President Roth, I Expect Your Efforts Redoubled

On the 24th of September 2012, you, President Roth, asked of us a favor. And we agreed.
I am here to keep that promise.

Is This Why?

“You should say, we have a commitment to diversity: we want to see that. In the demographics, not just the rhetoric,” urged President Roth one balmy September evening. “Because the rhetoric, whether it’s you’re in favor of need blind or I say I’m in favor of more scholarships, rhetoric is easy. Let’s see who’s here.”

Well, the results are in.

To sum up, the diversity of the Class of 2017 is markedly different from preceding Classes. As a percentage of the Class, students of color dropped slightly to 37 percent, while on the socioeconomic front the number of students receiving financial aid falls well short of any recent generation of Wesleyan students, dropping to 42 percent from 48 percent last year. Similarly, the number of students receiving grant-aid fell to 37 percent from 44 percent in the previous class. Meanwhile, the number of first-generation college students declined to 13 percent from 16 percent.

So yeah, the numbers look bad. As alumnus Ron Medley ’73 wrote recently to an alumni listserve, “the impact of Wesleyan’s new need-sensitive policy was even more immediate than I would have predicted.” We are not seeing a commitment to diversity reflected in the demographics.

“But wait!” you might say, “the percentage of Native Americans/Alaskan Natives went up!” That is true, and that is a good thing. “And geographic balance is holding pretty steady! And the number of international students went up, too!” Also true, but that is not really surprising when the admission process for international students is not even pretend-need-blind, and has not been for a long, long time.

At that forum, nearly a year ago, President Roth also invoked “the vigilance of the students” to oversee this paradigmatic change: “You should keep my feet to the fire and my colleagues feet to the fire every year to make sure we [meet our goals].”

My handle being pyrotechnics, I find it fitting to offer you and your colleagues a flame.

President Roth, I expect your efforts to be redoubled. Any commitment to diversity carries with it the occasional failure to make good on that commitment, but this particular failure is unacceptable and portends an unhappy future. So I expect that Nancy Meislahn and her Office of Admission will redouble their efforts to engage diverse communities and attract a diverse pool of matriculants, not just applicants. I expect that Anne Martin and the Investment Office will redouble their efforts to grow Wesleyan’s endowment. I expect that Barbara-Jan Wilson and University Relations will redouble their efforts to raise funds for financial aid, not just the University. I expect that John Meerts and the Finance Office will redouble their efforts to find us a path back to need-blind admissions. I expect that Joshua Boger ’73 and the Board of Trustees will redouble their efforts to show critical leadership, explore new sources of revenue, and develop a true Diversity University.

President Roth, I expect that you will redouble your efforts in all these things, and I expect you to be a determined and driven taskmaster.

We, the students, will do what we can to promote diversity within this community, beyond the demographics. And I will help where I can to achieve the goals which you have rightfully put forth. In the meantime, though, we will keep the fires burning.

  • R

    I hope Roth (or Meerts) doesn’t redouble his efforts. We’d get one more natural gas plant and another cut to need blind!

  • ’10

    Thank you for writing this. Truly discouraging news, but I hope things turn around.

  • ’12

    Agreed wholeheartedly. Keep feeding the fire, Wesleying. This is excellent reporting.

    What can we alums to do help?

    -’12

    • pyrotechnics

      What can alums do to help? Well, here is a few things.

      One, you can either donate or be intentional and vocal about not donating.
      Two, if you donate, you can donate directly to endowment for financial aid.
      Three, you can just be vocal in general.
      Four, you can reach out to your own (hopefully diverse) networks and communities, encouraging them to consider Wesleyan as a destination. You can figure out details (they are your networks and communities, after all), but coordination with the Office of Admission could probably be helpful.

      If we develop more exact ideas, I will probably post about it. Stay tuned.

    • r&b

      donate. and tell your friends about donating even it’s just five dollars. because that goes towards our participation rate. and that’s important not only because it is a metric that people use for ranking schools, but it is also used to determine eligibility for federal grants.

  • Josh

    It’s not just a matter of more revenue or new revenue; it’s a matter of priorities. The new track, the needless repaving of paths in the CFA, the new gassfired powerplant, not to mention the other capital projects on the horizon, the outsized salaries of administrators, the outsized number of administrators, the gratuitous spending on anachronistic and environmentally dangerous landscaping of the campus, all attest to the fact that diversity, let alone a return to need-blind, is NOT a priority for Meerts, Roth, and the Board.

    • alum

      Not all of those things are true, though. The new track was needed because the maintenance costs of the old one were through the roof and the track was becoming unfit for track meets, and the new turf field inside the track was paid for 100% by donations elicited specifically for the field. The repaving of paths in the CFA was done because old pipes had to be replaced.

      The new powerplant, at least for now, will be cheap to run because natural gas is so cheap, but when it becomes more expensive, it will turn out to be a not-so-great move by the school (not to mention not very environmentally friendly).

      Wesleyan is actually spending significantly less money on landscaping than peers, and with fewer workers. Plus, WildWES is being given more and more areas to remake.

      As for salaries, we have to be careful, because if we are offering much less than the “market rate,” we won’t get the best candidates (though there is probably a very strong argument for reducing the number of administrators). Does anyone have numbers in terms of how we stack up compared to peers with size of the admin?

      In addition, Wesleyan is falling further and further behind with regards to keeping up with major maintenance. What other capital projects are you referring to?

      I do believe we have to put more pressure on the administration to define a target with regards to returning to need-blind. How much more money does Wes need to get there? It would probably help with donations if Wes were to say, “We need x amount of dollars to get back to where we want to be.” Hamilton College became need blind 3 years ago after its fundraising campaign raised enough money. Why can’t Wes do the same?

  • yea

    good reporting wesleying, let’s keep the pressure on!