Whatever Happened to that Need-Blind Thing?

Zach Schonfeld ’13 is bringing it back, baby.  The topic, I mean. Not the actual thing. The topic.

Pictured: Roth answers student questions regarding need-blind at a forum in September.

Pictured: President Roth answers student questions regarding need-blind at a forum in September. Photo by Rachel Pincus ’13.

Remember way back when the campus was all talking about need-blind and stuff? Man, when was that? Oh oh, only three months ago?! Are you sure? What happened?!

Need-blind has been conspicuously absent from campus discussion lately. (I would have put a link in that last sentence but really, nobody’s talked about it much in months.) Many of need-blind’s most fervent and vocal advocates have burned out, have moved on, have grown hoarse from what seems to be a stagnant discussion. (Have forgotten?)

Fortunately, Our Most Glorious and Dear Leader Zach is having none of that. His recent article in USA Today College focuses on recent activism taking place among alumni rather than students, describing a “poignant patchwork of alumni perspectives” manifesting themselves in a plethora of petitions recently circulating amongst alumni. First there was one asking alums to withhold donations (for reasons involving sexual assault as well as need-blind), then came Lana Wilson ’05s more recent Change.org petition. Zach’s bit discusses the general alumni response, covering both sides of the donation argument and everything in between. There is also a quote from President Roth, responding to the alumni voices:

“I respect those who signed the petition to retain need-blind, but I’ve been focused instead on trying to supply the largest sustainable amount of scholarships we can,” President Roth said in an email. “We simply do not have unlimited resources, and I’m unwilling to compromise the quality of the student experience to keep the need-blind label.”

Particularly relevant is the big, long-running fundraising campaign the University is just now making public. Though donations have thus far been fairly on track with the campaign’s hoped-for growth schedule, it remains to be seen whether the need-blind discussion, now running its eternal course through still-limited alum circles, will have any major impact on the campaign. Indeed, any judgments on that matter would be rather dubious. Who is to say that donations might be quicker, steadier, greater if our admissions policies had not changed? Who is to say that aggrieved alums, withholding their donations, will prevent us from reaching our goals on time?

Too many variables.

Regardless, it’s good that alums are voicing their thoughts and asserting their participation in campus affairs. I hope more of them do, now and going forward. I hope more of us on campus pick the conversation back up, too.

Give Zach’s article a read.

  • Liz ’99

    Roth sez, “I’m unwilling to compromise the quality of the student experience to keep the need-blind label.”

    Part of what some of us feel is integral to the quality of the student experience comes from the diversity that need-blind brings. Need-blind isn’t an … empty signifier. Yo.

  • 2lazy2login

    “When you value continuity above all, you glide silently over the fact that “the university” is radically transformed when its primary function is simply to exist. When the president of a university is fighting to get rid of programs that don’t pay for themselves, because they don’t pay for themselves, it doesn’t really matter what they are; the substance of the university’s intellectual work is not what matters, just its bottom line.”

  • alum

    Colgate and Amherst are finishing up $400-425 million campaigns, each exceeding their marks to hit $500 million. I bet an unplanned extra $100 million for Wes would be a big help to get need-blind back. anyone know someone with $100 million burning a hole in a pocket?

  • ’15

    “We simply do not have unlimited resources, and I’m unwilling to compromise the quality of the student experience to keep the need-blind label.” totally agreed. when there is not enough funding for labs/departments/scholarships for current students, maybe we should focus on the present (how to be more sustainable) then the future for a while.

    • ’15

      than* (typo)

    • pyrotechnics

      I’m not sure I understand your point. Money saved by cutting back financial aid isn’t going toward current students — it’s being used to grow our endowment and long-term budgetary sustainability. Need-blind related money, if I can use such a nebulous term, is going towards “the future” either way. The choice we face was to fund the tuition of incoming students or to (effectively) fund the educational quality of students even further into the future. The University chose the latter.

  • abbiehoffman.gov

    I think it’s cool of Zach to write that article and all but I feel like there needs to be a big-time student meeting before we can really say we’re “bringing back” the need-blind stuff

    • http://www.wesleying.org Zach

      The article was intended to highlight views throughout the alumni community, where the discussion only recently heated up. I didn’t presume to speak for any other students on campus. Props for the yippies reference.