In the Media

Rasmussen ’87 Manages Expectations About the Military Defeat of ISIS

Nicholas Rasmussen ’87, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, spoke on NPR’s “Morning Edition” about progress made in the fight against the Islamic State. He said the tactical gains the U.S. military and its partners are making in Iraq and Syria are a “necessary” part of quashing the danger it poses—but not “sufficient.”

Rasmussen told NPR that government agencies—ranging from federal to local—are working well together, and counterterrorism leaders are confident they can detect, disrupt or stop big, complicated attacks on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001.

But the danger remains from smaller-scale attacks directed or inspired by ISIS, and these may linger a long time.

The Islamic State can be defeated both as a self-styled “caliphate” and as a terror network, Rasmussen said — but he stressed that the West can’t declare victory whenever allied forces recapture Mosul, in northern Iraq, and the ISIS “capital” of Raqqa, in Syria.

Even the death or capture of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, while it would be “significant,” might not create a dramatic difference, Rasmussen said. “The payoff from that … does not come quickly.”

Rutland Speaks on BYUradio about the Olympics, Nationalism

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, was interviewed on BYUradio about the Olympics and nationalism.

“The Olympics are practically built for indulging in what you might call ‘good nationalism,’ as opposed to the xenophobic kind,” said host Julie Rose in the introduction. Yet this year’s Olympic Games come at a time of fear of outsiders, both in the U.S. and abroad.

They begin by discussing the difference between patriotism—which has more positive connotations—and nationalism, which implies dislike of foreigners. The key distinction, says Rutland, is about having respect for people from all countries.

“In practice, the Olympics is a competition, it’s about winners and losers,” he said. “The Olympics is very contradictory. On the one hand, it claims to be transcending nationalism in a kind of fellowship of international athletes. But at the same time, in practice, it reinforces nationalism by encouraging people to cheer for their team and take pride in their team’s victories, and correspondingly, the defeat of other nations’ teams.”

Rutland also commented on the mass appeal of such competitions.

“It does tap into a desire to express our belonging to a bigger community—not just our family and neighborhood, but our country. And, at least when it’s going through the media—when it’s watching the Olympics or watching the World Cup for soccer, it seems to be pretty benign. It’s not like going to war. Sport, as George Orwell said, is a kind of substitute for war. Nobody is getting killed, nobody is getting hurt, and we’re all kind of on the same side, in that everybody is enjoying the competition, and you win some, you lose some.”

Rutland also is professor of government, professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies, and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Gross Writes About a ‘Tipping Point’ in Relations Between Police, African Americans

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Kali Nicole Gross, professor of African American studies, writes in The Huffington Post about the case of Korryn Gaines, the latest death of an African American at the hand of police. Gaines was fatally shot after a five-hour standoff with police and SWAT officers in Maryland, and had prophesied her own demise during an earlier traffic stop, in which she had also been defiant.

While Gaines’ behavior may once have appeared irrational, and possibly a sign of mental illness, Gross writes, “after these and so many other deaths of black women and men killed during minor traffic stops, killed for selling loose cigarettes, or found dead in jail after failing to signal a lane change, Gaines’ defiance may gesture toward a desperate tipping point: that the system is so corrupt there is little distinction between notions of legal and illegal. It may also mark the mounting fear that for black people there is little chance of survival during even the most routine police encounters.”

Forbes Ranks Wesleyan in the Top 10 Colleges in America

Forbes magazine has featured Wesleyan among the top 10 in its list of America’s Top Colleges 2016. Ranked at number 9, it shares the highest echelon with major research universities including Stanford, Princeton and Harvard, and liberal arts colleges like Williams, Pomona and Swarthmore.

The Forbes ranking is based on a weighted three-year moving average of each school’s total score. Critical factors include student satisfaction (measured by faculty ratings and freshman-to-sophomore retention rates), post-graduate success (alumni salaries and alumni on American Leaders List), academic success (alumni receiving PhDs and student nationally competitive awards), student debt, and four-year graduation rates.

President Michael Roth blogged about this honor in July, writing, “Despite knowing that ranking schools is more magazine public relations than science, and despite the tendency to reward the wealthiest schools with the highest rankings (all the schools in the Forbes’ top 10 except Wesleyan have endowments way over a billion dollars), I have to admit I was tickled to see alma mater get this recognition. This magazine (unlike U.S. News) paid more attention to outputs (how our alumni and faculty are doing) than inputs (how much do we spend per student, how many applicants do we reject), and I couldn’t help but think that we did well here because of the impact our grads are having beyond the university.”

He added, “I still think that all college rankings are pretty artificial, and that prospective students should find the right fit with a school rather than choose a place on which a magazine has conferred prestige. […] But it’s gratifying to see Wesleyan faculty and alumni recognized for the great work they do every year—whatever the rankings.”

Levin ’19 Interviews Actor Cambor ’01 of Showtime’s Roadies

Peter Cambor '01 (Photo by Coco Knudson)

Peter Cambor ’01. (Photo by Coco Knudson)

Hannah Levin ’19 recently interviewed Peter Cambor ’01, an actor on Showtime’s Roadies, about his career and his time at Wesleyan. The interview appears on Master Chat Mag, a website Levin has been running since her sophomore year of high school, which serves as a resource for students who are passionate about TV, film, theater and comedy and wish to work in the field one day.

Cambor has starred in television series including Notes from the Underbelly and NCIS: Los Angeles. In the interview with Levin, he talks about catching the acting bug in high school, and about how his time at Wesleyan fueled his creativity:

I guess that the best thing for me was the faculty at the time was great, Bill Francisco was a great teacher who has since retired. A litany of great actors had come out of Wesleyan before my going there, like Bradley Whitford and Frank Wood. The ’92 Theater [Wesleyan’s student theater] had a play going on every weekend. Some of the plays were quite good, including In the Heights, as you know. There were things like that going on all the time.

There are two sides to working as an actor professionally. There’s the creative side where you’re making all the fun stuff, making theater, which is great. But you also have to have a business acumen. Just like in any other business you have to know how to work on a team, how to work with other people, what’s realistic under great constraints and how you can find freedom within those constraints. You’re forced to creatively think your way out of problems. I think that little microcosm of the ’92 Theater really taught me that thing. People took big swings and sometimes things were great, sometimes things were awful. But there were always big, bold swings. Learning how to work together, fail together, succeed together was great.

I was also working with a great group of people. I was good friends with Thomas Kail (’99) who directed Hamilton, Lin-Manuel [Miranda] (’02) and I were in a play together, I did a film with one of the executive producers for Brooklyn-Nine-Nine. There’s just so many more: Zack Whedon, Joss Whedon’s younger brother. All those guys were there. That’s a pretty hefty group of people to be working with, which of course I didn’t realize at the time.

Read the full interview here.

President Roth, Ulysse Respond to Recent Black Men Killings, Police Murders

In a July 11 Roth on Wesleyan blog, President Michael Roth responds to two recent killings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the murders of five police officers in Texas. In the blog, titled, “On What Matters” Roth shares his own thoughts and the reflections of others that he found meaningful. He writes:

Too often I have written blog posts about tragedies, violence, injustice. From attacks in other parts of the world to devastation right here in the USA, I have expressed sorrow, anger—and often a feeling of solidarity with those who have suffered, are suffering. Readers have pointed out that my compassion, like other forms of attention, is selective. There are plenty of injustices that have gone unremarked in this space, either because of my own ignorance or my judgments about what I should be writing about in this Roth on Wesleyan blog.

I have followed the news reports and commentaries closely over the last week. What horror unfolds before us! The brutal killings by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana and the vicious murders of police officers in Dallas that followed have underscored how violence can destroy individual lives while shaking communities to the core.

In her latest piece in The Huffington Post, Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, responds to the recent killings of black men.

She writes:

My optimism wanes and my patience continues to be tried with each new extra judicial killing, each exoneration. Each one is more confirmation of the deep rootedness of our inequality. We bear the weight of history so unequally. It is written on our bodies and etched in the color of our skin. Human chattel. Property. Slaves. That is the undue burden, the inequity we live with, that simply cannot be undone unconsciously. Its transformation, if that (I am not naïve), requires so much more than will. To bring about a modicum of change we must not only intentionally attempt, but also be determined, to shift. It will not happen par hazard. Because history has seen to it that the exchange, use, and sign value ascribed to Black lives remains unequal to that of Whites. We are differentially positioned and invested.

What story do you tell yourself to assuage the comfort you find in the social luxury of being in an unmarked body. Your silence is your complicity. Where is your outrage as we all bear witness to this moment?

Read more here.

MSNBC’s Women in Politics, College Edition, Highlights Kate Cullen ’16

Kate Cullen on campus with South College and Memorial Chapel behind her.

Kate Cullen ’16, who served as president of Wesleyan Student Assembly was selected for MSNBC’s “Women in Politics: College Edition.”

Kate Cullen ’16, an earth and environmental science and history major from Bethesda, Md., was selected for MSNBC’s Women in Politics: College Edition series. The president of the Wesleyan Student Assembly, Cullen received the University’s nomination “as a leader making a difference not only through key issues on campus, but in bridging the gender gap in politics.” MSNBC plans to use the series to highlight women candidates and as a springboard for national conversations on women’s issues.

Cullen, who has “been fortunate to have a lot of strong female role models,” says she was motivated to work in student government by “making a tangible impact, whether through policy change, facilitated dialogue or a big community event…” Additionally, she notes, “I think student activism and free expression are of the utmost importance in fostering meaningful campus dialogues.”

Sprinkles Founder Nelson ’96 Highlights Frosting Demos at New Store

Candace Nelson ’96 has opened the 20th Sprinkles Cupcakes Store in Disney Springs.

Candace Nelson ’96 has opened the 20th Sprinkles Cupcakes Store at Disney Springs, in Orlando, Fla.

In a video interview with central Florida’s WESH to celebrate the opening of the newest location of Sprinkles Cupcakes at Disney Springs, the store’s founder Candace Nelson ’96 offered a brief frosting tutorial.

“All of our cupcakes at Sprinkles are hand-frosted,” she noted. “You can actually come to our store at Disney Springs and see those cupcakes being frosted in our frosting theater. All of our frosters are in a cute little window so you can see them do their magic at Sprinkles.”

Additionally, she said that cupcakes ATMs are open until 2 a.m. for those on the late-night prowl: “It’s technology and pleasure coming together in the form of a cupcake.”

“We had a line of 100 people deep when we opened on Sunday and it has been going strong ever since, and we are so grateful,” she said. The popularity of the store, she said, is based on the company’s “commitment to quality, freshness, wonderful flavors, with someone for everyone.” Sprinkles now offers gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free treats in addition to the original signature cupcakes.

Nelson opened her first store in Beverly Hills with her husband Charles in 2005, a story that appeared in the Wesleyan magazine in 2010. It was one of the first cupcake-only bakeries, although has expanded its line to include cookies and ice cream, as well. The Disney Springs location is store No. 20.

Gruen Weighs in on Killing of Gorilla at Zoo

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen

Writing in The Washington PostLori Gruen, the William Griffin Professor of Philosophy, argues that fingers are being pointed in the wrong direction after Harambe, an endangered lowland gorilla, was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4-year-old child entered his enclosure. “The real culprits are zoos,” she writes.

Many in the animal protection community contend that the gorilla didn’t pose a real threat to the boy, and are questioning if zoo staff did enough to try to separate Harambe from the child. Others are blaming the boy’s mother for not properly supervising him.

Gruen writes:

For me, the real question is not who to blame, but why anyone was in a situation in which they had to make a choice between the life of a human child and the life of an endangered teenage gorilla in the first place. Keeping wild animals in captivity is fraught with problems. This tragic choice arose only because we keep animals in zoos.

Though killing is less common at U.S. zoos compared with the regular practice of “culling” at European ones, zoos are nonetheless places that cause death. Harambe’s life was cut short intentionally and directly, but for many zoo animals, simply being in captivity shortens their lives. We know this is true for whales in SeaWorld. Elephants, too, die prematurely in zoos. So why have zoos?

One of the reasons often given is that zoos protect and conserve endangered wild animals. A few zoos do fund conservation efforts — the Cincinnati Zoo is one of them. These efforts are laudable, and I would hope that in light of the tragedy the Cincinnati Zoo will spend more to help protect lowland gorillas. Their habitat, as is true for so many wild animals, is under threat.

But captive animals, especially large mammals born in captivity, like Harambe, cannot be “returned to the wild.” These sensitive, smart, long-lived gorillas are destined to remain confined, never to experience the freedom of the wild. They are, at best, symbols meant to represent their wild counterparts. But these symbols are distortions, created in an effort to amuse zoo-goers. Zoos warp our understanding of these wonderful beings and perpetuate the notion that they are here for our purposes.

If we really need someone to blame, maybe we should look at our society, which supports these types of institutions of captivity. If zoos were more like sanctuaries, places where captive animals can live out their lives free from screaming crowds and dangers not of their own making, no one would have had to decide to kill Harambe. Sanctuaries are places where the well-being of animals is of primary concern and animals are treated with respect. Four-year-olds and their families could see gorillas in Imax theaters, where their curiosity could be safely satisfied and gorillas could live with dignity, in peace.

Gruen also is chair of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, professor of science in society, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. She also commented in The Christian Science Monitor’s coverage of the gorilla’s killing, and wrote this piece for the Center for Humans & Nature.

Gilmore Discusses Future of Space Exploration With Buzz Aldrin

Gilmore is a founding member of the Planetary Science Group at Wesleyan.

Professor Gilmore is a founding member of the Planetary Science Group at Wesleyan.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, joined legendary astronaut and engineer Buzz Aldrin and Hoppy Price of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a discussion on WNPR about the past, present and future of space exploration. The three were guests on The Colin McEnroe Show on May 25.

Aldrin, who was one of the first two humans to walk on the moon, is the author of a new book, No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon.

McEnroe asked Gilmore about our current level of understanding about Mars.

“Our knowledge of Mars has really increased over the last two decades, and that’s because of a sustained series of missions, a flotilla of spacecraft in orbit, roving and on the surface of Mars that have been able to learn upon each other’s discoveries and leverage each other’s assets. We understand now not only that it was habitable on Mars at the same time that life evolved on Earth, but also where it’s habitable. And so the last rover we landed on the surface of the planet has landed in a place where there was mud and there were rivers and there was sustained water over long periods of time. So we understand now a lot about the history of Mars and the history of water on Mars and the environments that exited on Mars at the same time life was evolving on Earth.”

 

 

Wesleyan Class Studies ‘Lost Tribe’ of Lower Connecticut River

The Hartford Courant reported on a study of the Wangunks, the indigenous people of Middletown and Portland, Conn., by members of a Wesleyan course taught by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of environmental studies. Eleven students spent a semester in the archives of the Middlesex County Historical Society studying the Wangunks as part of a course on local Native Americans: “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People.” Four of those students presented their research at a March seminar at Russell Library.

According to the story:

The Wesleyan students made use of a number of sources to piece together a comprehensive history of the Wangunk peoples, from their contact in the mid-1600s with the first English settlers of Middletown to the tribe’s gradual disappearance.

Through [Gary] O’Neal — a descendant of Jonathan Palmer, a Wangunk Indian who lived in East Hampton in the early 1800s — the students were able to learn about the tribe’s persistence in the area.

“We wanted to understand who the Wangunk were and what happened to them,” said [Maia] Neumann-Moore [’18], who looked at Wangunk migration patterns after the settling of Mattabessett, or Middletown, by the English in 1650. “It was as if the Wangunk disappeared into the woods. But they were here all along.”

The students found that the settlers were increasingly casual in their references to these Native Americans over time, especially their actual numbers. They said the word Wangunk appears often in 17th century records but far less frequently a century later, when a small band was living across the river on a reservation in Portland, known as Wangunk meadows.

Read the full story here.

Fox ’19 Writes on Wesleyan’s Jewish Community, Campus Political Climate

Anna Fox ’19 wrote an essay in The Forward about Wesleyan’s Jewish community and the campus political climate surrounding the Israel Palestinian conflict. Though, as a Zionist, she was anxious about coming to a campus with a pro-Palestine reputation, she was met with a pluralistic community, “diverse opinions” and “students exchanging ideas thoughtfully—though rarely in agreement—and leaving the conversations with respect, compassion and nuanced approaches to their ideas.”

She writes:

The passion I see in my peers who engage with Israeli-Palestinian politics, regardless of their political affiliations, gives me so much hope about the future of the Holy Land. My voice is not just heard, but valued. My views have been challenged, certainly, and I often leave conversations grappling with the questions they provoked, but I am always met with compassion.

And this campus makes me feel closer to Israel. My community’s plurality doesn’t alienate me, but pushes me to think deeply about the conflict. When the Bayit embraces students with diverse political opinions, and when we have the opportunity to engage with the issues that we feel so deeply and passionately about, my peers and I are able to develop our opinions in an informed and responsible way. […] The openness of dialogue in this campus’s Jewish community never allows us to be blindly opinionated, or to trust that we are always right. Rather, we are constantly assessing the subtleties of our opinions, strengthening and shifting them as we continue to learn more about the world around us.

Fox concludes:

It’s tempting for adults to dismiss college students as starry-eyed idealists. But as young people, we know that at the end of the day, we have the potential to make the world a better place. When we have the spaces to explore this potentiality fully, we bring a new vitality to the conversation. We engage with one another, and we challenge both our peers’ beliefs and our own. We grow as Jews and as people. Jewish communal leaders looking to understand our generation ought to listen to us.