Please put your iPhone back in your Patagonia sweatshirt pocket for a second. Apparently it’s time to rethink the idea that the Wesleyan student body is entirely made up of students from upper-class families, at least according to new data from the New York Times. In conjunction with an article on colleges recruiting from an increasingly diverse set of economic backgrounds, the Times has published a chart comparing the economic diversity of various schools. And Wesleyan has come out at number 13 on the list.
The chart ranks colleges according to a College Access Index, which is based on the percent of the past few freshman classes who came from low-income families (measured by the share receiving a Pell grant) and on the net price of attendance for low- and middle-income families. The data states that 18% of freshman classes arriving 2012-14 have received Pell grants, and that the average cost for low- and middle-income students is $8,700 a year. This gives Wesleyan a College Access Ranking of 1.5, putting us below Amherst and above Williams, for reference.
From a shared link going around Facebook, I’ve come across some interesting and worrying data from the Office of Institutional Research—data on the graduation and retention rates here at Wesleyan. On the website, it gives data for the “six-year graduation rates of the fall 2007, first-time, full-time, degree-seeking freshmen cohort.” This refers to the group of freshmen entering Wesleyan in fall 2007, making them what we would call the “Class of 2011.”
Here’s some of the data: Overall, with this cohort, there is a 92% graduation rate (including everyone), with 92% for both men and women when sliced in that fashion. Here is data broken down by race straight from the website:
American Indian or Alaskan Native students: n/a
Asian students: 91%
Black or African American students: 75%
Hispanic students: 95%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander students: n/a
Non-resident Alien (International) students: 96%
White students: 92%
Students of two or more races: 95%
Students of unknown race/ethnicity: 89%
I hope you can see the one grad rate that is substantially lower than the rest—black or African American students graduate at a rate of 75% from Wesleyan, compared to an overall average of 92% for this cohort.
As we are quite aware, the answer is: a lot. Baker’s article (following on the heels of two Autostraddle and Youngist articles) begins with the issues over degendering bathrooms, with several trans* students speaking up about their not-so-welcome experiences on campus, both from other students in the bathroom (“Wrong bathroom, fag!” one gender nonconforming student heard) and from the administration as a whole. After the group Pissed Off Trans* People organized students to remove gendered bathroom signs and replace them with “All Gender Restroom” signs, the Student Judicial Board singled out three trans* students (claiming they were the only identifiable ones) and charged them with property destruction, at the cost of $157 per sign— $5,245 total.
After a four-and-a-half hour hearing, the board lowered the fine to $451 and gave each student three disciplinary points (10 earns a suspension or dismissal). “The SJB action was taken because vandalism occurred,” Vice President of Student Affairs Mike Whaley said in a statement. “The board does not strive to determine the legitimacy of a protest/action, only whether such protest/action is done in a manner that violates our community’s standards.”
The three students tell Newsweek they feel they were unfairly singled out for actions committed by many but were most concerned with the symbolism of it all: This was the first time anyone knows of that the administration had punished individuals for LGBT activism.
“We’re talking about economic sanctions on activism at a school that profits off a reputation of being a progressive, activist-friendly space,” says Ben, a Wesleyan junior. “Being trans and fighting for trans justice is not profitable or shiny or appealing.”
Exactly a year ago, the Diversity University forum was held to address diversity at Wesleyan in light of hateful comments on the ACB, the use of race in Public Safety Reports, and allegations of unnecessary use of force by Public Safety. The conversation also touched on many other points and became a three hour-long panel/discussion with over 400 students, faculty, and staff in attendance.
These were a few of the most salient points from the forum, summed up by pyrotechnics in his post from last year:
We’ve got problems. Big, scary institutional and individual problems and shortcomings. We all do. Every one of us.
There are a lot of people who really give a shit. Not only was this evident in attendance, but in the words, actions, and thoughts of many. This carries from those brave students who shared their own horrifying stories all the way to President Roth at the helm of the University, who remarked: “I take this very seriously. It’s so corrosive. It undermines the very fabric of this university. This can’t go on. … If we have screwed up, we will fix it. What you’re describing to me wrecks the University’s mission.”
Dialogue is important, and this kind of forum needs to happen regularly, but actions speak louder than words. Right now, there is a real limit to the trust that our community affords itself and the administration to actually address these issues. Ostensible, and more importantly, tangible progress in institutionally healing our community is necessary to shore up that lack of trust.
The dialogue continued again this year with the Privilege and Policy forums, which happened over afivepartseries in the span of a month. Student Body President Nicole Updegrove ‘14 organized the series, and 1-4 Wesleyan students facilitated each talk. The goals were to more thoroughly address diversity issues, for a wide range of students to participate, and to explore potential policy solutions. The conclusive points from this series were similar to those of the Diversity University forum from last year, namely that these issues are incredibly complex and important, that they affect everyone, and thusly, we need to talk about them.
Image c/o Shannon Welch ’14and the Wesleyan Argus.
On Wednesday night, students, faculty, and staff gathered in Tischler Hall of the Exley Science Center for the second Diversity University forum of the year. This program, entitled “Diversity University: In the Classroom and Beyond,” was a follow-up to last semester’s forum, “In Theory and In Practice.”
From the very start, it was clear that the atmosphere of this forum was very different from the first one. Not only were there fewer people in attendance, the emotional level, though high, was distinctly more subdued. Clearly this time of year is particularly busy for Wesleyan students, and I can only imagine that that was a major factor in keeping the numbers down. But there was also not the same feeling of urgency, the immediate need for such a gathering—which, all in all, is probably a good thing.
Last fall’s forum was organized in the wake of a series of upsetting incidents of attacks on students, and subsequent issues of racism, targeting, and exclusion that arose from conversations, Public Safety reports, and WesACB threads. In Wednesday’s forum, while there was an expression of similar concerns and issues of diversity, but there was not the same shocking outpouring of powerful emotion.
As many of us recall from the November Diversity University: In Theory and Practice forum (full video can be found here), issues and questions regarding diversity and inclusion at Wesleyan have been very prominent this year. WSA President Zach Malter ’13 would like members of the Wesleyan community to come together once again to talk about the progress that has been made since last semester’s forum, and what more has to be done in order for Wesleyan to live up to its “Diversity University” title, specifically as it relates to the classroom experience. In his own words:
The follow-up to last semester’s Diversity University: In Theory and In Practice, this panel will allow students to engage with prominent faculty members and administrators on the most pressing campus climate issues. The focus will be on issues of diversity as they relate to the classroom experience, but the conversation will by no means be limited to that.
The event will take place this Wednesday at 7PM in Exley 150. The moderator will be Professor Lisa Dierker, and the confirmed moderators are:
I never had a plan for this movie. All I knew was that I wanted to make a documentary about Public Safety. After having gotten approval from the organization, my first instinct was to humanize P-Safe, as it is an institution that is generally maligned by the student body. A wave of on-campus assaults had just occurred within a single week, and I was interested to discover what P-Safe was doing to handle the situation and protect students. But the alerts P-Safe had sent out described the suspects as “African-American” and “male,” and unbeknownst to me at the time, these email alerts were met with a slew of racial hatred on Wesleyan’s Anonymous Confession Board. It was then revealed that a P-Safe officer had allegedly assaulted a black Wesleyan student. A week later, a forum on student diversity and equality was held in Wesleyan’s Beckham Hall.
These conflicts and contradictions form the basis of Billinkoff’s film, which largely speaks for itself. It’s only twelve minutes, so watch it after the jump.
“Diversity and Inclusion” will be theme for next fall’s Orientation, fall Board of Tustees retreat
In an all-campus email update yesterday, President Roth sent word that Public Safety will no longer include racial identifications in its safety alerts, an issue that has become increasingly contentious since Homecoming Weekend, when a sudden rash of safety incidents all described assailants as “African-American males.” The move has been recommended by a Public Safety Review Committee, which consists of students, faculty, and staff members. From Roth’s note:
The committee has recommended that Public Safety modify campus safety alerts to provide descriptions of suspects without using race as a descriptor, and Public Safety has adopted this practice. The committee continues to review the department’s policies and protocols, web presence, and schedule of trainings. Ensuring that there is a clear path for reporting concerns to the department is important.
Roth’s attention to issues of diversity and racial profiling follows closely on November’s “Diversity University” forum, where the topic of alleged racial profiling took center stage, alongside claims of Public Safety misconduct (most notably, an incident involving Paulie Lowther ’13), hateful ACB remarks, and diversity sensitivity in general. A number of students of color took the microphone at that event, describing being singled out for suspicion and unwarranted hostility. “It’s your responsibility not only to protect us, but to get to know us,” a student demanded to Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer. A heated exchange followed between Meyer, who insisted that Public Safety is required by Connecticut law to include racial identifications in email alerts, and Visiting Professor of English and African-American Studies Sarah Mahurin, who claimed that Yale—where she completed her graduate work—does not include race in its reports. (Meyer disputed this claim; a current Yale law student later verified it in an email to Wesleying.)
Given the recent racially charged incidents that have occurred on campus and general feelings of discontent with the university’s attitudes toward the Student of Color community, it is more important than ever that we stand together. In and outside of Wesleyan, however, there is a tendency to refer to people of color in exceedingly narrow terms, particularly as African Americans and, to a lesser extent, Latino/a American. But why? Why do Asian-Americans, Native Americans, mixed-raced persons, or anyone who doesn’t fall into the category of Black/Latino often feel as though they are not included in our campus (and societal) conception of Student of Color, particularly when the commonalities that we share are certainly larger than our differences. “Misunderstanding Minority” will explore what keeps us disunited as students of color and how we can come together to utilize our shared experiences to enact effective change.
Date: TONIGHT, November 29
Place: Daniel Family Commons
Following public comments by President Roth and the WSA, the discussion surrounding Monday night’s forum on race and diversity continues around campus—in online comments, in blog posts, but most of all in personal conversations I’ve overheard (or took part in) over the past few days.
If you missed the forum and still aren’t sure what all of the talk is about, Ben Doernberg ’13 (who livestreamed the event on Monday) has taken the liberty of consolidating his footage into one master YouTube video. It’s long (the forum began at 7:30 and continued well past 10 pm), and the video quality isn’t ideal, but you should easily be able to make out what’s being said. And you should watch it, too. Three hours is daunting, so split it into segments. Let the audio play while you’re doing work. Listen to it on your iPhone while running. But listen.
As one of the students on the panel remarks about thirty minutes in, “These are discussions that we must have, and not discussions that are silenced.”