Commission Music

Commission Music
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Monday, 25 October 2004


The reality is people will pay whatever we charge them. There's no end to what people will pay. In fact, the more you charge, the more they like it. People look around and say, "If they charge a lot, it must be good"

- Wesleyan Vice President of Finance and Aministration Marcia Bromberg on tutuion, New York Times, Spet. 26, 2004, by way of handbill I picked up at homecoming

Apparently the current undergrad tuition is $39k per YEAR. So there's really no question as to which "people" will pay to no end. It's not a school for the middle classes. So what's the purpose of chasing away the middle class? Well, the endowment grows, which, um allows the school to buy more stuff and pay more for graduate stipends and hold on to valuable graduate housing like India House. But they're not spending it on grads. And they're not spending it on undergrads either. They're increasing their endowment. A large endowment increases the prestige of the school and allows them to attract more prestigius trustees, a student explained to me. Then she said that the two newest trustees were from Colt weapons and Bechtel. If they make the school out of reach to all but the elite, they will be able to attract arms manufacturers and war profiteers. woot.

But something very strange is going on at Wesleyan. It used to be a boys school. There are a lot of boys around. I feel like, culturally, male issues are more evident, although maybe that's just a mirror of the larger society or maybe it's because I have more experience with undergrad women from my own undergrad days. In any case, the school colors are red and black, but instead of red, it really ought to be pink. Many, many of the boys here really like pink. I'm not saying that most of them are gay. I'm saying most of them like pink. They are radically deconstructing gender. What it means to be a boy at Wesleyan is different than what it means to be a boy in most other places. It does stick with them when they leave. The environment here molds their personalities and their thinking and they are embracing a radically different view of masculinity.

So the upper class is sending their progeny off to an exceedingly epensive school where their sons are deconstructing gender, wearing pink, wearing dresses, expressing masculinity through sincerity and sensitivity and striving towards a non-gendered or multi-gendered ideal.

What does this mean?

I recorded a concert today, which was almost a church service. A bunch of people singing hymns while a pastor talked about them. They were all protestant, some written by Wesley's brother (the school was named for Wesley), so I only recognized a couple of them. There was also organ music. The very first hymn that the choirs and everyone in attendance (except me - I was running the tape recorder) sang was "Lift Every Voice and Sing", the hymn of the NAACP since the 1920's. It was sung boldly and with great heart. The people there were proud to be singing it. I leaned way over the balcony to get a good view of the choir and the congregation. There was not one person in the entire building who appeared to be African American that I could see.

There are black students at Wesleyan, but not many. And there are black professors. Anthony Braxton and a few others. I didn't see any of them at the hymnody concert.

There are black people in the community. Public safety just put out an APB for a tall black male. Somebody saw him in the Rehersal Hall around the time there were a bunch of thefts. I accidentally set off an alarm today in that building, but the public safety officer who came by saw me walking off and didn't stop me. Cuz I didn't match the APB? Cuz I turned off the alarm and nothing was actually stolen? A lot of the public safety announcements mention african americans. The public safety guy who spoke at my orientation last year talked a lot about the local criminal element. The large fight down the street from my house last august involved mostly african american teens.

I sense that something is going on when an entirely non-black population proudly sings "Lift Every Voice and Sing," but it's relationship with the black folks living next door mostly involves thefts and fights.

This school has some very complex dynamics to deconstruct. What does it all mean?

and on a personal note

I've been recording concerts and playing in concerts and tuba practicing and music listening and thesis writing and getting hassled by the local criminal element and pot luck attending and movie watching and blogging all in the last week but mostly trying like hell not to think about my mom.

current mood: stressed

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