NPR has a story this week on how the financial cancer attacking many elite private colleges—that is, more money coming out than in—is affecting schools like Grinnell College, MIT, and, of course, Wes. The focus is on recent struggles over need-blind admissions. Grinnell seems to be an unusual case; despite not being in the same admissions tier as Wes (with an acceptance rate of 43%), it has enjoyed a rosy financial situation thanks in no small part to Warren Buffett sitting on its board. This has allowed it to pay 60% of its students’ costs, which is a higher rate than any other school except Harvard.
“We don’t get in a room and say, ‘OK, do we give more aid here or do we give a raise to a professor over here?’ It’s never that stark, but behind the curtain, what’s happening is this tradeoff,” says Kington.
The towering monolith of MIT, meanwhile, told NPR it would never ever ever in a million years end need-blind admissions. “That’s one of our rock-solid principles. It’s sort of built into our DNA,” said MIT Chancellor Eric Grimson. Hopefully we will not have to see the unsustainable financial models and practices of these elite universities bring them, in 10 or 20 years, to the point Wesleyan is at now. NPR says the end of need-blind policies has sustained “some backlash” here—a bigunderstatement.
Last Thursday after class, I moseyed over to Shanklin 107 (stirring fond memories of freshman year Biodiversity class) for what I took to be a faculty panel discussion on “Transparency, Admissions Policy, and Financial Aid”—more succinctly, need-blind. When the discussion began, Professors Lim, Rouse, and Long, representing varying views, also seemed to interpret it as a cordial panel discussion on the issues surrounding need-blind. Seated at the far end of the panel, though, Professors Glenn and Skillman took it to be a full-throttle, boisterous debate—sparring over the meanings of a need-aware policy, university transparency, and whether or not Wesleyan can afford to remain need-blind (Glenn says yes, Skillman no). Both presented articulate and passionate positions (taking opposite positions), and both got pretty riled up. Suffice it to say audience members (my estimate would be 40 or 45 students) benefited from witnessing this direct confrontation of competing narratives.
Continuing Wesleying’s recent tradition of ‘Posting Videos of Important Shit Filmed By Ben Doernberg ’13,’ we’ve got video footage of the entire conversation below or on the YouTubes. Scroll past the jump for a more detailed rundown on who said what.
As Professor Glenn opened his remarks, “I guess reasonable people can disagree.”
Wesleying’s daily “Livestreaming a Discussion That You Were Too Lazy To Go To Thanks To Ben Doernberg 13” feature continues today with “Who Are We Helping?,” a professor panel conversation on transparency, admissions policy, and financial aid. The discussion is about to begin right now in Shanklin 107 (you can still make it if you run), and Professors Lim, Rouse, Skillman, Long, and Glenn are seated and furiously reading over their notes. As organizer Em Trambert ’14 just noted, “These professors are not experts on the new policy, but are here to help us think more critically about this new policy.”
Can’t make it? Watch the livestream above or on USTREAM.
While this semester has been filled with debates, discussions, and protests about the impending change to a Need-Aware admissions policy, the impacts of this change—both positive and negative—are enmeshed in much larger issues. These include the financial health of our university, the value we place on welcoming a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives on this campus, administrative transparency with both faculty and students, and access to a Wesleyan education. Dr. Glenn, Professor Lim, Professor Long, Professor Rouse, and Professor Skillman will help us think critically about what a Need Aware policy might mean. The goal of this panel is not to propose an “ideal policy” but to create a foundation on which further conversation can be had. Feel free to come and engage these professors in conversation, or just sit back and listen!
If you have specific questions for the panel, feel free to submit them to ProfessorPanel@gmail.com. See you there!
“There has been a lot of transparency. There has been a lot of transparency.”
Wesleying wasn’t the only media outlet filming last Saturday’s need-blind protest, in which roughly 50 student activists stormed across the sidelines during the football game, waving a banner proclaiming “DIVER$ITY UNIVER$ITY?” and chanting that “everyone deserves to learn.” Recent grad Nemo Allen ’12, a video production fellow for independent global news hour Democracy Now!, was also at the ready. After filming the protest, Allen stuck around for interviews with engaged students, faculty, and one alumnus who was fiercely involved in the 1982 protests to preserve need-blind at Wesleyan.
But when Allen attempted to interview President Roth, he found himself caught in a bizarre confrontation with the camera still rolling. In the footage, the president walks away from Allen, turns around, insists that “there has been a lot of transparency,” pushes his face close to the camera, grabs Allen’s microphone, grins, continues walking, confronts a police officer, explains the situation, and is asked to return the microphone. (That is not a sentence I ever expected to publish on this blog.) My personal favorite exchange is probably “You have to give that back.” “I don‘t have to!”, but the part where Roth sticks his head into the lens is slightly more conducive to meme-tastic GIFs.
The footage aired towards the end of Democracy Now!’s program this morning. You can also watch it on YouTube (above) as a stand-alone segment. Here’s the full transcript, as narrated by DN! host Amy Goodman:
“We believe it is is not ethically responsible at this time for us as alumni to financially support an institution that is not willing to properly ensure the safety and respect of its student body.”
Confirming reports from HomecomingWeekend that a significant number of alumni are aware of and unhappy about recent campus controversies surrounding sexual assault and need-blind admissions, Wesleying received the following letter from members of the class of 2010. The note has been circulating via email among recent alums. In it, Anonymous ’10 expresses “serious concerns regarding two recent, unsettling missteps taken by Wesleyan University” and asks hir classmates to pledge not to donate. No doubt this suggestion will be controversial on campus (particularly in the arena of need-blind, where Wesleyan’s meager alumni giving rate is especially pertinent). No doubt it will also grab attention.
Some alumni have already defended their unwillingness to donate in the comments section of recent posts. Wesleying is interested in following up with a longer feature. If you’re an alumnus who won’t donate to the school and want to talk about it—or a caller for Red & Black—please contact us at staff(at)wesleying(dot)org.
“We don’t care how much you earn! Everyone deserves to learn!”
When we first reported on definite changes to Wesleyan’s need-blind policy, I marveled at the lack of student protest or even discussion on campus compared to the events of 1992. “This is not the first time that the administration has proposed axing need-blind admissions to cope with a budgetary crisis,” I wrote. “This is merely the first time in recent Wesleyan history that students have permitted the decision to go forward.”
Around 3 P.M. today, between the third and fourth quarter of the Homecoming football game against Amherst, a shouting band of roughly 45 or 50 student activists swarmed the sidelines nearest Foss chanting and carrying a red-and-black banner proclaiming “DIVER$ITY UNIVER$ITY?” Beginning outside Fayerweather and marching across towards Olin, the group chanted “We don’t care how much you earn! Everyone deserves to learn!” in support of need-blind admissions.
“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?