Wes Squirrels

Beyond April 1

Happy April Fools Day!

We do love our squirrels here at Wesleyan, but the cardinal is here to stay.

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You’ll Go Nuts for Wesleyan’s New Mascot!

President Michael S. Roth announced today that Wesleyan University will be saying goodbye to the Wesleyan cardinal and hello to Wes Squirrel!

Due to the overwhelming presence of squirrels on campus, and the decided lack of cardinals, the move just seemed to make sense. Plus, have you heard cardinals sing?

“Conn College’s mascot is the camel. Middlebury is the panthers. Bates is the bobcats. Colby is the mules,” said Kate Mullen, Associate Director of Athletics and Head Women’s Basketball Coach. “No offense to the lovely red bird, but Wesleyan needs a more ferocious mascot. Like the squirrel.”

Not everyone is happy with the change. Kari Weil, Director of the College of Letters and author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now came to the cardinal’s defense: “The northern cardinal has been Wesleyan’s mascot since 1933. Not ferocious? Did you know the cardinal’s immune system suppresses the West Nile virus? And the flipside, during mating season, the males feed the females beak-to-beak. And then he sings to her. How sweet is that?”

If this news is troubling to you and you think we’ve gone completely nuts, please check the date.

Knit One, Squirrel Two: Students Go Nuts for Squirrels Who Knit

knitting with squirrels

This winter, members of Wesleyan’s Squirrels On-Campus Knitting Society (SOCKS) made blankets and booties for the more than 600 new pinkies born at Wesleyan over the last several months. The club was founded two years ago by Chip Sciurus ’18, an eastern grey squirrel from Hoboken, New Jersey.

“I started the club as a way to get Wes Squirrels involved in campus life, give back to the community, and connect with other campus carolinensis,” says Sciurus. So far, more than 50 Wes Squirrels have joined the organization’s efforts to make a difference at Wesleyan.

According to Stella Hudsonicus ’19, a red squirrel from Somerville, Massachusetts, knitting is more than just a hobby. “Knitting can actually reduce stress, anxiety, and blood pressure—something all students—including Wes Squirrels—need, especially during midterms and final exams,” said Hudsonicus.

Sciurus agreed. “Some squirrels meditate or do yoga to de-stress—we knit. It’s fun. It’s relaxing. And we’re pretty darn good at it, if I do say so myself!”

Knitting is also a great way for Wes Squirrels to stay in shape during the long New England winters. “Before I took up knitting, I tended to put on a few pounds during the colder months,” said Chip Volans ’17, one of only a handful of southern flying squirrels at Wesleyan. “But knitting is actually a great way to burn calories—110 per hour! Who knew?”

Some squirrels knit only in the winter, while others practice their craft year round. “Knitting gives me something to do when I’m not out digging or burying my stash,” said Hudsonicus. “Sometimes I miss a stitch, and I think to myself, oh, nuts! But then I get right back into the swing of things.”

While SOCKS has been growing in popularity since it was established in 2015, club members have found their services to be in even greater demand since November’s presidential election. “Lately, we’ve had a lot of requests for pink hats. Students are just nuts about them, whatever that’s all about,” said Volans. “But if the people want ’em, we’ll knit ’em!”

If this story is troubling to you and you think we’ve gone completely nuts, please check the date.

What Do the Squirrels Know about the Extended Absence of the Douglas Cannon?

squirrel on cannon pedestal

Much has been written about the mysterious Douglas Cannon, a Wesleyan University tradition dating back to the 1860s. During this time, college was in term for the Fourth of July, and a student-led volley of cannon fire was often included in the celebrations. In 1859, Wesleyan’s calendar was altered so that the college was not in session during the Fourth, so the Douglas Cannon was added to the celebration of George Washington’s birthday on February 22, kicked off by a “cannon scrap.”

Cannon scraps came about as an interclass rivalry between the freshman — in charge of firing the cannon volleys in the early morning hours of February 22 — and the sophomores, who attempted to foil the freshman efforts to fire the cannon. In 1869, a heavily-packed cannon charge shattered most of the library’s windows (at that time Rich Hall, which is now the ’92 Theater, housed the library). After this, faculty prohibited firing the cannon, and in 1931 it was filled with lead and mounted to a block of brownstone between Memorial Chapel and South College. The cannon remained there for 26 years, only to be stolen by students in 1957, returned, then stolen again in 1959.

Since its introduction, the Douglas Cannon has been sunk in the Connecticut River, presented to the Russian Mission at the United Nations as a “symbol of peace, brotherhood, and friendship,” appeared unexpectedly in the offices of the managing editor of Life magazine, presented to President Richard M. Nixon as a protest against the war in Vietnam, and baked into Wesleyan’s sesquicentennial birthday cake in 1981. Photographs have been sent depicting the Cannon in London, Paris, and Venezuela.

Though small groups of students have reported spotting it twice in the past decade, the cannon hasn’t been seen publicly on campus since Wesleyan’s 175th commencement in 2007. The pedestal has remained empty, except for the occasional shifty-eyed squirrel who sits on it as if s/he knows something about the cannon’s whereabouts. Perhaps the Douglas Cannon Facebook page will reveal more in time…

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Squaiku Poetry Slam

Olivia Drake Photography

Tonight at The Buttonwood Tree, Wesleyan is celebrating National Poetry Month with its first-ever Squaiku (squirrel haiku) Poetry Slam. The Office for Equity and Inclusion and the Office of University Communications have been working their tails off organizing this event.

“At Wesleyan we live our mission statement, which says, ‘The university seeks to build a diverse, energetic, high-climbing community of students, squirrels, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind, generosity of spirit, and a belly full of nuts,” said Key Nuttall, Wesleyan’s chief communications officer. “We’re excited and honored to be hosting our inaugural Squaiku Poetry Slam.”

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While the chatter around campus is that Walnut Whitman will take home the prize, you’d be nuts to not also consider the others. Check out just a sample of the many poems you’ll hear tonight.

I glide through the trees
Catching the wind in my tail
Suspended in air
–e.e. nuttings

Scamper, scamper, stop
Frozen in the sun I stand
Scatter, scatter, hop
–Walnut Whitman

Big dog growls mean, low
Hungry for a tasty meal
I chatter and run
–Mary Nutshelley

Glorious acorns
Falling like rain from above
I bury them all
–Henry Wadsworth Longtail

Zig zag in the street
Dodging the spinning black wheels
Safe at last, I sigh
–Sir Thomas Moore Nuts

Meet a Wes Squirrel: Tailgating with Chip Sciurus ’18

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Chip Sciurus ’18 hails from Hoboken, New Jersey. The eastern grey squirrel is one of the first sciuridae admitted under Wesleyan’s new SOS (Scurry of Squirrels) program.

What’s it like being part of Wesleyan’s inaugural scurry of squirrels?
The transition from canopy to campus has been pretty easy. Everyone here’s been really accepting. Sure, some students think moving squirrels from the canopy to the classroom means Wes is lowering its standards. But I can tell you from personal experience that Wesleyan is just as selective with its squirrels as it is with its students.

What made you choose Wesleyan?
In a word: Diversity. Look around: You’ve got grey squirrels and red squirrels, black squirrels and flying squirrels. Even ground squirrels!

If you don’t mind me asking: Where do squirrels live on campus?
We live in the newest program house: Tree House. It feels like home, really. Leaves, sticks, moss. Really cozy. In a single, of course. There might be a lot of us, but we’re not very social.

Speaking of social, Wes students are known for their social involvement. What’s your campus cause?
Sustainability, for sure. See all those trees out there? You can thank generations of Wes squirrels for them! When we dig, which we do all the time, we aerate the soil—which promotes better vegetation growth. And a whole lot of us are scatter hoarders, too—we bury thousands of acorns each fall and then fuggedabout a lot of them. Those left behind, germinate and—voila!—more trees. And If that wasn’t enough, we eat grubs like snap peas: By. The. Handful.

Have you decided on a major yet?
Nope. Not yet. Too many great choices, really. No matter what, though, with all my zigging and zagging, I’m sure it won’t be a straight path to graduation!

What’s your favorite food?
Are you serious? Between you and me: I take it personally when students talk about wanting a nut-free campus. Nut free? How about more nuts! May contain nuts? Should contain nuts, as far as I’m concerned.

Do you have a favorite class?
I like them all, really. I don’t even mind early morning classes. My roommates say I’m the epitome of wide-eyed and bushy-tailed.

With classes, school clubs and weekend jobs, how do Wes Squirrels deal with the stress of college life?
If you haven’t noticed, we squirrels are great at landing on our feet—even from almost 100 feet up! Life is all about climbing, falling, and climbing back up again. Sure, sometimes I misjudge the distance between two branches, or I land on a branch and—snap!—down I go. But I can deal with that. Spread my body, puff out my tail, and I’m riding the breeze on the way down.

What’s your favorite thing to do on campus?
Sledding on Foss in the winter, WesFest in the spring (though sometimes it looks like it gets a little squirrely), and tail-gating in the fall. And I’m nuts about geocaching. But Pokemon Go? Overrated, if you ask me.

What can Wesleyan do to improve the campus environment for Wes Squirrels?
In a nutshell: Wesleyan is a great place for squirrels, but there’s definitely more than can be done to make us feel just as welcome as the other students. First: No dogs on campus. C’mon people. They bark. They chase. They make a mess. Need I say more? And how many Wes Squirrels have to end up as roadkill before Wesleyan finally installs squirrel crossings on High Street and up by Exley? Give us a brake, people!

How do you respond to people who say squirrels are a nuisance?
Some people say “rodent” like it’s a bad word. As far as I’m concerned, they’re nuts.  Maybe we’re a little furrier and a little more scattered, but we’re smart, we’re agile, and we’re adaptable. Once students realize this, they’re pretty cool about us being here. Sometimes I do catch people staring at my tail, though. But one or two quick swishes and an earful of chatter is enough to set most of them straight.

Since you mentioned it: What’s up with the bushy tails?
Bushy tails aren’t just for show, you know. People use their hands; squirrels use their tails. If you see my tail waggin’, don’t start a-naggin’! That’s what I say. It also keeps me warm in winter.

Any words of wisdom for Wes Squirrels and other Wes students?
I don’t bury all my nuts in one place for the same reason I don’t put all my eggs in one basket: Too risky. I’d rather spread my chances for success. And as my mother used to say, God rest her soul: In life as in trees, it’s all about balance.

Accepting Applications for Squirrel Study Abroad and Exchange Program

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This summer, Wesleyan’s Center for Global Studies will launch its new Squirrel Study Abroad and Exchange Program in three different countries. Fifteen Wesleyan squirrels have already registered for the program.

With the exception of Australia, more than 200 species of squirrels live in trees or burrows worldwide.

“Some of Wesleyan’s eastern gray squirrels and fox squirrels have never experienced life outside of Middletown, let alone the boundaries of campus,” said Emily Gorlewski, associate director of Wesleyan’s Office of Study Abroad. “We’d love to see our squirrels travel to other countries and participate in a meaningful cross-cultural experience.”

In June, Wesleyan will send six eastern gray squirrels to the University of Tromsø in northern Norway. There, the squirrels will climb pine trees alongside the puffy-tailed Eurasian red squirrel.

An additional five squirrels will attend a summer program at Universiti Putra Malaysia, interacting with the slender squirrel, a shorter, smaller species who prefers to eat soft bark for breakfast.

Another four squirrels will enjoy campus life at Wuhan University in Hubei, China. They will mingle with the red-bellied Pallas’s squirrel, who like the Eastern gray squirrel, enjoys spending time in trees watching and waiting for students to drop food.

In addition, Wesleyan’s Freeman East Asian Scholar Squirrels Program has offered to supply scholarships for 20 squirrels wanting to attend Wesleyan this summer from any campus in East Asia.

“Wesleyan considers study abroad an essential part of the liberal arts education for students and squirrels alike,” Gorlewski said.

If this news is troubling to you and you think we’ve gone completely nuts, please check the date.