Here’s a look back at the notable events and issues that dominated the 2006-2007 academic year at Wesleyan.
* Close Quarters: In September, unexpected enrollment increases forced students into some tighter-than-usual living conditions. Increases in matriculating transfer student and decreases in students studying abroad led to the reopening of previously sold off-campus housing for undergraduates and makeshift triples in the Butterfields complex.
* New Dean of Diversity Tested: In September, Daniel Teraguchi began as the University’s first Dean of Diversity and Academic Advancement. Teraguchi became an increasingly visible on-campus figure, as incidents of racist, anti-Semitic, and/or homophobic graffiti around campus sparked increased discussion regarding tolerance and diversity on campus.
* A Controversial Required Resignation: Contention surrounded the required resignation of Silverio “Silver” Vasquez ’07, who was forced last September to leave the University for one year after failing two classes as per University policy. Some students questioned the decision-making process behind the resignation, which they said did not properly take into account both Vasquez’s financial situation and on-campus contributions. Vasquez is expected to return this semester.
* From the Ashes: After the Aug. 30, 2006 fire that severely damaged the interior of the beloved Middletown eatery O’Rourke’s Diner, Brian O’Rourke became a staple on the Wesleyan campus. He began making his signature dishes at WesWings brunch in early October, and continued throughout the year. O’Rourke has said he’ll continue to cook at WesWings even after the re-opening of his diner, which is tentatively scheduled for the fall.
* Defining Wes’s Weirdness: The repainting of the graffiti-covered Butterfield B tunnels and the resurgence of on-campus chalking last October provided catalysts for a year-long consideration of Wesleyan’s counterculture reputation and whether said spirit still thrives today. The Facebook group “Keep Wesleyan Weird” argued for such Wes-centric traditions, such as chalking, while administration officials maintained that such modes of expression often amount to offensive and discriminatory graffiti. These issues remained far from resolved as the year ended.
* The State of On-Campus Police: The controversial response by the Middletown Police Department (MPD) in October to Phi Beta Sigma-sponsored event at Psi U led to increased questioning of the MPD’s presence and behavior on the Wesleyan campus. Some felt the MPD’s response to the October event, attended mostly by students of color, crossed the line into racial profiling. Similar allegations re-surfaced in April with the arrest of Jose Chapa ’07, a Mexican-American student whose arrest by MPD officers brought similar allegations of profiling.
* New Cooks in the Kitchen: In January, the University announced the hiring of the Bon Appetit dining service to replace Aramark as the official campus dining service. Bon Appetit’s commitment to sustainable food practices and organic ingredients were applauded by many, but questions remain over the relationship between the new provider and the food worker’s union, who have expressed concerns over benefit and salary cuts.
* Campus Blog’s Popularity on the Rise: Wesleying, the student-run blog launched one year ago, gained increasingly popularity with the student body throughout the 2006-2007 academic year. The blog, run primarily by Holly Wood ’08 and Xue Sun ’08, became a go-to point for information on campus events and trends.
* Game of the Dead (and Living): In December, Zombies vs. Humans, a popular game on college campuses, hit Wesleyan. Depending on what side they fell on, participating students sought to either transform their opponents into zombies or fend off said flesh-eaters with such creative weapons as marshmallows and Nerf guns. A second round swept campus in the spring.
* Ticket to Ride, for Half-an-Hour: In February, the University began offering a long-desired weekend shuttle from Middletown to New Haven. The round-trip service provided rides throughout the spring semester, leaving campus on Friday and returning Sunday. Some students questioned whether more frequent trips back-and-forth might not be a more practical service.
* Departing Dean: Dean of the College Maria Cruz-Saco announced her departure from the University last February, after serving as Dean for two years. Dean of Student Services Mike Whaley will act as Interim Dean this year, while the University searches for a permanent replacement.
* All the Fake-News Fit to Print: Andrea Silenzi ’07 found herself in a tiff with The New York Times last February, after partnering with members of New York City area radio station WFMU to create and submit a fabricated submission to the Times’ Metropolitan Daily column. Despite condemnation from the Times, Silenzi stood by her submission, which satirized the column’s anecdotal take on upper-class Manhattan life.
* More Space in the CFS: Construction began this past March on additional space in the Center for Film Studies. When completed, the expanded CFS will house a 120-seat screening room.
* New President Selected: In March, Michael Roth ’78 was chosen as the University’s 16th president, replacing President Doug Bennet. Roth was chosen by the Presidential Search Committee after examining over 300 potential candidates. Roth visited the campus in late-April to personally address the University community.
* Funding Begins for New Science Center: Fundraising began for the Molecular and Life Sciences Building, which is set to replace the current home of Wesleyan natural sciences, the Hall-Atwater Laboratory. Initial construction on the $125 million project is tentatively scheduled for 2009.
* Divesting in Our Future?: A on-campus furor surrounded the publicized revelation that Wesleyan invested in three weapon contractors: Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Tyco. In late April, the WSA passed a resolution supporting the University’s divestment in Raytheon and General Dynamics, citing opposition to the War in Iraq as one of its primary reasons. A final decision has yet to be made by the Board of Trustees.
* Losing Our Religious Leaders: In April, Protestant chaplain Dr. Gary Comstock announced his retirement from the University after 17 years of service to the Wesleyan community. His retirement, coupled with the departure of Catholic chaplain Fr. Louis Manzo in May 2006, leaves the University with only two of its four chaplainry positions filled as the 2006-2007 academic year begins.
* Party Planners: Changes in the University’s Social Event Registration Policy will now require all on-campus parties with more than 25 attendees to register with the University. The new administrative policy, approved by the Student Life Committee in late April, will specifically affect parties in wood-frame houses previous policy required parties with more than 50 attendees to register, and all wood-frame houses have a maximum stated occupancy of 49.
* Graduation: Noted anchorman and journalist Jim Lehrer gave the featured address at the University’s 175th commencement ceremonies. The ceremony marked the official end of Wesleyan’s 175th anniversary celebration and the final commencement for outgoing president Doug Bennet.