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.