Wesleyan Students, Staff, and Faculty,
Since arriving at Wesleyan, the existence of two different, contrary Wesleyans has become increasingly apparent. Firstly, there is the Wesleyan in the eyes of the majority of the faculty–at least those making decisions pertaining to the student body. As President Bennet explained at his WestCo open discussion, this Wesleyan’s vision rests on academia, the schools first priority. Then, there is the Wesleyan that many of my classmates and myself see and believed actually existed when we applied and accepted attendance to Wes. This Wesleyan does pride itself on strong academics, but recognizes that academics can never truly be a “first” priority. Such things as safety, equality, and battling systematic forms of oppression need to come first, in this vision. However, the student body cannot successfully prevail over the faculty.
I have heard far too many times of students being kicked out or having to leave Wes because of their activism. So many members of the faculty, staff, and dean’s office have openly admitted that one cannot be both an academic and a successful academic at Wesleyan. As a result, Wes has developed into an extremely apathetic community. Most students don’t even see a purpose in activism. The cause—whatever the cause is—seems hopeless.
Before going further, I would like to think Virginia Weihs for her beautiful and articulate Wespeak on gender neutrality on this campus. In the same meeting with President Bennett, he responded to several questions I posed to him about gender neutrality—or the lack thereof—on this campus. His first remark was that he had no idea what I was talking about, as though instead of asking about “gender neutral” issues, I was asking him for the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. Then, when I was able to reach a point where to not know what I was talking about would have shown him to be incompetent, he replied, “Oh yeah.” Ah ha! I proceeded to mention the sudden canceling of gender-neutral housing for frosh three summers ago, saying that the trustees had cancelled the plan after students had already been given housing assignments. His response was to say, “No, that was my fault. I did that.”
How can it be that a few years ago 93 percent of students were in favor of gender neutral housing for all students in the most widely responded survey in WSA history? This is an institution of students. And, yes, President Bennet, this is an institution of learning. I’m reminded of that every time I simply can’t fight to exist safely on this campus anymore because I have a paper due the next day.
President Bennet, staff, students, and faculty,
This is your time to take a stance. This school is in a very scary place. There is a battle between continuing the fight to making Wesleyan a safer, more open school and conforming to the norms of American society. I, like so many other students, came to Wesleyan because we thought it was a school that prioritized safety. How can I learn when I don’t feel safe? Academics can’t come first when people are openly spreading racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, and all other systematic American oppressive forces. This is your chance to help make Wesleyan safe. The more people that join in this fight, the easier it will be. We need you.