In the Media

Wesleyan in the News


In this recurring feature in 
The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

 

 

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Hartford Courant“Connecticut Natives at Wesleyan Organize TEDx Conference”

Wesleyan hosted its inaugural TEDx conference on April 7, featuring talks by many distinguished alumni, local officials, and others. Two of the student organizers, Eunes Harun ’20 and Leo Marturi ’20, are interviewed about the event.

2. The Hill: “Trump, Pelosi Appear Most in Early Ads—for the Other Side” 

A new analysis from the Wesleyan Media Project finds that Donald Trump has been the top target of political attack ads this year, with Nancy Pelosi the second favorite target, as both parties seek to drive their political bases to the polls. “Although presidents and presidential candidates are the most common targets in congressional campaign ads, it is noteworthy that Pelosi has consistently been singled out more than any other congressional leader since 2010 despite her minority party status for the bulk of that time,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and WMP co-director.

3. Faith Middleton Food Schmooze: “Funeral Food with a Twist, a Seductive Rosé and Amy Bloom”

In connection with her new book, White Houses, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing Amy Bloom talks about food in the Franklin Roosevelt White House. Bloom comes in around 21 minutes.

4. Naturally Speaking: “Extending Evolution, an Interview with Prof. Sonia Sultan”

On this podcast, Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, discusses her research on phenotypic plasticity and transgenerational effect in plants, and shares her thoughts on one of most controversial ideas currently circulating in mainstream evolutionary biology: the so-called “extended evolutionary synthesis.” Sultan was honored at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine’s annual Darwin Day lecture.

5. Inside Higher Ed: “The Data Should Make You Happy!”

President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Roth writes: “We don’t need cheerleading psychologists telling us we should be happier than we are.”

6. Squash Magazine: “Teaching the Game: Women and Squash”

Shona Kerr, Wesleyan’s head coach of men’s and women’s squash, is interviewed for a story about gender bias in the world of squash coaching. Kerr is one of only three women in the country who coaches a men’s collegiate squash team.

Recent Alumni News

  1. NDTV Profit: “Wipro Director, Harvard Alumnus Rishad Premji [’99] Appointed Chairman Of Nasscom” Rishad Premji, who was an economics major at Wesleyan and holds an MBA from Harvard, was appointed chairman of IT industry body Nasscom (National Association of Software and Service Companies) for 2018–19. Previously, he was chief strategy officer and board member of Wipro Ltd, which he joined in 2007. In 2014 he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. [See the site for a video message from Premji, on accepting this new position.]

2. NPR: “Mary Halvorson [’02] Re-Engineered Jazz Guitar. Now, She’s Hacking Her Own Code”

In this review of Halvorson’s new double album, Code Girl, Nate Chinen, director of editorial comment at NPR Music, calls Halvorson’s style “staunchly unplaceable in style—art-rock? avant-prog?—and mysterious in several other respects.” The article also refers to John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, Anthony Braxton as her “august mentor.” Code Girl is out on the Firehouse 12 label.

3. Harvard Medical School News: “Why the Fly? Geneticist Stephanie Mohr [’93] Delves into Science’s Favorite Winged Model Organism”

“[S]elf-described ‘fly person’ Stephanie Mohr,” a lecturer on genetics at Harvard Medical School and author of the book First in Fly: Drosophila Research and Biological Discovery (Harvard University Press, 2018)explains her fascination with the insect and its importance in genetics research.

4. New York Times: “Even With Scholarships, Students Often Need Extra Financial Help“

This article by Janet Morrissey profiles a number of programs at prestigious universities that are designed to assist low-income scholarship students with living expenses. Richard Locke ’81, provost at Brown University, is mentioned as “help[ing] prepare Brown’s E-Gap (Emergency, Curricular and Co-curricular Gap) Funds, and its FLi (First Generation Low-Income) Center in late 2015 after hearing stories from students who were struggling financially.”

5. WBAL 1090—Educator Beverly Daniel Tatum [’75, P’04, Hon. ’15] to Speak at Towson Commencement

WBAL NewsRadio 1090’s Tyler Waldman reported Towson University President Kim Schatzel said: “We are honored to welcome Beverly Daniel Tatum to campus as our commencement speaker. Not only is she a thought leader in the higher education community, her expertise in diversity, inclusion and race relations supports Towson University’s relentless pursuits in these areas.” Tatum will speak at Towson’s College of Liberal Arts commencement on May 23, 2018, and will receive an honorary doctorate. A former Wesleyan trustee, Tatum was awarded an honorary doctorate from Wesleyan in 2015.

Sharing the Stage: Greenberger ’81 Wins Award, Whitford ’81 Presents

Sharing the Stage: Bradley Whiford ’81 (left) presents the Writers Guild Award to his senior-year housemate and fellow theater major, Dan Greenberger ’81. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Variety)

Dan Greenberger ’81 attended the Writers Guild Award as a nominee in the category of On-Air Promotion (“the TV equivalent of movie trailers,” he explains) on Feb. 11, 2018. As an award veteran (he’d already won twice previously), Greenberger had done his homework: checked who was presenting his category and prepared an acceptance speech in case he won.

Just before the ceremony, as people milled around the dinner tables, he ran into his Wesleyan senior-year housemate, Bradley Whitford ’81, who had news: the scheduled presenter in the on-air promotion category had canceled. Instead, “I’m presenting in your category,” Whitford told his friend.

And from there, everything went off script for Greenberger, who quickly tried to reformulate his prepared speech to celebrate the friendship on stage, should he win.

Greenberger was the winner, and when he dashed on stage, the two embraced and ribbed each other gently about their college housekeeping habits.

In a conversation afterward with the Connection, Greenberger acknowledged the uniqueness of sharing that moment with his fellow theater major. “Senior year was a bonding time, as we were both getting ready to go out into the world.

“Brad and I took a train together to New York to audition for Juilliard,” Greenberger recalls.”He got in and I didn’t—and that’s when I decided I would be a writer.” In fact, Whitford had appeared in Wesleyan plays that Greenberger had written.

“Obviously, at the presentation, we were joking around a lot—but how great a full-circle moment is that? To be on stage, getting an award, with someone to whom you’ve talked about dreams and hopes when we were in college—I’m just so proud of what Brad has done with his career. As an actor, he keeps getting better.”

Greenberger, whose current work at CBS includes writing the promotions for Kevin Can Wait, notes that his favorite assignment was also very Wesleyan: How I Met Your Mother, the nine-season sitcom written by Carter Bays ’97 and Craig Thomas ’97. “I loved the sensibility; it was smart, it was funny, it was edgy—and I loved the fact that it was created by Wesleyan guys,” he recalls.

And he also knew it well: “When you work on promoting a show, you really get to know it almost better than anyone. You watch every episode more than once, you take it apart, you take notes on it: ‘Oh, here’s a good line; there’s a good moment.’ These are the pieces of the puzzle that I use to build the promotion—a story in 20 seconds, and every syllable counts.”

As for Whitford, Greenberger maintains: “He’s one of the very funniest people I’ve ever known. I’ve always told him he should do more comedy.

“But seriously—any time I look at Brad I go back to those days at Wesleyan when we were both theater majors falling in love with ‘the business,’ and wondering, ‘how do we get into this, and how do we make our mark?’ It was so great to have our paths converge on that stage.”

 

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Hartford Courant“Extraordinary Life: He Had an Outsized Influence on Wesleyan, and Math”

This article celebrates the life and accomplishments of Bob Rosenbaum, who has been called “the most influential and constructive faculty member at Wesleyan in the second half of the 20th century.” In addition to teaching mathematics, he served as dean of students, provost, vice-president of academic affairs, and acting president.

2. WNPR’s Where We Live“Election Security, Prison Education, and an Explanation for ‘Hyped’ Winter Storms”

Kristen Inglis, Wesleyan Center for Prison Education academic development and planning manager, discusses CPE’s partnership with Middlesex Community College, which allows students to earn associate’s degrees.

3. NPR: “A New Song Cycle Contemplates Blackness”

Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, a composer, is interviewed about his unique collaboration with an internationally renowned opera singer and a National Book Award-winning poet.

4. The New York Times“Can Steven Spielberg Remember How to Have Fun?”

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, comments on the changing style and focus of the famous director over time. Basinger, who is curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives, also discusses Spielberg’s new film, Ready Player One, in The Sydney Morning Herald.

5. The New York Times: “For the Love of ‘George and Martha'”

Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, write an appreciation of the late author James Marshall’s “George and Martha” children’s stories.

Recent Alumni News

  1. NPR—“Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Discusses Russia’s Expulsion of U.S. Diplomats”

Robert Hunter ’62, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, talks to NPR correspondent Audie Cornish about the escalating tensions between Russia and the West. He says, “[A]t some point, grownups on both sides need to talk to one another and say, look; we understand that Russia is going to be a major power. You also have to understand you’re not going to be a superpower. You’re still of very limited capabilities. We would like to see a constructive relationship, but we can’t start that until, Mr. Putin, you stop things like interfering in others’ politics like you interfered in our elections. You’ve got to show that this fall, you’re not going to interfere in the American elections. Then we can sit down and talk about the future. But as of now, no.”

2. Wired: “The FCC Should Use Blockchain to Manage Wireless Spectrum,”

This op-ed by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel ’93 offers blockchains as an alternative to the current auctions used to offer licenses for spectrum band distribution. Inside Towers, a newsletter for the wireless industry took notice: “FCC’s Rosenworcel Wants to Dump Spectrum Auctions, Modernize Allocation.

3. Politico—”How Veterans Are Powering the Democrats’ 2018 Hopes”This profile of Max Rose ’08, campaigning on Staten Island for a seat in Congress as “the first post-9/11 combat veteran to run for office in New York City history,” places his efforts within the context of a nationwide trend.

4. NBC Right Now“Knighted Ventures Co-Founder Jieho Lee [’95] Named to Aspen Institute’s 2018 Class of Henry Crown Fellows”“Jieho Lee, co-founder and managing partner of California-based Knighted Ventures, is one of 22 business leaders under the age of 45 selected by The Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. as a 2018 Henry Crown Fellow.” The program was established “to mobilize a new breed of leaders to tackle the world’s most intractable problems.”

5. Albuquerque Journal—“ABQ’s New Leaders Are Women Ready to Change History”

Sarita Nair ’95, chief administrative officer, is 1 of 10 women in the highest-level jobs in Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s administration.

Boger ’73 Recalls “Weightless Flight” With Hawking for WNPR

Noted physicist Stephen Hawking (center), who died on March 14, enjoys zero gravity during a 2007 flight aboard a modified Boeing 727 aircraft owned by Zero Gravity Corporation. Joshua Boger ’73 (not pictured), founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, was on the flight with Hawking and recalled it for a tribute on WNPR. In this photo, Hawking, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) was being rotated by (right) Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Zero G Corp., and (left) Byron Lichtenberg, former shuttle payload specialist and now president of ZERO-G. Kneeling behind Hawking is Nicola O’Brien, a nurse practitioner who was Hawking’s aide. (Photo courtesy of Zero Gravity Corp., Wikimedia Commons)

Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Connecticut Public Radio tapped Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09, chair emeritus of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees, for his recollections of a historic flight he had taken back in 2007 with noted physicist Stephen Hawking, who died March 14 at the age of 76. The flight had been sponsored by Zero Gravity Corporation and provided, for those on board, eight zero-G opportunities—or “eight brief windows of weightlessness,” as WNPR correspondent Patrick Skahill described them in his story, “Remembering The Flight Where Stephen Hawking Went Weightless.”

Boger had written in detail about the experience of this zero-G flight with Hawking in  “Weightless But Weighty” in Wesleyan magazine, 2007 issue 3:

“Zero-Gravity One!” Hawking, gently guided by Peter [Diamandis] and Byron [Lichtenberg] rises into the air, supine, on his back, still, curiously, completely flat. It is an electric moment, mocking the classic magician trick with the floating assistant, as he remains floating with no one touching him. . . . I glance over at Hawking’s heart monitor and see that his pulse has raised only a few beats from baseline. Mine is racing. He is in bliss. What is he thinking? What is he feeling?

We’d all give worlds to know. . . .

“Zero-G Eight!” . . . We sit in lotus position, cross-legged, and push a finger gently on the “floor,” floating effortlessly into the center of the cabin. Peaceful, unspinning, we learn at last the cosmic serenity of no gravity. This is the one weightless segment of all the zero-Gs that I will remember the most. No spins. No flights. No ceiling dances. Just gravity down. Gravity up. Nothing happening in between except novel cognition. A glance at Professor Hawking confirms he was there six zero-Gs ago.

Naegele in The Conversation: Are Neurons Added to the Human Brain after Birth?

Jan Naegele is one of 19 women faculty in the country to receive a Drexel Fellowship.

Jan Naegele

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” Janice Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, writes about the implications of a controversial new neuroscience study from the University of California, San Francisco. Naegele also is professor of biology and professor of neuroscience and behavior. Read her bio on The Conversation.

Scientists have known for about two decades that some neurons—the fundamental cells in the brain that transmit signals—are generated throughout life. But now a controversial new study from the University of California, San Francisco, casts doubt on whether many neurons are added to the human brain after birth.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News
1. Inside Higher Ed“Against Conformity”

President Michael Roth ’78 reflects on the questioning of liberal education—both in China and the United States.

2. China Daily: Stephen Angle: Practicing the Confucianism He Preaches”

A top Chinese newspaper profiles Stephen Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy, from his early embrace of Confucianism and Chinese culture through his successful academic career. He was recently named Light of Civilization 2017 Chinese Cultural Exchange Person of the Year.

3. New York Times: “An Opera Star’s Song Cycle Conjures a Black Man’s Life in America”

Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey’s (MA ’11) collaboration with opera star Lawrence Brownlee is featured.

4. Hartford Courant: “Wesleyan’s Carrillo, Bellamy Pinning Hopes on Regional Success”

Wesleyan wrestlers Devon Carrillo, a graduate student, and Isaiah Bellamy ’18 are ranked #1 and #2 in the country in pins in all NCAA divisions.

5. Oakland Press: “Wesleyan Lacrosse Player from Bloomfield Hills Named to Watch List”

Taylor Ghesquiere ’18 is one of just 12 lacrosse players in the country to be named to the first-ever United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Division III Player of the Year watch list.

Recent Alumni News

  1. NPR’s Morning Edition: “Gov. Hickenlooper on Trump’s Priorities to Prevent Gun Violence”

Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper ’74, MA ’80, HON ’10 talks to NPR’s Morning Edition host Rachel Martin about President Trump’s meeting at the White House with governors to discuss gun policy and school safety.

2. New York Times: “Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Next Lion of New York” [Also: Repeating Islands, Pulse.com, CTLatino.com]

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, the creator of Hamilton reflects on his life in—and love of—New York City: “‘You’re in a different century for exactly one block, and then you go down the steps and there’s a C-town, and you’re back in 2017,’ Mr. Miranda said. ‘That’s to me what makes New York great—it’s all these things together at the same time. The feeling that you’re on the train with the Wall Street guy and the mariachi bands. We’re all in this thing together.’”

3. Broadway World Dallas: “Stage West Presents the Regional Premiere of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City”

New York–based playwright Halley Feiffer ’07 has created a work that The New York Times called “. . . as deeply felt as its name is long.”  The director, Dana Schultes, said, “I love the freshness of the script. . . . It definitely pushes some boundaries—like all great theatre—while retaining a through-line of warmth and heart. It’s really lovely . . . with some mega-edge sprinkled on top.”

4. HuntScanlonMedia: “Coulter Partners Secures Chief Medical Officer for Proclara Biosciences”

David Michelson ’76, MD was appointed chief medical officer at Proclara, a biotechnology company, where he joins the executive team in research on a number of therapies, including those for Alzheimer’s. Previously he was vice president and therapeutic area head at Merck Research Laboratories, responsible for clinical research in neuroscience, pain, anesthesiology and ophthalmology.

5. HakiPensheniMonitor“Innovation Helps Traders Get Loans in Less than Five Minutes”

In an interview with this Tanzanian news source,  Shivani Siroya ’04, founder and global CEO of Tala, explains how her company works with local merchants who have been “shunned by banks” to obtain loans through Tala’s Android platform.

 

 

Higgins in The Conversation: Letting Audiences Twist the Plot

Scott Higgins, the Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, writes in The Conversation about a film innovation flop.

Scott Higgins, the Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, writes in The Conversation about a film innovation flop.

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” Ahead of the 2018 Oscars ceremony that celebrates the best in film, The Conversation explores some of the worst film innovations of years past. Scott Higgins, director of the College of Film and the Moving Image, writes about Interfilm, a “choose your own adventure” theater technology that flopped in the early 1990s. Higgins is also the Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, chair of Film Studies, and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives. Read his bio on The Conversation.

Letting audiences twist the plot

Artists have long sought to erase the boundary between a film and its viewers, and Alejandro Iñárritu’s 2017 Oscar-winning virtual reality installation “Carne y Arena” has come close.

But the dream of putting audiences in the picture has fueled a number of film fiascoes, including an early 1990s debacle called Interfilm.

Gallarotti in The Conversation: Trump’s Protectionism Continues Long History of U.S. Rejection of Free Trade

Giulio Gallarotti

An article by Professor Giulio Gallarotti appeared in The Conversation. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a recent article, Professor of Government Giulio Gallarotti debunks the myth that Trump’s protectionist tendencies fly in the face of America’s tradition of free trade. Gallarotti is also co-chair of the College of Social Studies and professor of environmental studies. Read his bio in The Conversation.

Trump’s Protectionism Continues Long History of U.S. Rejection of Free Trade

Free traders have vilified President Donald Trump as a pernicious protectionist because of policies such as hiking tariffs, abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership and saying he’s prepared to walk away from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

They fear his policies will hurt the U.S. economy by restricting access to foreign goods. But are these policies really so radically different from past administrations?

Absolutely not. The fact is the U.S. has never been a truly free trade country—one with virtually no barriers to trade with other nations—as some people seem to think. The idea that the U.S. ever was is a myth.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Rolling Stone: “Bethesda Founder Christopher Weaver on the Past, Present and Future of Video Games”

Christopher Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76, the Distinguished Professor of Computational Media in the College of Integrative Sciences, is profiled.

2. Transitions Online: “The Search for a New World Order, Then and Now”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, writes that a century after President Woodrow Wilson promulgated his “14 points” to guarantee world peace and prosperity, we are “still not that much closer to a stable world order.”

3. Medium: “Gabriel Snashall—Navy Submariner to Wesleyan!”

Gabriel Snashall ’21 discusses his path from serving as a cryptographic communications supervisor aboard the USS Pittsburgh to studying at Wesleyan through the Posse Veteran Scholars program. He plans to pursue a career in bioethics law.

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan University Class Research Published in Archaeological Society Bulletin”

Four Class of 2017 graduates who completed the service-learning course “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People,” are co-authors of articles published in the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut.

5. CTNow: “Amy Bloom to Give Talks on ‘White Houses'”

Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, will discuss her new book, White Houses, at several public events around Connecticut this month.

Recent Alumni News

  1. RollingStone: “Review: MGMT Rediscover the Electric Feel for ‘Little Dark Age’

The duo who began playing together as MGMT when they were Wesleyan undergraduates, Andrew Van Wyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, released a new album to favorable reviews: “MGMT are back to their roots on Little Dark Age, with concise tunes built from cushy keyboard beats and cute, kiting melodies,” wrote Jon Dolan in Rolling Stone.

[Also: Entertainment Voice, TheMusic.com, Interview Magazine and others]

2. TBR Newsmedia: “SBU’s Lerner Uses the Theater for Autism Therapy

Matthew Lerner ’03, an assistant professor of psychology, psychiatry and pediatrics in the department of psychology at Stony Brook University is part of a team—with scientists from Vanderbilt and University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa—that received $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health to study how participation in a theater production can help people with autism spectrum disorders. “The process of putting on a play with others and being able to successfully produce and perform that has key benefits to learn and practice,” said Lerner.

3. Huffington Post: “10 Years Ago, Screenwriters Went On Strike and Changed Television Forever”

Craig Thomas ’97 and Carter Bays ’97 recall the 100-day battle between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers when their creation, “How I Met Your Mother,” was in only its third season and all filming was to be done without any writers on the set.

4. Scripps College News: ”Ulysses J. Sofia [’88]: Weinberg Family Dean of Science of the W.M. Keck Science Department

Called “a scientist and an adventurer” who enjoys the liberal arts environment at Scripps, “U. J. began his own college career at a large research university before transferring to Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college, during his junior year. ‘It was like the angels singing—I thought, this is where I belong, this feels right. I learned all of my physics, all of my astronomy in those two years.’”

5. BroadwayWorld:The Wheel Theatre Company Presents Owen Panettieri’s [’01] A Burial Place

This production of A Burial Place by award-winning playwright Owen Panettieri ’01 at the DC Arts Center in Washington, D.C., runs March 8-17, 2018. The plot features Emmett, Colby and Marcus reuniting in their hometown after sophomore year at college, gathering for their annual summer sleepover. “Instead, they come back to find their town at the epicenter of a major police investigation. A gruesome discovery out in the woods where they used to play has resulted in public outrage and a growing list of unanswered questions.”

 

 

Ashraf Rushdy in The Conversation: The Art of the Public Apology

In his new book, Professor Ashraf Rushdy explains how lynching became a form of spectacle in the late 19th century until the 1930s.

Ashraf Rushdy

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” Amid a flood of accusations against public figures for sexual misconduct and other improprieties, Ashraf Rushdy, the Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language, writes a piece exploring “the art of the public apology.” Rushdy is also professor of English, professor of African American studies, and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. Read his bio in The Conversation.

The art of the public apology

Ashraf Rushdy, Wesleyan University

Just prior to his sentencing, former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar formally apologized to the more than 160 women whom he’d sexually abused. He joins a growing list. Over the past few months, many public personalities accused of sexual assault have apologized in public.

Many of us at this point are wondering what these apologies mean. Indeed, like others before him, Nassar said that an adequate apology was impossible. He stated,

“There are no words that can describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred. An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey.”

What, then, is it that he and other public figures are doing when they say sorry publicly?

In a forthcoming book, I look at different kinds of public apologies, including the kind of celebrity apologies we’ve witnessed in the past few months. What I argue is that public apologies are a type of performance and therefore should be understood as being different from private.

Grateful Dead Lyricist, Internet Rights Advocate John Perry Barlow ’69 Dies

This photo of John Perry Barlow ’69, seated on Foss Hill, ran in the 1994 summer issue of Wesleyan, for the article titled “Cognitive Dissident,” by Lisa Greim ’81, (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Lyricist for the Grateful Dead and cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow ’69 died Feb. 7, 2018. He was 70.

A College of Letters major as an undergraduate, he collaborated with his friend from high school, Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, on lyrics for songs that included “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues” and “Black-Throated Wind.”

In the 1980s Barlow was active in an early online community. Then in 1990, with John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). In the summer 1994 issue of Wesleyan, an article, “Cognitive Dissident,” written by Lisa Greim ’81, profiled his journey.

“To the surprise of many who know him, John Perry Barlow ’69 has become respectable,” wrote Greim.

“In the last ten years, Barlow, 46, has evolved from a Wyoming cattle rancher into one of the nation’s most outspoken computer experts and defenders of the right to electronic freedom….

‘I don’t know anyone else who is welcome at the White House, backstage at a Grateful Dead concert, at CIA headquarters and at a convention of teenage hackers,’ says Howard Reingold, author of The Virtual Community.

In a statement released by the EFF, Executive Director Cindy Cohn said of Barlow: “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”

To read the article from the 1994 issue of Wesleyan, click this link: JPBarlow_WesMag1994.