MythBusters: Wesleyan Edition
Common slogans like “Keep Wes Weird” demonstrate an unofficial commitment to extreme quirkiness. With a student body known for being unique, it’s reasonable to assume that the University also has an eccentric history. The Argus did some digging to confirm and bust a few big campus myths.
One of the most mysterious parts of Wesleyan’s campus is its network of underground tunnels. Rumor has it that the tunnels are all connected and run under the entire campus. These elusive tunnels have inspired some pretty unbelievable stories.
One such tale is that a student having roommate troubles moved his bed, desk, and all his belongings into an alcove in the tunnel. The legitimacy of this myth is uncertain, but the tunnels certainly do exist.
There are four core tunnels: Center for the Arts (CFA), Foss, maintenance, and Butterfields. According to Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley, these tunnels connect buildings together underground. He also said that, though he has not been through all the tunnels, they used to receive regular traffic.
“They were once, long ago, open to students as a means of getting from one building to another,” Whaley said.
These tunnels were not only used by students, but they were also often used by maintenance staff. This may explain why, besides being a (rumored) home to victims of unhappy roommate pairings, the tunnels also house electric generators, heat pipes, and steam. Whaley noted that the regular use of tunnels was discontinued due to safety concerns.
An anonymous student acknowledged these potential concerns, which include exposed pipes and burning-hot steam.
“The tunnels are really awesome, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t fear for my safety every second I was down there,” he said. “Would I go back? Oh yes.”
Though the tunnels are officially closed to students, some intrepid explorers still choose to seek underground adventures. The punishment for being caught in the tunnels is the same as being caught vandalizing school property.
The WestCo dormitories are infamous for their naked parties. Many students enthusiastically confirmed this myth and expanded it to include far more host locations than just WestCo.
“My birthday party freshman year was a lingerie party in WestCo, but I’ve also been to naked parties in a few program houses and Hewitt,” said an anonymous student in the class of 2014.
Another anonymous junior nonchalantly commented on the regularity of such parties at Wesleyan.
“I’ve been to two naked parties, two lingeRaves, and I’ve streaked after both naked parties,” she said. “One of them was broken up by PSafe, and we all just stood there naked with PSafe.”
Another student waxed philosophical on the merits of nude events.
“Naked parties are revealing,” said a member of the class of 2013. “You learn new things about your friends and neighbors, like concealed nipple rings. Naked parties undress the complicated web we weave here at Wesleyan.”
Molly Zuckerman ’16 said that she has not attended a naked party at Wesleyan thus far and is skeptical that attending one would be a pleasant experience.
“Instead of going to the naked parties at WestCo, my friends and I sit around and talk about all the different incredibly awkward situations one could get into at a naked party,” she said.
Regardless of whether you intend to partake in such events, the fact is that naked parties do indeed take place at Wesleyan. (Parents, aren’t you glad your kids chose Wes?)
College offers an overwhelming number of opportunities to join student groups. While many choose to join either fraternities or sororities, some find a third option more appealing: secret societies.
Confirmation of the existence of secret societies is particularly difficult to obtain, mostly because the groups are, well, secretive. According to The Argus’ investigations, there are five secret societies on campus: Skull and Serpent, Theta Nu Epsilon, and Mystical 7 being the three most well known to students.
Wikipedia stalking reveals that Mystical 7 was started in 1837, six years after the University’s founding, and was Wesleyan’s first society. A few brave students came forward to shed light on campus secret societies.
One freshman mentioned the existence of secret societies at Wesleyan in the past, noting that hir father was in Skull and Serpent at Wesleyan.
A current anonymous member of one of the secret societies on campus spoke about the nature of these groups.
“Wesleyan’s societies aren’t that much of a secret,” he said. “Their sole purpose is to drink a lot together and to pretend they’re cooler than other people. But by being in a secret society, you are inherently cooler than other people. So it’s kind of a paradox.”
Another student anonymously offered specifics about the campus societies.
“Yes, Skull and Serpent is in the Tomb,” ze said. “Mystical 7 has been working with their alumni to get a building of their own.”
Due to the secretive nature of these societies, information is limited, but this myth is undoubtedly confirmed: there are secret societies at Wesleyan.
Nicknamed “Diversity University,” some have claimed that Wesleyan is the most diverse NESCAC school.
Wesleyan’s student body is made up of 51 percent ethnic minorities, with Hispanic or Latino students making up the largest segment at 12 percent. Furthermore, the student body is split about 50/50 between genders.
In contrast, the minority population makes up 56 percent of Amherst College, making it slightly more ethnically diverse than Wesleyan. On the other hand, Bates College has only 27 percent minority students. Other NESCAC schools may be less ethnically diverse than Wesleyan, but the label “Diversity University” may be an exaggeration with respect to racial categories.
“[Wesleyan is] about on par with other institutions with the exception of some like Amherst and Williams, who do extremely well with student diversity, both racial and ethnic and economic, based on their endowments,” said Vice President for Institutional Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer Sonia Mañjon.
Considering the degree of campus diversity brings up the question of what diversity actually means. Mañjon noted that, when considering the degree of campus diversity, it matters greatly what type of diversity we are talking about: ethnic/racial, socio-economic, religious, gender, gender identity, etc.
Statistics aside, Wesleyan has a history of being progressive in terms of diversity. In 1872, Wesleyan admitted a small number of female students and became one of the first co-ed schools. This policy ended in 1919, however, and was not reinstated until 1970. Wesleyan was also one of the first private liberal arts institutions in New England to begin diversifying its student body with the admissions of the Vanguard Classes of the late 1960s of African American and Latino male students.
During the final month of summer, there is little left for a high school senior to do. Ze is (hopefully) already into college and just waiting for September. However, one thing is still looming over pre-froshs’ heads: dorms. At Wesleyan, except for a few preliminary questions, it seems for the most part that the dorm you are placed in is totally random—or is it?
One myth floating around campus is that ResLife has a sense of humor when placing hallmates by putting funny name combinations close together. For instance, students have claimed that, one year, a hall was made up entirely by students with the names of the characters in the TV Show “Friends.” Associate Director of Residential Life Maureen Pyne Isleib validated the rumor that ResLife has played with dorm assignments.
“Funny enough, I was told a myth that, two years before I arrived at Wes, about 15 years ago, summer interns had made all the frosh assignments and thought it would be cute to put all first- year students with the same name on the same floor in Clark,” she said.
One can imagine how annoying this would be for not only roommates but also for Resident Advisors.
“I remember the staff member telling me how frustrating it was for everyone because no one ever knew which Michael they were talking about,” Pyne Isleib said.
However, sadly, this humorous practice is a myth of the past.
“We don’t do that anymore,” Pyne Isleib said.
Instead, the freshman halls are now all assigned by summer staff members, who are overseen by the director of Residential Life. Names no longer play a role in who is in which hall, and any fun combinations are simply coincidental.