While you were busy sleeping off your hangover/making up an innocuous story about the “philosophical debates” you engaged in Saturday night/whatever else you needed to do to make brunch with your parents bearable, a group of need-blind activists rounded out a weekend of events with a visit to the annual Parents’ Assembly yesterday morning.
Unbeknownst to the event organizers, Peter Myers ’13 was on hand to take the microphone and give a guest introduction to President Roth‘s speech, questioning the university’s commitment to transparency and appealing for an open dialogue on the issue. His points were well-received by the audience, who applauded him after his brief speech.
What followed were two more introductions before Roth took the stage. The front row of the lecture hall (Exley 150, for all you GRSers out there) was filled with 10-15 need-blind supporters, whom Roth referred to somewhat awkwardly throughout his talk. (Roth had not yet arrived at the time of the faux-introduction. He was also not present for the vast majority of the two real introductions, either.)
Earlier on, referring to the video cameras that were trained on him by the students (one from Democracy Now!, another two from Wesleying), he smirked, “Everyone O.K. with getting filmed? These kids like to be on video,” referring, apparently, to the video used to identify and bring charges against students at the recent Board of Trustees occupation.
Though he touched on the University’s current financial predicament at the end of his speech, he never once mentioned the term “need-blind” in his official remarks, so far as I can remember.
That changed with the Q&A.
One after another, parents questioned Roth’s lack of transparency, the damaging effects that a need-aware policy would bring to the character of the student body, and the dearth of need-blind-related fundraising efforts. One parent expressed disbelief that this new financial model was sustainable at all, comparing Roth’s promise not to raise tuition faster than inflation to President George H.W. Bush’s ill-fated promise not to raise taxes in the 1988 campaign:
Even Ben Doernbeard ’13 managed to get in a few words, despite Roth’s objections (see: 2:55). Notably, the parents present echoed precisely those issues that student protesters have highlighted all semester.
Interestingly enough, if you listen closely in the video containing the second question, Roth’s oft-quoted (and highly disputed) assertion that the decision will affect no more than 15 to 20 students has now changed to 20 to 30. Who wants to start a pool on what it is next?
Roth also remarked that he could have gone even further behind our backs by directing the admissions office to look at zip codes and SAT scores as barometers of wealth instead of ending need-blind, pointing to the protesters seated in the first row, and gibing, “We wouldn’t have this.”
A couple that had raised questions during the discussion, whom I spoke with after, commented that Roth had come across as effusive on an issue that few parents had even been aware of before this weekend. One Parent P ’16, recalling that one of the introduction speakers had emphasized the importance of reading emails from the school as a way of staying involved, noted, “I haven’t received no frickin’ need-blind email.”
My favorite moment, however, happened at the end of the Q&A session, when one particularly distressed mother revived the debate over gender-neutral bathrooms (possibly in reference to the shower incident that occurred earlier this semester), reminding me of that time before I was born.
At least she gave Roth a break from talking about need-blind.
More video and pictures from Zach and myself below: