Editorial Staff

Montague ’21: “A Tin Can of Friendship Beans: Creating A Community for Kids in the Age of Virtual Learning”

The following essay was written by Chapin Montague ’21 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

When Michayla Robertson-Pine ’22 returned to her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts in March after receiving Wesleyan University’s “Do Not Return” email, a message all too familiar to college students across the country, she knew she couldn’t sit around and do nothing. So she teamed up with her friend Tessa Levenstein, an Amherst College student, to create an after-school Harry Potter book club for children of Amherst professors. After a few Zoom sessions, they realized that while witchcraft and wizardry were an enticing draw for kids, what they really needed was a space to play, a fix that would normally come from recess and play dates but was deemed disposable in the new reality of virtual learning.

Robertson-Pine and Levenstein adapted. They hosted a TriWizard Tournament via Zoom–an iconic competition drawn from the Harry Potter universe. Robertson-Pine manufactured a goblet out of a Kiddush cup and candle, and the kids created their own imaginary academies of magic under the ice in Antarctica or in a treehouse hidden deep in the forest. They hosted trivia nights and scavenger hunts, asking kids to look for something they would find in Dumbledore’s office. The kids loved it, and their parents gained a much-needed respite from the chaos of early quarantine.

Then, things got serious. Word spread among parents that kids were falling behind in math, especially concerning considering data predicting that students could lose months of math instruction in the 2020-2021 school year. Kids also became sounding boards for their parents’ anxieties. They were nervous and frustrated about having to stare at screens all day and could not fathom getting through a 9 a.m.-4 p.m. school day alone in their rooms on Zoom. So, Robertson-Pine and Levenstein got serious, too.

They added three new members to their team — Vanderbilt student Natalie Elliot, UMass Amherst student Rafael DePillis, and Wesleyan student Elizabeth (Liz) Woolford ’22—and started a Google folder titled “Let’s Start a School.” From there, the group came up with lesson plans focusing on everything from pre-algebra to movie-making to a full-blown NASA mission simulation. They added tutoring sessions and additional clubs for crafting and baking. They applied for a grant, created a website, made a budget, and launched an advertising campaign. They decided on tuition—$185 for three weeks—but offered a pay-what-you-can option for parents who were having trouble making ends meet. And so, Tin Can Learners was born—a virtual after-school program for the kids of Amherst, Massachusetts, dedicated to building a virtual, after-school learning community for kids.

To unpack the world of Tin Can Learners is to fall down a rabbit hole of chaotic genius and layers of lore that makes you wish you were part of the gang. The average day for a student may consist of concocting a field guide for a one-of-a-kind mythical creature in Homegrown Naturalists, building a shot list for the Tin Can Film Festival: Murder Mystery production, or experimenting with family recipes with the Cook Book! course. The instructors, in the words of one parent, are young enough to feel more like an older sibling than a teacher. Their enthusiasm matches the kids’ own level of imagination and wonder, showcased best in the final project of the Music VideOh! course where instructors Woolford and Robertson-Pine go all out with their students in a choreographed performance featuring Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold.” Complete with lip-syncing, funky hats, and hairbrush mics, it was like one long virtual slumber party you never want to end.

Each six-week session ends with the long-anticipated showcase—a virtual exhibition for parents to see the work their kids have created and for the students to celebrate. Many students were Tin Can veterans from the early days of Harry Potter, and for them, the showcase was the event of the season.

Emceed by the instructors, these nights were jam-packed with easter eggs of Tin Can lore. There was King Ga Zorp A Zorp, an alien known for abducting instructors and demanding student artwork as ransom; the elusive founder of Tin Can, Old Man Roger Cannery; and, of course, the iconic friendship beans taped to the wall that held everything together. Within a year that had taken so much from them, these kids took ownership over these rituals. In Woolford’s words, it became their thing.

Now, Woolford and Robertson-Pine sit on the floor of Woolford’s room in their wood frame. They decided to come back to campus in-person this semester, and they’re still trying to find words for how they feel about it, but it’s clear they really miss their students.

“Adults on Zoom are just so boring,” says Robertson-Pine before they both assumed the mannequin-esque position of every virtual college student– muted, sporting a sulky face, and slouching.

The Tin Can kids never showed up to class muted with the camera off; they came in blabbering, peering into the lens like a telescope, constantly climbing on desks and peering out from behind walls. They spammed the chat with emojis, came to class dressed as wizards because it was their birthday, and had an ongoing prank of renaming each other in the chats. They acted like kids, and kids are so much more fun.

But Woolford and Robertson-Pine also recognize that Tin Can had to end after their final session this past winter. Eventually, their students had the opportunity to do in-person classes, soccer practices, and tae kwon do in parking lots. They got to actually be together, albeit outside, masked, and distant after the time warp of online school.

“We made the internet the best that it could be for kids,” says Woolford. “In the beginning, some parents told us it was the reason their kid got up in the morning, and now, there’s something better out there.”

And yet, for the instructors, a lot of these kids only ever existed online, which made for bizarre goodbyes. There was no big cleanup, no meeting the parents during pickup, no real closure. Instead, like so many virtual relationships of this past year, these tiny humans they had come to care for blipped out of their lives as quickly as they had Zoomed in. Unlike the fleeting memories of camp, however, virtual learning yielded a vault of Tin Can archives. Now, Woolford and Robertson-Pine are able to marvel at their students’ homemade movies, comics, coding games, and yes, the illustrious Katy Perry music video, whenever adult Zoom just isn’t cutting it.

Chaiban ’22: “COVID Cabin Fever”

The following essay was written by Shakka Chaiban ’22 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

Perched on the side of highway 191 in a cramped sedan, overlooking the neverending brown, barren desert of Uintah County, Utah on a late October night where only the stars illuminated the darkness, Norm Cotteleer [’22], 21, lightly hit his forehead on the dashboard in a state of perplexity. A little over four and a half hours away from his temporary home in Sandy, Utah, Norm and his two roommates had been pulled over by state police for driving 20 miles an hour over the limit after a day of journeying steep, mountainous hiking trails on the border of Colorado. While Norm himself hadn’t been behind the wheel, it was his car.

As he watched the officer begin a slow strut to his window, he remembered that his registration was two months expired.  Norm began to recognize that he was in a potentially devastating situation. In that brief moment, Norm recounted his months of internal conflict spent deciding if embarking on a cross country voyage with two semi-close-ish friends to the undiscovered terrain of Utah had been worth forgoing fall semester of his junior year at Wesleyan University, and he questioned his decision yet again. As potentially catastrophic scenarios ran rampant through his mind, Norm couldn’t help but surrender to pangs of longing for the comfort and sanity that living on campus had provided him. He thought of his closest friends, whom he hadn’t seen in eons, reminisced on the warm feeling of dwelling within a like-minded community, and missed the little pleasures of Wesleyan.

Norm exhaled a deep, cathartic sigh and smiled quietly to himself in disbelief. “That was the turning point,” he later recalled, “The weight of all my decisions and the general anxiety of the situation and life, I never wished for campus more, even if it wasn’t the same as before.”

For university students across the country, the evils of COVID-19 have greatly reshaped the trajectory of the traditional college experience. Amidst a global pandemic that has put the world on pause, college students have been forced to make vastly impactful decisions. While many schools across the country have shut down and switched to completely virtual campuses, others have adopted a plethora of varied testing structures, COVID prevention guidelines, and on-campus hybrid learning models.

At Wesleyan, students were given the onus of responsibility of deciding whether to return to campus in the spring after a relatively successful and contained fall semester, or opt out to either virtual learning or a completely alternative experience. Each student’s decision was fueled by a variety of complex factors, namely one’s socioeconomic situation, family life, and the presence (or lack thereof) of a plan of action if one was not to return to campus.

University administrators expected considerably more students to return to campus in the spring than in the fall. Yet, only 24 more students are physically on campus this semester, according to Director of Residential Life Fran Koerting. She cited the sudden increase in nationwide COVID cases in the weeks leading up to the semester’s start. The numbers also reflect the last-minute nature of these decisions, illustrating a COVID-era dilemma facing students everywhere between opting out or coming back.

For Norm Cotteleer, a junior philosophy major from East Granby, Connecticut, the decision couldn’t have been easier. Amidst the peak of COVID-19 pandemonium in August and uncertainty about campus reopening in the fall, Norm had decided to take classes virtually and drive across the country from his home to the claustrophobic, predominantly white Mormon suburb of Sandy, Utah. There, alongside two Wesleyan peers to whom he was not particularly close, Norm lived in a confined, grey brick house at the base of towering twin peaks and framed by stunning mountain ranges.

His decision to traverse the nation was fueled by an infatuation with the thought of driving cross-country and the desire to explore new lands, a test and reclamation of his independence that had felt dimmed by months of quarantine and isolation spent at home. The plan was for the three to live together within this small ski town, take classes throughout the day, and couple them with a series of nature expeditions and spontaneous trips to nearby states and regions on weekends. It seemed an ideal, fulfilling structure to replace being on campus during these strange times, but the reality of Norm’s experience fell far from what he had expected.

Only a few weeks into the stay, Norm began to witness the impacts of extended social isolation in close quarters: Norm and his friends gradually succumbed to an intense form of COVID cabin fever. The general vibes of the household grew increasingly combative and toxic, cramped proximity bringing the worst out of each housemate. Norm’s relationships with his two casual friends gradually deteriorated to the point of being unbearable. Instead of using his time away to focus on his internal development, Norm found himself looking for ways to remove himself from his situation in search of a sense of holistic peace of mind. His mental health fell into a steady decline.

“In retrospect”, he recalled, “I most definitely was blinded by an idealized, rosy expectation of how my stay and semester was to go. It was a spontaneous decision, and I wasn’t giving weight to a lot of potential downfalls that could have, and did occur. However, I will say, I will be forever grateful for life-lasting lessons sprouted from such vast adversity. Learning the skill of adaptability, facing your own emotions head on, but especially made me realize the significance of those who you surround yourself with.”
When asked about making the decision to return to campus this spring, Norm let out a light chuckle and simply said, “It was never a question.” Norm spent more than 60 hours driving home, entering almost a trance-like state of euphoria as he drew close. For the entirety of the fall semester, he had been robbed of that subtle feeling of relaxation and comfort that he had previously taken for granted. Those feelings would return only when he rejoined a community that made him feel safe. For Norm, that community was still Wesleyan.

On his first day on campus in a year, February 8, 2021, Norm finally felt like himself. Even though the adjustment to a hybrid model of in-person classes and Zoom and the abundance of COVID-19 regulations remained a bewildering journey, he found that he couldn’t care less. The serenity of Middletown, the joy of finally being around those closest to him, and the peace brought by the love of his community: Norm was finally home.

CDC’s Cory ’91 Speaks on COVID-19 and Public Health

Janine Cory '91

Janine Cory ’91

(By Bill Holder ’75)

In this Q&A we speak with Janine Cory ’91, MPH, about COVID-19 myths, vaccinations and vaccine hesitancy, pediatric transmission, health literacy, and more. Cory is the Associate Director of Communications for the CDC COVID-19 Response, Vaccine Task Force.

For more information on Wesleyan’s efforts dealing with COVID-19, visit the Keep Wes Safe website.

Q: How did you first become interested in public health? Was there a particular experience, issue, or Wesleyan course that influenced you? What led you to focus on risk communication?

A: I was actually lucky enough to be accepted into a pilot program at Mt. Sinai Medical School in 1989 that accepted a few students from Wesleyan and a couple of other schools. The idea was to take non-traditional pre-med students (I was an anthropology-sociology major) and do clinical rotations and a laboratory rotation.

I was expecting to cut up worms or something in my lab rotation, but it was what I would now label as public health and epidemiology. I discovered I had a knack for survey design and analysis during that summer and realized that public health was the intersection of medicine and sociology that I had been looking for. Even at that point, the idea of risk communication and plain language really made sense. Some of the survey questions asked consumers “is the angle of your desk and chair between 18-24 degrees?” I re-wrote it based on what probably seems obvious to everyone reading this now—don’t assume that most people would know the exact angle of their chair. When you’re collecting data, you have to make sure it’s useable in a way that helps you move forward to answer real questions.

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic presented any unique challenges in risk communication? If so, how have you and your colleagues addressed those challenges?

A: One thing during this pandemic that is both a good and bad element is the prevalence of social media. There’s such an influx of information—and anyone can be an influencer in any direction. It can be hard to sort out what are genuine, science-based data, and what seemingly legitimate ‘facts’ are actually based on opinion or myth. The premise behind good risk communication is understanding that you have to acknowledge where people are at and really get the context of their concerns. If you don’t recognize where their sources of data are, or where their belief system lies, throwing data or ‘facts’ at someone doesn’t help you give them useful information to change their health behavior.

Kostacopoulos Remembered for Being Wesleyan’s Winningest Coach

Peter “Kosty” Kostacopoulos

Peter “Kosty” Kostacopoulos

Peter “Kosty” Kostacopoulos, adjunct professor of physical education, emeritus, and former head baseball coach and assistant football coach, passed away on March 25 at the age of 86.

Kosty earned his BS from the University of Maine, where he lettered in football, basketball, and baseball, and made the All-Maine Conference in football and basketball. After coaching at Bowdoin for nine years, he arrived at Wesleyan in 1968. He served as head baseball coach for 28 years and assistant football coach for 19 years. He also served as a head squash coach during this time.

Kosty led the Cardinals to 11 Little Three titles. Twice named NCAA Coach of the Year, he won over 400 games and had 24 winning seasons in his time at Wesleyan. In 1994 Kosty led the team to the NCAA College World Series and was chosen as a coach for the Division III All-Star game at Fenway Park in Boston. “Coach Kosty had the ability to challenge his players and get them to perform at their best in the most important games,” recalled Mike Whalen, the Frank V. Sica Director of Athletics and chair, Physical Education. “For many, he was a great coach, mentor, and friend, and he will be missed.”

In addition to being Wesleyan’s winningest coach, Kosty was also known as an active recruiter. “From the honor of being recruited by him, to playing under his guidance, he gave us the transformational experience of our lives,” said Mark Woodworth ’94, head baseball coach. “Coach Kosty was larger than life and the embodiment of what a coach should be. His legacy lives on and is firmly embedded in the Wesleyan Baseball program, but is found even more in the hearts and minds of those of us fortunate enough to have been able to call him Coach.”

Known as a mentor and an enduring friend to his students, Kosty was inducted into the Wesleyan University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016. John Raba, Head Coach of Men’s Lacrosse, said: “Peter Kostacopoulos was one of the finest individuals to ever have coached at Wesleyan. His championship record, innovation, teaching, and influence in the lives and careers of players and coaches are unsurpassed. Peter will be deeply missed by many of us in the athletic community at Wesleyan.”

Kosty, who retired from Wesleyan in 2001, is survived by his wife Joann Hanson Kostacopoulos and his sons John Kostacopoulos, Peter Kostacopoulos, Jr., and Paul Kostacopoulos. The family is planning a celebration of Kosty’s life this summer, to be announced at a later time.

Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement to Be Held May 26 In Person

monogramWesleyan’s 189th Commencement will take place in person on Wednesday, May 26.

“This year’s Commencement was previously planned for May 30; however, due to a number of factors, including current pandemic conditions and cancellation of an in-person reunion weekend, we have decided to move up the date,” Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 said in a campus-wide email.

The University is hoping that conditions will allow for two guests per graduate to attend the ceremony. Wesleyan is pursuing plans to accommodate the seniors and other graduates who have been studying remotely to return to campus for Commencement exercises.

As with all of Wesleyan’s COVID-related policies and guidelines, these plans are tentative and subject to change if conditions necessitate. The University will continue to communicate regarding more specific details of Commencement in the coming weeks.

“I am very much looking forward to seeing our graduates on Andrus Field on May 26, and celebrating the accomplishments of the formidable Class of 2021,” Roth said.

Wesleyan’s reunion events will move to a virtual format.

Wightman Remembered for Being a Dedicated and Charismatic Teacher

Ann Wightman, professor of history, emerita, died on March 11 at the age of 70.

Wightman was born in South Euclid, Ohio. She earned her BA from Duke University and her MPhil and PhD from Yale. First arriving at Wesleyan as a visiting instructor in 1979, she remained here for 36 years until her retirement in 2015. Wightman was an accomplished scholar with a focus on Latin America. She felt that she found a “second home” doing research in the Andes, and she sought to capture the history of that region in her first book, Indigenous Migration and Social Change: The Foresteros of Cuzco, 1570-1720 (Duke University Press, 1990), which received the Herbert E. Bolton Memorial Prize for “the best English language book on any aspect of Latin American history.”

She was a mentor to many faculty and students, and a popular teacher. “Ann Wightman was an extraordinary and effective University colleague,” said Nathanael Greene, professor of history. “As a scholar, she won praise and prize; her teaching was uncommonly demanding but absolutely inspirational, and she was among the early recipients of the Binswanger Prize.”

Robert “Bo” Conn, professor of Spanish, said: “For decades students flocked to Ann’s courses. Walking around campus at reunion time with ‘Wightman,’ as students affectionately knew and even called her, was like walking around with a legend. They all had memories and stories of a dedicated and charismatic teacher who made Latin America come alive in the classroom with her brilliant lectures on colonialism, state formation, and cultural resistance, and who helped them to develop as critical thinkers and people.”

Wightman had a lasting impact on Wesleyan. She was instrumental in founding Wesleyan’s Center for the Americas, which brought the Latin American Studies and American Studies programs together as part of a common enterprise with shared, team-taught introductory courses.

“Ann was one of my best friends, and as colleagues, we worked together on creating the Center for the Americas,” said Patricia Hill, professor of American studies, emerita. “Ann was not only an admired colleague and teacher but a dear and best friend to many. She was devoted to the people of Wesleyan.”

Wightman is survived by her husband, Mal Bochner. Memorial contributions may be made to the Ann Wightman Scholarship Fund, c/o Wesleyan University Advancement, 291 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457, Attn: Jennifer Opalacz.

Connecticut Supreme Court Reverses Trial Court DKE Decision

President Michael Roth is gathering information and ideas from the Wesleyan community regarding the future of Wesleyan's fraternities.

The Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) residence is on High Street.

On March 5, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the 2017 trial court’s judgement in Kent Literary Club v Wesleyan. This judgment had imposed damages on the university, requiring Wesleyan to contract with the owners of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) residence to house students.

Wesleyan officials said they are pleased by the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision and hoped that it would put an end to the matter, though they noted that the fraternity may choose to continue its litigation.

In fall of 2014, after receiving much input from the campus community and consulting with the Board of Trustees, Wesleyan announced that all residential fraternities had to become fully co-educational over the following three years. Wesleyan knew that for many students and alumni, their experiences in residential organizations like DKE and others were truly formative—the basis of lifelong relationships and the development of leadership skills. The university saw no reason why these experiences should be confined to male residences or offered only on a “separate but equal” basis. Furthermore, Wesleyan was also well aware of the safety issues that had occurred at the fraternity houses, which the institution had an obligation to address.

The move to co-educate residential fraternities was intended to make Wesleyan a more equitable and inclusive campus. Wesleyan has been committed to co-education since the 1970s, and university officials said it was time to end the exception that allowed all-male organizations to house students in the private residences they own on the border of campus.

When Wesleyan announced this move to co-education, DKE made clear that it was opposed to the policy.  After extensive negotiations with the fraternity, Wesleyan concluded that the organization was unprepared to begin a process to accept women on full and equal terms. The organization sued the university in 2015, and Friday’s decision reverses the trial court’s judgment.

Since 2015, DKE has operated as a non-residential student organization. Before this semester began, however, that organization, along with a number of its members, was found responsible by a Student Conduct Board for a range of violations related to off-campus hazing activities, which were also a serious violation of university and governmental COVID-19 protocols. As a result, the Student Conduct Board suspended DKE as a student organization of any type, for at least two years. The DKE house remains off-limits to students.

Wesleyan is steadfastly committed to ensuring that its residential program is safe, fair, and accessible for all students, regardless of gender. The university is also committed to ensuring that all student organizations abide by university rules, particularly during the pandemic.

4 Faculty Receive Tenure, Promotions

The following faculty were conferred tenure, effective July 1, 2021 by the Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting:

David Kuenzel, associate professor of economics; Michelle Personick, associate professor of chemistry; and Olga Sendra Ferrer, associate professor of Spanish.

In addition, one faculty member was promoted, effective July 1, 2020: Valerie Nazzaro, associate professor of the practice in quantitative analysis.

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below:

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel’s scholarship focuses on international trade and economic growth. In his research, he analyzes nations’ trade policies, trade flows, and economic growth in connection with the policies of institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) or with national political arrangements. He has published peer-reviewed papers in such prestigious journals as European Economic Review, Canadian Journal of Economics, Review of International Economics, Journal of Macroeconomics, and International Journal of Forecasting, and has co-authored International Monetary Fund (IMF) working and policy papers. Professor Kuenzel has been a visiting scholar at the IMF and the WTO. He offers courses on economic growth, macroeconomics, international trade, and economic theory.

Wesleyan Announces Its 2021 Honorary Degree Recipients

Wesleyan has announced the speaker and honorary degree recipients for its 189th Commencement.

The date of Commencement was previously announced as May 30th; however, given current pandemic conditions, the University is reviewing other options for the last week of May. The University is currently planning to hold the ceremony in-person on Wesleyan’s Middletown campus, though off-campus guests will be restricted to virtual attendance given the ongoing threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. More details about the ceremony and a definitive date for Commencement will be announced by the end of March.

Reginald Dwayne Betts, an award-winning poet, memoirist, and teacher, is this year’s commencement speaker. MacArthur-winning researcher, writer, and activist Catherine Coleman Flowers and Scott Gottlieb ’94, a physician and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, also will be honored. The recipients were chosen on the basis of their significant contributions to the social, environmental, and public health of the United States.

“Be it through teaching, art, advocacy, medicine, or policy-making, these three individuals offer us shining examples of how we can work to forge better futures,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78. “Despite difficult circumstances, like the current public health situation, Reginald, Catherine, and Scott represent our ability to make progress on seemingly intractable problems, and, through their efforts, inspire us to direct our talents toward meaningful action.”

Coach Russell Remembered for Shepherding the Advancement of Title IX for Women’s Athletics

 

don russell

Donald Russell, professor of physical education, emeritus, and former director of athletics and head football coach, passed away on Feb. 2 at the age of 93.

Russell earned his BA from Bates College, where he played offensive and defensive tackle for the football team. Arriving at Wesleyan in 1960, he served as an assistant football coach under Norm Daniels, then became head football coach from 1964 through 1970, after which point he stepped down from that position, though he remained as the head of athletics until his retirement in 1991.

Russell led the Cardinals to three Little Three championships (’66, ’69, ’70) and to a stunning undefeated 8-0 record in 1969. All of this took place during tumultuous years on campus with demonstrations, bomb threats, and sit-ins. In fact, the year the football team was undefeated, Wesleyan had to get a restraining order to prevent a demonstration from interfering with the homecoming game with Williams.

“Throughout this difficult time, Don’s steadfast leadership and strong relationship with the players was instrumental in the team’s focus on football and accomplishing what no Wesleyan football team has done since,” said John Biddiscombe, adjunct professor of physical education, emeritus.

Student-Athletes of Color Bring Awareness to Their Work Through New Video

This month, the Wesleyan Student-Athlete of Color Leadership Council (SACLC) released its “The Battle is Worth It” video with the Wesleyan community. The video, which was produced by Wesleyan’s Video Services team, features athletes from SACLC who aim to bring awareness to their work and support other athletes of color.

SACLC aims to build a safe, more diverse environment, which will enhance the athletic experiences of student-athletes of color throughout all Wesleyan sports teams. Programs and services are developed with the intention of implementing a system that establishes a social network amongst athletes of color, promotes solidarity, and encourages discourse in an attempt to alleviate the disadvantages associated with being an athlete of color.


Intercollegiate Athletic Competition Postponed for Spring Semester

Given the current public health situation, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which is made up of 11 institutions including Wesleyan, is postponing intercollegiate competition for the 2021 spring semester.

After much discussion, the presidents of NESCAC schools released an announcement on Jan. 27 stating: “As member institutions prepare for the spring semester, the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and communities remain our foremost concerns. Although COVID case numbers have started to decline, nationally and in our region, the numbers remain far higher than they were at the start of the fall semester. After a careful review, the NESCAC presidents have agreed that conditions will need to improve significantly in order to conduct conference competition this spring.”

As a result of adjustments to the NESCAC schools’ 2020–21 academic calendars, students are returning to campuses at different times, ranging from late January to late February. If the situation improves and conference competition proves feasible, regular-season conference play would likely not start until late March or early April, and would necessarily be limited in scope and duration.

As in the fall, all member institutions plan to limit travel off-campus, restrict visitors, maintain strict protocols on physical distancing, and implement a robust COVID-19 testing program. NESCAC school presidents will continue to monitor the progress of the pandemic, as well as changes in federal, state, and local guidelines on public health and athletic competition.

“The NESCAC decision will come as a disappointment to many who have worked long and hard for the chance to compete, and I understand their frustration,” Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 wrote in a campus-wide email. “Like so many Wesleyans, I would love to watch our athletes compete, as I would be delighted to see our musicians play and our actors perform. We all will have to wait until it is safe enough to do so.”

The presidents will make a final decision in late February or early March.