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.
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.”
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
Maya McDonnell ’16 invites you:
Wes, Divest! is having a meeting this Thursday at 4:30 in the
University Organizing Center (190 High St. between Beta and Eclectic).
Come learn about the national fossil fuel divestment movement and help
us plan for this upcoming semester! There might even be snacks.
Date: Thursday, September 19th
Time: 4:30PM – 5:30PM
Place: UOC (190 High St)
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
Andrew Trexler ’14 and Michael “President” Roth ’78 want to know what on Earth you’re doing here. Want to let them know? Your chance is tonight.
“As an elite liberal arts institution, Wesleyan can often look very similar to its peers (whoever they are). And yet, we at Wesleyan generally believe that Wes is unique, is the best. What is it that distinguishes us from our peer schools? What are our comparative strengths, and what are our comparative weaknesses? In other words, why Wesleyan? And how can we improve?” We hope that you can join us and give your recommendation for Wesleyan’s future.
Attendance at events like these proves to administrators that students care and want to have a voice. So if you have the chance, prove it.
Date: Tuesday, April 16
Place: PAC 002
After recently declaring a lucrative double major in Impractical Humanities Discipline and Apparently Useless Social Science According to Those Debates on the ACB, this intellectually curious blogger began to wonder what motivates students to pursue a field of study that requires actual work. Unlike my lazy ass, Theories of Ethics in Capitalism major Maggie Feldman-Piltch ’14 is one of ten current students who designed their own academic departments under Wesleyan’s University Major program.
Like many of its peer institutions, Wesleyan attracts prospective students with the opportunity to “work independently at integrating the core skills and background knowledge necessary to realize a coherent intellectual objective.” In other words, University majors do whateva they want.
If transcending the restrictive disciplinary boundaries imposed by academia’s arbitrary departmental segmentation appeals to you, you should probably read this interview. If you responded to the question “Are you Wesleyan?” with a resounding “I don’t know, maybe, this recruiting strategy is kind of cheesy,” you’re probably right. If you’re wondering why, I can assure you that #thisiswhy.
TL;DR: One out of 25 faculty members agree that inventing your own major is a good idea.