Exactly how well do you know Wesleyan? I’m not referring to the year the University was founded or the average class size. This compendium of factoids was extensively researched and is even relatively factual. It’s all that you’ll need to start conversations during WesFest, so read up.
June 1901: First Edition of the Wesleyan Song Book Printed
This must-have item at all Wesleyan events was edited by Karl P. Harrington ’82 and Carl F. Price ’02 (That’s right—1882 and 1902). It contained 77 songs total. Some were original masterpieces composed by students, others had new lyrics set to traditional music, and the remaining were more famous songs that had universal appeal. Each copy was $1.25 including postage. The Song Book helped Wesleyan earn its reputation as the “Singing College of New England” in the 1930s and ’40s.
October 1931: Robert Frost Enlightens Composition Class
Frost shared his theories on writing, music and painting to the student population. He addressed the modern methods that authors used to convey their messages in words. We heard he took Church Street to campus, which was odd, because that road wasn’t commonly taken. We heard that made all of the difference.
March 1932: Secret Drinking Society Founder Dies
Olin L. Livesey ’73, founder of Wesleyan’s Theta Nu Epsilon died, leaving much ambiguity regarding what this fraternity actually did on campus.
February 1966: Dionne Warwick Plays at Prom
Providing the entertainment at the Wesleyan Prom, Dionne Warwick performed two half-hour shows at MoCon.
March 1966: “Fast for Peace” Comes to an End
After 4 days, this hunger strike against the Vietnam War organized by the Wesleyan chapter of Students for a Democratic Society ended. Faculty and ten percent of students participated: 85 freshmen and 50 upperclassmen. All but 15 freshmen lasted.
March 1968: Students Protest Visit of Representative of Dow Chemical
75 students and faculty marched in and out of North College to show their discontent for having this visitor come to campus. Dow made napalm used by US Forces in Vietnam. The Student Judicial Board put 24 students on probation for violating the privacy of a recruiter holding interviews.
May 1968: Commencement Honoring Vietnam Objectors
Organized by faculty and staff, this ceremony acknowledged the men who refused to go to war. Over 500 people gathered to hear speakers like Amherst Historian Henry Steele Commanger and Yale Chaplain Reverend William Sloane Coffin. Approximately 170 Wesleyan students, 24 from the class of ’68, were honored.
May 1969: Golf Team Captures Little-3 Championship
They were also 4th in the state of Connecticut.
May 1970: Student Strike
One week before Nixon announced the extension of invasion the into Cambodia, over 800 Wesleyan students went on strike. They had three demands: 1) Free Bobby Seale and all political prisoners; 2) Get the US out of S.E. Asia; 3) End all University complicity with the war machine. There were town meetings, letter writings and speakers including Norman Mailer, David Dellinger, and Noam Chomsky. Rumor has it that Jerry Garcia played a raging concert on Foss Hill. The New American Village, a temporary housing project, was set up in front of North College, comprised of “tents, builder plastic, 2 x 4’s and determination.”
March 1972: Elie Wiesel Shares Remarks at the Memorial Chapel
As part of a Center for the Humanities Lecture, Wiesel spoke to 200 people on his work and on the Jewish traditions of transmitting information: both orally and in written word.
September 1972: Lettuce Boycott
The Political Action Committee demanded that food services stop purchasing non-union lettuce. This movement was organized nationwide by Cesar Chavez, head of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. Of 396 students polled, 331 agreed with this action, 23 disapproved of buying only non-union lettuce, and 42 were indifferent. Iceberg, straight ahead! But not until we make sure no one was killed in the growing of this lettuce.
November 1972: Joan Crawford Speaks
The actress and member of the Board of the Pepsi Cola Corporation talked to a large crowd gathered at MoCon. Crawford was brought to campus in conjunction with the course “Women in Films.”
May 1973: Doodle Art Exhibit
Professor Ham Chartreuse was responsible for this exhibit which debuted at the Davison Art Center during reading week. Chartreuse based this off of his doctoral thesis, “The Doodlists’ Renaissance” and aimed to show that such haphazard artwork could be created not only with ballpoint pen, but with other media such as cigarette butts, coffee, hot chocolate, and soda.
October 1973: Elia Kazan Gives Wesleyan 17 Films
He gave fourteen of his own films to Wesleyan, including “Viva Zapata,” “On the Waterfront,” “East of Eden,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and “Gentleman’s Agreement.” He also donated three Italian Neo-Realist films: “The Bicycle Thief,” “Open City,” and “Paisano.”
November 1973: Beta House Nearly Flooded by Urine
30-45 members of former Wesleyan fraternity Chi Psi urinated on the Beta House and 5 windows were broken. This was the second time that semester that such a wild display of urination occurred, but the first time any windows were broken. Chi Psi President Bill Belichick expressed concern and said such an incident would not occur again. You may have heard of Belichick; he went on to coach the New England Patriots to three championships.
March 1975: First Advertisement for a Campus Queer Group in the Argus
This group later became the Gay Alliance and spawned the formation of other queer campus organizations. As a result of the ingenuity of this activist, the BiLeGaTa workshop, mandatory for all students, was started in the 1980’s to inform students about gender identity and sexual orientation.
April 1985: Louis Farrakhan Brought to Campus
After much controversy, this outspoken activist addressed over 400 students. Many protests occurred on the same day in response to this event.
February 1986: Activist Aron Kay Speaks at Eclectic
Yippie Aron Kay, best known for throwing pies at his political opponents, enlightened members of Eclectic with stories of his activist antics. By this point, his pie projectiles had adorned the faces of Andy Warhol, Reverend Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Anita Bryant, Gov. Jerry Brown, William F. Buckley, and Roy Rogers. Mmm! Kay was also vocal in fighting for the legalization of marijuana.
April 1990: President’s Office Firebombed
President William Chace’s office in South College was the target of explosives used to show discontent regarding decisions being made, or not made, on campus. Students wanted to amend the civil rights policy, improve disabled accessibility, address the recruitment and retention of faculty of color, restructure financial aid, and create a multicultural center. After the occurrence of other violent acts, including AK-47 shots fired at North College and X House being covered in racist graffiti, the University responded by organizing UNITY Day. 1000 students participated in this campus rebuilding effort by attending workshops. The Administration looked into addressing student concerns.
September 1999: Pornography Lit. Class Called Into Question
“COL289: Pornography and the Writing of Prostitutes” is withdrawn from the course listings, after being highly publicized and criticized by The Hartford Courant. This course, taught by Associate Professor of Letters and Associate Professor of Women’s Studies Hope Weissman, was supported by the ACLU.
October 2002: Rally Against the War in Iraq
Over 300 students, faculty, and community members came together to express their views on US military action. Speakers included Professor Rob Rosenthal, Helen Caldicott, and community activist Sandra Olsen.