c/o Soren Stokes

c/o Soren Stokes

What even is an ampersand? Throughout The Argus’s history, the term has embodied a plethora of expressions, thoughts, and meanings, including the Latin word for the symbol “&,” an expression of inclusivity, and a break from traditional Argus coverage. After a long hiatus, the Ampersand is back. Ampersand Editor UG Shakhnovskaya ’24 and Assistant Ampersand Editors Lily Ahluwalia ’27 and Abby Glassman ’24 have revitalized the section, delivering satirical and comedic articles to The Argus. 

“It feels great to be a part of something new and flourishing,” Shakhnovskaya wrote in an email to The Argus. “Given that many of us do not know much about the general character of the old section or why it ended, we hope to make a new name for Ampersand.”

During their reign as editors-in-chief, Executive Editors Elias Mansell ’24 and Sabrina Ladiwala ’24 decided to bring the section back. Shakhnovskaya, Ahluwalia, and Glassman worked with Editors-in-Chief Sam Hilton ’25 and Anne Kiely ’24 to officially reintroduce the Ampersand to The Argus in Spring 2024.

“For me personally, I really liked writing humor articles for The Argus before, when we did our April Fools edition, and a lot of the articles that are on The Argus are serious,” Mansell said. “There is some fun, but there is sort of this set style, and I thought with April Fools, it was nice when we could be more creative.”

Dormant since 2016, the section first appeared in an article on Jan. 24, 1978, then known simply as Ampersand. In that piece, James J. Reap ’52 discusses Ampersand’s flexibility as an emerging arts and cosmopolitan page. 

“We’ll define [Ampersand] as a rare blend of vintage wit, a dash of off-campus happenings, and a hearty stock of features, all liberally seasoned with fine arts,” Reap wrote.

Reap acknowledged that the section was still trying to define itself in the wake of increasingly diverse arts and culture news. Over 10 years later, the Ampersand expanded to become a page covering nearly anything and everything. The section even featured work from then-Ampersand Editor Carter Bay ’94, who went on to write for programs such as “American Dad” and “The Late Night Show with David Letterman” before creating “How I Met Your Mother.”

In 1998, the section officially rebranded to focus on satirical writing. In an article published on Sept. 15, 1998, then-Ampersand Editors Luke del Tredici ’00, Aaron Hilliard ’00, and Bob Weythman ’99 wrote “Shocking New Study Reveals Shocking New Revelations On Balls and Bran.” Del Tredici went on to produce and write for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

“Two students lie dead in the street tonight in the aftermath of the shocking riots that broke out early this evening when, in a surprising turn of events, it was announced that ‘balls are round,’” del Tredici, Hilliard, and Weythman wrote.

Del Tredici, Hilliard, and Weythman solidified the Ampersand as a comedic section committed to providing satire for the masses. In an editorial published on Jan. 22, 1999, del Tredici and Hilliard explained their motivations and goals.

“We here at the Ampersand know that we have to strive to keep up or we’ll be left behind, forced to feed on our own flesh to survive,” del Tredici and Hilliard wrote. “With that in mind, then, we spent most of this break brainstorming ways to keep the Ampersand as ‘current’ and ‘hip’ as a baby’s bottom.”

One of their resolutions was to write less gibberish and more comedy.

In 2010, the section even pointed to a blog in the Feb. 23 issue of The Argus, for those who love the internet but hate The Argus. Five years later, the Ampersand held weekly Thursday meetings in Albritton for those interested in writing. The Ampersand continued to pave the way for humor within The Argus until its slow death in 2016. The publishing of Ampersand humor became more infrequent as the weeks passed.

But before the official end of the Ampersand, then-Editor-in-Chief Sarah Esocoff ’15 vouched for the section’s importance. In her Editor’s Letter in the Jan. 30, 2016 edition of The Argus, Esocoff wrote her final goodbyes to the Ampersand. 

“The Ampersand exists, first and foremost, to make people laugh,” Escoff wrote. “But, it also exists, as all comedy does, to deal with difficult subjects, to illuminate another angle of a well-worn debate, and to present a skewed, lovely, and sometimes very dick joke-heavy picture of the world.”

She went on to argue for the value of comedy in general.

“[…] Comedy is necessary, and it can be important, poignant, and even poetic,” Escoff wrote.

Despite Esocoff’s words, which still ring true today, the Ampersand section ended that year after three decades of existence. On Feb. 5, 2016, the last official Ampersand page—until 2024—was published in The Argus. This final edition featured humor pieces by writers Luke Schissler ’17, Celeste Barnaby ’18, and Hugo Kessler ’19. 

After this publication, The Argus went on without the Ampersand. The only mention of the section was the list of Ampersand editors in the staff index.

But don’t fret, the Ampersand is back! We’re excited to see what the future holds for the rebirth of this unique section and how it will evolve. So far, this semester’s Ampersand has featured various forms of humor on current affairs, popular culture, and Wesleyan-specific tidbits.

Some of our favorite pieces written this semester include “Calling All Clammy-Handed Conversationalists: How To Up Your Small Talk Game” by Sylvia Maxwell ’25 and “Why I am SICK AND TIRED of People Being From NYC: A Hard Hitting Opinion Piece” by Ahluwalia.

The Ampersand is currently in print only, so be sure to grab a physical copy of The Argus so you don’t miss any exciting content.

Maggie Smith can be reached at mssmith@wesleyan.edu.

Lyah Muktavaram can be reached at lmuktavaram@wesleyan.edu.

“From the Argives” is a column that explores The Argus’ archives (Argives) and any interesting, topical, poignant, or comical stories that have been published in the past. Given The Argus’ long history on campus and the ever-shifting viewpoints of its student body, the material, subject matter, and perspectives expressed in the archived article may be insensitive or outdated, and do not reflect the views of any current member of The Argus. If you have any questions about the original article or its publication, please contact Head Archivists Sida Chu at schu@wesleyan.edu and Maggie Smith at mssmith@wesleyan.edu