Michael S. Roth

Michael S. Roth
16th President of Wesleyan University
Assumed office
July 1, 2007
Preceded by Douglas J. Bennet
8th President of California College of the Arts
In office
Personal details
Born Brooklyn, New York
Spouse(s) Kari Weil
Residence Middletown, Connecticut
Alma mater Wesleyan University
Princeton University
Profession Professor
Website Office of the President

Michael S. Roth (born April 8, 1957) is an American academic and university administrator. He became the 16th president of Wesleyan University in 2007. Formerly, he was the 8th president of the California College of the Arts (2000–2007), associate director of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and Director of European Studies at Claremont Graduate University. He was also H.B. Professor of Humanities at Scripps College, where he founded and directed the Scripps College Humanities Institute.[1]

Early life and education

A native of Brooklyn, Roth was the second in his family to attend college. He graduated from Wesleyan in 1978, completing his studies in three years[2] and graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. While there, he was a member and eventual president of the Alpha Delta Phi Society; he designed his own major in the history of psychological theory. He later went to earn his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1984.[3][1] Roth teaches every semester and, in May 2009, was appointed University Professor at Wesleyan.[4] Roth is Jewish.[5]

Academic Career

Roth has described his scholarly interests as centered on “how people make sense of the past.”[4] He has edited many volumes in intellectual and cultural history and is the author of five books: Psycho-Analysis as History: Negation and Freedom in Freud (Cornell University Press, 1987, 1995); Knowing and History: Appropriations of Hegel in Twentieth Century France (Cornell University Press, 1988); The Ironist’s Cage: Trauma, Memory and the Construction of History (Columbia University Press, 1995); and Irresistible Decay: Ruins Reclaimed, with Clare Lyons and Charles Merewether (Getty Research Institute, 1997). His current book Memory, Trauma, and History: Essays on Living With the Past was published in the fall of 2011 by Columbia University Press.[6][7][8] "[H]e is currently preparing his next book, Why Liberal Education Matters, for Yale University Press."[9]

Roth co-edited Looking for Los Angeles: Architecture, Film, Photography and The Urban Landscape and Disturbing Remains: Memory, History, and Crisis in the Twentieth Century (both Getty Research Institute, 2001). Roth has published, in recent years, essays and book reviews in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times,[10] the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post,[11] The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Huffington Post,[12] Book Forum, Rethinking History, and Wesleyan's History and Theory.


Roth has undertaken several initiatives at Wesleyan, including growing the endowment, re-orienting fundraising and spending to emphasize support for financial aid and core academic programs, increasing grant support for University undergraduates who receive financial aid, providing scholarships for veterans of the military, working with faculty on interdisciplinary and curricular initiatives, and working "to anchor civic engagement and innovation within the University’s curriculum."[9] With regard to the latter, the University announced in May 2011 a $2 million donation to establish the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, which will support students who want to create programs and organizations serving the public good anywhere in the world.[13][14]

His career has not been without controversy. He publicly condemned the academic boycott of Israeli institutions made by the American Studies Association and other scholarly organizations as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement,[15] a stance that attracted further protest from many Wesleyan alumni.[16] In 2012, he had a public confrontation with a reporter from Democracy Now! during student protests against Wesleyan's decision to end need-blind admissions.[17] And more recently, he found himself under fire from Asian-American students for a lack of support for ethnic studies.[18]

Roth has overseen the launch of "[t]he Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, which links intellectual work on campus to policy issues nationally and internationally",[19][20] "the Shapiro Creative Writing Center, which brings together students and faculty seriously engaged in writing"[1][19][21] and the Usdan University Center.[9] The former two opened in the fall of 2009. A College of the Environment also has been launched and serves as the University's third multidisciplinary College in addition to the College of Social Studies and the College of Letters.[22][19][21]

Roth has been maintaining a blog about his experiences as president of the University.[23]

In Winter 2008, he approved a decision to remove "the annual music and arts festival Zonker Harris Day"[24] from the University's calendar of events, saying: "The institution should make it clear that it's not supporting things that are stupid."[25] The Wesleyan college newspaper noted: "The annual celebration references a perpetually-stoned character in Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury comic strip, inspiring University participants to emulate Zonker Harris's drug habits."[25] The day was renamed "Ze Who Must Not Be Named." The decision earned Roth an appearance in a Doonesbury strip in Autumn 2010.[26][27] On March 22, 2011, the university administration officially reversed its decision on the festival's name. The festival was again known as Zonker Harris Day beginning with the 2011 festival in April.[28]


  1. 1 2 3 "Meet Michael Roth, Office of the President - Wesleyan University". Wesleyan.edu. 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  2. Can Three Year Degrees Help Americans Afford College?, The Week. Source, Washington Post (2). Third paragraph. Posted 31 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  3. Wesleyan President Michael Roth Commencement Speaker, Eastern Connecticut State University. By Kate Harned. 9 May 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  4. 1 2 "Board Affirms Newly Tenured, Promoted Faculty". Newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  5. "Conversation with Dr. Michael S. Roth". Jewish Ledger. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  6. "Memory, Trauma, and History". Cup.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  7. "Why liberal arts matter". CNN. 21 May 2011.
  8. Roth, Michael S. (2011-04-24). "How Colleges Can Ensure Quality, Not Inequality - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education". Chronicle.com. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  9. 1 2 3 "Michael Roth". The Hastings Center. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  10. Light, Truth and Whatever: ‘College,’ by Andrew Delbanco, The New York Times. By Michael S. Roth. Published 8 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  11. Wesleyan president: A degree in ‘three marvelous years’, The Washington Post. By Daniel de Vise. 23 May 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  12. Roth, Michael (16 June 2011). "Midnight in America: Renewing the Pantheon". Huffington Post.
  13. "Bob Patricelli: Bob Patricelli Is Taking On Social Change Through Philanthropy - Hartford Courant". Courant.com. 2011-10-10. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  14. "Gift Establishes the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship". Newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu. 2011-05-24. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  15. Roth, Michael (December 19, 2013). "Boycott of Israeli universities: a repugnant attack on academic freedom". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  16. "Roth Denounces ASA, Alumns Respond". Weslying. February 3, 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  17. "Wesleyan President Grabs DN! Microphone as Students Protest End to Need-Blind Admissions". Democracy Now!. October 26, 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  18. Wang, Alton (February 6, 2015). "The Death of Ethnic Studies". Alton Wang Blog. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  19. 1 2 3 "History of Wesleyan - About - Wesleyan University". Wesleyan.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  20. Wesleyan President Michael Roth Commencement Speaker, Eastern Connecticut State University. By Kate Harnr. 9 May 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  21. 1 2 Wesleyan President Michael Roth Commencement Speaker, Eastern Connecticut State University. By Kate Harner. 9 May 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  22. Wesleyan receives $5 M in endowments, Middletown Press. Last paragraph. By Hillary Federico. Published 19 October 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  23. "Roth on Wesleyan". Roth.blogs.wesleyan.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  24. Morgan, Tess. "Doonesbury Strip Reopens Zonker Harris Debate - Features". The Wesleyan Argus. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  25. 1 2 Ezra Silk, "Blunt refusal: ResLife says no to funding Zonker Harris Day", The Wesleyan Argus, 29 February 2009
  26. Dylan Loeb McClain, "The Butt of Doonesbury, and Proud of It", New York Times, 3 December 2010
  27. Barbara Spindel (2010-12-07). "Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau Versus Wesleyan University's Michael Roth". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  28. Schwartz, Ammanda. "Zonker Harris Day Makes a Comeback". Wesleyan Argus.
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