Society

Wesleyan in the News

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

  1. The New Yorker: “The Shapeshifting Music of Tyshawn Sorey”

“There is something awesomely confounding about the music of Tyshawn Sorey [MA ’11], the thirty-eight-year-old Newark-born composer, percussionist, pianist, and trombonist,” begins this profile of Sorey, assistant professor of music. Sorey was recently featured in the Composer Portraits series at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre.

2. The Register-Mail: “Video Slots Take Heavy Toll on Some Players”

In this article exploring the expansion of video slot gaming in a region of Illinois, Assistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson shares what he has learned through his research about how gambling affects our brains through the pleasurable release of dopamine. “You hear gamblers talk about chasing losses,” Robinson said. “Basically, they are talking about how gambling and uncertainty can even change how you respond to losing. It sounds counterintuitive, but for gambling addicts losing money triggers the rewarding release of dopamine almost to the same degree that winning does.”

3. The St. Thomas Source: “V.I. Studies Collective Asks, ‘What Is a Virgin Islander?'”

Professor of English Tiphanie Yanique, a core member of the Virgin Islands Studies Collective, recently led a workshop on St. Thomas at the Virgin Islands Literary Festival. A poet, essayist, and fiction writer who teaches creative writing at Wesleyan, Yanique comes from St. Thomas and has written fiction about life in the Virgin Islands.

4. The Forward: “8 Practical Tips on How to Lead a Progressive Seder This Year”

Asked for advice on leading a “progressive seder” for Passover this year, Wesleyan’s Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and University Jewish Chaplain David Leipziger Teva suggested adding a shoelace to your seder plate to express solidarity with the migrants fleeing their homes to cross into the U.S. “In thinking about the 92,607 migrants and refugees who in March of 2019 alone were detained after crossing the US Mexico border, I was struck by the fact that one of the first things that our US Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) does is force these tired and vulnerable people to remove their shoelaces,” he explained. “Apparently anything, even the shoelaces of young children, considered ‘nonessential and potentially lethal’ is confiscated.”

5. Reading Religion: “Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Bias”

“Through the medium of cartoons, Gottschalk and Greenberg examine complicated concepts such as Islamophobia and stereotypes in a manner that is both accessible and comprehensive,” according to this review of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Picturing the Enemy, coauthored by Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg ’04 and recently re-released in an expanded and revised second edition. “This book is accessible enough to include on an undergraduate introductory syllabus, but also specialized enough for readers who are familiar with the concept of Islamophobia, or the study of the Muslims in the United States, to benefit from.”

Alumni in the News

  1. PeabodyAwards.com: Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart (PBS/WNET TV)”

Randall MacLowry ’86 is the producer and editor; Tracy Heather Strain is the filmmaker for this documentary, which PBS notes as “the first in-depth presentation of Hansberry’s complex life, using her personal papers and archives, including home movies and rare photos, as source material.” The couple cofounded The Film Posse, Inc., to work together in creating documentaries of high quality, and according to a press release, “spent more than 14 years raising money to develop the independently-produced film, which the couple produced with Strain serving as director and writer, and MacLowry and Chad Ervin as editors. Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and its television premiere on the PBS biography series American Masters in January 2018.”

2. Women and Hollywood: “Tribeca 2019 Women Directors: Meet Bridget Savage Cole [’05] and Danielle Krudy [’07]Blow the Man Down” 

“Wesleyan University graduates Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy met on a film set in Coney Island. They immediately bonded over a shared love of character-driven stories and juicy filmmaking styles. They have collaborated on numerous music videos, shorts, and writing projects. Blow the Man Down is their first feature-length film,” writes Gabriela Rico, who follows with the directors’ candid Q&A. Blow the Man Down premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 26.

3. Vanity Fair: Fosse/Verdon: 5 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets from the Cast and Creators”

Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones, who moderated a panel that included Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, provided excerpts of the conversation: “‘I picked up a book off the shelf, and my job was to read the book and put it in Tommy Kail’s [’99] hand,’ said Miranda. The Hamilton creator had gone to Wesleyan University with Sam Wasson [’03], author of the 2013 biography Fosse—on which the FX series is closely based. In June 2016, Hamilton director Kail and Miranda began planning a way to bring Fosse back to the screen.”

4. Broadway World: “MCC Launches Season with Ross Golan’s The Wrong Man Directed by Thomas Kail [’99]”

The Wrong Man (“the wrong man meets the wrong women in the wrong place at the wrong time”) is a new stage musical, written by multi-platinum songwriter Ross Golan (book, music, lyrics), Tony Award–winning director Thomas Kail and three-time Tony and four-time Grammy Award–winning orchestrator Alex Lacamoire. Performances begin on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.

5. Boston Globe: “Cape Air on Course for Seaplane Takeoff in Boston”

Jon Chesto ’93 writes: “Dan Wolf [’79] needed to get his hands on an amphibious aircraft before he could fulfill his yearslong quest to bring seaplane service back to Boston Harbor.

“Now, the chief executive of Cape Air has an entire squadron.”

In this tale of Wolf’s acquisition of the seaplanes, Chesto notes some Wes-related history: “Wolf first learned to fly a seaplane at the Goodspeed Airport along the Connecticut River, while going to school at nearby Wesleyan University. That was nearly 40 years ago, but there’s a connection to this latest deal. Shoreline Aviation was run by John Kelly [MALS ’70], who taught Wolf during his college years. They obviously stayed in touch: Cape Air has used Shoreline planes during its Boston Harbor test runs.”

 6. MIT News: “Candid Conversation about Race: In MIT Talk, Beverly Daniel Tatum [’75, P’04, Hon. ’15] Urges Direct Discussion about Racial Issues at a ‘Polarized’ Moment in U.S. History”

Peter Dizikes, of the MIT News Office, writes: “Candid discussions about race relations are vital at a time of ‘pushback’ against social diversity in the U.S., said Beverly Daniel Tatum, the former president of Spelman College, in a talk at MIT on Thursday.

“‘It seems to me pretty clear we’re living in a pushback moment,’ Tatum said, referring to resistance against both political progress by blacks and a diversifying population. She added: ‘I think that today, most people would agree, we are more polarized than ever.’”

Tatum’s talk at MIT’s Wong Auditorium covered topics including the difference between race and racism, what is possible in the political arena, and the “long-running conditions of material inequality in the U.S.”

7. WBUR.org— “WBUR Announces Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize Winner”

From the website: “WBUR announced today that Hannah Dreier [’08] is the winner of the 2019 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. The winning segment was produced at This American Life in partnership with ProPublica, where Dreier serves as an immigration reporter.

“Dreier’s winning entry, ‘The Runaways’ is an hour-long investigative report that documents how the Suffolk County Police Department in New York failed to investigate a series of gang murders when the victims were immigrant teenagers. Days after the story aired on This American Life, the Suffolk County legislature forced the police department to conduct an internal investigation into how it had handled the MS-13 murder cases. ‘The Runaways’ proves that investigative reporting continues to effect change.”

Finn in The Conversation: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution

John Finn

John Finn

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor Emeritus of Government John Finn shares his research—as featured in his new book, Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution—showing how the alt-right and a wide variety of extremist organizations advance a comprehensive—if not entirely comprehensible—vision of the American Constitution.

How the alt-right corrupts the Constitution

About 10 years ago, I spent a sabbatical on the Maine coast writing a book about the Constitution.

One afternoon, an eager reference librarian who knew about my interests invited me to a talk at the library. The featured speaker was a woman who proudly called herself a “Constitutional Patriot.”

The speaker was self-educated and her message was simple: Liberal elites – judges, politicians and academics – had perverted the meaning of the “True Constitution.”

Getting the Constitution “right,” in her view and in the view of a great many far-right conservative groups and organizations, all of them constitutional patriots of a sort, means understanding the Constitution as the Founders understood it.

Students Attend Banquet to Support Local Women and Children

At left, Luke Lezhanskyy ’20, Sam Medrano ’19, Kati Young ’19, Joy Adedokun ’19, Shantel Sosa ’21, Rebeca Martinez ’20, Father Bill Wallace, and Adjunct Professor of Spanish Octavio Flores-Cuadra, gather at a fundraiser for Middletown’s ABC Women’s Center on April 4.

On April 4, students from Wesleyan for Women and Children (WesWAC) attended a fundraiser dinner banquet for ABC Women’s Center at St. Clement’s Castle in Portland, Conn. They were accompanied by University Roman Catholic Chaplain Father Bill Wallace, Adjunct Professor of Spanish Octavio Flores-Cuadra, and several members of the community.

ABC Women’s Center provides free and confidential pregnancy resources and services to women and families in the greater Middletown area. Since the nonprofit doesn’t receive federal funding, all services are supported by individual contributions, donations, and fundraisers.

The banquet’s theme was Strong As She. Proceeds will help ABC with its new initiatives such as group parenting classes.

“Attending the ABC Women’s Center banquet for the first time is one of my Wesleyan highlights,” said WesWAC member Sam Medrano ’19. “The passion, soul, and strength that I witnessed from the women who spoke at this life-affirming event is truly amazing. I’m proud to support a vital Middletown organization that women rely on for free pregnancy services.”

Students Practice Personal Pitches with Alumni Mentors at Connect@Wes

On Feb. 22, 10 alumni and 35 students participated in Connect@Wes 2019 in Beckham Hall. The event serves as a "practice" networking event for Wesleyan students of all class years. 

On Feb. 22, eight alumni and 35 students participated in Connect@Wes 2019 in Beckham Hall. The fifth annual event serves as a practice networking event for Wesleyan students of all class years.

Students rotated through short sessions with alumni mentors in different industries to practice their version of a personal pitch. 

Students rotated through short sessions with alumni mentors in different industries to practice their version of a personal pitch. The mentors used their expertise to critique the pitches and provided advice and insight on how to build a personal network.

In New Book, Finn Explains How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution

John Finn

John Finn, professor emeritus of government, is the author of Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2019. Finn is an internationally recognized expert on constitutional theory, the rule of law and political violence, and the First Amendment. His public lectures include testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, as well as lectures in Bolivia, Canada, Chile, England, France, Italy, and Spain.

Many in the radical right, including the Tea Party, the militia movement, the alt-right, Christian nationalists, the Oath Keepers, neo-Nazis, and a host of others, brand themselves as constitutional patriots. In Fracturing the Founding, Finn argues that these professions of constitutional devotion serve an important function in mainstreaming the radical right’s ideological and policy agenda: to camouflage its racism, bigotry, and sexism to appeal to a broader audience.

According to the publisher:

The constitution the extreme right holds as its faith is an odd admixture of the forgotten, the rejected, the racist, and the bizarre. Finn illuminates the central precepts of the Alt-constitution and shows how and where it differs from the (true) American Constitution. The differences are disturbing. The Alt-constitution emphasizes absolute rights and unassailable liberties (especially for freedom of speech and guns, no matter the public interest), states’ rights and a corresponding suspicion of the federal government, racial classifications recognized and legitimated by law, and privilege for white Christians. Finn’s book will appeal to all readers interested in contemporary American politics, the contemporary radical right, the founding and the history of America’s constitution.

Finn also is the author of three other books on constitutional theory and law: Peopling the Constitution (2014), American Constitutional Law: Essays, Cases, and Comparative Notes 4th ed. (2018), and Constitutions in Crisis: Political Violence and the Rule of Law (1991). Finn also has been published in several law reviews, including the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, Constitutional Commentary, New York University Journal of Law and International Politics, and Georgetown Law Journal.

Grad Student Kemble Discusses Heavy Metal Feminism

Katrice Kemble, a graduate student in ethnomusicology, presented a talk on "Daughters of Darkness: Performing Heavy Metal Feminism" on Feb. 27 during the Graduate Speakers Series.

Katrice Kemble, a graduate student in ethnomusicology, presented a talk on “Daughters of Darkness: Performing Heavy Metal Feminism” on Feb. 27 during the Graduate Speakers Series.

Kemble's research explores the oft-overlooked roles of women in the mainstream heavy music industry by following the bands Halestorm, In This Moment, and New Years Day on a female-fronted tour of the United States. Their performance of heavy metal feminism raises important questions about gender representation in popular culture, feminism and sexualization, genre expectations, and beyond.

Kemble’s research explores the oft-overlooked roles of women in the mainstream heavy music industry by following the bands Halestorm, In This Moment, and New Years Day on a female-fronted tour of the United States. Their performance of heavy metal feminism raises important questions about gender representation in popular culture, feminism and sexualization, genre expectations, and beyond. (Photos by Preksha Sreewastav ’21)

Boulware Presents Paper on Labor Market Conditions at Economics Meeting

Karl Boulware

Karl Boulware

Karl Boulware, assistant professor of economics, presented a paper at the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) Annual Meeting on Jan. 4. The three-day meeting was attended by more than 13,000 economists, who gathered to network and celebrate new achievements in economic research.

Boulware’s paper, titled “Labor Market Conditions and Charges of Discrimination: Is There a Link?” examines whether the degree of labor market conditions affects the frequency of claims of discrimination based on race, sex, age, national origin, color, and disability.

“Our findings have implications for how macroeconomic policies might be used to promote equal opportunity in the labor market,” Boulware explained.

Economics majors Will Levinson ’19 and Avi Lipton ’20 also contributed to the project as research assistants.

This spring, Boulware is teaching courses on Quantitative Methods in Economics and Monetary Policy Transmission.

Scott ’76 Reflects: On Being Black and Female in Late 1970s TV Journalism

From her home in California, Adrienne Scott ’76 shares stories of her early days in journalism, breaking the gender and color barriers in New England television news.

The Wesleyan magazine issue on the future of journalism (2018, issue 2) prompted Adrienne Scott ’76 to write a letter to the editor, recalling a high point in her early career in journalism: when legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali granted her an exclusive interview. Scott, who had been a columnist for The Wesleyan Argus as an undergraduate, as well as a student of University Editor Jack Paton ’49, P’75, was at that time a young journalist and the first African American full-time news reporter at WPRI-TV in Providence, R.I.

The Connection reached out to Scott to continue the conversation that began with her letter, asking for her perspective on journalism in the late 1970s.

Q: When did you first become interested in journalism?

A: In the late ’60s and early ’70s, before I left the Bronx High School of Science, I remember thinking that the public affairs reporters and interviewers with panel shows were fascinating. I even called in to radio shows with comments; I was interested in the world and there were some pretty big issues to discuss.

Q: How did you come to start your journalism career in Providence?

A: My aunt in East Providence offered to have me live with her while I picked up some stronger typing skills before heading back to New York City for a job in publishing.

Another aunt was deputy director of the Rhode Island Urban League, so I assisted her in writing and broadcasting Black News, a 15-minute public service radio show. Then I was offered a half-hour show through the Urban League connection on WPRI-TV, the ABC affiliate.

Yohe Attends Nobel Week in Stockholm

Gary Yohe, left, with Nobel Prize winner Bill Nordhaus, right, and his wife, Barbara, center, at Nobel Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

Gary Yohe, left, with Nobel Prize–winner Bill Nordhaus, right, and his wife, Barbara, center, at Nobel Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, attended the 2018 Nobel Week in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 7–11, as a guest of William Nordhaus, the Yale University professor of economics who received this year’s Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Nordhaus was recognized for his work “integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis.” Nordhaus was Yohe’s dissertation advisor at Yale and inspired Yohe’s own decades-long career studying the economics of climate change. Yohe himself received a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Yohe joined Nordhaus’s family and other invited colleagues at Nobel Week. The group, which called themselves the “Stockholm 2018 Climate Club,” enjoyed the Nobel Lectures, the Nobel Concert, the Nobel Prize Ceremony, and the Nobel Banquet.

“That the Nobel Committee chose to recognize Bill for the Economics Prize ‘for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis’ is a big deal,” said Yohe. “It means that young scholars who want to apply their growing knowledge of economics to improve the abilities of communities, cities, states, nations, civil society, and even global institutions to respond to the existential threat of climate risk should be met by a welcoming audience. These responses and the need to explore fully long-term issues across enormous and challenging plains of uncertainty clearly lie within purview of legitimate economic science.”

Put another way, said Yohe, “It means that the economics profession has a new branch of applied and theoretical inquiry. Nearly the entire gathering in Stockholm seemed to say ‘It’s about time.’”

Wesleyan Media Project in The Conversation: The Big Lessons of Political Advertising in 2018

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler is codirector of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and her codirectors on the Wesleyan Media Project, Michael Franz of Bowdoin College and Travis Ridout of Washington State University, write about the big takeaways of political advertising in the 2018 midterm elections. The Wesleyan Media Project tracks, analyzes, and reports on campaign advertising—both television and digital—in federal races in real time during elections. 

The big lessons of political advertising in 2018

The 2018 midterm elections are in the books, the winners have been declared and the 30-second attack ads are – finally – over.

As codirectors of the Wesleyan Media Project, which has tracked and analyzed campaign advertising since 2010, we spend a lot of time assessing trends in the volume and content of political advertising.

Because we have television data that span a number of elections, we can provide detailed information on how prominent TV ads are overall or in any given location, how many different types of sponsors are active and how the content of advertising compares to prior election cycles.

Of course, television is not the only medium through which campaigns attempt to reach voters. But online advertising, which represents the biggest growth market, has been much harder to track.

Prior to May of 2018, for instance, social media giants like Google and Facebook did not release any information at all on political advertising, so tracking online advertising began in earnest only this cycle.

Wesleyan Publishes Sustainability Action Plan Progress Report

Wesleyan’s 750 kW-AC ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system produces approximately 1.2 million kilowatt hours of clean renewable energy each year amounting to about five percent of Wesleyan’s annual electric consumption. The solar farm is one of 62 projects highlighted in the newly released Sustainability Action Plan Progress Report, which features sustainable accomplishments on campus.

Wesleyan’s Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), developed in 2016, is a five-year plan that reflects Wesleyan’s commitment to a sustainable future. Written with input from more than 130 students, faculty, and staff, the plan establishes goals, objectives, strategies, timelines, metrics, and responsible parties in topic areas.

In November, Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office released its first Sustainability Action Plan Progress Report, This report highlights progress made toward SAP strategies between 2016 and 2018 in the areas of planning, engagement, health and well-being, academic operations, curriculum, buildings, dining, energy, grounds, purchasing, transportation, waste, and water. The report also outlines Wesleyan’s vision for 2021 and summarizes overall progress.

“The Wesleyan community should be extremely proud of what sustainability measures we’ve accomplished in only two years,” said Jen Kleindienst, sustainability director. “The Progress Report highlights our success and it’s meant to acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments that contribute to a more sustainable campus.”

Several Wesleyan employees use small containers to collect garbage. The "mini bins" encourage recycling and reduce the number of trash can liners used on campus.

Several Wesleyan employees use small containers to collect garbage. The “mini bins” encourage recycling and reduce the number of trash can liners used on campus.

Some of the report’s highlights are below.

Since 2016:

  • Campus has received new recycling and trash signage developed and installed in every building.
  • An employee survey was conducted on current and potential use of carpooling, public transportation, and parking in order to identify target areas for emission reduction.
  • Waste Not collected approximately 22,000 pounds of donations and raised $5,000 for nonprofits.
  • Mowing heights are raised in non-athletic fields in spring and summer to decrease mowing frequency and fuel expenditure.
  • The third floor of North College completed the Green Office Certification and earned a silver certificate.
  • The Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship (SAGES) developed a mission statement and gained 15 new members.
  • Food rescue and composting efforts helped divert 111 tons of food waste through donations and composting.
  • A sustainability priority statement was included as a core competency for all staff job postings.
  • Grounds began designing a plan to pilot 100 percent organic lawn care practices in recreationally used fields.
  • A building sustainability policy was developed to reduce Wesleyan’s carbon footprint.
  • Compost interns ran waste and composting intervention events in campus dining areas.
  • Veg Out Tuesdays occur every other Tuesday and reduce meat consumption.
  • More than 250 trees have been planted (since 2014)
  • A newly-installed solar photovoltaic system, or solar farm, reduces reliance on natural gas.
  • A Freecycle listserv gained 52 members in 2018 and continues to grow. More than 50 percent of trades are successful.
  • The Sustainability Office held two Clean Plate Challenges in Usdan in February and April of 2018 aimed at reducing food waste and conducted food waste audits.
  • Flu shots, screenings, and fitness classes were offered to Wesleyan employees with over 800 participants.

Kleindienst points out that sustainability is not an end goal, but an ongoing process.

“We wouldn’t be here without the hard work of Wesleyan staff, faculty, and students who have taken innumerable steps to get us to this point,” Kleindienst said. “I’m excited for the next three years and beyond!”

View the entire report online here. More information on sustainability at Wesleyan is online here.

Public Safety, Greek Life Stuff a Cruiser to Benefit Local Children in Need

Wesleyan Public Safety Sgt. Kathy Burdick and dispatcher Val Walker collect toy donations from the Wesleyan community during the office’s inaugural Stuff a Cruiser event Dec. 4.

Wesleyan Public Safety and Greek Life hosted a Stuff a Cruiser event Dec. 3–7 at Usdan’s Huss Courtyard and Dec. 8 at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. The University partnered with the Middletown Fire Department by collecting donations to benefit local children in need during the holidays and throughout the year.

Several members of Psi Upsilon also helped staff the event and Bon Appétit Management Co. provided free coffee vouchers for anyone who made a donation.

“The Wesleyan community has been so generous during our Stuff a Cruiser event,” said Sgt. Kathy Burdick. “We’ve collected many toys and cash donations, and we look forward to doing this again next year.”

As a result of the donations, which filled five Public Safety cruisers, Wesleyan helped 16 local families provide gifts for their children on Christmas.

Public Safety also is collecting donations (including wrapping paper) at the office located at 208 High Street. (Photos by Alexa Jablonski ’22)