Fit To Print: Wesleyan Need Blind Struggles Covered in NYT

What’s the Twittersphere saying about the Times piece? Click past the jump.

A weekend New York Times article covers Wesleyan’s change in admissions policy, giving a national and international platform to some of the activism surrounding need blind here on campus. With little communication to the alumni and larger Wesleyan community about the recent change in admissions policy, for many alums this could be the first they hear of the policy shift, a topic we’ve been abuzz with for months. Not only did my mom text me this morning to check the article out, but other people are wildly sharing it, too: it is listed in the top-emailed articles on the NYT website, and the tweeting world is hot on the topic.

The article cites financial instability as threatening diversity at small elite colleges, specifically Wesleyan and Grinnell. Small schools like our own have been steadily raising tuition, while families are increasingly unable to meet rising costs in a weak economy. Richard Perez-Pena writes,

As a result, more students need financial aid than did a few years ago, they need much more of it on average, and colleges have fewer resources with which to provide it, though a major expansion of the federal Pell Grant program has made up some of the difference.

Wesleyan is described as having “had the most heated recent debate.” Disappointingly, then, no students are quoted in the piece, but President Roth gives a shout out to student activism, saying “I applaud the students’ commitment to our values,” and adds, “I did not think that the economic model we were using would be sustainable in even the midterm, over the next decade.” This is out of character given his recent confrontations with chalking Wesleyan students  and Nemo Allen ’12 from Democracy Now!. Links in the NYT article direct readers to two Argus articles about student activism surrounding the barge-in at the Trustee meeting and protest at the Homecoming football game. Additional coverage here and here.  Added to this semester’s memorably heated moments—but unmentioned in the Times—are the artistic chalk bomb, Alumni letter asking to withhold alumni donations, and parent assembly infiltrations.

Other notable news sources have been covering the activism surrounding need blind at Wesleyan, including NPR and Democracy Now!.

The article is not the first to compare Wesleyan’s reaction to economic woes to that of Grinnell. In a similar struggle to reconcile financial structural instability, Grinnell has tentatively acknowledged need-blind admission as a core value while opening up the conversation with students, trustees, faculty, and alumni. For now, they have opted to cut grant size, and limit how much students can borrow as oppose to changing admissions policies that would set quotas for who could afford full tuition. With so much of the activism here being aimed at transparency and having “a conversation,” it’s unclear whether conversations in the upcoming years at Wes will be of similar importance on President Roth’s agenda. For Grinnell, it is not the small endowment-per-student that has posed such a financial problem. It’s the fact that almost 90% of their admitted students receive aid, compared with almost 50% of Wesleyan’s admitted students receiving aid. Grinnell President Kington says, “We want to be an access institution. But we can’t be only an access institution.”

[New York Times]

An alum mentioned to Wesleying, wisely, that this article is likely the first that many alumni are hearing about any change in need-blind admissions—despite all the discussion on campus. Here’s a glimpse at the reaction to the piece on Twitter:

For more Wesleying  coverage: see “need-blind” tag.

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