Although we come from very different backgrounds,    neither of us would be here today had President Roth’s proposed need-aware admissions policy been in place when we were applying for college. For that reason, and many others, we oppose a need-aware Wesleyan.

Until now, the administration’s discussion about need-blind admissions has been almost exclusively focused on the University’s financial challenges. We recognize that coming up with a feasible alternative financial plan is necessary to preserve need-blind admissions. However, we believe that it is important to recognize that this policy also has adverse moral, cultural, and academic implications.

By adopting a policy that explicitly discriminates against applicants from lower- and middle class families, President Roth will transform the boundaries of what Wesleyan considers ethical. Up until now, the University has made it a policy to admit students from the United States without previous knowledge of their family’s ability to pay. Wesleyan students are admitted based on criteria such as grades, SAT scores, and personal essays. Although this system is far from ideal, we as a community took a clear stance against explicit discrimination. Now, the Roth administration is taking a serious step backwards, allowing the budget, and not our ideals, to determine how moral we can be as an institution.

All this is in an attempt to preserve what President Roth calls the central Wesleyan experience. However, the parts of the Wesleyan experience that will be hurt by a policy that discriminates against those without the means to pay are more fundamental than the sometimes extravagant events and resources that cost the University millions. As we see it, this policy will hurt our Wesleyan experience and future Wesleyan experiences to come. A need-aware admissions policy sends an inherently unfriendly message to applicants: you may be a great applicant, but we won’t accept you into our community because your family can’t pay enough. Or, you may be great applicant, but the deciding factor in accepting you is your money.

Since Wesleyan prides itself on having a culture that is inclusive, diverse, and socially and politically conscious, this policy should leave us all feeling uncomfortable. This new admissions code will not only effect who gets into Wesleyan, but will also impact the pool of applicants—how will the diversity of our applicants change if we give explicit preference to families that are able to pay? Clearly, the Wesleyan that this policy attempts to save will be culturally different than the school we know now.

Over the past two years, Wesleyan has taught us that diversity is an important part of any open-minded education. We learn from diversity: in any given class, the wider the range of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds present, the wider the range of our thoughts, questions, and discussions. We learn as much from each other as we do from our professors, so the makeup of our school is crucial to the Wesleyan experience. Excluding people from our community based on their ability to pay reduces the scope of our intellectual growth in ways that cheapen the Wesleyan experience.

Finally, this policy undermines the lessons that we learn from our Wesleyan professors and mentors. Having difficult, deliberate conversations in and out of class about our privileges or lack thereof, how we oppress and are oppressed, and what social injustices still exist is made even more difficult if the lessons we learn are inconsistent with the policies of the place in which we learn them. Many of our most effective professors made their lessons authentic and relatable through teaching by example. Therefore, the proposed policy will directly conflict with Wesleyan’s most important ideals.

Moving forward, Wesleyan should have an open discussion about its possibilities in terms of need-blind admissions. In part, this means addressing administrative concerns about our financial challenges. Of course we are going to need to make serious proposals to make Wesleyan financially sustainable. In the meantime, however, we must remember to vigilantly uphold the ethics that are central to the Wesleyan experience—even if it means we have to get more creative.

  • anon

    Give it four years. All of the people concerned about need-blind will be gone, and all of the new students won’t know that there ever was a different Wesleyan. And it will be fine. Life will go on. Wesleyan will still be a top liberal arts school.

    Do you understand the fact that having an endowment is FAR MORE IMPORTANT FOR US than having diversity of students? Especially when your definition of diversity of students is diversity of students’ socioeconomic status. There are other kinds of diversity we can preserve. Having an endowment would allow us to rank higher, have better resources for students, etc.

    Maybe my tuition would even be lower. My parents bust their asses to pay full tuition. And after they pay it, we are left with barely enough to get by on. I’d love it if my family could stop subsidizing less successful families.

    Not to mention, look at all the colleges and universities your friends are at and tell me how many of them are need-blind?

    There are only a handful of universities that are need blind. This should send us a message– IT ISN’T FEASIBLE.

    And can someone actually explain to me how my Wesleyan experience would be noticeably worse if it weren’t for need-blind admissions? Give me something tangible.

    So far all I am seeing is that the “lessons” I learned from professors about oppressing and being oppressed will be undermined (DON’T CARE), and I won’t be able to learn from diverse students with diverse backgrounds. (That doesn’t make sense because there are other types of diversity than socioeconomic).

    I want a Wesleyan with a bigger endowment, bigger alumni network, more donations from student’s families, more connections from wealthy students who attend, more prestige, the ability to subsidize student activities instead of passing on further expenses to students for everything.

    A need-aware Wesleyan is the Wesleyan for me.

    • ymous

      what is the purpose of wesleyan? as an alumnus, i am far prouder of wesleyan for its culture and the lessons i learned there than for its rankings or reputation as a “top” liberal arts school. ranking schools, and judging yourself by those standards, are seriously misguided ways of approaching the issue of higher education.
      second, i venture to say that more people agree with the author of this article than you on the issue of diversity. in my opinion, and i’m sure in the minds of most of the student body, socioeconomic diversity is extremely important, and is a necessary precondition for other kinds of diversity (intellectual, etc.).
      your comments on subsidizing poorer families border on trolling.
      finally, if there’s some truth to what you say, and wesleyan is indeed rapidly turning into a place where connections to the rich and prestige are in the forefront of students’ minds, then that is a wesleyan that i no longer wish to associate with, and most of the alumni i know would say the same.

      • alum

        if Wesleyan’s endowment continues to stutter, Wesleyan will no longer attract the best students and the best professors (you can say what you want, but rankings have a huge impact on the public and how it and prospective students perceive Wesleyan), and the culture of excellence that makes Wesleyan what it is will be diluted. More people would probably agree that it’s much more difficult to gain back a lost reputation for being a top place to learn and teach than the difficulty to restore diversity.

        this need-aware policy is only designed to be temporary. in a few years, Wesleyan will go back to being as diverse as it has been. a 10% reduction in need-blind is a small price to pay for maintaining a reputation as a top school – smarter students will come here and professors will choose to teach here over other schools. rankings are but a side effect of that. Wesleyan is the school it is today PRECISELY BECAUSE it is a wealthy school. it can afford the resources and luxuries that come with being a top school, including being need-blind and financing a generous aid program. that money tree is withering, and without nuturing it back to health, Wesleyan will only be less able to fund a generous financial aid program going forward.

        Being too liberal with spending is what got Wesleyan in this situation in the first place. Wes had as much money as Amherst and Williams in 1980. If Wes had been as conservative with spending, it would have a $1.5 billion endowment. Let’s not screw over our endowment any more than it’s already been screwed over.

      • abbey

        I agree that Wesleyan should not spend as much as it is currently–but that should not be at the cost of equality.

        This is not a financial issue, it is a moral and ethical one with financial consequences. As an educational institution, we have a responsibility to those ethics first and foremost. If Wesleyan literally rejects students because they cannot pay enough (and make no mistake, that’s what this policy will result in) we are working against everything that education is supposed to support.

        Primarily, we’re working against equality and access. We’re becoming another tool for the privileged (statistically) white to increase their wealth (after all, a Wesleyan education is a pretty good guarantee of financial success later in life) and an instrument for the oppression of the poor and (statistically) the non-white. People seem to be forgetting that denying someone an education because they (specifically their parents) cannot pay the cost of it is a form of classist oppression. This oppression might be cloaked in concerns about our financial stability, but that does not change the fact that it limits the access of poor students to our school and gives wealthy students explicit advantages because they were lucky enough to be born into the upper class.

        Education’s job is to level the playing field, and this Wesleyan, this “need-aware” Wesleyan, does away with that leveling. So you can say all you want about how the institution itself needs to stay financially sound to exist and educate students etc. But honestly, if Wesleyan isn’t working for education, if Wesleyan isn’t working for a level playing field and is instead actively oppressing people, I don’t want it to exist.

    • Victor Butterfield

      “I’d love it if my family could stop subsidizing less successful families.”

      Me, too—you seem like a classist fuckhead!

  • comnsens

    Everything written here is useless without our financial problems being solved. After all, you can’t really talk about how to use money when you have none, just like it is silly for one to donate money to charity when hunger is lingering around.