Keeping This Shit Ok. (read: weird)


Greeting fellow bubblings. Per/Oscar ’08 writes in with depth and quixotic sincerity:

“Unlike some other schools, Wesleyan doesn’t have any student or faculty trustees, and the election process for alumnae/i trustees is a sham. And people wonder why keeping Wesleyan weird is getting harder and harder. […] We’re all going off to become social workers, and teachers, and community and union organizers, instead of going where the money is, the way all these nominees have.”

He sends along  a link to this brilliant blog-post. I wholeheartedly agree with every goddamned word of  it. We’ve all sat around too long pretending that annual luncheons in the bus-stop amount to an understanding and a parity of purpose with our duly-elected fiduciary representatives.

26 thoughts on “Keeping This Shit Ok. (read: weird)

  1. alumna '07

    ugh, uninformed, shoot-from-the-hip, paranoid, conspiracy-theory righteous indignation. Per et al, you’re the left-wing equivalent of the tea party. congrats.

    there are students and faculty in attendance at all trustee meetings, they sit on different committees. that’s actually in sharp contrast to most institutions, but I guess these facts are rather inconvenient. also, bitching is easier than actually DOING anything, right?

  2. alumna '07

    ugh, uninformed, shoot-from-the-hip, paranoid, conspiracy-theory righteous indignation. Per et al, you’re the left-wing equivalent of the tea party. congrats.

    there are students and faculty in attendance at all trustee meetings, they sit on different committees. that’s actually in sharp contrast to most institutions, but I guess these facts are rather inconvenient. also, bitching is easier than actually DOING anything, right?

  3. Charlie Kurose '10

    Some scattered thoughts:

    Thirty-seven of the thirty-eight members of the WSA are directly elected by the student body, and currently all eight of the eight Student Representatives to the Board of Trustees come from that group of thirty-seven. I’m not sure how you reached the conclusion that “WSA representation has exactly the same problem as the alumni trustee situation…candidates are chosen through a non-transparent process.”

    I’m one of those eight students, and I’ve been overwhelming pleased with every trustee’s willingness to engage with students and learn from them about what Wesleyan is like these days. It’s my belief that their eagerness to do this is the direct result of a conscientious desire to do what is best for the school, which they rightly understand involves knowing the current undergraduate experience. From what I can tell, the board does a fantastic job soliciting, receiving, and considering opinions, information, and ideas from undergraduates.

    The fact that the board disproportionately represents certain sectors of the economy is an irrefutable statistic. However, whether this has detrimentally affected their ability to consider the interests of all members of the alumni body when making decisions is another question entirely, and it’s one that I admittedly don’t know enough about to justify saying much. But Mike Pernick provides some good thoughts relating to that in his blog post on the WSA website (link above). I advise reading it.

  4. Charlie Kurose '10

    Some scattered thoughts:

    Thirty-seven of the thirty-eight members of the WSA are directly elected by the student body, and currently all eight of the eight Student Representatives to the Board of Trustees come from that group of thirty-seven. I’m not sure how you reached the conclusion that “WSA representation has exactly the same problem as the alumni trustee situation…candidates are chosen through a non-transparent process.”

    I’m one of those eight students, and I’ve been overwhelming pleased with every trustee’s willingness to engage with students and learn from them about what Wesleyan is like these days. It’s my belief that their eagerness to do this is the direct result of a conscientious desire to do what is best for the school, which they rightly understand involves knowing the current undergraduate experience. From what I can tell, the board does a fantastic job soliciting, receiving, and considering opinions, information, and ideas from undergraduates.

    The fact that the board disproportionately represents certain sectors of the economy is an irrefutable statistic. However, whether this has detrimentally affected their ability to consider the interests of all members of the alumni body when making decisions is another question entirely, and it’s one that I admittedly don’t know enough about to justify saying much. But Mike Pernick provides some good thoughts relating to that in his blog post on the WSA website (link above). I advise reading it.

  5. Anonymous

    Per, and the other posters: you are missing the point. you are creating a problem that doesn’t exist. the Board isn’t meant to be representative of the school. it is meant to RUN the school. does the board of any company or nonprofit you know look like the body it represents? no. it’s not designed or meant to.

  6. Anonymous

    Per, and the other posters: you are missing the point. you are creating a problem that doesn’t exist. the Board isn’t meant to be representative of the school. it is meant to RUN the school. does the board of any company or nonprofit you know look like the body it represents? no. it’s not designed or meant to.

  7. Per

    You folks are, of course, right on the existence of student trustees. That’s my bad — I looked at the Board of Trustees website, and they didn’t list student trustees as trustees.

    But it’s worth noting that WSA representation has exactly the same problem as the alumni trustee situation — you apply to be a candidate, and candidates are chosen through a non-transparent process.

    It’s not really about who the candidates are — it may in fact be true that non-business types don’t apply to be candidates, and so I don’t know whether I can fault the Nominating Committee for the slate of candidates. But that’s exactly the point — when the process isn’t transparent, I’m hesitant to just swallow the explanation that it’s because the weird folks don’t want to be trustees.

    With regard to concrete suggestions:

    (1) transparency — if it’s really true that non-business types aren’t applying, show us that, and make known the process nominations go through once they’re submitted.

    (2) democracy — why does a candidate have to go through the nominating committee (an inherently undemocratic body)? If, in fact, it is the case that teachers and social workers never apply, might that be because they’re turned off by the idea of submitting to a nomination process that always produces business candidates? Or because they don’t recognize the legitimacy of the nominating process, and are therefore unwilling to participate?

  8. Per

    You folks are, of course, right on the existence of student trustees. That’s my bad — I looked at the Board of Trustees website, and they didn’t list student trustees as trustees.

    But it’s worth noting that WSA representation has exactly the same problem as the alumni trustee situation — you apply to be a candidate, and candidates are chosen through a non-transparent process.

    It’s not really about who the candidates are — it may in fact be true that non-business types don’t apply to be candidates, and so I don’t know whether I can fault the Nominating Committee for the slate of candidates. But that’s exactly the point — when the process isn’t transparent, I’m hesitant to just swallow the explanation that it’s because the weird folks don’t want to be trustees.

    With regard to concrete suggestions:

    (1) transparency — if it’s really true that non-business types aren’t applying, show us that, and make known the process nominations go through once they’re submitted.

    (2) democracy — why does a candidate have to go through the nominating committee (an inherently undemocratic body)? If, in fact, it is the case that teachers and social workers never apply, might that be because they’re turned off by the idea of submitting to a nomination process that always produces business candidates? Or because they don’t recognize the legitimacy of the nominating process, and are therefore unwilling to participate?

  9. anon

    7, what is the answer? I am a member of the alumni association executive committee. The nominating process and qualifications for nomination have been and are constantly updated. I welcome and will forward any suggestions on how we might change the process. Furthermore, the need for alumni/ae volunteers is tremendous. We’d love the help. If you want to get your point across, just like in any political election, voting for “none of the above” is not very effective.
    -6

  10. anon

    7, what is the answer? I am a member of the alumni association executive committee. The nominating process and qualifications for nomination have been and are constantly updated. I welcome and will forward any suggestions on how we might change the process. Furthermore, the need for alumni/ae volunteers is tremendous. We’d love the help. If you want to get your point across, just like in any political election, voting for “none of the above” is not very effective.
    -6

  11. Nick Marshall

    @6- Not a valid answer. Write-ins are explicitly different from enfranchised candidates presented as part of a stable list. Write-ins are an adjunct, demanding a great deal more time and effort just to attain the same standard of legitimacy as one of the candidates presented as part of the established body. That it’s open to additions doesn’t make those additions easy.

    Even your answer points to the problem- one person, a while ago, managed to get onto the ballot and lost, and ever since, we’ve had trustees chosen from a pool we don’t define.

    I’m not saying Wesalums should get the final say on every trustee; business and nonprofit experience is obviously helpful for the functioning of a university, and the endowment and financial stability of Wesleyan is necessary to its continued ability to be a vector for critical thought and social engagement. But I don’t think that Braille and Per/Oscar are wrong in pointing out that our choices are massively constrained, and do not at all represent the full spectrum of Wesleyan alumni. The trustee pool, as it stands, represents a valid portion of Wesleyan’s engagement with the world, but don’t pretend that that portion is the only part suited to this task, and, further, don’t depend on lame “hipsters don’t care” stereotypes to justify the lack of variety and representation in the trustee pool. It just doesn’t work.

    (this last part isn’t explicitly directed at 6)

  12. Nick Marshall

    @6- Not a valid answer. Write-ins are explicitly different from enfranchised candidates presented as part of a stable list. Write-ins are an adjunct, demanding a great deal more time and effort just to attain the same standard of legitimacy as one of the candidates presented as part of the established body. That it’s open to additions doesn’t make those additions easy.

    Even your answer points to the problem- one person, a while ago, managed to get onto the ballot and lost, and ever since, we’ve had trustees chosen from a pool we don’t define.

    I’m not saying Wesalums should get the final say on every trustee; business and nonprofit experience is obviously helpful for the functioning of a university, and the endowment and financial stability of Wesleyan is necessary to its continued ability to be a vector for critical thought and social engagement. But I don’t think that Braille and Per/Oscar are wrong in pointing out that our choices are massively constrained, and do not at all represent the full spectrum of Wesleyan alumni. The trustee pool, as it stands, represents a valid portion of Wesleyan’s engagement with the world, but don’t pretend that that portion is the only part suited to this task, and, further, don’t depend on lame “hipsters don’t care” stereotypes to justify the lack of variety and representation in the trustee pool. It just doesn’t work.

    (this last part isn’t explicitly directed at 6)

  13. anon

    write-in candidates are welcome to the process. Find someone you think respresents you or get off your ass and run for it yourself. A few years ago, one person did this and was on the slate of candidates. (they ultimately lost, but they did have the opportunity to participate)

  14. anon

    write-in candidates are welcome to the process. Find someone you think respresents you or get off your ass and run for it yourself. A few years ago, one person did this and was on the slate of candidates. (they ultimately lost, but they did have the opportunity to participate)

  15. Nick Marshall

    @4- Right, sure, but that’s assuming that there aren’t any social-worker alums who’d be interested in the position, which seems really really unlikely. Do you know this for a fact? I’d be curious about the process of nominating candidates.

  16. Nick Marshall

    @4- Right, sure, but that’s assuming that there aren’t any social-worker alums who’d be interested in the position, which seems really really unlikely. Do you know this for a fact? I’d be curious about the process of nominating candidates.

  17. Anon

    As the person before me pointed out, Wesleyan DOES have student and faculty trustees.

    Of course, the predictable answer to this is “yea, but the student trustees/reps are just the WSA kids who are on track for a career in business or politics.”

    Sure! That may be the case. But is that their fault? The Board’s fault?

    Problem is, the kinds of folks who you would consider “representative” just don’t tend to get involved at this level because they have other priorities in their lives. Nothing wrong with that, but it leads to situations like this, where the person is complaining about a problem that doesn’t exist because they don’t know any better.

    If you want more hipsters, artists, and activists on the WSA and on the Board, the hipsters, artists, and activists will first have to get informed and get involved. But you seem happy just being the peanut gallery.

  18. Anon

    As the person before me pointed out, Wesleyan DOES have student and faculty trustees.

    Of course, the predictable answer to this is “yea, but the student trustees/reps are just the WSA kids who are on track for a career in business or politics.”

    Sure! That may be the case. But is that their fault? The Board’s fault?

    Problem is, the kinds of folks who you would consider “representative” just don’t tend to get involved at this level because they have other priorities in their lives. Nothing wrong with that, but it leads to situations like this, where the person is complaining about a problem that doesn’t exist because they don’t know any better.

    If you want more hipsters, artists, and activists on the WSA and on the Board, the hipsters, artists, and activists will first have to get informed and get involved. But you seem happy just being the peanut gallery.

  19. anon

    The WSA President is a trustee so we do have one. Also, members of the executive committee of the WSA sit on every trustee committee to give student input into every decision.

  20. anon

    The WSA President is a trustee so we do have one. Also, members of the executive committee of the WSA sit on every trustee committee to give student input into every decision.

  21. Anonymous

    your analysis makes zero sense. the Board of Trustees runs a college, and people in finance and nonprofits have a hell of a better chance of running a college well than a hippy who’s a social worker.

    also, our small endowment isn’t blamed up that we have a smaller % of business people. in fact, we don’t. it’s that previous people running the school spent too much and saved too little (which has been rectified by the current Board)

    the ability to make decisions for a school like Wesleyan is far to important to be left up to anyone.

    – a left-leaning senior

  22. Anonymous

    your analysis makes zero sense. the Board of Trustees runs a college, and people in finance and nonprofits have a hell of a better chance of running a college well than a hippy who’s a social worker.

    also, our small endowment isn’t blamed up that we have a smaller % of business people. in fact, we don’t. it’s that previous people running the school spent too much and saved too little (which has been rectified by the current Board)

    the ability to make decisions for a school like Wesleyan is far to important to be left up to anyone.

    – a left-leaning senior

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