Tag Archives: financial aid

Students Petition President Roth to Change Financial Aid Donation Policy

 financial-aid-101

A little under a week ago, I posted a video in which Josh Krugman ’14 took the microphone at a senior class reception and, immediately following speeches by University administrators exhorting members of the senior class to donate to Wesleyan, asked his fellow seniors to not donate in protest of the University’s abandoning of need-blind admissions and alleged fiscal irresponsibility. The post generated a debate over whether alumni should give to the University – informed in part by a recent letter from alumni who withheld donations on “Giving Tuesday” due to the University’s financial aid policies.

This post was followed immediately by a post by pyrotechnics about the 68% figure referenced in Josh’s speech. This post shed light on a serious problem with the way the University deals with financial aid donations:

There is currently no way for donors to increase the amount of money the University plans to spend on financial aid. Given the budget cap, there is no such mechanism for that right now, confirmed to me by President Michael Roth himself. (Again, note that there is a way to decrease the amount of money spent: not donating.) This is something I (wearing a different hat) am currently working on fixing with University Relations, with tentative support from both President Roth and Barbara-Jan Wilson.

In response to this and the fact that the number of students on grant-based matriculation aid fell this past year, Benny Docter ‘14, Danny Blinderman ’14, and Josh Krugman ’14 presented a letter to the administration calling for a revision to the financial aid donation policy. This letter, cosigned by WSA leadership, campus group leaders, student fundraisers, Greek-life presidents, and others, makes two simple demands on the administration:

1) Donors should be able to specify that 100% of their gift goes to increase financial aid for the following school year; 2) Donors should be able to specify that 100% of their gift goes into the endowment for financial aid, to be drawn at a rate equal to the annual draw rate of the endowment as a whole, and could be spent only on permanently increasing the number and quality of financial aid packages that the University offers.

The idea is that any donation made in this new manner would result in an increase in financial aid spending proportional to the size of the gift – as opposed to the current system, where all donations received are already planned for in the financial aid budget. The letter does not call for a boycott on donations to financial aid, nor does it ask for a return to need-blind admissions. Rather, it demands that the University allow those who donate to financial aid to increase financial aid spending as a total portion of the University budget in the same way that alumni donations to athletic programs or academic departments do not result in a corresponding decrease in the funding those programs receive from the University.

Newsweek: “Diversity U. Makes a U-Turn” on Activism and Ideals

Newsweek used this photo in their article to contrast the liberal values
that the school likes to think it has with the conservative mindset it actually practices.

2805-wesleyan

Maybe Wesleyan University learned a lesson today: Not all press is good press.

Today’s in-depth and certainly unflattering Newsweek article by Katie Baker (who wrote that Jezebel piece in May ridiculing the administration for its medieval Tour de Franzia threats) asserts that “Wesleyan seems to be slinking away from its weird and activist roots to attract rich students and even richer donors.” What could the school have done to deserve this sort of criticism?

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.”

Need Blind: Alums Withhold Donations on Admin’s “Giving Tuesday”

“Your comment is awaiting moderation…”: an alumni response to Michael Roth

roth dn

Calls for a boycott of the administration’s capital campaign have re-emerged this week as President Michael Roth continues to solicit donations in the name of financial aid. Alums are refusing to contribute on the grounds that doing so would be a vote of confidence in increasingly reactionary, discriminatory policies. As of now, there remains no plan for Wesleyan to return to need blind admissions.

The following statement was submitted in response to Roth’s latest blog post – where it is still “awaiting moderation” (don’t hold your breath). We are posting it here in the meantime so you can see it. A similar statement has emerged on a Facebook group for recent alumni.

Support Wesleyan — Refuse to Donate! 

President Roth mentions twice in his “Giving Tuesday” appeal that we can support financial aid at Wesleyan by donating to the University today.

What Michael Roth doesn’t mention is that 68% of every gift earmarked for financial aid gets drafted into the general operating budget, and only 32% of such gifts actually goes to improving the University’s financial aid budget. This is a dismaying betrayal of trust.

It is brazen for Michael Roth and the Wesleyan PR folks to encourage us to support financial aid at Wesleyan the year after Roth and the Board took unprecedented steps to erode access and decrease spending on financial aid, by ending Wesleyan’s policy of admitting students on a “Need-Blind” basis (wherein students were admitted based solely on their promise as applicants, without knowledge of their ability to pay).

This year’s freshman class, the first admitted under the new “Need-Aware” admissions policy, which actively discriminates against poor students, contains 6% fewer students receiving grant aid, 4% fewer first generation college students, and 3% fewer black students, as well as smaller percentages of students from everywhere outside of New England than the previous year’s class. (Citation)

Good News: The Endowment is Up 12%

THIS ISWHY

Wesleyan’s annual Financial Report was published last week, and the endowment is up 12%, if you exclude the $28 million siphoned off to pay for current operations, but add the pledges from the “This Is Why” campaign. Additionally, the university took in $11 million more in income than it spent in the fiscal year that ended last June. This should be good news for all those who are disgruntled by the need-blind situation. We’re on our way to having enough money to spend on basic operations, and maybe return to need-blind. This won’t happen soon, but it’s at least a positive step forward.

In Fiscal Year 2012/13:

  • Alumni, parents, friends, lovers gave $42 million in cash to Wesleyan, an $11 million increase from the prior year
  • 46% of alumni donated funds
  • $55 million in new gifts (cash, pledges and bequests)
  • Financial aid totaling $55 million increased approximately 7%, resulting in an undergraduate tuition discount rate of 36%, an increase from 35% in FY 2011/12
  • A total of $308 million toward the campaign’s overall goal of $400 million

Need-Blind Wes Is Back

284542_4687063941429_2068609757_n

This courtesy of Evan Bieder ’15:

After a brief hiatus, Need Blind Wes is back!

For those who don’t know, in 2012 Wesleyan terminated its need blind admissions policy. As a result, the socio-economic status of about 10% of applicants for the Class of 2017 played a role in their acceptance/rejection. Last year, many students pushed back against this new policy (through a banner dropan occupation of a Board of Trustees meetinga homecoming protest, and a number of other actions/discussions archived on the Need Blind website), but the policy was implemented nonetheless.

This discriminatory policy has already impacted Wesleyan’s socio-economic diversity. From the class of 2016 to the class of 2017 the number of students receiving financial aid decreased from 48% to 42%, the number of students receiving grant aid decreased from 44% to 37%, and the number of first generation four-year college students decreased from 16% to 13%. 

Write-in #2: Classism @ Wesleyan

need-blind-stays

Though all of you are likely familiar with the need-blind debate last year and campus conversations full of blatant classism surrounding the subject, you may or may not have seriously examined how this classism runs rampant through Wesleyan University and pervades the experiences of its student body and administration.

We implore you to answer this question:

Have you ever experienced classism at Wes? Tell us about it.

Here’s the form. Some questions after the jump to get you thinking: 

Unofficial Orientation Series: The Wrath Update, or Everything You Need to Know About All the Things People Have Been Getting Angry About Lately and Hot Damn This Is a Long Post Title

Always be closing deconstructing…

 There is always hope.

Welcome to utopia! Er, sorta. Well, not really. Actually not at all. Like all the world, good old Wesleyan is plagued with many social ills. Some are more intractable than others, some more terrible than others. I am not here to pass judgment. I am here only to give you the quick run-down on all most of the things people at Wes have been getting upset about of late. To avoid showing favoritism I put these in random order (literally). Please feel free to add/question/editorialize in the comments below.

This is the Wrath Update. First up:

Chalking

At Wes, University Policy prohibits the use of chalk “on sidewalks or buildings.” For many students — though definitely not all — this constitutes a violation of the right to free speech and the battle over the chalking policy has raged fiercely for over a decade. On the 3rd of October 2002, then-President Doug Bennet ’59 put forth a moratorium on Wesleyan’s storied tradition of chalking, a moratorium which was theoretically temporary but was never lifted. In those days, you could spend an hour reading chalkings on the hundred-yard walk from PAC to what’s now Usdan. Chalking was primarily used as an empowerment medium for the queer community, but, of course, a few individuals took things a little too far. I do not need to get into the details; you go to Wesleyan so you can imagine it. We still occasionally witness hateful and hurtful public messages around campus.

Budget Task Force Drops “Memorandum to the Community”

Six months ago, I posted that a newly conceived Student Budget Sustainability Task Force, the brainchild of WSA President Zachary Malter ’13, would be forming in the fall of 2012 and eventually articulating formal recommendations to President Roth and the Board of Trustees. Malter pieced together the concept quickly in the wake of widespread opposition to a need-aware Wesleyan.

As promised, the student-run committee has “worked extensively to evaluate the suitability of the recent move to a capped financial aid budget and need-aware admissions policy,” and the members have formulated a memorandum to the committee explaining their process thus far and the specific proposals that are under consideration. These aren’t their formal recommendations. Rather, the task force writes, “it is meant to spark conversation and debate before our final report.”

On President Malter’s request, I’m reposting the memorandum in full. You can also find it in PDF form here.

Wilson ’05 Posts Petition: “Bring Need-Blind Admission Back to Wesleyan”

A few weeks ago, commenting on the New York Times’ coverage of Wesleyan’s financial aid woes, we wrote that this was likely the first many alumni were hearing of changes to Wesleyan’s need-blind status. Following a Q&A with the Board of Trustees in November, chairman Joshua Boger ’73 assured A-Batte and me that the great majority of alumni are aware of cuts to need-blind and enthusiastically approve. A new petition by Lana Wilson ’05 suggests otherwise.

“I don’t think any program, building, or department is worth sacrificing an economically diverse student body,” writes Wilson in the petition, which is personally addressed to President Roth via Change.org. “I and everyone who has signed this letter hopes that you will do the right thing, and continue Wesleyan’s practice of admitting the best students possible, rather than those with the most personal wealth.”

“My intent was originally for alumni to sign it, but I’m fine with current students signing it as well,” Wilson explained to me in an email. “Then my plan was to send President Roth a hard copy of the letter with all the signatures at the end.” According to Wilson, Roth receives an email for every signature the petition receives, including any personal message that’s attached. As of writing, the petition has amassed some 246 signatures, ranging from current students to a diverse scattering of alumni, including Beasts of the Southern Wild producer Dan Janvey ’06. The individual messages are particularly affecting. Many speculate that they wouldn’t have been able to attend Wesleyan without need-blind admissions. “Wesleyan falls far short in alumni giving of its competition and this is an issue those of us who love Wesleyan feel strongly about and would impact upon giving,” writes one alum. “Stop being assholes,” chimes in another:

note1note2