- Class: Alum
- Major: Anthropology
- Gender: F
- High School: Durham School of the Arts
- Transfer Student: N
I absolutely loved Wesleyan. The best thing was the other students - passionate, brilliant, wildly creative, and totally impressive, but by and large so much more down to earth and fun than kids I've met at, say, Ivy League schools, who I often (not always, of course) found to be more uptight, self-important, etc. Middletown is cute and nice, but people don't spend that much time there, which I didn't mind at all. There's more amazing stuff happening on campus than you could ever actually attend anyways, and if you want, you can always go to NYC for a weekend. Wesleyan controversies typically revolve around identity politics (race/class/gender/sexuality). That stuff gets really, really intense on campus. Wesleyan is super progressive on gender and sexuality issues (by the end of freshman year, nobody I knew even believed in gender any more). It's definitely a bit of a bubble, but I thought it was great. There's tons of pride about Wesleyan being weird and radical. Under the past president (Bennett), there was also a pretty widespread impression that Wesleyan's administration was actively trying to mainstream-ify the character of the student body, supposedly for financial reasons (activists and artists don't make a very strong alumni donor base), but I've heard that the new president (a Wes alum himself) appears to have a stronger commitment to keeping Wesleyan unique, diverse, etc.
I found Wesleyan academics to be extremely rigorous. My friends and I who are in grad school now (many at really elite institutions) all agree that our Wesleyan courses were a lot more challenging than our grad school courses. People work really hard. Olin library's nickname is "Club O" because it's actually a really fun social scene - there are always tons of people there, and you can always find somebody to go take a coffee break and gossip with. I was an anthropology major, and that department pretty much epitomizes the stereotype of Wesleyan academics in that my courses were almost exclusively focused on questions of identity and power. As a white student in those courses, I learned a lot, but they were often really emotionally grueling (white guilt is standard issue). The campus is very consciously non-competitive about grades. In my four years at Wesleyan, I was only asked once what grade I got on an assignment (and in that case, it was by a fellow student who was known to have Asperger's Syndrome and have trouble with social boundaries). In fact, I dated my boyfriend for two years before we found out what kinds of grades we each made.
Wesleyan students and the administration really strive to be as inclusive as possible, to a truly remarkable degree. Racial tension definitely exists on campus, but I always appreciated that at least students and the administration demonstrated a huge willingness to bring those issues out into the open and seriously attempt to address them. There is a really robust and ever-present dialogue about the way that race, class and power worked on our campus. One thing I love is that during freshmen orientation, all freshmen go through a student-run workshop where they're taught about different gender and sexuality identities, and asked to go through a series of exercises where they imagine what college might be like for such a person. It's really radical as freshmen orientations go, and I loved it. Politically conservative students would feel very out of place, and would probably feel constantly attacked. There are tons of wealthy kids at Wesleyan, but the campus's progressive politics make flaunting that money very taboo. As a working class student myself, I sometimes felt that the masking of wealth was problematic, but I more often appreciated that conspicuous consumption was not a part of my social and academic worlds.
The Best Things
The people, the people, the people.
The Worst Things
It's so expensive.