My first day at the University was frightening, overwhelming, exciting, and anxiety-inducing. People always hear about the college experience, and I was actually beginning to live it. It felt very surreal. Every so often, I would pinch myself and remember that I was in college, beginning a new part of my life that I had heard so much about.
As I’ve settled into college, despite taking part in many fun and exciting opportunities, I’ve been constantly questioning my decision to attend this school. Am I happy here? What would it be like at another school? Would I be lonely again? Ruminating is not difficult for me, and the recent protests regarding the firing of Scott Backer have certainly exacerbated how often I question the choice to come to this school.
Like most other freshmen, I had little to no context on the sexual misconduct allegations regarding Backer. When the news came out, the reactions of the student body perplexed me. I was led to believe that this school was a wonderful institution that respected all cultures and provided a safe space for people who feel isolated, oppressed, or under attack. But I subsequently realized that the school I attended was the polar opposite, and that even the president of the university had “[blamed] and [shamed] survivors of sexual assault and rape” (according to flyers posted up around campus).
How am I supposed to feel? Did I make the right decision in attending this school? I was not forced to come to Wesleyan. It was my choice. But now I’m being told that the president, who appeared very intelligent, charismatic, and qualified, is an egomaniacal bigot who must be fired immediately. How am I supposed to resolve this cognitive dissonance? Do the allegations regarding Roth and the administration have merit? Or am I supposed to dismiss them as coming from a radical, crazy sect of the student body that merely wants to be sensationalist in calling for Roth’s resignation?
Another big question I have regarding the protests is the interruption of the tours. In my mind, telling potential students and their parents that this school fosters sexual violence is counter-intuitive. Aren’t these protestors turning away people who may be integral to changing the part of Wesleyan’s culture that they are protesting?
My gut reaction to the protests regarding the school’s handling of Backer is that people feel betrayed by the administration, and that they want some kind of justice. Maybe I’m just not used to this culture of outrage, protest, and demand for change that Wesleyan has exhibited. I come from Kansas City, which is much more politically and socially conservative than here, and I have never interacted with such a politically active and socially liberal population before.
One freshman with whom I talked suggested that the protests were a bargaining tactic: students asked for Roth’s resignation, but in fact only wanted an independent commission to review sexual assault cases, as ended up happening. But this style of protest feels disingenuous to me. I believe that if you feel strongly enough to protest and demand change, the change for which you call should be what you actually want, not a radical escalation of your beliefs.
Ultimately, I’m not sure where I stand in my beliefs compared to the rest of Wesleyan’s population, and whether my beliefs make sense. Principle Skinner from the “The Simpsons” once said, “Am I so out of touch? No, it is the children who are wrong.” Am I the failed leader of Springfield Elementary, or am I Bart himself?
In light of the results of the presidential election, I appreciate that I am surrounded by many students who share my views regarding Trump. Roth’s email last week preaching solidarity and inclusion was certainly comforting to receive after the shock of Nov. 8. But for those protestors, maybe it was interpreted as a superfluous gesture, rather than an act of genuine concern and empathy for those deeply affected by the tragedy that has beset our country. At the protest of Trump’s election on Veterans’ Day, there were still calls for Roth’s resignation. I want to like Wesleyan, I want to like its administration, and I want to like its students, but the back of my mind is constantly questioning if I am alone in my thoughts and feelings, or if I am surrounded by thousands of like-minded people.
Chester is a member of the class of 2020.