According to intensive research conducted by The Argus, there is a statistically significant chance that you’ve talked to Jake Multer ’20. This double-majoring, homebrew club-running, Wesleyan Refugee Project-leading, frisbee-playing senior has spent his four years at Wesleyan knocking on doors, running events, and fermenting. He’s got hot takes on scones and some self-described cold takes on doing good in the world. We might steal a car later.
The Argus: You’ve been nominated to be a WesCeleb! That’s great!
Jake Multer: I just got something in my eye. Sorry. [Gets something out of eye] Huh. Cool. Hello.
A: Hello! There’s a lot of different ways we can start off here, but just give me a little tour of your time at Wesleyan.
JM: A tour of my time at Wesleyan.
A: A brief tour.
JM: A brief tour? Okay. Just on the academic side, double majoring in Molecular Biology & Biochem and Government. I’ve known that since freshman year and have been working on that all the way through. I do research in the Coolon lab studying fly genetics and genomics and toxin resistance. I run the homebrewing club and I co-run the Wesleyan Refugee Project. What else? I play on the co-ed Frisbee team, Throw Culture. Is this the right kind of answer to the question?
A: There’s no right answer, Jake. It’s all about you.
A: So tell me a little bit about your trajectory at Wes. You said that you’ve known since freshman year that you wanted to be MB&B and Gov, so that feels like a pretty straight line compared to some people’s, “triple major then drop, then become a dance major, then realize that’s not feasible by the end of senior year and just go back to what you were in the first place.”
JM: That is an extremely specific question. Yeah, I would say, I mean I did have some changes in it. I came in sort-of pre-med, and then became borderline pre-med pretty quick over freshman and sophomore year, and then moved away from being borderline pre-med to not that. Just not for me. I have a lot of respect for people to do it, but I don’t think it’s the field for me. Lot of respect for doctors. [Both laugh] Did I make you snort coffee? Can that be in the interview?
A: What about brew? I know you came in freshman year, and you were maybe the one freshman that stuck it out.
JM: There are a few of us. So yeah, it definitely existed before me, which is why it has this awful name—the Wesleyan Homebrewers Alliance is the official name, which is bad—but the homebrew club started before me. There’s about 11 of us on the board; club itself is 45. Basically once every three-ish weeks, we get together and decide what our next batch of projects are going to be, and divide up supply runs, and divvying people up into houses and everything.
A: What are you making right now?
JM: We’re making a whole lot right now. We’re making a coffee stout—that’s my personal favorite, as a coffee lover. We are making our first raspberry sour, and we’re going to see how it goes. We’re making a blood orange wheat beer, like a Blue Moon, we’re making blueberry lemon mead, we’re making cinnamon-orange-cardamom mead, we’re making an amber ale, we’re making a pineapple IPA, we’re trying to make our own version of White Claw that we’re calling Red Claw, and we’re making a lemon wine.
A: Why is it Red Claw?
JM: Because Wesleyan. This is why. We’re now currently looking for juniors to run it next year. That’s a fun space for me, and that’s a relaxing one. And I love cooking and science-y things and crafty things and it’s at this intersection of all of that in a way that I really enjoy.
A: And so with your cooking, are you on any big kicks lately in the world of cooking? That can be a cookbook, or something that you haven’t cooked with before that you suddenly really like, or…?
JM: I’ve recently, courtesy of some choice holiday presents, recently discovered Alison Roman. She’s amazing. I used to cook like a lot of two-hour-long stirred, constantly complicated stuff. And now Alison Roman has changed the game for me because she’s all about these fancy-seeming things, or things that have like a little bit of flair, but that are very doable and manageable and [have] reasonable timelines and are not too labor intensive, in a way that I’m absolutely loving. So I’ve been cooking a lot from her book, “Dining In,” right now, or her YouTube videos….She has a bunch of cool ones with New York Times Cooking.
A: And what about the Wesleyan Refugee Project? Is that another thing that you got involved in freshman year?
JM: Yeah, I got involved in a lot of different service-oriented clubs freshman year, and I ended up sticking it out with the Refugee Project because, at that point, they felt like the most organized one that I was a part of. Part of the reason I got involved in the Wesleyan Refugee Project is that I was inspired to work on these issues by my grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor and who was stateless and displaced for several years, following the second World War, eventually was resettled into the U.S. and became a citizen here and started a new life here. But her work, and talking to her about that, and our bigger family history with these issues and in relation to displacement, is what inspired me to work on the club in the way that I do.
Now I’m one of the co-leaders of the club. I guess, bigger picture, Wesleyan Refugee Project, we’re trying to mobilize student energy and resources at Wesleyan to address displacement and to support refugees and displaced people around the world, within the U.S., and we’re trying to address some of the systemic blockers that block displaced people from accessing resources. And we provide a lot of direct services like tutoring or childcare or different things like that to displaced people living in communities around us.
That, I would say, is what I spend the most time on, on campus. I probably spend 12 to 20 hours on it a week. I’m able to do that, fortunately, because it’s a paid position through the OCS [the Office of Community Service] as a community service organizer, which is amazing. So I don’t have to do chem tutoring anymore. Shout out to chem tutors—it’s a rough gig.
A: I’m curious, from your perspective in WRP, which, especially in the advocacy wing, it’s a political organization on campus in some ways. And there’s two really sharply divided perceptions of Wesleyan activism and political engagement. There’s the perception of like, “Wow, Wesleyan students are so liberal, they get out and do so much and they’re so politically engaged.” And then there’s the other perception, that’s like, “Everyone talks a big game and no one actually does anything.” And so I’m curious, being involved in that scene, where you fall on that?
JM: I think it’s hard to generalize on that. I do think that, particularly compared with a lot of other college students and colleges, Wesleyan students generally are pretty engaged in the intellectual side of stuff and in the debates and, to some degree, depending on the groups, on the actual work of trying to make change in those spaces.
What I’m thinking about is like, I worked on a campaign sophomore summer. It’s really easy to get people to say that they’ll support someone and to do small tasks. People are pretty good for a small ask here. If you’re asking for a small donation—or asking people [to] show up at an event, that can be harder, but that’s still an okay ask. If you want people to go out and knock doors for a candidate during the day—which I don’t do as part of the Refugee Project but I’ve done that with WesDems and with other groups, getting people to show up to knock doors for a day, or to do an actual action for a period of time, is really hard here. It’s hard everywhere. So I don’t think that’s a particular indictment of Wesleyan students, but it’s really, really challenging to get people to actually commit the time and energy and go into that space. And I have a lot of respect for organizers who are able to do that.
So in sum, I think there is a lot of good energy on this campus, and I do think that sometimes mobilizes into really concrete and cool action. I also think that there are sometimes strands on this campus that lean towards talking a lot about an issue, and some complaints about the issue, and then not actually mobilizing that into action. I think it’s a shame because there’s a lot of potential on this campus, when people actually harness their energy, to really make big concrete changes and, for a myriad of reasons, sometimes that doesn’t materialize. Does that answer your question?
A: Yes! Do you want to talk about Max Rose at all?
JM: “He’ll fight for you.” [laughs] Sophomore summer, I worked on army veteran Max Rose’s campaign for Congress. He was running as a Democrat in Staten Island and South Brooklyn. Pretty heavily right-leaning district, went for Trump by about 10 points….Compared to the rest of New York City, which did not. So I started out as a door knocker there, and then I became one of the field organizers; particularly, I did a lot of volunteer coordinating and a lot of managing a really unruly spreadsheet. And then I took a week off school junior year to go back for Election Day. I was part of the Get Out the Vote team. I did a lot of field manager work for the week before it, and a lot of door knocking in there, too, and then, on the day of, I had like a 70-person team, which was cool. Including my parents! So shout out to them. Thank you, Dad, for driving me around all day. Thank you, Mom, for manning that poll site.
A: And also, you brought up your parents. So, on a related note, some people think about, “Oh, what would I tell my freshman self if I was coming to Wesleyan now, knowing what I know now?” You kind of got that chance, because your little brother started here this year. So what was the big advice for him?
JM: [whispers] I didn’t give that much advice.
A: Okay, so pretend you did. What would you tell a hypothetical freshman who is similar to you?
JM: These are all so bad. Don’t eat at Summies more than one-and-a-half times a day on average. Hallcest can turn out fine if you’re adults. I don’t think these are publishable. Don’t ever eat anything called a “barbecue attack bowl.” Sixty percent of the population is lactose intolerant. But a real one? I mean, I mean all of them, but… I would say, be open to trying a lot of extracurriculars and spaces that seem appealing to— this is so much more polished, just use the unpolished ones. Oat milk is just as good as normal milk.
A: What’s the best coffee on campus? [pause] This is the most stressed out you’ve looked the entire interview.
JM: So like, as a recovering caffeine addict, I’m trying to limit myself to three a day. And trying to not have coffee past 6 p.m. 6:30 is my goal. 6:30 is my cutoff time. Also prioritize sleep, that’s advice for the people. I’m sorry, this is probably the most derailed interview you’ve ever done.
A: This is not the most derailed interview I’ve ever done.
JM: I’d say Espwesso when it’s open. Otherwise, I’m a Pi stan from all the science classes I’ve had to take. It’s always there for you. You can get a blueberry scone with your coffee.
A: Are you a fan of scones?
JM: This feels like a targeted question. Yeah. Honestly, I love a blueberry scone from Pi. I’m going to be real, the chocolate chip ones are inferior to the blueberry ones, and people can fight me on that if they want. The bagels there, nuh uh.
A: Is there anything else we didn’t cover that you wanted to talk about?
JM: Got into pickling recently, that’s not that cool to write about.
A: It’s a little cool!
JM: That’s just because we made pickles together! Donate to WESU, and come to events at the Refugee Project. We’re having a great gala, please come. Support local news, I don’t know, these are all boring. These are just cold takes that are good for the world. Call your senators. Give kombucha a try. I was skeptical at first, but I really like it now.
A: You should make your own kombucha.
JM: I’m down to.
A: Okay, yeah.
JM: We’d just have to go to the brewing store and get some stuff for it.
A: Yeah, that’s the problem.
JM: We can just steal a car.
JM: Get your driver’s license before you’re 22, 21. Be kind to others. Butts C is the best of the Butts. Tofu coop is a steal. Egg coop, pretty good deal, if you can get a rack of eggs at the end….Don’t print that, they’ll kill me. The Office of Community Service is a wonderful space full of incredibly supportive people who will help you realize some awesome ideas. You can print that, they won’t kill me.
Knock some doors for a candidate you believe in. If primary season seems too crazy, then do it in the general. 2020 is an important election, and if you stay on the sidelines, you’re complicit. Goodnight.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Hannah Reale can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @HannahEReale.