As the days lengthen, Foss Hill repopulates, finals draw near, and the year comes to an end, we at the Argus inevitably turn our thoughts to history. We hunched, ink-stained scribblers of the Fourth Estate cannot help but wonder how the news we have covered will fit into the longue durée of Wesleyan and global history. And, frankly, this year we have noticed a distinct dearth of scandal, ineptitude and malfeasance on which to report.

Last year, there was a seemingly endless deluge of conflict and umbrage. First came the dissatisfaction with the newly-opened Usdan; then arose the threats of a strike among the dining workers and the general dissatisfaction with the new dining services company. Then in the second semester, conflict between the administration and the student body flared over the elimination of Zonker Harris Day and President Roth’s undiplomatic characterization of what many saw as an important Wesleyan tradition. More conflicts between labor and capital emerged after physical plant workers announced that they could not accept the contract their representatives had agreed to and then engaged in several vocal protests. The chaotic year culminated with attacks by police on students at Fountain Avenue. And throughout it all, SEWI, WesPeace and other advocates of divestment agitated intensely in what was an ultimately unsuccessful campaign.

As far as we can tell, the conflicts that have emerged this year do not come close to matching last year’s rancor. Only the closure of Eclectic seemed to captivate the campus like the struggles of yesteryear. Most of the urgent news we’ve recorded in these pages has been a result of the financial meltdown—and while nobody likes budget cuts, protesting the University’s lack of funds is like protesting the tide coming in. We might not like sacrifices that we need to make, but it is difficult to decry them.

Overall, this year has seemed fairly quiet and gentile. Even the treatment of our

University in the press has seemed more respectable of late. Last year, we were mocked in Gawker; this year, the New York Times reports on our booming application numbers. Perhaps last year’s discord resulted from the novelty of a new president, new dining services and a new sex magazine. Perhaps conflict was inevitable as the campus and the new arrivals adjusted to one another. Perhaps we have returned to a normal state of peace and quiet. Or perhaps quarrels will erupt next year when we need to decide between cutting financial aid and laying off staff, or some equally noxious course of action.

Maybe the docility of our campus is the result of changes in the world around us. A government whose malevolence was matched only by its incompetence has been replaced by a popular, well-meaning administration. Once again, perhaps this is a temporary lull. Perhaps President Obama will prove too conservative in confronting our economic slowdown for the public to tolerate and he will touch off a wave of agitation unmatched since 1894. Or perhaps he will reveal his socialist loyalties and initiate a cultural revolution. But for now America and Wesleyan watch patiently. When future Argus editors pour through their yellowing archives in search of inspiration, we imagine that they will declare this the era of Wait-and-See.

  • David Lott, ’65

    What an unperceptive editorial. There is so much you are missing from the strange perspective of your parochial bubble.

    1. The economic crisis, which you blandly call a “slowdown” and its consequences for Wesleyan and the real world beyond. Wesleyan is on the cusp of losing the financial capacity to meet its institutional aspirations. This is in due to the huge losses in endowment, the consequences of years of price increases well beyond the inflation rate, restrictions of scholarship availability and the inability of trustees, students and faculty to make hard decisions about programs and costs.

    2. The slow but steady decline in Wesleyan’s reputation and prestige, due in part to its financial limitations but also as a result of an institutional smugness and the whiff of moral vanity that too often emanates from Middletown. You aren’t as a group as insightful, moral, cutting edge or innovative as you like to think you are. Instead of being pleased by the increase in applications, look at the yield ratio of matriculation to acceptance. Here Wesleyan continues to decline, absolutely and in relation to its principal competitors.

    3. The regionalization of Wesleyan. Wesleyan is more an more a regional school for the east coast and northeast. Your recruitment outside that area is difficult, and you are virtually unknown outside of narrow elites beyond the east coast. This can only serve to increase the insularity of Wesleyan in the long run.

    4. The growing cultural gap between Wesleyan and the larger society. The emphasis on “weirdness”, the idealization of the socially outrageous, the estrangement from religion and more mainstream cultural values, the emphasis on self referential and narrow “activism”, and the widening gap between the so-called elites and the benighted mainstream play perfectly well on campus. But the world outside academia is far harsher, rougher, morally ambiguous and judgmental than what you have become used to. What are the long term consequences of this gap? Is it a good or bad thing? How does one adjust upon leaving this world and entering the other?

    I think (I hope) that you and those who follow you will some day read this editorial and see how shallow and shuttered your point of view was when you were at Wesleyan. If so, then your education will not have been a failure.

  • Ron Medley, `73

    a few points:

    1) Okay, we get it. Wesleyan needs to spend less and raise more cash.

    2) You mean, like in 1965?

    3) name one liberal arts college that isn’t “regional” in the sense of being best known within a fifty mile radius of its own campus.

    4) Wesleyan students, for the most part, don’t need to be reminded of the culture gap, the culture wars or any other smug association with the failures of our own generation. They live in Middletown. They see it every day.

  • anonymous

    if only this editorial still remained true…

  • rosebudz

    yeah be careful what you wish for….