Memes for a Need-Blind Wes

Just because it’s the summer doesn’t mean the activism has to stop.  A new Tumblr is taking on the change in the need-blind policy one meme at a time.

The creator of the tumblr says ze created it to “point out all the terrible contradictions both he and the administration say/do at the expense of need-blind admissions.”  Ze asserts:

“He has an at-first-glance convincing argument: basically, right now the amount of money we can give for financial aid would allow us to accept 90% of the incoming class need-blind. However, after the budget for financial aid runs out, admissions will need to look at applicants financial situation. Roth says that there is no reason to avoid repealing need-blind just because it is “morally pure” to keep it. Rather, the university’s first priority is “to provide the best chance of success to the students we graduate.” That makes sense; don’t sacrifice quality over… morality?”

Check out the rest of the memes at

KEEP WES NEED-BLINDAlso, if you haven’t already, check out the Need-Blind Admissions Policy Focus Group website.  The site features historical and financial information in addition to linking to discussion on the policy change.

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Tag: need-blind

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39 thoughts on “Memes for a Need-Blind Wes

  1. Estrella Lopez '07

    Reducing what should be a nuanced conversation to a meme is a poor strategy.  Come on, Wes, we’re better than memes, soundbites, and bumperstickers.  If you have something worth saying, go ahead and put in the time to express your ideas fully, rather than trying to pat yourself on the back with how witty you can be in 10 words or less.

    1. Rothtastic

       Again, reference Guest’s comment and my and A-Batte’s responses. Again, the memes are just a way to publicize information quickly to a lot of people and provide links out to more information for those interested and resources for how to get more involved. That is why for every meme that has actual facts on it (rather than just a snarky bit), I always link out to my sources as well as extra information.

      I truly hope you will research more into the topic before writing non-constructive criticism.

  2. Guest

    Perhaps if students were willing to talk seriously about this issue with the administration, and protest in a more effective way than internet memes, the administration would discuss university changes with students the first time around.

    1. Rothtastic

       Perhaps if the university had not approved this decision after the majority of students had left campus, internet memes would not have to be the best channel for increasing awareness. The point of the tumblr isn’t to directly protect to the administration; it is directed towards students and alumni, to get the basic facts across in the most efficient way. There are plenty of other ways students are protesting which are more serious; just because they are not as well-publicized does not mean they don’t exist.

      That is why Syed posted the link to the “Need-Blind Admissions Policy Group” as well.

    1. Rothtastic

       Not a web-designer, just a philosophy major. Would appreciate constructive criticism rather than just criticism. Message the account if you so desire to actually be helpful.

  3. Vicowig

    International students pay the increase of tuition and receive nothing back, at least financially. And you call this “morally pure”?

    1. Rothtastic

      Of course not. Obviously we do not have a full need-blind policy in place even currently (in addition to the problem facing international students, transfer applications are not looked at with a need-blind policy). Rather, the issue is that Roth’s only positive description about need-blind policy is the it is “morally pure” which is absolutely absurd.

  4. Ross

    Only 10% of the class will have ability to pay factored in. This is a necessary change in order to keep tuition steady. If we raise tuition we must raise the amount of financial aid. If we cap financial aid as a percentage of the money that comes from full price payers we can ensure that tuition only goes up at the rate of inflation.

    1. Zach

      Who said anything about “keeping tuition steady”? It will continue to rise (at the rate of inflation, thankfully) whether or not Wesleyan remains need-blind.

      Your first two assertions are both questionable. Ten percent is a rough (and optimistic) estimate, rounded down; Roth was saying 10-20% at the Affordability Forum in April, but no one knows for sure. Plus, a number of students and alumni have questioned whether it’s a “necessary change”—including Robert Alvarez ’96, a finance analyst who was involved in preserving need-blind at Wes in 1992. Here’s his look at the numbers:

      1. Ross

        The fact is we have to address the debt and grow the endowment and Robert Alvarez does not suggest any alternative means to do so. This is a concrete plan to ensure the growth of our University and  to remain competitive. I agree with the argument that losing our need-blind title hurts our reputation but I believe the savings will ensure that we are competitive in other ares (facilities, endowment, tuition/cost). If we can get our financial house in order then perhaps one day we could go back to the need-blind policy. We talk about wanting to provide a Wesleyan education for all, regardless of class, but what kind of a Wesleyan are we offering if we do not grow our facilities and faculty? We could remain need blind and force more students to take loans or raise tuition but then we saddle alumni with crippling debt for the rest of their lives. When I was a freshman, plans were complete for a brand new Molecular and Life Sciences building to take the place of Shanklin. It was to be completed in 2014. Now it may never happen if we keep going with the current policies. We need better science laboratories. Since the recession, the only new building projects (Allbritton, the new CRC) have come from Alumni donations. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. The University should be able to afford $200 million in new building projects instead of facing $200 million in debt from the early 2000s. I’m open to other solutions but you do not seem to offer any.

        1. Zach

          “This is a concrete plan to ensure the growth of our University and  to remain competitive.”

          Alternately, it’s a vague plan to address affordability issues by making admission to Wesleyan even more contingent on financial means for an unspecified portion of the student body while sending a clear message to low-income applicants not to apply. This isn’t the first time Wesleyan’s administration has proposed that measure (claiming dire times render it “necessary”), nor the first time a coalition of students, parents, and trustees have stood firmly against it (see: 1992 occupation of North College).

          As for alternate solutions: there are a whole lot of students interested in seeking some other solutions, but it requires a detailed glance at Wesleyan’s budget, which hasn’t yet been granted. That’s why Zachary Malter is proposing a new student task force charged with “charged with identifying areas for cuts and devising creative ideas for new revenue and costs savings.” Spouting a false dilemma between axing need-blind and saddling students with loans probably won’t help anyone with that task.

          Here’s Malter’s post:

          1. recent alum

            It’s not a vague plan. Capping financial aid will save millions of dollars a year. Right now Wes has to spend as much as students need, and not only will this cut out variability, it will allow Wes to set a budget that’s affordable.

            The reason why the admin has been reluctant to listen to student ideas is that when Roth says, “what are some of your ideas?” students just say “cut athletics” or “cut the arts”… basically anything they personally aren’t involved in. not exactly productive. the admin is loathe to cut any one area without a reason except “it will save money” (and I strongly agree with this policy) and I have yet to see a student proposal that makes any sense. if a student task force is created (and it has a lot of potential) then I sincerely hopes it doesn’t involve people who want to cut something because they personally don’t think it’s “Wesleyan” enough. 

            and as mentioned, Alvarez doesn’t address the crucial point here – the endowment. all he talks about is the budget, and how it’s balanced. yes, Wes has done a great job controlling costs. however, the idea here is that the draw on the endowment needs to come down as MUCH as possible in order to allow it to grow so that in the future, it CAN support need-blind financial aid. the strain on the endowment needs to lessen, because Wes is DIRT POOR compared to peer schools. you have the spend X to be at the top, and if Wes can only spend 80% of X, that’s not good enough. so, the endowment must grow back to the competitive strength it had in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s

          2. Robert Alvarez

            Regarding the endowment, the University currently plans to reduce annual spending from 5.5% now to 5% in a few years time. By the way, the fact that the administration/Board has left it that high for this long is pretty amazing, but that’s a discussion for another day. You say that it needs to come down as much as possible – do you have a specific target in mind?

            Aside from not screwing around with the endowment on the spending side (which Wesleyan has a storied history of doing, sadly, and not for financial aid binges) real progress on that front will come from gifts, primarily capital campaigns.

          3. Ross

            I highly doubt the student task force will be able to identify the millions of dollars of increased revenue and spending cuts that would be required to keep Wesleyan need blind, pay down our 200 million dollar debt, allow the University to grant new construction projects/hire more faculty/etc, and grow the endowment. Also, I’m sick and tired of spending cuts! I noticed them in my four years at Wesleyan and they need to stop. The school desperately needs a new Molecular and Life Sciences Building to replace Shanklin. We need a new theater, more dormitories and commissaries as the student body grows, and more faculty to keep class sizes small and ensure every student can take the classes they want. If that means going need-aware for a while so be it!

        2. Robert Alvarez

          Sorry, I didn’t notice this comment thread sooner, or I
          would have gladly responded. My quick look at the financials was not meant to
          be the end of the matter, but only a first cut. I will gladly look at any
          numbers the University provides in addition to the audited results already
          reviewed. Especially interesting would be detailed projections, for obvious
          reasons. They would make it possible to suggest the alternative means you
          suggested I should offer.

          The University has suggested this may be a temporary change
          till the next campaign. It has also been reported in the press that they think
          this could save $5m a year when fully implemented. Let’s think about the next
          five years, the likely bridge to the next campaign. Since you would roll this
          out a class year at a time, you wouldn’t save the whole $5m at first;
          simplistically, assuming a straight line roll out, you’d be looking at saving
          around $17.5m over those five years, or $3.5m a year. That would have been 1.8%
          of our operating revenues in 2011, a year we were over $13m in the black.

          With that as context, a few comments on your points. You say
          we should grow our faculty; it’s currently listed as a 9:1 student-faculty
          ratio – do you have a target in mind? You say we should spend money on new
          construction instead of having to deal with our old debt, but I’m sure you
          realize that much of the old debt came from previous construction. I must say,
          I am surprised to hear (in the midst of a discussion of how tight our money is) a call for major investments in new dorms and
          commissaries – haven’t we over the past decade built new dorms and a new campus
          center? You say the University should be able to afford $200m in new projects, AND
          work its debt down, AND build its endowment. The entire University budget is
          only around $200m – how does that math work? The $3.5m from jettisoning need blind
          isn’t going to go very far with that wish list.

          You actually made my central point for me,
          namely that there are a series of things that you – and presumably the
          administration – would prioritize over preserving need blind. Such is your prerogative.
          Bluntly, however, many of us would choose need blind over newer facilities,
          among other things. I happen to think that more alumni fall into the latter
          camp than the former, but I may be wrong.

          1. Ross

            You say your analysis is just a first cut but it has been widely used by the student body as a justification to take a crack at the budget line by line. This is a bad idea. Students on the WSA have a way of prioritizing their own agenda. How can we ensure that Zach Malter’s task force will be fair and balanced? There is a reason why the Board of Trustees does not give seats to current students. There are reasons why the whole world is not privy to our University’s financial records, yet you would have them all published on Wesleying.
            I am well aware that our debt is in part due to drawing on the endowment to build the CFA. However, there were poor investments made in the early 2000’s and it is not fair to entirely attribute our troubles to mistakes from the 1980’s. To help grow the endowment we will draw down spending to 5%, but that is not good enough. President Roth’s goal in 2007 was to double the endowment within a few years meaning it could have been about $1.3B by now sans recession. But why should we give up on a billion dollar endowment? The larger the endowment, the more disposable capital we have for things like financial aid. 
            My target for the student to teacher ratio is 9:1 and as the student body continues to increase we will need more professors. Each year it has gotten tougher for students to get the classes they want and need to take. Also, the 9:1 ratio is aggregate; it does not account for the popularity of certain classes and majors.
            I did not actually mean we should allocate $200M to new building projects, that was merely to illustrate how much debt we have on the balance sheet. But we should be able to have our new Molecular and Life Sciences building that was promised in 2007 and abruptly canceled in 2008.
            Yes perhaps I do have higher priorities than maintaining the title of need-blindness but that’s because I believe we will return to the policy eventually. The savings we would accumulate could actually enable us to achieve the vision for Wesleyan in 2020 that President Roth laid out a short time ago. Wesleyan finds itself with roughly one-third of the economic capacity (measured by endowment per student, net of debt) of the average school in its peer group. That is not fair to any students whether they are paying full price or not. The students say “give the student solution a chance,” to which I reply “give the administrative solution a chance.”
            In 2007, pre-recession, we had dreams and goals to grow the University. We have tabled all of those goals for five years instead of being as need-blind as we can afford to be. Enough is enough, we need more revenue and we need it now if we are to truly offer a Wesleyan experience worthy of $60,000+/year.

          2. Robert Alvarez

            Why should our projections be hidden? We are not Goldman Sachs hiding a secret trading strategy, or Coke hiding a secret formula. If this is really the best strategy, which I assume the administration in good faith believes it to be, it will withstand the scrutiny of alumni, faculty and students.

            Students do have an agenda. You know who else has an agenda? Administrators. Faculty. Heck, even alumni. Faculty may not want lines reassigned to specific departments to alleviate the trouble getting classes you mention. Likewise, there are certainly administrators who would gladly limit need blind to prevent their own budgets being cut. That doesn’t make them bad, it just makes them human. We solve such problems with openness, transparency, and spirited public debate. Wesleyan virtues, all.

            If everyone had simply fallen in line in the past, Wesleyan would have long ago abandoned need blind. Twenty years ago another President made a related (although less drastic) proposal invoking similar arguments. I have no doubt that at the time Bill Chace and his team thought that they had made the best decision possible. Despite that fact, the collective community – after working through the matter – disagreed. We thought that a different choice was appropriate, that a different ordering of our priorities was what we wanted. And at the end of the day it was that different choice which was adopted. Will that happen again? I don’t know. But it is a conversation, even if difficult, that Wesleyan needs to have.

            A couple of times you have conflated drawing down our endowment with going into debt. Those are separate things, and usually go in opposite directions. The CFA was opened in the early ‘70s, but you are right that it was part of a spending spree on construction that first put us in the compromised endowment position from which we’ve never truly recovered.

            I don’t think we should give up the goal of building the endowment, and don’t think I anywhere suggested as much. There are three aspects to building an endowment: sound investment strategy, conservative spending rates, and increased gifts. What I am arguing is that you can do those things and still find a way to spend another $3.5m a year on financial aid over the next five years, which is what the issue is today. You are upset that the life science building promised in 2007 was cancelled. Well, all of us were promised many times since then that we would be remaining need blind, so I guess we both have reasons to be disappointed.

          3. Zach

            “Students on the WSA have a way of prioritizing their own agenda. How can we ensure that Zach Malter’s task force will be fair and balanced?”

            This question confounds me. “Fair and balanced” to whom? And why? The student task force isn’t supposed to be unbiased—it’s supposed to represent the sentiment of the student body, or its most outspoken and involved members. That’s what was left out of this discussion, and that’s what Zach Malter is trying to rectify.  Who involved in this debate is “fair and balanced,” and what are their priorities?

          4. Ross

            Reply to Zach and Robert:

            Fair and balanced to the student body as a whole. There is no way to ensure every department, extracurricular, and social event would be protected equally. Plus any such force would have to wait to meet until Fall 2012 meaning the administration would be left scrambling to redo the financial aid budget for the Class of 2017. Think about how Donovan was able to finance the Matisyahu concert or Micah was able to divert funds for sushi and drinks or how the WSA ran out of money this year and had to stop funding groups. Their track record is spotty at best. If students cannot even allocate under $1M successfully, why should we believe their prescriptions would be wise?I do not think all information should be witheld, merely that the University should exercise caution in how much it indulges this debate. Maybe if the previous need-blind proposal had taken effect, we would not find ourselves in this position. We could be reinstating the policy instead of revoking it.
            As for your suggestions to grow the endowment: clearly we have a sound investment strategy as the endowment has shown growth since the recession. We are making our spending rates more conservative, and as for gifts: Wesleyan alumni have one of the worst rates of giving compared to our peer institutions. Unless you are prepared to spearhead the next fundraising campaign I would caution against spearheading the campaign to keep Wes need blind. Also, where are you getting the figure that we would save $3.5M a year and were $13M in the black for 2011? I would love to take a look at that information.

          5. Zach

             You’re citing Donovan’s Matisyahu concert as an example of why a student body task force shouldn’t be trusted?

            The primary controversy surrounding that concert was that Donovan subverted committee protocol and *didn’t* consult other members. By citing situations in which transparency was utterly subverted and students were left in the dark, you’re only proving my point.

          6. Ross

            Zach Malter says: what if students had the chance to brainstorm cost-saving measures and give direct budget input? Well probably something like what happened with the SBC this year: the quality of extracurriculars greatly diminished as a result of decreased funding. If the WSA cannot even allocate $750K properly, why should we give any students a crack at a budget way larger than that?

          7. Zach

            “The quality of extracurriculars greatly diminished as a result of decreased funding.”

            Err, you weren’t on campus this year. What are you talking about, and what does it have to do with this conversation?

          8. Robert Alvarez

            This article (
  ,0,4914198.story) says that the University told Moody’s the changes would save $5m per year eventually. If you have another source, please share it. As a gross simplification, we can assume 1/4 of that comes from each class, and that the University will roll out the changes over four years. Do the math, and you get $17.5m saved over five years, for an average of $3.5m. Certainly not exact, but a reasonable ballpark for us to use in talking about the scale of the proposed savings. Note, a lot less than that would presumably be saved the first year, so I’m not sure how much “scrambling” there would be if the changes were postponed for one year.

            This site ( contains links to our audited financial statements. Page 10 of the most recent release contains the $13m figure.

            As for “indulging” the debate, none of us need any permission, from anyone, to make our opinions known on this issue, especially so long as we do so in a respectful and informed manner. While I appreciate your suggestion that I use “caution” in talking about this issue unless I am planning on leading the next campaign, I assure you that no such warning is necessary. The beautiful part about Wesleyan is that we listen to the members of our community regardless of the checkbook that they bring to the table. Or at least I am under that impression.

          9. Ross

            I cannot seem to open your links, would you mind pasting them in their entirety? 

            My own bias has caused me to stray away from the core issue: fairness. If we maintain the need-blind policy and increase tuition at the rate of inflation we will see a decline in the number of students coming from middle class and upper middle class families. The University will be forced to offer more loans instead of subsidies saddling students with crippling debt for the rest of their lives. Students from the wealthiest and poorest families will be fine but students from the middle may have to decline admission due to their parents’ inability or unwillingness to pay. Something has to give. Either we continue to increase tuition by 5% every year, or we go back to the operating budget and start to cut out bone after four years of trimming the fat, or we cap financial aid. Keep in mind that the University will remain need-blind until the ceiling is hit. Though tuition will increase by 4.5% this fall, the financial aid budget is projected to increase by 11%. That gap in revenue will have to come from gifts that could be going to the endowment or the operating budget. It is unacceptable that we operate at a third of the economic capacity of our peer institutions. Each year I have seen the quality of a Wesleyan education diminish as we spend less and less money on that education. Our tuition is higher our peers and we offer fewer resources. If we continue to make need-blind the number one priority we will continue to see a rise a tuition greater than the rate of inflation and a decrease in the amount of money spent per student. It just doesn’t make sense.

          10. Ross

            Sorry for the typos by the way, I am trying to do this quickly since I’m at work. My central argument is this: by having the last 10% of the class pay full price, that money will greatly enrich the experience for poor and middle class students. Wesleyan must make enough through net tuition to cover the change in fund-raising strategy (75% of gifts going to the endowment instead of 60%) without sacrificing quality (source: inside higher ed.)

          11. Ross

            OK Robert, I looked over the financial reports dating back to 2004. What I took from them was that the budget has become increasingly dependent on student charges net financial aid. In 2004 it accounted for 49% of the budget, in 2011 it was 62%. If you believe in capping an increase in tuition to the rate of inflation, and drawing down spending from the endowment, you have to support ending need-blind. Endowment spending was 24% of the annual budget in 2004, it was 16% in 2011. This is because the effects of our losses from the recession are still factored in to what we are able to spend. If we don’t cap financial aid, student charges net financial aid will diminish along with endowment spending. The University won’t have enough capital to increase our operating budget in line with tuition increases. The goal should be to have an increase in the operating budget that outpaces the growth of tuition. This way the amount of spending (endowment minus financial aid/student) can remain the same or increase and thus maintain or increase the quality of each student’s education. Student charges net financial aid provide the bulk of Wesleyan’s money for the year. Either we continue to ramp up tuition and really put a Wesleyan education out of reach for the middle class or we curb it and end need-blind temporarily. Otherwise we will see a decline in how much money we are able to spend on each individual student. In order to maintain the quality of the student experience we are going to need more money from student charges. We have more than 3000K undergrads now and it’s becoming clear we cannot afford to pay for all of them with endowment spending and private gifts if we want to curb the out of control pace of tuition increases. We cannot afford to have our cake and eat it too anymore.

          12. Zach

            This text is too narrow to read this argument over competing priorities is pointless this text is too narrow to read this argument over competing priorities is pointless this text is too narrow to read this argument over competing priorities is pointless this text is too narrow to read this argument over competing priorities is pointless this text is too narrow to read this argument over competing priorities is pointless this text is too narrow to read this argument over competing priorities is pointless

  5. Adam

    About the meme pictured: need-blind advocates should be wary of conflating Wesleyan’s shift away from need-blind admissions with the rising tuition cost. Yes, both the shift away from need-blind admissions and the rising tuition cost are lamentable. However, need-blind admissions is actually one of the reasons (although certainly not the only reason) that our tuition is so high.

    I write this not as an opponent of the need-blind cause, nor as a proponent of astronomical spikes in tuition, but simply to remind us all that if we want our arguments to be heard, we need to be well informed. We need to have our information in order.

  6. Need-blind listserv

    If you’re interested in getting involved in organizing at a level beyond reblogging memes (fun as that is), join the listserv:

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