Open Letter to Chair of Religion

by Martin Benjamin, Class of 1957

UPDATE Dec. 7, 7:01 pm: We originally printed an outdated version of this Wespeak in Volume CLI, Issue 23 of The Argus and published it on our website. We have now replaced it with the correct version, which can be read below. We apologize for the error.

Dear Professor,

Regarding the recent Diversity Forum, you’re quoted in the Argus (11/16/12):

“The Forum revealed that there is a gap between different peoples’ (sic) experiences at Wesleyan.  The gap is racialized, gendered, and also generational.  I don’t think most faculty had realized the extent to which some of our students from underrepresented groups and some women feel vulnerable, invisible, and at risk, here at Wesleyan.  Our students are precious – they have worked hard to get here.  They came to learn, not to be offended.  They came to develop themselves, not to be brutalized.  They came to make friends, not to feel vulnerable and misunderstood.”

And do they call you Mommy?

You championed an “underrepresented” and “marginalized” pair.  Small world, so did I:  a hugely underrepresented pair of anti-affirmative-action bake-salers – two intrepid young women whom you, along with 33 other signers of a statement decrying “race-baiting,” singed, I’d say, but “marginalized” will do.

Citing Thomas Sowell’s “Affirmative Action Around the World” (a tale of blood in the streets and huts full of empty bellies) in defense of the isolated duo, I addressed two open letters to you 34 affirmative-actionaries.  And then I waited.  And waited.  At the last I was reduced to sobbing into my hanky, “Nobody hates me!”  Not even 34 schoolyard bullies.

A man is known by the adversaries he makes.  I’m for making your Gang of 34, mine.  You got a problem with that?  You’ll find me in the Argus.  “Campus Martius” is written all over that papyrus; I say, there let’s get it on.  Figure the odds are even, at 34 to one.

You champion the “at risk” student?  Small world, so do I.  Last spring, a student, moved by a wholly inclusive impulse to bridge the student body’s fomented – repeat, fomented – gap with a single sturdy word (the word: community), composed a tongue-in-cheek sign for HOLI, an all-inclusive festival.

Alas, in Roth-on-High, no good deed goes unpunished.  In the wake of wroth Michael’s remarks, the sign-writer had to have her name and email address removed from the Wesleying web site, given the threats addressed to her.  Was that student not “at risk,” Professor?  You were loathe to say.

And when the Biggest Man On Campus, piling on the pilloried senior, had a copy of her sign enshrined in the Campus Climate Log, did the scarlet R she’d thus been sentenced to wear beyond graduation merit your “brutalized” label?  Was the outcast even deemed to have been “marginalized”?  You were loathe to say.  (But of course no outcast is marginalized; she’s cast BEYOND the pale.)

“Brutalized,” you label women who kvetch about real or imagined slights: “brutalized.” Professor, I’d hate to think you’re given to launching that deadly drone of yours with reckless if not promiscuous abandon.  But I can perish the thought, for when the HOLI sign’s composer was unstrung by the instrumentalist who plays the student body (one group of students against another), you scrubbed the launch of your dreadful drone: You CAN say no.

Round Easter-time, 2010, the Last Supper (the lead-in to a crucifixion, no laughing matter) was depicted as a latter-day bacchanal in a colorful poster the Film Studies majors had unfurled to celebrate the completion of their senior theses.  That colorful send-up of Jesus’ last repast on earth was another nothing for you – the Chair of Religion, no less – to speak of.

Of course as a faculty member you can’t be expected to publicly engage a colleague, the poster’s faculty sponsor.  But your students can (and are) expected to very publicly engage THEIR colleagues with poignant depictions of life on Wes’s knife-edge: the margin east of Eden and just this side of sanity. Call me mad, Professor, but I imagine those would be the friendly persuasions embedded by your gospel’s readers.  That said, I suggest you transmit their tale of exclusion to the man who marginalized HOLI’s celebration of a community of students from which no student is excluded.

As for your recent explosion of friendly persuasion, the “Eat your Diversity and like it!” Forum, a hyped-up happening from which some 88% of the students absented themselves, mayhap the no-shows discerned the unkosher smell of a dog-and-pony show.

What I discerned was the smell of grease paint, and recycled Sixties grease paint, at that: the panel of commissars and commissarinas, the short-fused bomb-thrower, the cause-promoter and self-promoter (played by identical twins), the pious posturer, the polished posterior, the ham-reared hero, the damp-eyed damsel in distress.

What, no villain?  Yours truly wasn’t invited: “We don’t need his likes among us.”  “We don’t need his dislikes, either.”  “He calls himself a community organizer.”  “The nerve!  I call him trouble.”  “Double trouble.”  “Treble.”  That number, “Trouble in Paradise,” was sung by a group assembled from one of our impresario’s “bad” new departments.  The name of the vocal group: The Fire Department Choir.

A final note: Not bound by your collegial rule, in my 9/11 Wespeak I bestowed a dishonorable mention upon the faculty sponsor of Film Studies’ colorful Last Supper poster.  No harm done: Damage Control in South College promptly swung into action: Within hours, the Wesleyan web page had something nice posted about your colleague – something, I believe, along the lines of “We leave no bigot behind.”

Damage Control will do as much for you, Professor.  Michael leaves no faculty lackey behind.

-- Martin Benjamin ’57

 

  • Concerned '12
  • Dr. Adam r Goss 01'

    Martin....wow you are still around. I bet you were a hoot to get drunk with back in 55 at alpha delt. Are you the only person who can follow your rants? What goes on in the brain of yours? Keep it up!

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