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