Bylines

Below are links to some recent bylines by Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth.

January 24, 2024 - Wall Street Journal
‘The Counterfeit Countess’ Review: Fake Title, Real Courage

The remarkable story of Janina Mehlberg almost didn’t see the light of day. A Holocaust survivor and a mathematics professor in Chicago, Mehlberg stood out for making her way in an academic field dominated by men. But while teaching her students and giving conference papers, she was privately writing an account of her life’s most remarkable episode: her daring impersonation of a Polish aristocrat in World War II, a deception that allowed her to aid Poles who had been imprisoned by the Nazis. She kept it all secret, but her husband, a survivor and distinguished philosopher of science in his own right, preserved and translated the memoir after her death in 1969 [ Read More ]

December 12, 2023 - Salon
Higher education must help protect democracy

We must affirm the core principles of civic education and take specific actions to defend democracy while it is still possible to do so. When the Kalven Report counseled schools to stay neutral in 1967 (rather than support civil rights or criticize the Vietnam War), even its cautious authors made an exception for moments when “the society, or segments of it, threaten the very mission of the university and its values of free inquiry.” This is such a moment. Whatever party or candidates one supports, colleges and universities must defend democracy to defend their very mission, to defend their values of free inquiry and teaching. At this time that means calling out the dangers of tyranny while inspiring democratic practices among young people (through efforts like D2024) so that we can defend our country from the incendiary forces now gathering around Donald Trump. [ Read More ]

December 11, 2023 - Los Angeles Times
Opinion: College presidents are supposed to be moral leaders, not evasive bureaucrats

College presidents are not just neutral bureaucrats or referees among competing protesters, faculty and donors. We must not hide behind the language of lawyers. We must speak up on the issues of the day when they are relevant to the core mission of our institutions. Leaders of colleges and universities must not allow ourselves to be put on the defensive by politicians who are mostly interested in scoring points. We must defend academic freedom and intellectual diversity to ensure that demagogues don’t get to decide what we read or how we teach. [ Read More ]

November 24, 2023 - Wall Street Journal
‘Vienna’ Review: Where the World Went Modern

From early fascism in the first decades of the 20th century to scientifically based socialist experiments after World War I, Vienna was home to every sort of innovation, from logical positivism and psychoanalysis to modernist architecture and mathematics. Mr. Cockett presents as many as he can. We never learn about individual thinkers in depth, but we do develop an appreciation for the city’s varied and powerful legacy. [ Read More ]

November 22, 2023 - Time
For University Leaders, Silence on the Israel-Hamas War is Not Golden

It’s one thing to allow ideas to be debated, universities should welcome healthy challenges to core values, but the school leaders should also defend the values that have allowed the right for debate to evolve in the first place. [ Read More ]

November 13, 2023 - Slate
My Students Wanted to Talk Israel-Palestine. Here’s What We Did Instead.

By thinking together with openness about our civilization and the violence it seems to engender, we hope to find our own ways of coming to terms with it, of not being blindsided by it, and, perhaps, through study, conversation, and learning from others, of reducing its most poisonous effects. [ Read More ]

September 28, 2023 - Times Higher Education
‘Remaining a student even while teaching has been a key source of happiness’

I was surprised to discover just how much I enjoyed sitting in the professor’s seat. I’d already recognized how much I loved being a student but wasn’t sure that would translate to being, so to speak, on the other side of the equation. For an equation of sorts it is. Good students make teachers better, and a great teacher can motivate learning in ways that surpass expectations, including expectations that students have of themselves. [ Read More ]

September 12, 2023 - New York Times
The Value of an Education That Never Ends

One mother laughingly called herself a “perpetual student.” She meant she pursued learning for the sheer joy of inquiry. But the term is usually one of gentle derision: someone who keeps taking more courses as a way to avoid holding down a job. In other words, a slacker, or a loser. I think that’s wrong. We should begin to see this sort of lifelong learning as a way for individuals to gain not just knowledge, but liberation. In its ideal form, being a perpetual student is not an act of avoidance but rather a path to perpetual self-determination and freedom. [ Read More ]

September 9, 2023 - Los Angeles Times
Opinion: College students were ‘woke’ in the 60s, annoying to elders and drivers of social change. Meet their successors

There is a long history of student protest in this country. And today’s demands from students for greater diversity and inclusion — among the faculty, in admissions and in what’s taught in the classroom — fall within that tradition. Back in the day, students raised their voices against apartheid and more recently have demanded concrete action to deal with the climate emergency. Students have pushed higher education to live up to the ideals we claim to espouse, and in so doing they have learned how to constructively respond to political differences beyond the campus. [ Read More ]

September 8, 2023 - Boston Globe
What makes a good student?

From elementary school to the university, educators want to create engaged learners. This will include some imitative training, to be sure, but the aim is for the student to learn without having a teacher to please. The point of creating a classroom of active students — whether they are collaborating on a design project or working through a classic text together to see how it might be relevant to their lives — is to make progress toward the goal of learning freedom. [ Read More ]

September 7, 2023 - Wall Street Journal
College Students Have Always Wanted Freedom

It’s not hard to find examples on today’s campus of illiberal students, if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s even easier to find open-minded ones. You can still discover campus radicals, as I did 50 years ago, and also student-athletes and their fans who seem to live for the next home game. Yet students today are wary of stereotypes. No one wants to be just a jock or just a Social Justice Warrior. When you look beyond the headlines at the diversity of college campus cultures around the U.S., it’s clear that there is no monoculture in higher education. [ Read More ]

Read older bylines here.