Dear Michael, University Reels from Scott Backer Firing over Sexual Misconduct Tensions Heighten in Wake of Backer Scandal Those recent Argus headlines and the stories beneath them didn’t amount to much of a public shaming. Sadly, they just don’t make ’em like they used to. I fondly remember a sham you staged some half dozen years ago. You’d turned a tongue-in-cheek sign (No Colored People Allowed) attached to the door of Usdan by the organizer of the annual HOLI outdoor festival (lest the dining hall be invaded by HOLI celebrants covered with colored dust) into a burning cross on Foss. That the lass had composed her warning sign as a humorous gesture intended to alleviate tensions just goes to show she’d been living in a bubble. You are what you are: you pricked it. Alas, my nuanced review (“100% canned ham”) of your over-rehearsed “I’m aghast!” act failed to secure you a berth on the boxcar to Buzzard’s Belch. For, once again the Board confounded its critics by proving it could walk and chew gum at the same time: while holding its nose it looked the other way: “We moonlighting watchmen have day jobs; don’t look to US to can the ham.” Thus was Mike the Ripper granted immunity to hit a girl (such hits are no longer below the belt?) and commit another crime against community. Your chance to commit another was botched by bad timing: the Backer imbroglio surfaced over the summer, you were away, and your minions had the one-time-offender airbrushed out of the deans’ group photo and packed off to Skunk Hollow U. without a public haranguing. At the risk of being hanged from a campus lamp post, I’ll merely remark that whatever the former associate dean is alleged to have done in Vermont, for nigh onto nine years here at Wes he’d kept his nose squeaky clean. And how does his alleged misconduct (he’d propositioned a minor?) measure up against the conduct of a man who’d driven a woman off a bridge? a lovely whose life might well have been saved, had the driver’s frantic calls not all been for LEGAL emergency assistance. You invited that derelict driver to speak at your first Commencement. Taking a chance on Backer’s continued good behavior, I would have disregarded what I imagine to have been the wise, judicious counsel of the university’s ever-charging battery of barristers: “Why take a chance? Associate deans are a dime a dozen” – as are university barristers. Legally speaking you announced at your press conference that your investigation had touched all the bases. Poor choice of pitches, that, for “We’re not into your systemically racist system’s buttons and bows, your legally formal attire!” your street-smart mentors (“We grade on the curb”) are wont to sneer. They have a point; indeed, ’twas you who’d made it. For literally eeeeeeons your weekly bloggitis (a chronic condition, it doesn’t just come and go) has taught your unanchored vessels the system is rigged – and now you’re caught in the rigging. We all are: it’s our systemically racist THING, the creature whose afterlife we’re fated to write repeatedly out of the crypt. But you deserved better. Just last spring you marched with the fundamental transformer’s vanguard BLM. It matters not that Black Lives Matter’s flying squads are media-savvy self-promoters (HAVE SIGNBOARD – WILL TRAVEL) whose stated goal is power TO the black community, and whose unstated goal is power OVER it: the law-abiding, hardworking, good-humored black community crying out for MORE cops, not less. THEY know who’s on their side, dear Michael, even if YOU don’t – or won’t. Turn up the volume on your ear trumpet; maybe then you’ll hear their cries, and maybe then you’ll stop marginalizing them. “The War on Cops” author Heather MacDonald (, Sept. 27): “Ferguson, Mo., is emblematic of how the Ferguson effect is hitting cities with large black populations: It has produced the largest homicide increase in nearly a half-century. That crime increase will end only if the false narrative about policing promulgated by the Black Lives Matter movement and embraced by President Obama and Hillary Clinton is finally put to rest.” Michael, your band of brothers (The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy) wouldn’t understand, so never let it be said you read the previous paragraph. Being a High-living Liberal Educator means never having to sigh, “Who pricked my boiler-plated bubble?” My muse just parked her assets on my lap: “Hey, let’s get back to my hottie!” – some profligate baron reduced to cultivating his colleagues’ plots and changing his name to Shakespeare, lest his family’s illustrious name be scandalized. Besides, the hothead had killed a man. Whatever, my muse thinks it’s cool to call him her hottie, a term I tolerate because I owe her. For, every time the Schoolyard’s Official Scold-In-Chief (the SOSIC) reaches for his trusty rusty bullhorn, this old grad must drop what he’s working on (under the pen name Necro Philiac, his haunting, racy “Pillow Talk: Dead White Poets and Spielers I’ve Embraced”), to grab his muse by the hair and drag her, kicking and screaming, into the schoolyard to school the SOSIC bully. She: “I’d rather be dishing the Bard or fishing. Leggo my hair, the bubble’s head isn’t worth the trouble.” “Granted,” I grunt, “but think of the children.” My mention of your school, dear Michael, elicits her reading: “and a herring chilled shall lead them.” Well, a cold fish isn’t the worst thing you’ve ever been called, so keep your celebrated cool. A final imagined word. Recall your old vanguard, Occupy Wall Street? “Too pallid.” “The BLMskyites’ marching band is more YOU.” “More ME?! Is anyone listening?” “Trust me, no one is listening.” “Then, entre nous, to lead that vanguard I’d leave my wife and adoring kids.” “That goes without saying, but would you leave your adoring blog?”

  • Take Your Meds

    I always hope for the best when I read your missives, but the only two things I can garner from your letter is that you dislike Michael Roth and cogent narratives.

  • Bob

    Paragraphs are your friend!!!!!

  • GD Klein

    Let’s put some clarity to this rather lengthy, rambling letter by Martin Benjamin. In the USA and most of the English-speaking union, universities are viewed as honest and impartial brokers in matters of public affairs. Dr. Roth, by endorsing a political candidate and being politically and socially active, has undermined Wesleyan’s credibility as an honest broker and thus diminished not only its standing, but potentially undermines the scholarly achievements of its faculty.

    George Devries Klein, ’54, Professor Ameritus, University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign

    • martin benjamin ’57

      George, that rambling one-paragraph letter you read is not the letter I submitted; in the latter the paragraphs are all neatly demarked. Contact me at my email address: and I’ll send it to you. — Martin Benjamin ’57

  • What