In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.
Wesleyan in the News
“Every age seems to need a bogeyman, some negative image against which good people measure themselves,” writes President Michael Roth ’78 in this op-ed. Roth compares today’s bogeyman, the “woke” college student, with those of past eras—the “welfare queen” and “dirty hippie”—and seeks to build understanding and dispel negative misperceptions of activist college students. “The images of the welfare queen and of the woke student are convenient because they provide excuses to not engage with difference, placing certain types of people beyond the pale,” he writes. “These scapegoats are meant to inspire solidarity in a group by providing an object for its hostility (or derision), and educators and civic leaders should not play along.”
2. Los Angeles Times: “Opinion: Our Food Is Tainted with E. Coli, Yet the FDA Is Rolling Back Safety Rules”
As yet another food-borne E. coli outbreak sickens Americans, Fred Cohan, the Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment and professor of biology, and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, argue in this op-ed that more can and should be done to prevent dangerous contaminations of our food supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rolled back rules that “would have required monitoring and treating irrigation water for E. coli,” a major cause of these outbreaks. “We should not be surprised that a regulation-averse administration would disregard the science of food safety, but it is concerning that consumers have become complacent about yearly outbreaks of E. coli contamination and largely silent about the rollback of food safety regulations,” they write.
Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, professor of philosophy, and the Mansfield Professor of East Asian Studies, is interviewed about Wesleyan’s efforts to promote language study, including the new Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) initiative, through which students can study a range of disciplines in other languages. For example, Angle teaches a Mandarin-language section of Classical Chinese Philosophy, a course historically taught in English. Read more about CLAC and Wesleyan’s language instruction here.
4. The Institute of Art and Ideas: “Mary-Jane Rubenstein: In-depth Interview”
Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein is interviewed about her work on pantheism (the belief that God and reality are the same thing) and the multiverse (the idea that there are multiple—even infinite—universes besides our own).
USA Today reports on the Wesleyan Media Project’s new analysis, which finds a significant increase in television advertising this cycle compared to past years. “Residents of early voting states are seeing many more television ads from presidential candidates this cycle than they did in the 2016 presidential race, and the reason can be summed up in one word: Steyer,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, referring to billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who has spent $13 million on advertising in the past month. The project also notes that candidate Pete Buttigieg’s rise in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls corresponds with his increased spending on both TV and online ads. “While it’s not possible to attribute the surge entirely to his ad spending, it has certainly played some role in his recent success,” said project co-director Travis Ridout.
6. The Philadelphia Inquirer: “MacArthur ‘Genius’ Tyshawn Sorey Is Opera Philadelphia’s New Composer-in-Residence”
Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, “a musical polymath whose work bridges a wide range of influences and genres,” has been named Opera Philadelphia’s next composer-in-residence. “Although he has never written an opera, his appointment grew out of Cycles of My Being, a set of emotionally complex songs he composed for Opera Philadelphia exploring the African American male experience,” the article notes. “The collaboration with Opera Philadelphia gave me the courage to pursue this,” Sorey said. “When we finished the song cycle, it became apparent that we should collaborate further on bigger things.”
7. Christian Science Monitor: “‘Property’ or ‘Person’? How Animal Rights Could Open New Moral Frontier”
Lori Gruen, the William Griffin Professor of Philosophy and coordinator of animal studies, comments in an article about the shifting legal and public understandings of the “moral considerability of nonhuman animals.” “There’s definitely more concern about nonhuman animals than even 10 years ago,” said Gruen. “I think it’s also true that so many people are continuing to use animals in a variety of contexts.”
Alumni in the News
Writer Jack Nicholls and photographer Gabrielle Motola travel with Amanda Palmer ’98 on the European tour. Palmer’s three-hour show weaves her autobiographical vignettes with songs from her latest album, the confessional There Will Be No Intermission. Wrote Nicholls, “In the show, Amanda was unrepentant about making light of topics such as abortion and murder. ‘I am an artist, If I have a job, it is literally to go into the darkness … and make light.’”
Flutist and breast cancer survivor Julie Scolnik ’78 reflects on the good fortune that saved her life. Noting that not all who face the disease have her resources, “she’s doing what she best knows how to do: put on a show [to raise money],” notes staff writer Zoe Madonna. Skolnik, artistic director of local chamber ensemble Mistral Music, found a way to use her resources to help underserved women diagnosed with breast cancer. This is the third benefit concert she has arranged.
3. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Gene Therapy/One Night in Miami a Theatrical Knockout”
Feature columnist Gene Collier reviews the play One Night in Miami. Set on Feb. 25, 1964, the evening that Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, the play is based on this actual event: Ali (then Cassius Clay), Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke gather in a motel room to celebrate the victory, planning to go out later. Collier notes that “the most challenging role appears to fold into Quincy Chad’s [Francis ’06] flawless delivery of Brown, who probably harbors the fewest of the script’s indispensable vulnerabilities, yet hops aboard this one night’s wildest ride.” Collier also notes that Chad plays the role of Mr. McDonald in Orange Is the New Black.
A. Jesse Jiryu Davis writes about Jeff Shugo Berman ’14 and the three other musicians who make music from scrap wood, such as bed slats and tree stumps. Berman, who majored in music at Wesleyan, tells Davis, “When we drag around a bunch of Ikea bed slats and make noise, it makes the point that these pieces of wood that we’re constantly around always make sounds and express textures. We can hear that all the time if we’re prepared to.”
To recognize their 35th year as an executive search firm, The Alexander Group highlighted several of their most successful recruitment candidates in a series of profiles. Kate Haviland ’98, chief operating officer at Blueprint Medicines, participated in this Q&A, noting, “I want women in the company to look at me and see how far I’ve been able to take my career. I want women to look at me and say, ‘I can do that too.’”
5. The Candid Frame Podcast: Episode 491: KK Ottesen [’94]
In this podcast, KK Ottesen talks about her work as an interviewer, writer, and photographer. Her most recent book is Activist: Portraits in Courage, in which she profiles 40 influential changemakers, including Billie Jean King and Harry Belafonte. [See also the review of Ottesen’s book by Sara McCrea ’21.]
Author Gina Shaw, writing for the journal Neurology Today, highlights several neuroethics pioneers, including Joseph J. Fins [’82], MD, MACP, FRCP, the E. William Davis, Jr., M.D., Professor of Medical Ethics, professor of medicine, and chief of the division of medical ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College. He describes how he most often becomes involved and how he frames his response: “These [neurological] cases [involving questions on the ethics of care] are often brought to us by the clinical team based on a conflict or an uncertainty about goals of care. We help to cultivate the narrative, bring relevant ethical analysis to the case, and provide guidance in framing the kind of discussions that are important. We don’t make decisions; we help make decision-making better.”
7. Film Independent Spirit Awards: Bridget Savage Cole [’05], Danielle Krudy, Writers: Blow The Man Down
Cole and Krudy are in the running for Best First Screenplay in the Film Independent Spirit Awards. The organization offers biographies of the writers and a synopsis of the film (a drama set in a Maine fishing village, with two sisters attempting to dispose of a body). Voting is to be completed by Dec. 5.