Regime Roth has had a strong couple of weeks. Bete Noire Beta, at last defenestrated, bit the dust. The final helpful shove was given by a hare-brained sophomore (“You’re blaming the victim!”) who fell from a third story window ledge, reportedly losing her footing while reaching for the roof in the dark of night.
For sure I’m not blaming the Betas, as you did, seizing the moment to lower the boom: “It’s the last straw!” – and a mighty frail straw it was. To float your craft, you had little choice but to grasp it. Scratch one lettered Greek, one link to Old Wes. “Fuhgeddaboutit!” – Murder Incorporated’s Alinsky, Gramsci, Rorty, & Roth.
“That animal house had it coming!” Back in the day, the day of staid Old Wes, NO frat was an animal house, and Beta stood out as bookish. My class’s summa cum laude, Russ Snyder, was a Beta, and three of my class’s dozen Betas were Phi Beta Kappa.
What effected the house’s metamorphosis, to hear you tell it, into a damsel-devouring minotaur? This long-in-the-tooth eye-witness can tell you, in a mouthful: the Marx-inspired counterculture’s bourgeois-morality-whacking sexual revolution. It mined the traditional culture’s moral foundations and now we crawl about among the ruins, enthralled by the magnitude of it all.
Of course you’re shocked, shocked, at the ever-rising female body counts (“More women in frats will bring them down!”) that your formative generation’s “liberating” sexual revolution, sired by the Kapital fraud (Jacques Barzun: “Darwin, Marx, Wagner”), is chalking up.
Beta’s defenestration fell out out just days after University Librarian Pat Tully’s fall from grace. Given a cardboard box and just time enough to clean out her Olin desk of personal effects while under the watchful eye of an apparatchik from Human Resources, she was all but perp-walked off campus. Just whom had SHE assaulted?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The library wasn’t broke, far from it: morale was sky-high; her devotion was sworn to by her staff. “She worked like a dog” – the words of one of her veteran boots on the ground. And the faculty, to a man, was more than merely satisfied by Olin’s helping hands. Along comes your handpicked provost, her commissar-complex in full bloom. If the library wasn’t broke, it likely will be before she’s done “correcting” its operations.
Here’s where your humble correspondent, Martin Benjamin ’57, signs off. What follows is Pat Tully’s letter to the faculty, detailing the circumstances culminating in her ca(n)ning.
In recent years brief announcements have been made on the departure of experienced and dedicated Wesleyan staff and administrators. Some have left with no acknowledgement at all. Since I have not promised to stay silent about the circumstances surrounding my departure, I thought I’d let you know what happened, strictly from my point of view.
Since Ruth Weissman’s ascension to VPAA in July of 2013, she and I have disagreed, sometimes sharply, about the role of the University Librarian and the library at Wesleyan. Ruth and I also have very different ideas about how to lead people effectively in an organization. Both of us tried, at various times, to resolve these differences, but our efforts seemed always to be at cross-purposes. On August 21 the situation deteriorated to such an extent that I drafted a letter of resignation, but friends persuaded me not to submit it.
That same day Ruth scheduled a meeting for us on Tuesday, August 26. At the appointed time I arrived at her office, prepared to discuss the latest issue in dispute. Ruth closed the door, saying this would be a short meeting; she was terminating my appointment and someone from Human Resources was in the next office to talk to me. She then ushered me out.
The HR person asked for my keys and ID then walked me to my office in Olin, where I packed up my personal belongings while the HR person explained that I had the option of resigning my position or being terminated. We would meet the next day so I could inform them of my decision. The HR person then helped carry my possessions to my car.
At Wednesday’s meeting with HR I was asked if I was going to resign or not. I reasoned that either way I would owe an explanation to potential employers-either the circumstances of the termination, or why I resigned with no other position to go to. I asked HR whether, if I chose to resign, the University would contest any application I might make for unemployment. The HR person left the room, came back, and remarked that the University was not required to offer me the option to resign. But if I did resign and signed a release, I would receive an extra two-weeks’ pay and healthcare coverage through September 15, and the University would not contest any unemployment claim. Nevertheless, I made the decision not to resign but to be terminated. That was it, and I left HR and Wesleyan.
I don’t know whether this is exactly what happened to other staff and administrators who have suddenly ‘left Wesleyan.’ I know that this experience has left me shocked and deeply worried about my colleagues in the library. I was very relieved to hear that Diane Klare was named as interim University Librarian-she is a smart, supportive and skillful librarian who has the confidence of her colleagues in the library as well as that of Wesleyan faculty and students. However, these abrupt departures are very destructive of staff productivity, efficiency and community. It can seem both to those who have gone and to those who remain, that staff are regarded as instruments to be used and discarded, not as people to be inspired to use their talents and creativity to their fullest extent for the good of Wesleyan. This attitude is not consistent with the liberal arts ethos Michael Roth so eloquently describes in his recent book, Beyond the University. It is not only a disservice to Wesleyan’s staff, who are enthusiastically dedicated to fulfilling the Wesleyan’s mission, but also to Wesleyan students who may model their future leadership practices on this example.
I will miss you all, and the crazy energy of Wesleyan’s amazing students, faculty and staff. I’ve loved working at Wesleyan, and leaving is a sad ending to this chapter in my life. Reading the messages about my departure on the faculty forum list has been like reading my own eulogy-it is lovely to know that I am held in such high regard, and I’m sick about how I’ve found out that my efforts have been appreciated. I wish you all the best, and thank you for ten eventful, challenging and exciting years at Wesleyan.
Martin Benjamin is a member of the class of 1957.