanctity of whiteness into question. The Haitian Revolution disrupted the notion that Freedom (with a capital F) was the sole domain of whites or those close to whiteness. Indeed, the value ascribed to those Black Lives continue to deteriorate. Moreover, those among us who are visibly marked with that Blackness have had to continually dissuade folks that we are not genetically coded to be their property or the help.

Ulysse writes that the attack on the Charleston church is “not unrelated” to the situation in the Dominican Republic. “Being Black, these days, means living in constant state of siege…There are no safe spaces for that Black. Nine people were killed in their place of worship. An act of terrorism that must be named. Their killer sat in a pew for an hour before extinguishing their Black Lives.”

Yohe: Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change ‘Quite Likely a Game-Changer’

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, wrote in The Hartford Courant about Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change–“a very valuable and much needed injection of morality into the scientific and economic discussions on climate change — it is quite likely a game-changer.”

While scientists, economists and other professionals have long made a case for taking action to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change, Yohe writes, “The pope’s encyclical adds a moral dimension to this case with nearly 200 pages of inspiring text about man’s pollution and the immorality of emissions. He notes that the Bible tells humans, as early as the first chapter of Genesis, that they have a stewardship obligation to the planet. The Bible also commands us to protect the least among us — the poorest who lack the means to provide for themselves. These are the people, the world over, who will be most heavily impacted by climate change — the poor, the very young, the elderly and infirm — especially if they live near a coastline. Working from there, as the leader of a billion Catholics, the pope provides theological justification that we are behaving immorally by continuing to avoid reducing emissions.”

Yohe concludes:

I must admit, at this point, that declaring something a sin is way above my pay grade. What I can say from my scientific and faith perspective is this: Putting human beings, their societies and communities, and aspects of nature unnecessarily at risk by ignoring science on the basis of ideology, business interest, or ill-informed and unyielding denial is morally irresponsible — especially for elected officials.

I believe that the pope’s encyclical confirms this perspective not only for more than 1 billion Catholics around the world and across this country, but also for the billions of others from multiple faiths who take seriously their stewardship obligations to the planet and its inhabitants.

Yohe is also professor and chair of economics, professor of environmental studies.

The Chronicle Checks in on Wesleyan’s Three-Year Degree Program

With the first official cohort of students following a three-year path a BA having graduating this spring, The Chronicle of Higher Education checked in on the program, which was first announced in 2012. Fifteen of Wesleyan’s 799 graduates last month finished their degrees in six semesters.

While a few students have always graduated early, the university announced in 2012 that it would provide support for students who wanted graduate in three years, which could reduce the price of a degree by about 20 percent.

“I just wanted to make the three-year path more visible and more normal,” President Michael Roth told the Chronicle. While he expects the program to continue to grow as it becomes more visible, he said it’s not for everyone. “I don’t think a ton of people will want to do it, because they like being here.”

The university began offering summer courses in 2010, and winter courses in 2014 at a reduced rate to help students earn credits at an accelerated rate. Most students pursuing the three-year degree also bring in Advanced Placement credits from high school, and take extra courses during the regular school year.

The Chronicle interviewed Holly Everett ’15, a molecular biology and biochemistry major, who graduated with her original class but took a year off in the middle to conduct research outside of Wesleyan. Also featured was Tian Qiao, an international student from China who graduated in three years with two majors and a minor. In addition to his course work, he was chair of the Chinese Cultural Committee, performed with the Chinese Musical Ensemble, and worked two jobs on campus.

Read the full article here (available to on-campus visitors, and those with a subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Education).

Basinger Reflects on Star Wars Sequel Success

Though movie sequels had been successful in the past, it was a huge surprise when The Empire Strikes Back turned out to be as popular as the original Star Wars film, Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, told the website Boing Boing for a story reflecting on Empire 35 years after it arrived in cinemas.

“When you have set a level that you set with Star Wars in terms of financial success, critical success, audience success, quality of production, greatness of storytelling, you don’t really think even if the second one is going to be good that it can hit that same level twice because Star Wars was a real landmark film,” Basinger said. “It was a real big impact film and so you don’t expect the next one in that sequence to also be a landmark. It just doesn’t seem possible the way storytelling works but Empire was a movie that did not let down the standards set by Star Wars and that was great. Everybody was thrilled.”

She added that Empire opened up in a new way the possibility of sequential storytelling on a giant scale.

Basinger also is curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives.

New York Times Features Wesleyan Admission Essay

Adriane Tharp, who will be coming to Wesleyan in the fall as part of the Class of 2019, set her admission essay in the Forestdale, Ala. Domino’s Pizza where she worked, writing about the “lineup of fellow misfits who were her colleagues.” The New York Times featured Tharp’s essay in its annual story on admission essays about working and money.

The story quotes Wesleyan Associate Dean of Admission Chris Lanser, who was the first reader of Tharp’s essay. He tells the Times how rare it is for applicants to write about money and work, and explains what stood out to him about Tharp’s essay.

“The point of the essay is not to tell us that she needs work or doesn’t,” Lanser said. “What she wants us to learn from this is that she is able to embrace difference and learn quite a bit from those differences.”

The Times asked Lanser about the perception that admissions officers at competitive colleges devalue work experience.

“We think there are valuable life skills and people skills to be gained in the workplace,” he said, adding that he personally believes that everyone should work in the service industry at some point in their lives.

Read Tharp’s essay here (second from the bottom).

Cimino ’15, Baseball Team Featured in Courant

The Hartford Courant profiled two-sport athlete Donnie Cimino ’15, a member of the stellar Wesleyan baseball team that recently reached the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year. Cimino, center fielder and team captain for baseball, is also a defensive back and two-year captain on the football team.

“It’s emotional,” Cimino, one of nine seniors on the team, told the Courant, “because everything comes to an end. It’s been such a journey, four years, and we experienced a lot of success. When I got here, there wasn’t a winning attitude or a winning culture. We [Class of 2015] wanted to change that as freshmen. We looked at each other, saw a talented class and great group. We worked really hard to get where we are.”

The baseball team celebrated 30 victories this season, just one shy of the program record of 31 it posted last year. Both seasons, the team qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The program’s record over the last three seasons is 88-39-1, with its first two NESCAC championships coming this year and last.

“What you’ve seen is a product of great people, the result being incredible individual and team success,” said coach Mark Woodworth ’94, who has completed his 14th year as coach. “But what I’m most happy about is that this is just a springboard for what they’re going to do in the future. You get great people around you everywhere — players, coaches, trainers, parents, athletic director, president — and great stuff starts happening. And now they’ll go on to be great husbands, fathers and sons.”

Roth Reviews Oliver Sacks’ New Memoir

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Reviewing Oliver Sacks’ new memoir, On the Move, in The AtlanticPresident Michael Roth writes that the celebrated neurologist “opens himself to recognition, much as he has opened the lives of others to being recognized in their fullness.”

The memoir begins in Sacks’ early life, when a teacher noted in his report card that “Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.” Sacks describes going to extremes in areas of his life ranging from recreational swimming to competitive weightlifting to drug use. A native of England, Sacks traveled to the United States after completing his medical training to get space from his parents and two brothers who all worked as doctors. Roth writes:

Going far career-wise was something Sacks fervently desired. “Here I am, look what I can do,” is how he describes his feelings about his first professional intervention into the American neurological community. Sacks would develop a genius for recognition of another sort, for paying attention to people whose illness might have rendered them invisible but for his gift of seeing them as beings with histories, with contexts. This genius he combined with his own craving for recognition—writing as a witness to the lives of others in such a way that he himself would be acknowledged through the quality of his testimony.

Grimmer-Solem Remembers the Sinking of the Lusitania

Erik Grimmer-Solem

Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem

The Hartford Courant turned to Erik Grimmer-Solem, associate professor of history, tutor in the College of Social Studies, for perspective on the sinking of the ocean liner R.M.S. Lusitania, one century later.

“The British were very effective in using the sinking of the Lusitania as a propaganda tool, portraying the Germans as beastly and dastardly,” he told the Courant. “But [Woodrow] Wilson was in a tough spot. The United States had a significant German population, who were certainly not in favor of war.”

Grimmer-Solem said the German government naturally viewed the horror of the Lusitania quite differently. He said the British had imposed a crippling blockade of the North Sea, including food, in violation of international conventions.

Also, maritime prize rules of the day required submarines to surface before carrying out searches of suspected vessels — a risky maneuver as the British were known to use decoy vessels to coax U-Boats into firing rage. The situation pushed the Germans toward a policy of “unrestricted” submarine warfare, he said.

“The Lusitania was seen by the Germans as a legitimate military target,” the professor said. “We know it was chock full of munitions, which the Germans had suspected. They were listed on the manifest. There were many tons aboard the vessel. The English were ruthless about [using passenger vessels for ferrying arms.] They did this in the Boer War.”

President Roth Reviews Frank Bruni’s Book

President Michael Roth reviewed New York Times columnist Frank Bruni’s new book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania for The Washington PostThough Bruni directs his thoughts specifically to the young men and women competing to gain admission to Ivy League and other highly competitive colleges and universities, Roth sees his message as speaking “more broadly to the culture of manufactured meritocracy–a culture of rankings and branding, of recruiting and rejection.”

“Bruni tackles the roots of this lesson with example after example of successful, accomplished and happy people whose college experiences were far from the elite halls of Stanford or Harvard,” writes Roth.

“As an educator, I applaud Bruni’s advice to disregard the false rankings systems and recognize that hundreds of schools across the country offer fantastic opportunities for people eager to work and learn. As a father, I am grateful for his reminder of the importance of family for students: ‘something so much more essential and nourishing and lasting’ than admission to a college — no matter how highly ranked.”