“Need Blind Now!” Graffiti Hits South College

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Chalking was so 2013. Bold saboteurs took to the rear wall of South College over the past weekend to tag the words “Need Blind Now!” to the brownstones. The writing, which appeared Sunday morning, represents an escalation in casual chalking graffiti to spray paint, which is virtually non-existent on this campus; it also represents a break in the relative silence on campus around need-blind.

One passer-by reported the smiling face of Michael Roth, who called down from the president’s office window to the group of students discussing the graffiti underneath. He told them the University would “restore need blind as soon at it can.” Don’t hold your breath.

The administration did not have an official response to the graffiti, though it was promptly removed.

Chalking was officially banned on Wesleyan’s campus in 2002, when President Douglas Bennet ’59 declared a moratorium on the practice. The need-blind movement has previously used chalking (most notably in fall 2012) as a means to raise awareness and protest Wesleyan’s getting rid of need-blind. In October 2012, students attempted a legal chalk-in but were thwarted by President Roth.

If you walk by South College you can still see a hint of red spray paint on the edge of the building.

See our past coverage on chalking here.

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  • alum

    Mr. Oswaldo, I think you have your facts wrong. ” He told them the University would ‘restore need blind as soon at it can.’ Don’t hold your breath.”

    http://sustainableaffordability.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2013/12/09/what-is-sustainable-affordability/

    “We would like to admit all students without any regard for their ability to pay, as we did under Wesleyan’s “need-blind” policy. That’s an achievable goal, and the THIS IS WHY campaign will raise approximately half the funds we need. Wesleyan will require another endowment-focused campaign to raise all the endowment funds necessary to reach this goal in a fiscally responsible manner.”

    If you run the numbers, it’s actually feasible. It’ll take 15 years, but need blind will return. Wesleyan has every incentive to do so. Hamilton and Vassar recently returned to need-blind… after raising the funds to make it sustainable again. It’ll happen, the money just needs to be there.

    • senior

      It’s funny these politically conscious activists, who have an uncanny understanding of the world and its workings from their Soc 101 classes, have failed to realize the school needs money in order to reinstate need blind.

      Spending money to remove graffiti seems almost counter-intuitive, no?

      • econ grad student

        “The Wesleyan endowment generated a 10.8% return for fiscal 2013, ending the year with a market value of $688.6 million. The $72.4 million increase from the $616.2 million ending value in fiscal 2012 reflects $68.9 million of investment gains, $29.9 million of spending and expenses, $30.3 million of gifts and permanent transfers and $3.1 million of operating reserve investments.”
        source: http://www.wesleyan.edu/finance/annualreporting/index.html

        The endowment is a drain on the school: it sucks money out of programs and uses all investment returns to further increase its own, abstract interests. If even a fraction of a percent of the total returns were actually spent on the school last year, my friends would be here next year. Do NOT tell me “there’s no money for need blind”.

        • alum

          Wes was spending > 5.5% of the endowment for quite a long time, which is unsustainable, and only last year got it under 5% (down to 4.5%). Not sure what you’re even talking about “econ” grad student.

    • Jaded Student

      Mr. alum, I think you have all of your facts wrong. Wesleyan’s total revenue has in fact been increasing by millions of dollars in the past 6 years.

      From the 2013 Fiscal Year executive summary:
      “Wesleyan endowment stands at 688.8 million, an increase of over 72 million since 2012”
      “The investment pool ended with a net 73.4 million increase”

      Where is this money going? Why is it just sitting in “investment pools” or stagnant endowment funds? Why isn’t this money going towards financial aid, or need-blind, or anything that matters? Just in our net income in the 2013 fiscal year, the endowment has generated enough money to give a FULL SCHOLARSHIP to nearly 1200 Wesleyan students.

      The net flow of money has been inwards, not outwards. Wesleyan’s endowment received 30.3 million in gifts, yet only spent 29.8 million. What happened to those $500,000 dollars? Why wasn’t this spent on providing scholarships to Wesleyan students needing financial aid?

      Furthermore, where are these funds being invested? A large part of Wesleyan’s investment portfolio is in the dark – probably wrapped up in Exxon and Shell and whatever company has the highest financial returns.

      • alum

        You’re completely misunderstanding the point of an endowment. The idea is to spend 4-5% of the fund per year so that it a) grows and b) allows for funds to be used in perpetuity, and especially for a “rainy day” if fundraising is poor for a few years in a row. The endowment is not, and never has been, a pile of money that can just be “spent.” Wesleyan wasn’t always poor. It became poor because it did exactly what you’re suggesting – spend money as it comes in. If you do that, you never grow the endowment, which is the entire problem to begin with.

        Wesleyan is vastly, vastly under-endowed compared to peer schools. Endowment per student, most of the other “elite” LACs like Vassar, Middlebury, etc. all have 2-3 up to even 10 times the endowment per student that we do. What that means is that, when every school is spending 4-5% of its endowment to add to the budget, Wes has less money coming in because 4% of $700 million is a lot less than 4% of $1.7 billion. Which means it has to raise tuition. Which means more financial aid is needed, which means more money must be spent. You get the idea. Vicious cycle. The only reason Wesleyan moved away from need blind in the first place is because the endowment isn’t big enough to support a growing financial aid budget.

        Look at every need blind school. They have a larger endowment/student than us. It’s not a matter of “Financial aid isn’t a priority for Wes.” Obviously it’s an extremely high priority, as they are giving out aid packages equal to that of schools vastly weathier than us. The administration finally realized, 20 years too late, that it was spending beyond its means.

        As I said, Wesleyan got into this spot in the first place because it did what you are suggesting – it spent what it earned. The CFA. Exley. Tons of financial aid when it couldn’t actually afford it. All of this depleted the endowment from the 1970’s when Wesleyan had the largest endowment/student in the country.

        That $73 million net increase? You can spent it all now, or you can invest it, grow it, and spend $4 million per year of that, in perpetuity. That’s worth a hell of a lot more than $73 million and that’s exactly how college endowments operate.

        The money from the This Is Why campaign is in fact going towards financial aid. Over $200 million of it is precisely for financial aid – endowed financial aid.

        That $500,000 gap you speak of? That has nothing to do with spending. The endowment received gifts of $30 million, and also generated a return on its own. The point is to grow the endowment. You WANT a net increase. Amherst has a $1.7 billion endowment, and they can afford need-blind even for international students. Why? Because they did not spend beyond their means. Wes had an endowment equal to Amherst in 1980. Now Amhert has 3x as much money. Because they were smart with their money. Now Wes is being much better, and will be able to offer much better aid in the future.

        As for companies Wes is investing in – pick your poison. More financial aid in the future, or investing only in green companies. Personally, I’d rather see better financial aid. Not like the companies are gonna notice our small investment if we pull out. The endowment shouldn’t be a social policy vehicle at the expense of financial aid.