Snapshots

Theater Department’s Interdisciplinary “Talk It Out” Focuses on Contagion and Pandemics

On Sept. 22, faculty, staff, and students gathered on Zoom for a "Talk It Out" that related to the Theater Department's upcoming production of SLABBER. Directed and created by Katie Pearl, assistant professor of theater, SLABBER is an open-air, interactive, socially distanced performance that brings viewers directly into the research and experiments of a group of people who are trying to identify a mysterious condition, known only as "slabber."

On Sept. 22, faculty, staff, and students gathered on Zoom for a “Talk It Out” that related to the Theater Department’s upcoming production of SLABBER. Directed and created by Katie Pearl, assistant professor of theater, SLABBER is an open-air, interactive, socially distanced performance that brings viewers directly into the research and experiments of a group of people who are trying to identify a mysterious condition, known only as “slabber.” The interdisciplinary conversation, titled “Dis/Ease: Contagion and Pandemics in Our World and Its Stories” was facilitated by Luna Mac-Williams ’22, pictured at top, center.

slabber

The SLABBER performance invites viewers to consider notions of social and physical contamination and asks whether it’s possible to come close to someone else across a great distance. During the “Talk It Out,” guest speakers Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology; and Anthony Hatch, associate professor of science in society, offered their insight on how pandemics and contagion play out in our world and in our stories. Participants discussed the topics of contagion and how concepts of “dirty/clean” are changing social constructs.

cohan

Cohan spoke about the idea of purification. “When biologists learned about the microbiome, we lost the idea that there was something pure about our bodies, and the more we can scrub ourselves of those nasty bacteria, the better our lives would be. And it turns out, now it’s the opposite,” he said. “How hard do you really want to scrub to make yourself pure? It would be a dangerous exercise, and nobody really knows how bad an idea that would be.”

hatch

Hatch, who worked as an HIV/AIDS educator in the 1990s and early 2000s, noted that scholars find repetitive themes with the emergence of new infectious epidemic and pandemic diseases. “It’s quite easy to vilify a particular group that you believe is responsible for what has happened. Now, we have the so-called ‘China virus,’ which is a racist ploy designed to take attention away from the lack of leadership and [terms of] providing testing, which should happen. We saw this in 1918. . . . This has happened with everything from AIDS to Zika, and now with the COVID-19 pandemic. . . . We’re asking, who’s bringing the infection, what’s the source of the infection, how do we prevent the infection?”

pearl

“There’s a word I want to drop into the conversation and that is stigma,” Pearl said. “I’m thinking back to that moment, in the beginning [of the pandemic], when you wouldn’t want to put a mask on because you wouldn’t want people to think you were sick. The stigma around dirtiness is so huge, it keeps us from putting on that external marker of protection, to protect you from other people, and that is what has taken us down. It’s the stigma.”

The discussion was sponsored by the Creative Campus Initiative, Office of Academic Affairs and the Theater Department.

The discussion was sponsored by the Creative Campus Initiative, Office of Academic Affairs, and the Theater Department. Theater Department “Talk It Outs” occur at least once a semester, and serve as a way to invite the larger Wesleyan community into an interdisciplinary, open conversation around the issues the productions are framing. SLABBER will be performed Oct. 16–18 on the Center for the Arts green, and will be open to 48 audience members each night.

Reserve your spot for a SLABBER performance here.

Face Coverings become a Form of Student Expression


Three weeks into the fall semester, Wesleyan students are adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings or masks are required in all public spaces to help reduce the spread of the virus. Some students find the masks also can serve as a fashion accessory or statement piece. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

campus during COVID-19

Classes Held in Socially-Distanced Indoor and Outdoor Classrooms

This fall, Wesleyan is holding in-person classes on campus in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings. More than 180 classrooms have been revised in order to achieve a minimum six-foot distance between occupants. Updated floor plans and maximum room capacity are clearly posted in each classroom.

Faculty and students are required to wear face coverings in classrooms at all times. In addition, break times have been expanded to 30 minutes or more to allow for custodians to disinfect all touchable surfaces in each classroom between classes.

(Photos by Olivia Drake)

outdoor classroom

Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and chair of the College of East Asian Studies, teaches her GOVT 296: Japanese Politics course in the Hogwarts classroom, located between the Davison Health Center and the Davison Art Center. The outdoor classroom will safely accommodate up to 40 students.

Sept. 11 Memorial Garden Decorated with Flowers, Flags for 19th Commemoration of World Trade Center Attacks

On Sept. 11, members of the Wesleyan community remembered the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. In 2002, a September 11 Memorial Garden was planted in front of North College and honors those who “gathered at this place to console one another, to remember those lost, to share and learn, to pray for peace.” Wesleyan’s grounds crew annually decorates the garden with fresh flowers and flags during the annual commemoration. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

911 garden

911 garden

911 garden

Black Lives Matter Events Celebrate History, Navigate Race Conversations

On Sept. 4, Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) hosted a four-part series of Black Lives Matter-themed workshops celebrating the contributions of the Black community at Wesleyan.

black lives matter

Alphina Kamara ’22 and Qura-Tul-Ain “Annie” Khan ’22 hosted the event’s opening remarks and provided an interactive history of racism at Wesleyan. Pictured, the students discuss the Fisk Hall Takeover, in which Black faculty, staff, and students took a stand against racism and occupied Fisk Hall on Feb. 21, 1969. Fisk Hall was one of the main academic buildings at the time.

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persude participants to take action. "While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views and having these conversations can help mitigate these views," Kamara said. 

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persuade participants to take action. “While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views, and having these conversations can help mitigate these views,” Kamara said.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan's first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, where approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan’s first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, when approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of Blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association (ASA) spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

BLM

“ASA is my home away from home,” said Alvin Kibaara ’22 of Kenya. “It provides a space for me to relate to people who come from the same continent that I do, and we find similarities, and it gives you confidence.”

Sydney Ochieng '22 of Kenya said, "Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn't know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I'm African."

Sydney Ochieng ’22 of Kenya said, “Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn’t know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I’m African.”

The third workshop, titled "Did My Professor Just Say That?" focused on navigating race among conversations with college professors.

The third workshop, titled “Did My Professor Just Say That?” focused on navigating race in conversations with college professors.

"All of us are born and raised and living in systemic racism," said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. "So nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember we all went through this too. You can talk to us."

“All [faculty] are born and raised and living in systemic racism,” said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. “I had to deal with micro-aggressions and people … so nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember, we all went through this too. You can talk to us.”

 "I see myself engaged in long game. You know, in a, in an Epic struggle for, for human freedom, there's many front lines of battle.
There's many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed
to overcome. So, you know, black folks, at least I'm speaking as a black person, we need to survive.

“I see myself engaged in a long game,” said Tony Hatch, associate professor of science in society. “In an epic struggle for human freedom, there are many front lines of battle. There are many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed 
to overcome. So, Black folks, at least I’m speaking as a Black person, we need to survive.”

ted shaw

Keynote speaker Professor Theodore Shaw ’76, the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill, was the fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for which he worked in various capacities over the span of 26 years.

shaw

“The essence of the Black Lives Matter movement: It’s extraordinary that the simple statement that Black lives matter should provoke the reactions that it does. You know, all lives matter, you know, blue lives matter.
 I don’t know that there was any doubt about those other lives mattering. But we can look at American history and look at Black and Brown lives
 and they haven’t mattered in the same way.
”

 

Classes Begin Online during Quarantine Period

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the university community was under a quarantine period from Aug. 24 to Sept. 6. Students were asked to take a COVID-19 test prior to leaving home, were tested again upon arrival, and will be tested twice a week as the semester gets underway.

Through multiple platforms, including Zoom and Moodle, faculty taught all classes remotely during the first week. Following the quarantine period, faculty have the option to teach courses entirely online, in-person, or through a hybrid system through the Thanksgiving break, after which all faculty are prepared to return to distance learning.

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, taught her first DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic course online during the quarantine, but she'll move to in-person classes for the rest of the fall semester. "While the world is telling us to be remote, it's important, more than ever, to be together in a physical way," she said. The pandemic is changing how we relate, stand with each other, talk and communicate, and make meaning in groups ... so one of the most important ways to find our way forward is to explore: What does it mean to be in this new world? How do we orient ourselves in new conditions? How can we feel, how can we relate to one another in our physical selves?"

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, taught her first DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic class online during the quarantine, but she’ll move to in-person classes for the rest of the fall semester. “While the world is telling us to be remote, it’s important, more than ever, to be together in a physical way,” she said. “The pandemic is changing how we relate, stand with each other, talk and communicate, and make meaning in groups … so one of the most important ways to find our way forward is to explore: What does it mean to be in this new world? How do we orient ourselves in new conditions? How can we feel, how can we relate to one another in our physical selves?”

Damien Sheehan-Connor, associate professor of economics, is teaching ECON 222: Public Economics through Zoom.

Damien Sheehan-Connor, associate professor of economics, draws a “Utility Possibilities Frontier” figure on an iPad during his remote ECON 222: Public Economics course. This fall, Sheehan-Connor is teaching his class exclusively through Zoom. “So far it seems to be going relatively well, though it is early,” he said. “I give lectures using some mix of slides and drawing on the ‘board’ while posing questions to the class and welcoming questions that the students have.” Although he teaches in a similar way online to how he taught in-person, the most drastic change has been in how he assesses the students. He’s reduced the number of exams and added a research paper to the course requirements. “The remaining exams will also be ‘open book.’ This is not a big change since my exams tend to emphasize problem-solving and demonstrating understanding rather than testing knowledge of facts,” he said.

remote teaching

Sasha Rudensky ’01, associate professor of art, is teaching ARST 253: Digital Photography I through a hybrid system, however she’s teaching Photo I in-person only.

Johan (Joop) Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, is teaching ENVS 361: Living in a Polluted World. This course treats the occurrences and origins, natural pathways, toxicologies, and histories of the major environmental contaminants.

Johan (Joop) Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, is teaching ENVS 361: Living in a Polluted World. This course treats the occurrences and origins, natural pathways, toxicologies, and histories of the major environmental contaminants.

varekamp class

“My goal is that you learn something in this class,” Varekamp said during a remote class on Sept. 3. “I’ll do anything to make that happen.”

 

Wesleyan Illuminates 2 Campus Buildings in Support of Restart Day of Action

92 theater

On Sept. 1, members of the Wesleyan community participated in the Red Alert Restart Day of Action by illuminating the Patricelli ’92 Theater and Center for the Arts Theater in red lights to show support and solidarity to colleagues in the entertainment industry. The industry has been shut down due to COVID-19 for more than four months. The purpose of the Restart Day of Action is to urge Congress to vote for the RESTART Act, led by senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Wesleyan alumnus Michael Bennet ’87 (D-Colo.), which would support an extension and expansion of benefits for independent contractors as part of a comprehensive pandemic relief package.

CFA theater

Wesleyan’s buildings were among 1,500 nationwide that were lit for the cause. Lights were provided by Northern Lights, a longtime vendor of Wesleyan University that has been hit particularly hard by the closing of theaters and canceling of events in Connecticut. (Photos by Robyn Joyce)

Author, Environmental Activist Naomi Klein Delivers First Year Matters Keynote

Wesleyan’s First Year Matters (FYM) program is designed to help first-year students establish on-campus community connections, engage in shared learning experiences, explore new opinions and ideas, and acquire the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in Wesleyan’s rigorous liberal arts environment. The FYM committee annually selects a “common experience” for the incoming class as an intellectual introduction to Wesleyan.

This year, the Class of 2024 watched and discussed the documentary This Changes Everything, directed by Avi Lewis and based on the award-winning book of the same title by Naomi Klein.

View screenshots below and watch the entire keynote address online here.

FYM

On Aug. 27, author, journalist, syndicated columnist, and environmental activist Naomi Klein delivered Wesleyan’s First Year Matters keynote address, which focused on the disparate impacts of climate change on various communities around the world and highlighted some fundamental conflicts between global economic systems and efforts to combat climate change. Her book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. The documentary inspired by the book premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Wesleyan Takes Safety Measures as Students Arrive on Campus

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesleyan is taking many measures to make the campus experience this fall as safe and healthy as possible for all students, faculty, and staff.

In addition to testing students twice weekly for COVID-19, Wesleyan is configuring classrooms, dining areas, and other locations to allow for a minimum of six feet of social distance; janitorial staff is frequently disinfecting and sanitizing areas; and many classes are being offered as a hybrid of in-classroom and online instruction.

Members of the campus community are expected to wear a mask or face covering at all times outside their individual residence or office; maintain a six-foot distance from one another to reduce the risk of infection; and avoid gathering in groups.

“It is critically important that every Wesleyan community member does their individual part for our methods to be effective,” said Wesleyan’s medical director, Dr. Tom McLarney. “Most in-person social events and parties will be prohibited. While this is difficult and contrary to the typical campus experience, these are difficult times. One super-spreader event can overwhelm the campus’s ability to care for our students, and could ultimately result in closure.”

For more information, visit the Reactivating Campus website. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

COVID testing

COVID-19 testing on campus is taking place in a large tent on Andrus Field, with six-foot distancing enforced at the testing site.

covid testing

Following arrival to campus, students will be tested twice weekly for COVID-19 to detect the disease in the pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic stage. In addition, in order to comply with the state’s latest guidance, Wesleyan is implementing a mandatory quarantine for all students on campus from Aug. 24 through Sept. 7. (Students arriving after Aug. 24 must expand their quarantine beyond Sept. 7.)

New 24″ Telescope to Provide Better Research Opportunities for Astronomy Students, Faculty

On July 20, the Astronomy Department’s Van Vleck Observatory acquired a state-of-the-art 24-inch telescope that can view galactic objects remotely and autonomously.

“When fully operational, the system will be able to determine if the weather is favorable for observing, open the dome, take calibration observations from a queue, and close down in the morning, all on its own,” explained Roy Kilgard, associate professor of the practice in astronomy. “We’ll be able to conduct remote observations in real time, with a human operator at home or in their office, and make those images available to our students or researchers immediately.”

The new 24-inch PlaneWave CDK24 system replaces a 20-year-old 16-inch Meade LX200GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain in the rooftop dome of the observatory and will allow for student and faculty research and public observation nights. The department hopes to have the telescope fully operational by the start of the fall semester.

At 8 a.m., crews began the installation, which included using a crane to hoist a steel pier, mounting device, and the telescope through the slit in the dome. Photos of the installation are below: (Photos courtesy of Roy Kilgard and Patrick Bohan)

telescope

telescope