Students

Students Reflect on Presidential Election Voting Experience

voting

From left, Annie Roach ’22, Julia Jurist ’22, and Emma Smith ’22 proudly display their “I Voted” stickers after casting their ballots in Beckham Hall on Nov. 3. “The whole process of voting was much easier than I expected,” Jurist said. “It was very convenient and easy to be able to vote on campus.”

By Annie Roach ’22 and Olivia Drake MALS ’08

After the whirlwind of 2020, Wesleyan students—many of them first-time voters—were particularly eager to exercise their right to vote in the presidential election. While several students cast absentee ballots in their home states weeks ahead of time, others voted in person on Nov. 3.

Marangela James

Marangela James ’24

Marangela James ’24 decided to vote in person in Connecticut, here on campus at Beckham Hall. She registered at Wesleyan earlier this semester, when some students had set up a voter registration table in front of Usdan. “It was a little bit hard navigating how to vote at first with everything going on,” she said, “but I thought it was helpful that Wes had a table set up to register us.”

Thomas Holley ’22 voted via absentee ballot. However, he physically dropped it off in the election box outside his town hall in Cheshire, Conn. “I mostly chose to vote absentee because of its ease and to avoid crowds on Election Day,” he said. “I voted in the 2018 midterms, but this election feels much more important. This statement comes from an unbelievable point of my privilege, but this is the first time political events have directly impacted my daily life. In 2018, I enjoyed voting, but going to the polls did not have the same sense of necessity.”

In conversations with his peers, Holley feels there is a shared sense of “we have to act now, and voting is the least we can do.” Issues such as climate change, reproductive rights, and the virus have come up frequently in discussions, he said.

E2020 Experiences Shape Students’ Views of the Election

Led by the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP), the University launched its new Engage 2020 (E2020) Initiative last fall to deepen Wesleyan’s commitment to civic engagement. To date, 33 students have already received funding to support the development of their civic literacy and their preparedness to engage in political life through hands-on experiences such as working to register voters, issues advocacy, and volunteering on political campaigns. E2020 encourages participation regardless of political affiliation or stances on specific issues.

Since the initiative’s inauguration, Wesleyan has joined forces with colleges and universities across the U.S. to reaffirm the University’s collective responsibility as institutions of higher learning. (Read more about how E2020 has supported student action in civic life in this September 2020 Wesleyan University Magazine article.)

Leading up to the election, three E2020 veterans offered to reflect on their experiences and explained whether, and how, they helped shape their views of the 2020 presidential election and the current political climate.

Dani Dittmann ’22

Dani Dittmann ’22

Government and economics double major Dani Dittmann ’22 interned with Deb Ciamacca’s campaign for Pennsylvania state representative in Pennsylvania’s 168th District, and as she had hoped, she gained much confidence in speaking about politics today, especially the importance of local elections in a swing state. Although her internship concluded at the end of the summer, Dittmann continued to help with the campaign this fall, whether it was phone banking or helping out with social media content.

On campus, Dittmann co-founded a club named New Voters at Wesleyan, which has been registering high school students to vote in Connecticut and beyond. And she also signed up to be the field hockey team’s Voice in Sport’s “More Votes More Voices” campaign team leader. She kept track of teammates’ voter registration status and made sure every member of her team had a plan to vote.

“My E2020 project absolutely impacted me and my actions leading up to the election,” she said. “My experience definitely ignited something within me to ensure I was making some kind of tangible difference leading up to Nov. 3. The experience definitely encouraged me to be as involved as I am in voter registration work and political discussions on campus, and I am so grateful!”

Philosophical Debate Serves as Living a Good Life Course’s Midterm

good life class

Students from the philosophy course Living a Good Life gathered in Memorial Chapel on Oct. 22 to participate in a three-part debate that served as their midterm.

Philosophers in the ancient world, in both the East and the West, typically viewed the practice of philosophy as an activity aimed at changing one’s orientation to the world and, thus, how one lives one’s life. Some of these thinkers developed views that still appear to have contemporary relevance, but many of them also held beliefs that we recognize today as not only outdated but also deeply misguided. Given these blind spots in their thinking, should ancient philosophy be “canceled”?

That was the question up for consideration in a midterm debate held on Oct. 22 as part of PHIL 210: Living a Good Life, co-taught by Steve Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy; Tushar Irani, associate professor of letters and philosophy; and Steven Horst, chair and professor of philosophy. The course is one of Wesleyan’s largest in-person courses taught this semester and was featured in an Oct. 19 The New York Times article titled “Ancient Philosophy, Meet Modern Pandemic.”

Wesleyan Winter Session Offers Expanded Options for Study; Registration Opens Nov. 3

James Lipton, professor of computer science, teaches Introduction to Programming on Jan. 9. His class is one of seven being taught this January during Wesleyan's fourth Winter Session.

James Lipton, professor of computer science, will teach Introduction to Programming remotely during Wesleyan’s seventh Winter Session. (File photo by Olivia Drake)

During the 2020-21 Wesleyan Winter Session, students can complete a full-semester course in 16 days while developing close relationships with faculty and fellow students.

The seventh Wesleyan Winter Session will be held exclusively online this year, with an expanded curriculum. For the first time, students can choose from a short session, Jan. 4–20, 2021, or a long session, Jan.4–Feb. 2, 2021. Students who enroll in short session may take one course; students who enroll in long session may enroll in up to two courses.

More than 20 courses will be offered this winter including Introduction to Programming, Enlightenment and Science, Sexual Politics, Survey of Jazz Styles, Law, Politics, and Order in the Ancient World, Cinematic Encounters: Muslims and/in/of the West, The Working Actor, and more. View all courses online here.

Course registration opens Nov. 3.

Financial aid is available to Wesleyan students only; the deadline is Nov. 29.

Non-Wesleyan students can study at Wesleyan during the winter session as well. Visit Winter Session non-Wesleyan Students page to apply, or email winter@wesleyan.edu for more information.

Students Celebrate New School Year with Fallapalooza Fall Concert on Foss

On Oct. 9, 46 students attended the Fallapalooza Fall Concert on Foss Hill. The concert showcased several Wesleyan student bands and celebrated the start of the new school year. Fallapalooza was hosted by Wesleyan’s Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) and the Wesleyan Student Assembly. To ensure the continued safety of the Wesleyan community, attendees were required to register in advance, practice social distancing, and wear masks. Performers were permitted to remove their masks during their performances. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

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concert

Zimmeck Spearheads Launch of Important Online Privacy Tool

Sebastian Zimmeck,

Sebastian Zimmeck

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sebastian Zimmeck is leading a major initiative to help consumers gain greater control of their personal data online.

On Oct. 7, Zimmeck and his collaborator, Ashkan Soltani of Georgetown Law, as well as a group of partner organizations that includes The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mozilla, and the parent company behind WordPress.com and Tumblr, among others, announced the beta launch of the Global Privacy Control (GPC), a new effort to standardize consumer privacy online.

As Zimmeck explains it, privacy regulations introduced in recent years such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have given consumers more rights to limit the sale and sharing of their personal data than ever before. The CCPA regulations give California residents a legal right to opt out of the sale of their data, and requires businesses to respect their preferences through a signal from their web browser. Zimmeck applauds this progress, but says it “doesn’t amount to much if it is hard for people to take advantage of their new rights.” That’s because there had been little progress on developing standards that allow users to signal through their web browser that they wish to opt out of having their data sold or shared. An early standardization attempt, Do Not Track (DNT), suffered from a low rate of adoption due to its lack of enforceability. In practice, this means users generally need to manually opt out of each site or app they want to stop tracking their data—something most users don’t go through the trouble to do.

According to a WIRED article on the beta launch, “the CCPA includes a mechanism for solving the one-by-one problem. The regulations interpreting the law specify that businesses must respect a ‘global privacy control’ sent by a browser or device. The idea is that instead of having to change privacy settings every time you visit a new site or use a new app, you could set your preference once, on your phone or in a browser extension, and be done with it.”

The idea for the new global opt-out started with Zimmeck, who last spring began building an extension for the Chrome web browser with his students called OptMeowt. Initially, Zimmeck worked with Wesleyan computer science students Kuba Alicki ’22, David Baraka ‘21, and Rafael Goldstein ’21. As the effort gained momentum, Daniel Knopf ’22 and Abdallah Salia ’22 joined as well.

“My students are doing an excellent job,” Zimmeck says. “I am mostly taking on the role as an engineering manager and the students are really the ones implementing the various technologies. I think it is also nice that the students are exposed to how things are done in industry, and that they can acquire real-world software engineering skills.”

“As of today, users will be able to set a global browser opt-out in browsers including Mozilla, Brave, and DuckDuckGo, as well as the DuckDuckGo privacy extensions for Chrome,” the WIRED article further explains. “The code necessary for businesses to respond to the privacy control is publicly available. Publishers who have signed on, most notably The New York Times and The Washington Post, have agreed to honor the signal.”

“For California residents, the global privacy control, if enforced by the attorney general, would have a very different effect than existing privacy controls such as third-party cookie blockers. Those settings have no power over what a website or app does with the data it collects directly from you. The global control, by contrast, would issue a legally binding order that, if violated, would be punishable by major fines.”

Indeed, briefly after its release, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted that “[t]his proposed standard is a first step towards a meaningful global privacy control that will make it simple and easy for consumers to exercise their privacy rights online. #DataPrivacy is the future, and I am heartened to see a wave of innovation in this space.” As Zimmeck told WIRED, “The time is right to do this,” adding that the American public cares much more about privacy than during the earlier DNT effort, and now there is finally law on their side. “I think it’s really important to not just theoretically talk about how this could work,” he said, “but also to actually do it.”

Additional coverage of the beta launch can be read on TechCrunch.com, Neowin.net, and Decipher.

 

PhD Candidate Drum Discusses Biology Research during Graduate Speaker Series

Drum

Zachary Drum, a PhD candidate in biology, delivered the first 2020–21 Graduate Speaker Series talk on Oct. 2 through Zoom. Drum’s advisor is Joseph Coolon, assistant professor of biology. The Coolon Lab uses genetic and genomic tools to better understand how insects evolve to form a resistance to pesticides, damaging $10 billion in crops annually.

Zachary Drum, a PhD candidate in biology, delivered the first 2020-21 Graduate Speaker Series talk on Oct. 2 through Zoom. Titled "The Forbidden Fruit: How Drosophila sechellia came to Love Morinda citrifolia," Drum's research explores how a fruit fly species in Africa is able to eat a poisonous fruit that flies in the the rest of the world would find toxic.

Titled “The Forbidden Fruit: How Drosophila sechellia came to Love Morinda citrifolia,” Drum’s research explores how a fruit fly species in Seychelles is able to eat a poisonous fruit (noni) that flies in the rest of the world would find toxic. Ripe noni fruit contains the fatty acid volatiles octanoic acid and hexanoic acid, which are poisonous to other Drosophila species. “The host fruit has these chemicals that they [sechellia] like, and other flies don’t. They’re attracted and resistant to the fatty acid volatiles in the noni fruit,” Drum explained. “So we’re trying to build this puzzle. How does it resist these volatiles?” (Slide show photo by Charlotte Freeland)

drum

Drum explained the two types of Drosophila sensory organs used for smelling, based on past research.

Graduate Speaker Series events are open to the entire Wesleyan community.

Graduate Speaker Series events are open to the entire Wesleyan community.

Students, Faculty Perform West African Drumming and Dance

African Studies and Akwaaba Wes invited members of the Wesleyan community to a West African Music and Dance performance on Sept. 25 on the Rugby Practice Field. 

African Studies and the African Students’ Association (ASA) invited members of the Wesleyan community to a West African Music and Dance performance on Sept. 25 on the rugby practice field.

The socially-distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the African Students’ Association.

The socially distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the ASA.

Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka performed a solo dance. Saaka is teaching DANC 111: Introduction to Dance; DANC 260: West African Dance I; and DANC 360: West African Dance II this semester.

Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka performed a solo dance. Saaka is teaching DANC 111: Introduction to Dance; DANC 260: West African Dance I; and DANC 360: West African Dance II this semester.

John Dankwa, assistant professor of music, also performed a solo. Dankwa is teaching MUSC 300: Seminar for Music Majors and MUSC 446: West African Music and Culture this fall. 

John Dankwa, assistant professor of music, also performed a solo. Dankwa is teaching MUSC 300: Seminar for Music Majors and MUSC 446: West African Music and Culture this fall.

West African dance is a gateway to the cultures and ways of life of its people. It is the medium on which the very existence of the people is reinforced and celebrated. In this introductory course, students will learn the fundamental principles and aesthetics of West African dance through learning to embody basic movement vocabulary and selected traditional dances from Ghana. The physical embodiment of these cultures will be complemented with videos, lectures, readings, and discussions to give students an in-depth perspective on the people and cultures of Ghana. Students will also learn dances from other West Africa countries periodically.

The socially distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the ASA.

The event was sponsored and organized by the Provost, the Fries Center for Global Studies, the Freeman Athletic Center, and Physical-Plant Facilities.

The event was sponsored and organized by the Provost, the Fries Center for Global Studies, the Freeman Athletic Center, and Physical-Plant Facilities. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Docter-Loeb ’22 Serves as Panelist on D.C. Statehood, Racial Justice Discussion

Hannah Docter-Loeb ’22, a features editor at The Wesleyan Argus, participated in a public discussion about the intersection of D.C. statehood and racial justice Sept. 18.

The “Panel on D.C. Statehood and Racial Justice” was hosted by Georgetown Students for D.C. Statehood and featured Docter-Loeb; Anthony Cook, professor of law at Georgetown University; Jamil Scott, assistant professor of government at Georgetown University; and Cosby Hunt, adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia and senior manager of social studies education at the Center for Inspired Learning.

Docter-Loeb, a D.C. native, was invited to be a panelist after writing an article for Study Breaks on the same topic. She believes one reason D.C. statehood is meeting resistance is that the area is rooted in white supremacy and racism.

“D.C. residents have advocated for D.C. statehood since the 1980s, with no luck,” she wrote. “However, on June 26, the House approved the Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51). This bill, if approved by the Senate and the president, would establish D.C. as a state and provide us with adequate representation in proportion to the city’s size, as well as other features that accompany statehood. . . . [Representatives’] comments reflect the racist belief that Black people are unfit to govern or play a role in our democracy by voting. These beliefs are still apparent in the current debate for D.C. statehood.”

A Call to Action: McMahon ‘22 Pushes for Student-Athlete Voter Registration

McMahon

Off the ice, women’s hockey team member Audrey McMahon ’22 is serving as Wesleyan’s resident ambassador for Voice in Sport (VIS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to supporting women student-athletes and the #MoreVoicesMoreVotes initiative. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

Although many amendments have been ratified since the first election in this country more than 230 years ago, the simple fact remains: Voting is a right and a privilege.

With just 46 days (upon the publishing of this article on Sept. 18), remaining until Election Day 2020, Audrey McMahon ’22 of the Wesleyan women’s ice hockey team has set an ambitious goal: to get 100% of eligible student-athletes registered and pledged to vote.

McMahon has taken on the role of Wesleyan’s resident ambassador for Voice in Sport (VIS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to supporting women student-athletes. In an initiative that has gathered steam over recent months, McMahon has joined a campaign initiated by VIS called #MoreVoicesMoreVotes.

Wesleyan as a whole has taken drastic action in 2020, making Tuesday, Nov. 3 a University holiday with all classes canceled for the entire day. In addition, the athletic department has mandated no sport practices on Election Day, giving student-athletes the opportunity to vote at their own leisure. Building off the University’s support, Wesleyan students can register to vote in Middletown, making the process easier for those who haven’t registered elsewhere or who want to switch. McMahon is tripling down on the campus-wide initiative to create a groundswell that’ll make the voices of student-athletes heard.

McMahon is already encouraged by the initial support she has received amongst the athletic programs at Wesleyan. She started the campaign by contacting Wesleyan’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), who passed the message along to other members to distribute to their respective teams. From there, teams showing interest will designate a team leader tasked with ensuring each eligible teammate is registered and pledged to vote. Thus far, 17 teams have designated team leaders and committed themselves to the campaign with others expected to join in the weeks to come.

“Most of the athletes who have signed up as leaders, as well as the coaches who have reached out, are really supportive of the campaign itself,” McMahon said. “Since many students may already be registered, the pledging aspect of the process is key, which is simply making a plan for how you will vote. This is done by either determining the location of your in-person polling place or requesting an absentee ballot.”

Face Coverings become a Form of Student Expression


Three weeks into the fall semester, Wesleyan students are adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings or masks are required in all public spaces to help reduce the spread of the virus. Some students find the masks also can serve as a fashion accessory or statement piece. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

campus during COVID-19

Classes Held in Socially-Distanced Indoor and Outdoor Classrooms

This fall, Wesleyan is holding in-person classes on campus in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings. More than 180 classrooms have been revised in order to achieve a minimum six-foot distance between occupants. Updated floor plans and maximum room capacity are clearly posted in each classroom.

Faculty and students are required to wear face coverings in classrooms at all times. In addition, break times have been expanded to 30 minutes or more to allow for custodians to disinfect all touchable surfaces in each classroom between classes.

(Photos by Olivia Drake)

outdoor classroom

Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and chair of the College of East Asian Studies, teaches her GOVT 296: Japanese Politics course in the Hogwarts classroom, located between the Davison Health Center and the Davison Art Center. The outdoor classroom will safely accommodate up to 40 students.