Feet to the Fire, an initiative focused on bringing awareness to environmental issues through art, is shifting its involvement so that events occur not only during orientation, but also throughout the school year. The group hopes to thereby bring more student involvement into the program.

Program Manager at the Center for the Arts (CFA) Erinn Roos-Brown described Feet to the Fire’s evolution to a focus on global environmental issues through the arts.

“All activists, artists, and educators at Wesleyan and in the Middletown community should feel free to come to F2F meetings (held twice a semester) with their ideas, however big or small,” Roos-Brown wrote in an email to The Argus. “F2F will function as a sounding board for ideas and as a meeting place for like-minded individuals and groups to connect with one another and collaborate on ventures.”

Rebecca Wilton ’15, a Feet to the Fire student intern, explained the vast number of changes and goals the group has made in an effort to include more students, rather than have the committee mainly made up of faculty.

“[Feet to the Fire] decided to move towards a more student-run, interactive model of small, creative, engaging projects that are not necessarily professors giving a talk on how ‘environment relates to the arts,’ but [instead], maybe for a week, we can have a bench outside of Usdan and on the ends are buckets with the weight of one person’s daily waste,” Wilton said. “We want to give support to the students who have creative ideas but don’t necessarily know how to make them happen, and so we will help to do that.”

After this year’s Common Moment during orientation, put on by Feet to the Fire, several students expressed their discomfort with the content of the event. The event centered around a choreography group from New York City called Doug Varone and Dancers. A few students took issue with Varone’s introduction to the event, including some who were members of groups that helped facilitate the event, such as WesDEFs.

“I do remember being sort of uncomfortable,” said WesDEF member Haley Weaver ’14. “He sort of implied that people of color…had already achieved equality and that some day gay people would do the same thing in the same way…. I think that there could have been better ways to do [the event].”

Wilton discussed how the University has decided not to focus on Feet to the Fire during next year’s orientation, instead focusing more on inclusion due to the issues with last year’s program.

“All this stuff last year happened with the racism controversy and the University decided to switch the focus of First Year Matters and orientation to diversity and inclusivity, and that kind of thing, and no longer focus on Feet to the Fire every year,” Wilton said. “Now we have Feet to the Fire every other year.”

Roos-Brown was clear that the change in direction of Feet to the Fire would not affect orientation activities.

“Orientation is an academic program organized by Academic Affairs and in the past F2F’s theme has been shared with this program,” Roos-Brown wrote. “In the 2014 New Student Orientation, the theme will again be about environmental awareness and will consist of readings, lectures and the Common Moment as it has in past years. F2F will continue orientation’s efforts throughout the year by supporting creative, interactive projects that are organized by members of our campus and Middletown community.”

Wilton described her role within Feet to the Fire as part of the new initiative to be more open to students.

“This internship is new this semester because I’m going to be the liaison between the faculty and all the students that want to do projects,” Wilton said.

Roos-Brown discussed plans to spread the initiative on campus.

“Some ideas that have been discussed in recent meetings have been in preparation for Earth Month (April) and focus on encouraging students to reduce food waste in the dining halls and increase composting,” Roos-Brown wrote. “F2F will spearhead the creation of a number of informal and interactive projects that allow participants to engage with issues and brainstorm solutions both in April and throughout next academic year.”

Wilton also mentioned the CFA’s support of students participating in acts of environmental awareness.

“The CFA has always been supportive of any artistic endeavor that has to do with the environment,” Wilton said. “The CFA recognizes that that is an important thing to a lot of people on campus so they kind of want to harness that. Art can be visual things, and it can be a much more powerful way to raise awareness than showing a PowerPoint about fracking.”

Additional reporting by News Editor Tess Morgan.

  • Erinn Roos-Brown

    There is a correction/clarification needed in this article. The 2013-2014 Orientation program was not related to Feet to the Fire. This year’s theme was part of the Making Excellence Inclusive program and the Common Moment with Doug Varone was part of that theme. Next year’s (2014-2015) Orientation theme and Common Moment will concern environmental issues.