Here’s how to contact them to talk about your feelings or whatever.
Pictured: Joshua S. Boger ’73, chairman of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees.
Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees will be arriving on campus tomorrow for their annual three-day Buffy marathon Senior Week meeting, which traditionally takes place in the days leading up to Reunion & Commencement. Got a concern that you’d like the Board to address? Want to talk to them about your feelings? Just curious who is on that committee that makes all those decisions about campus in the first place? You can access a full list of the names, class years (nearly all are alumni), home states, and job titles of the Board members here, but unfortunately no contact information is provided, which is kind of weird when you really think about it. We’ve taken the liberty of amassing the Board members’ names and email addresses so you can contact them with thoughts or requests in advance of their meeting, which begins tomorrow:
For the second time this year, a determined group of Wesleyan students has disturbed a Board of Trustees gathering. And for the second time, President Roth ’78 has written about it on his blog. This instance wasn’t an activist effort to draw attention to lack of student input in trustee affairs (and I’m guessing it won’t result in any SJB charges). It was a flash mob by Precision Dance Troupe. As the University’s official YouTube channel explains:
On March 1, Wesleyan University announced at a dinner for trustees a $400M campaign to support access, inquiry, and impact. Wesleyan’s Precision Dance Troupe surprised the audience with music and dance. This Is Why.
Here’s the video footage. Watch closely at 1:56, when Bradley Whitford ’81 recites the entire Decathlon scene from Billy Madison on the spot. Just kidding, that doesn’t happen.
“These actions, which can be clearly identified as a demonstration and sit-in, are protected as a legitimate mode of expression under Regulation 12.”
Last week, we reported that a handful of the students who participated in the Board of Trustees Occupation received SJB summons for violating Regulations 14 and 15 of the Code of Non-Academic Conduct. On Friday, charged students received confirmation of the charges and notices of their Simplified Hearing dates. (The occupation and its subsequent disciplinary action are also the subject of a Middletown Press piece by former Argus editor-in-chief Justin Pottle ’13. The Hartford Courant has also gone public with an article. More on this press coverage soon.)
A few of the charged students, including Oliver James ’14, have had their ResLife jobs threatened by the disciplinary action. “Both Yona and I were threatened last week with termination of our positions at Res Life for participating in the Need Blind Trustees Action,” James explained to me a few days ago over email. “We both heard today that we are not going to be fired but that we are being put on probation for the rest of the 2012-2013 academic year. Essentially, any further deviation from our duties as Res Life Staff, regardless of the nature, is now grounds for being fired. We hear this as the administration’s way of saying ‘Stay in line, or else.'”
Fair? The University was just following through with disciplinary policy by charging these students, right?
Grinnell, like Wesleyan, is considering some fierce changes to its financial aid policies. As Kevin Kiley of Inside Higher Ed, the same writer who reported on Wesleyan’s policy change this summer, writes:
Grinnell College, which this year reported the fifth-largest endowment of any liberal arts college, announced Thursday that it would spend the next few months engaged in a conversation with campus stakeholders about changing its financial aid policies—including potentially, but probably not, going as far as making changes to need-blind admission.
Grinnell has about 1700 students and an endowment of roughly $1.5 billion. This puts their endowment per capita in the range of $800,000, or roughly four times that of Wesleyan. However, “the amount [Grinnell] spends on financial aid as a portion of its gross tuition revenue” is currently above 60%, while Wesleyan’s is only projected to be to be 37% in 2012.
As Kiley notes, Grinnell’s finances are in wonderful shape as compared with other top liberal arts colleges (including Wesleyan), and its announcement “could be a bellwether that the sector as a whole is reconsidering the model.”
On Sunday, a coalition of about 40 students occupied a closed Board of Trustees meeting in support of need-blind with a sign reading “BRING US INTO THE CONVERSATION.” The action was brief, it was respectful, and—most impressively—it resulted in a pretty thoughtful exchange between occupiers and occupied, all caught on video. “Just to be clear, students barging in is a long and time-honored tradition at Wesleyan,” one trustee opines about six minutes into the footage. “Some of us did it ourselves!” another chimes in. (Maybe even during the myriad of need-blindprotests that took place in 1992, if any of them are on the younger side.) (By “younger side” I mean under 46.)
Turns out the Student Judicial Board isn’t quite as enamored with the time-honored Wesleyanactivisttradition. According to tips, at least five students have received SJB notices in association with the 15-minute occupation. These students were captured on Public Safety’s camera (in the video, one P-Safe officer calmly asks students to exit the doorway and not “disrupt the meeting”), and their actions have been described as “failure to comply” and “disruptions.” It’s a pretty harsh follow-up on a protest that spurned more thoughtful dialogue than it did mutual resentment, but who’s surprised? Here’s what the charges look like:
Yesterday, at 1:20, concerned students met to plan an action to communicate the importance of need-blind admissions to the Board of Trustees, who were on campus this weekend for an official retreat. At 6:30, the meeting was reprised, with an extra dose of urgency: “Nobody has this covered; it’s not being taken care of by someone else. It’s just us, your classmates and neighbors, and as many of you can make it.” At noon today, students gathered outside of Usdan, wearing red and finishing up a banner while some brandished cameras. By 12:30, they were in a trustees’ meeting—telling them directly that students want to be included in the conversation.
The video at the top of this post includes much of the climax of the action; after the majority of students ended up going to the Daniel Family Commons, some unfurled the aforementioned banner—reading “BRING US INTO THE CONVERSATION”—outside the meeting room, while others attempted to enter. Public Safety guarded the main entrance while students sat in the open doorway, but a small group bypassed and made it inside the meeting, where they spoke to concerns about need-blind admissions and decision-making transparency.
Watch the video yourself to form your own take on the Board members’ responses to the latest installment in, as one trustee put it, Wesleyan students’ “long and storied” history of entering closed-door meetings. Because legendary camera operator Ben Doernbeard ’13was… held up at the door, the first couple minutes of conversation with the trustees are hard to catch, but a good portion of it is audible—turn up the volume, just to be sure.
Check out photos of the action (courtesy of our very own wieb$) on Facebook, or click past the jump to see them here, along with a couple extra shots of the banner by Zach.
Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees is on campus this weekend for the first time since May, when they first voted to scale back need-blind. Wesleying has received word of an urgent organization meeting happening in Usdan tonight—not to be confused with our upcoming forum with President Roth, which is set for Monday:
The Board of Trustees is on campus this weekend, and their Executive Session is tomorrow (Sunday). While we recognize that need blind admissions is a complicated issue, we believe we have a vital obligation as students to demonstrate to the board of trustees and the administration thatNeed-Blind matters to students.
We are meeting tonight at 6:30 PM in the Usdan Multipurpose Room (basement, down the hall from the package center) to discuss how we can respectfully and constructively communicate to the Board that Need-Blind matters. This is an urgent, all-hands on deck meeting. Convincing the Board that a large number of students care about Need-Blind is our only hope for having a voice in decisions that affect us as students. We will have other opportunities to do this, but this is a big one.
Are you interested in corporate social, environmental, or governance issues? The Committee for Investor Responsibility (CIR) is accepting applications for its fifth student representative.
The CIR is a student, faculty, staff, and alumni committee that has the power to engage in shareholder advocacy on behalf of the University. This includes activities such as proxy voting, advising the University on community investment, pushing for endowment transparency, and filing shareholder resolutions.
Visit our website and take a look at our charter and the recent work we are doing at: cir.wsa.wesleyan.edu. Membership will include approximately weekly meetings with students and/or staff, and several hours a week of outside work, including researching banks and institutions, researching background on shareholder resolutions, and drafting resolutions to bring to the Board of Trustees. Please read what is on the website and familiarize yourself with what we do BEFORE you apply.
To apply, submit one-two paragraphs, explaining why you’d like to be on the committee and what relevant skills you have, torwarren[at]wesleyan[dot]edu.
by Friday September 21st at Midnight. The top half dozen candidates will be contacted about an interview.
Also: Roth discusses plan to link tuition increases with inflation, encourages three-year graduation.
Earlier this month, in the wake of the Affordability Forum with President Roth, I posted a brief history of need-blind activism at Wesleyan. In particular, I included an interview with Ben Foss ’95 about the 1992 occupation of North College following President Chace’s proposal to modify Wesleyan’s need-blind status. Wesleyan, I explained then, is today considering instituting a cap on financial aid, a policy under which the University would remain need-blind for 85%, maybe 90% of admitted students in the Class of 2017. Once that cap is reached, admissions would begin to take financial need into account in its acceptance decisions.
So Robert Alvarez ’96, a fellow activist and former member of Wesleyan Republicans, wrote in with additional reflections:
These were not exclusively “radical” undertakings by any means. Rather, they truly united the campus. [ . . . ] In fact, the Wesleyan Republicans that year wound up spending most of our budget faxing out press releases the day of the North College takeover (yes, go ahead and snicker, but you didn’t email stuff like that back then and faxing was actually pretty expensive). That type of broad-based organizing is tons of hard work, but it is also powerfully effective when you pull it off. I truly hope that a similarly broad-based coalition can come together and protect Wesleyan’s proud financial aid tradition once again.
Turns out Judgment Day is sooner than I realized. Today, at 9:30 a.m. in the Daniel Family Commons, Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees will meet to discuss Roth’s budget proposals for the coming academic year. When the proposed budget passes, it will spell a short-term end to longstanding need-blind admissions practices at Wesleyan. It will also mean linking tuition increases with inflation and encouraging a three-year graduation route. The Affordability Forum hinted at a willingness to include Wes students in the ongoing discussion. So where is all the fanfare, the chanting, the debating?