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 drop, an occupation of a Board of Trustees meeting, a 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%.
On the 24th of September 2012, you, President Roth, asked of us a favor. And we agreed.
I am here to keep that promise.
“You should say, we have a commitment to diversity: we want to see that. In the demographics, not just the rhetoric,” urged President Roth one balmy September evening. “Because the rhetoric, whether it’s you’re in favor of need blind or I say I’m in favor of more scholarships, rhetoric is easy. Let’s see who’s here.”
Well, the results are in.
To sum up, the diversity of the Class of 2017 is markedly different from preceding Classes. As a percentage of the Class, students of color dropped slightly to 37 percent, while on the socioeconomic front the number of students receiving financial aid falls well short of any recent generation of Wesleyan students, dropping to 42 percent from 48 percent last year. Similarly, the number of students receiving grant-aid fell to 37 percent from 44 percent in the previous class. Meanwhile, the number of first-generation college students declined to 13 percent from 16 percent.
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:
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.
Our second (and maybe final) presidential interview is with William Chace, president from 1988 to 1994.
William Chace was only president of Wesleyan for six years, but between firebombings, racially charged graffiti, student occupations, and hunger strikes, he probably dealt with enough strife and campus unrest to fill two decades of Wes history. Twenty years later, Chace, a literature scholar and former Stanford administrator, still wrestles with his Wesleyan experience. “Those were the hardest years of my life,” President Chace told Wesleying. “It was a tough place for me.”
“Perhaps some of the problems were of my own making,” he conceded, “but I didn’t bomb my own office.”
Back in the fall, we contacted President Chace, who left the presidency of Emory University in 2003 and now lives in California, for an interview. “Well, of course,” Chace soon replied. “But please keep in mind that I left Wesleyan in 1994, some 18 years ago, and I do not have with me records of the time. So it will be memory, all memory, a facility at once pregnant with apparent certitude and often quite erroneous.”
Since 1902, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has remained tuition free, offering accepted students scholarships drawn in part from
industrialist Peter Cooper’s epic neck beard real estate holdings and alumni contributions to cover the cost of attendance. Though Cooper Union previously rallied under the banner of an education “as free as air and water,” it seems the only banners being hoisted today are in protest of the school’s move to cover only 50% of tuition. On Tuesday, Cooper Union made it official that it would be instituting the tuition plan proposed by the university’s maligned board of directors back in December of 2012. This blog covered developments in this story at length, which included a student response in the form of a building occupation and that occupation’s inevitable conclusion, as the activism at Cooper Union clicked with the campus zeitgeist regarding Wesleyan’s own decision to discriminate against students without the means to attend Wes abandon need-blind admissions.
Click through the jump for more on what this means for those of us who also attend institutions that renege on espoused principles like inclusion and diversity.
Daniele Packard ’13 and Grace Zimmerman ’13 write in with a way for members of the Class of 2013 to legally imbibe with their classmates, promote greater access to Wesleyan in support of need blind admissions through scholarship fundraising, and enjoy some good ol’ class camaraderie out in the vibrant Middletown nightlife scene:
As graduation approaches alarmingly fast, it becomes ever more important to cherish your classmates, appreciate Wesleyan for everything it has to offer, and enjoy your dwindling time in Middletown. To this effect, the Senior Gift Committee is hosting our annual Senior Night Out, taking place this Thursday, April 25th! The four restaurants hosting SWAG for the evening are La Boca, Mondo, Iguanas Ranas and The Nest, whom have all generously agreed to offer drink and food specials for all SWAG donors this year.
Not a donor yet? Don’t worry – there’s still time to make a gift. Swing by any of our tabling locations this week to make a gift and pick up your wristband, or make a gift online and we’ll put the bracelet in your box. If you’ve already donated, you’ll find your wristband in your mailbox. To receive food and drink discounts you must obtain a SWAG designated wrist band. On behalf of the entire committee, we’d like to remind everyone to treat all of the establishments we visit and people we meet during the night out (and in life) with respect!
More information about drink and food specials, the night’s schedule, and tabling locations where you can pick up a wristband this week before the event!
Date: Thursday, April 25th
Time: 8 p.m. till 1 a.m.
Place: Iguanas Ranas, La Boca, Mondo, The Nest
Suggested Donation: $5
Why are we in here and not out there? How can we reconcile the intellectual merits of the Academy with its role in perpetuating class divisions? What is the role of education in our daily lives and in society as a whole? Is struggling for need-blind enough, or do we need to go beyond offering “equal access” to alienating, repressive, and reactionary institutions?
If you’ve ever found yourself pondering these questions, this event on Saturday is a can’t-miss. Rumor has it a covert collaborator from inside the Wesleyan sociology department might make an appearance. Dan Fischer ’12 with the deets:
How can we defend our schools at the same time as we work to radically transform or even abolish them? This roundtable aims to find areas for collaboration between teachers’ union, student anti-austerity, deschooling, unschooling, horizontal pedagogy, and free school movements, among others.
12:00 – 12:30 Remarks by Daniel Long, Professor of Sociology
12:30 – 1:30 Schooling and Austerity: The Public School Dilemma
1:30 – 2:30 Unschooling: Opting Out and Overcoming Barriers to Access
or Resisting the Neoliberal Academy: Beyond Need Blind
2:30 – 3:30 The School-to-Prison Pipeline in CT
or Technology and Survelliance: Impacts on Schools
3:30 – 4:00 Open Discussion
“If we want to abolish prisons, then in a sense we’re going to have to abolish schools in the way they currently reproduce the prison and disciplinary technologies.” -Angela Davis
Zach Schonfeld ’13 is bringing it back, baby. The topic, I mean. Not the actual thing. The topic.
Pictured: President Roth answers student questions regarding need-blind at a forum in September. Photo by Rachel Pincus ’13.
Remember way back when the campus was all talking about need-blind and stuff? Man, when was that? Oh oh, only three months ago?! Are you sure? What happened?!
Need-blind has been conspicuously absent from campus discussion lately. (I would have put a link in that last sentence but really, nobody’s talked about it much in months.) Many of need-blind’s most fervent and vocal advocates have burned out, have moved on, have grown hoarse from what seems to be a stagnant discussion. (Have forgotten?)
Fortunately, Our Most Glorious and Dear Leader Zach is having none of that. His recent article in USA Today College focuses on recent activism taking place among alumni rather than students, describing a “poignant patchwork of alumni perspectives” manifesting themselves in a plethora of petitions recently circulating amongst alumni. First there was one asking alums to withhold donations (for reasons involving sexual assault as well as need-blind), then came Lana Wilson ’05’s more recent Change.org petition. Zach’s bit discusses the general alumni response, covering both sides of the donation argument and everything in between. There is also a quote from President Roth, responding to the alumni voices:
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.
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: