On February 20, Andrew Dermont submitted a Blargus opinion piece entitled “An Open Letter to Wesleyan Students.” Dermont responds to the question of whether Wesleyan has become “mainstream.” However, the examples cited by Dermont exhibit how he is very much a part of the “changes” at Wesleyan.
Dermont cites several examples of how Wesleyan used to be “so special” and claims that it is the freshman and sophomores who are destroying that image. He claims that students in the classes of 2012 and 2011 “are too busy buying their next pair of Ugg boots on their Blackberrys.” It seems fairly unlikely that sophomores and freshman are significantly more likely to purchase these items. Many juniors and seniors also have Ugg boots and Blackberrys. The point is not who has Uggs and Blackberrys, but who is part of a consumerist culture.
As students at Wesleyan, we are all a part of that culture, paying over $50,000 a year (unless you’re on financial aid, which a decreasing number of students receive every year). We have the privilege of attending this school and we must use the knowledge to better society.
Dermont’s great concern is “[w]here is the sweet old black woman who used to swipe cards?” Dermont, who spent his first two years at Mocon, did not bother to learn this woman’s name, although he does know the names of the other two workers he mentions. Instead, he uses stereotypical language to portray an “Aunt Jemima” type figure that stems back from slavery. He describes a passive, smiling, helpful, elderly black woman who is purely self-sacrificing.
Dermont continues by targeting WesWings choice to change the “oriental chicken sandwich” to “honey ginger chicken sandwich.” The term “oriental” (which, Dermont will be happy to know, I still see describing plenty of food items on campus) derives from an exotified, racist conception of Asian peoples. The change made by WesWings reflects one of the few positive changes in recent years.
What Dermont fails to cite is how Wesleyan students are gradually participating and caring about activism on campus and in the greater society less every year. This has little to do with buying Uggs and everything to do with why people are at Wesleyan and what they seek to gain from this “education.” If students view Wesleyan as a path to “success” (which it certainly is from a capitalist standpoint), then this school will continue to slip into becoming “The Independent Ivy” the administration has always wanted it to be.
Instead, students should be concerned with the school’s cuts in financial aid spending, attempts to close the University Organizing Center, Bon Appétit’s lack of respect for their workers, and significant drops in the number of students participating in activism on campus. We do not need students urinating in the dining halls (which for some reason Dermont misses), we do need students who are passionate about anti-racism, queer issues, universal healthcare, anti-classism, anti-ableism, anti-elitism, homelessness, genocide, and all other forms of oppression rampant in our society and on our campus.