This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Read the first part here.
Activism is used by Wesleyan as a means of advertisement, made into a commodity
Spring 2019 – Police Reports
Police reports from April 11th
According to Middletown Police reports, Public Safety called the police on April 11th not once, but twice, once at 9:17 AM, and again at 2:16 PM, with no actual presence from the police occurring for the first call.
Many students, myself included, feel that Roth’s advocacy and authority on free speech and campus protest do not line up in reality given his record of activity concerning these topics at Wesleyan, using his perceived advocacy to both profit himself (such as the release of a book that addresses his advocacy for his brand of free speech), as well as Wesleyan itself. Let’s take a look at his and Wesleyan’s record in recent times.
Wesleyan solicits donations from alumni year-round to support the many fundraising campaigns that keep Wesleyan afloat (but somehow still not need-blind…). Over the summer, I spoke with Cade Leebron ’14 about her own campaign for alumni to speak up about the many issues that students and alumni alike see at the school. She began Text Wes Back to collect actual responses that she and other alumni sent back when Wesleyan texted them to donate money to the school.
Read below the jump for the full interview.
Content warning: This interview discusses sexual assault.
Beginning this semester, Wesleying will hold semi-regular meetings with President Michael Roth to ask all the questions about Wesleyan University that we have wanted, but never previously had the chance, to ask him. We have quite a bit of catching up to do. As Thursday, Nov. 20 was the first of these meetings, editors Samira, kitab, and Gabe, with input from Wesleying staff, used our time to ask a variety of questions about relevant issues from the past few years. As per their request, we informed the President’s Office beforehand on the general topics we wished to cover.
Our half-hour conversation, which we are posting here in its entirety, covers sexual assault procedure, coeducation of residential fraternities, fundraising, the endowment, need-blind admissions, and academic programs. This interview was edited for clarity.
(Image: Catherine Avalone, The Middletown Press)
You’ve now arrived on campus, and we hope that you find your time here enriching and transformative. In that hope, we feel that it would be ill-advised to allow you to not have at least a foundational understanding of the things that have forced us as a community into dialogue, disagreement, and action.
This is not to scare you or to give you a negative impression of the University. However, we are certain that most if not all of you were told about the “passion” that Wesleyan students have and the issues that we care about on campus are at the forefront of those passions. While there is certainly no requirement to take an activist stance on any of these issues and it is in fact easy to sink beneath the radar on these issues and all the others not covered here, we would plead with you to be engaged in the community that you are now a part of.
Read this, ask questions, and reach out to students and faculty that have been here before you. We hope that as you begin your time here, you fully invest yourself as a community member committed to making Wesleyan as good as it can be for you and for those after you. Caring about Wesleyan does not foreclose critique on Wesleyan and as you read this, and other things like it, we hope you understand that too.
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.
President Roth joined another university-led initiative on Thursday, when he attended a summit at the White House to promote greater accessibility to higher education. Along with 100 other universities and 40 non-profit groups, Roth discussed Wesleyan’s commitment to increase access to the university among historically underrepresented minorities.
“At the summit, I learned that ninety percent of low-income people who get their B.A. will move out of poverty,” said Roth. “Access to education truly has an effect on inequality.”
Wesleyan’s commitments are focused on low-income and first generation students, STEM minority students, and veterans. Most of these plans, some vaguer than others, are focused on enrolling students from these groups, but there is not much commitment to providing support for them once they are at Wesleyan (more about that here). Here is each proposal, broken down, with a lengthier discussion afterward:
1. Enroll more QuestBridge scholars in the coming years
QuestBridge is a scholarship program that matches high-achieving, low-income students with partner universities. Wesleyan pledges to bring in more QuestBridge scholars in the coming years, “more than doubling its earlier numbers.” There are approximately 30 Quest Scholars enrolled at Wesleyan every year, so an increase in Quest Scholars would mean more than 120 total.
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 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.
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.”
I have been pleasantly surprised to see a few comments on recent articles asking for a source on the 68% figure that has been flying thick and heavy around need-blind conversations lately. For context, here is an excerpt from a recent controversial speech about donating to Wesleyan:
“Did you know that 68% of any donation earmarked for financial aid gets swept into the general operating budget, and that only 32% of such donations goes to improving the financial aid budget?”
That 68% figure was first circulated in a document produced by Need Blind Wes and distributed during Homecoming Weekend. It is profoundly shocking that the majority of a specified donation would somehow be weaseled into unrestricted funds, isn’t it? Isn’t that illegal?
Well, yes, that would be illegal — except the 68% figure is just flat-out false as described. Incorrect. Inaccurate. Wrong. Or, at the very least, incredibly misleading.