Wesleyan in the News: November

Mike MavredakisNovember 29, 202316min
Wesleyan in the News

In a piece for Time Magazine, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth ’78 and Yale School of Management Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld argue university leadership has an obligation to speak out to ensure safety for students and employees. “It’s not an infringement on free expression to take a stand as an institutional leader, whether it’s to condemn perpetual military occupation, to denounce scientific falsehoods during a pandemic, to defend the importance of telling the truth about the legacies of Black slavery, or to point out that progressive pieties often make use of ancient anti-Semitic tropes to promote sick silos of solidarity,” they write.  

Roth turned to Sigmund Freud’s “Civilization and Its Discontents” and its arguments on human nature, aggression, and mental health as a lens to discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict with his students, he wrote in Slate. “Classrooms don’t have to be a platform for pontification. They can be “safe-enough spaces” in which young people open themselves to risky ideas, to topics that might seem “inappropriate” elsewhere, and to changing their minds about their core values,” Roth wrote. 

Roth was interviewed for a piece in The Guardian on the path to civil dialogue on college campuses surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict. He said his mission is to have “safe enough spaces” where “you don’t get harassed, don’t get intimidated—but you’re not so safe that you don’t encounter offensive comments or invigorating debate,” he said. 

The New York Times recommended Roth’s “Safe Enough Spaces” in a print section on campus conversations on Dec. 3. Within this book, Roth counters cynicism of the core values of liberal arts educations while offering a sane approach to the noisy debates surrounding affirmative action, political correctness, and free speech. He urges us to envision college as a space in which students are empowered to engage with criticism and with a variety of ideas.

He also appeared on opening panel at the American Association of Medical College’s 2023 Conference “Learn Serve Lead” to talk about free speech and how medical schools can effectively address controversial issues. 

Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, Jeanine D. Basinger was mentioned in a Los Angeles Times piece on director John Waters, after his work “Pink Flamingos” was catalogued in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. Basinger helped to bring Waters’ film artifact collection to Wesleyan’s Ogden and Mary Louise Reid Cinema Archives and wrote the exhibit catalog description.

The Wesleyan Media Project was featured in a piece from Marketplace on how streaming services, and their pursuit of revenue in an uncertain television media market, will impact the frequency and regulation of political advertisements. Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, said the number of streaming services selling ads has increased in recent years to help fill revenue gaps. Of note, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) reportedly has no oversight over how political ads are streamed and it is up to the individual streaming services, which are controlled by private, revenue-seeking companies, to determine which ads run and how they run. 

The Wesleyan Media Project’s research into Medicare Advertisements, in partnership with KFF, was highlighted in a piece by WNPR on the ads ahead of the 2023 open enrollment period. The advertising researchers found instances of Medicare Advantage ads that touted lower costs and extra benefits—premium rebates, money back in Social Security checks, or additional coverages—some of which that were not always present in plans being promoted. 

The ancient Greeks felt that gratitude was an action, not so much a feeling, according to “Philosophies of Gratitude,” a book by Ashraf Rushdy, Benjamin White Professor of the English Language, professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Chair of the African American Studies Department. The book and its insight on the ancient Greeks was highlight in a piece by Dallas Morning News’ Editorial Board on what it means to be thankful ahead of Thanksgiving Day. 

In a piece written for The Messenger, Climate Economist Gary Yohe used new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson’s initial plans to attach funding for the southern border to a House aid package to Ukraine as a means of projecting the new Speaker’s future actions on an impending climate aid package. 

Joseph Russo, teaching fellow in the Anthropology Department, was awarded The American Association for Queer Anthropology’s Ruth Benedict 2023 Honorable Mention, for “Hard Luck and Heavy Rain: The Ecology of Stories in Southeast Texas.” “In these and other ways, queer people, like the other characters in this book, are a part of the ecology Russo describes; this is a queerness not just in a place but of a place. The book forges new paths in the study of rural queer life under the ecological conditions of late capitalism,” the announcement said. 

Former Wesleyan Center for Prison Education student Marisol Garcia was featured in the CT Mirror for a story on declining enrollment in secondary education among incarcerated people in Connecticut. Garcia received vocational training and began her associate degree while incarcerated and has since earned a master’s degree and is pursuing law school. “To be able to write, to be able to read, you know, ‘Moby-Dick’ or Cervantes, or Shakespeare, you’re able to go into a whole other world that’s no longer between the four walls,” she said. 

Devanney Haruta MA’21, Ph.D. candidate at Brown University studying musicology and ethnomusicology, and her art installation “Piano (de)composition” were the subject of a piece in Providence Journal. The installation is a wooden Baldwin piano placed outside to be exposed to the elements, to see how it decays and changes over time. She became fascinated by Australian composer Ross Bolleter’s efforts with discarded pianos while at Wesleyan, and spent over a year-and-a-half marinating on a way to see something similar up-close. 

Assistant Professor of the Practice in Government Robert Cassidy gave a talk “The Illusion of Strategy in the Post 9/11 Wars” at Amherst College. His lecture on “the critical flaws in strategic thinking” during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan was the first of The Chamberlain Project Emeritus Fellow Lecture Series.

Associate Professor of Film Studies Michael Slowik will give a talk on how censorship shaped filmmaking in Hollywood from the 1930s to 1950s at Katharine Hepburn Museum on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. He teaches a course at Wesleyan on the history of American film censorship. 

In a piece written for The Conversation, John Finn, Professor of Government, Emeritus, examines in a piece whether sanctuary declarations violate the U.S. Constitution by placing state or local law above federal law. His short answer is that it depends on what these declarations promise.  

Damion Searls, translator, author, and writer-in-residence in the Shapiro Center for Writing and Criticism, was profiled by the Harvard Gazette. Searls has translated 10 works of 2023 Nobel Prize-Winning Author Jon Fosse to English—he reportedly learned Norwegian to one day translate Fosse’s work, the story said.  

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies and anthropology, gave keynote speech at Tufts University’s The Fletcher School’s fifth annual Decolonizing International Relations Conference on Oct. 20, according to Tufts Daily.

The Berkshire Eagle reflected on the life of Alton Perry ’31 in Williamstown, Massachusetts following the death of his grandson, the late Friends actor Matthew Perry. An anonymous benefactor helped Alton Perry through four years of boarding school and his degree at Wesleyan, a gift that reportedly inspired him to live life by doing good things quietly—including “anonymously underwriting educational expenses for disadvantaged young people.” 

Merve Emre, director of the Shapiro Center for Writing and Criticism, is launching an interview series podcast titled “The Critic and Her Publics” with The New York Review of Books and LitHub. The podcast will feature 11 other authors and will debut in January 2024.

The Flea Theater appointed Lauren Britt-Elmore ’96 as executive director on Nov. 14. Britt-Elmore will co-lead the Tribeca-based theater, which is dedicated to elevate the works of Black, brown, and queer artists.