I was never involved in activism before this semester. Any kind of activism, let alone that concerned with Wesleyan. I was never consciously complacent; I just never went out of my daily routine to learn more about the petitions that flood everybody’s inbox on a regular basis. Last May, when President Roth met with the Board of Trustees to vote to revoke the need-blind policy, at first I did not realize the severity of the action and its overwhelming effects on our community. I did not realize how atrocious the complete lack of transparency about the change is. I did not realize how absurd it is that the administration did not communicate until that point exactly what bad shape the school’s finances are in. I did not realize that instead of extensively looking for viable alternatives, the administration changed a major policy influencing the main source of income for the University, insinuating that the institution in place is the most efficient and cost-effective it can be. The layers of unspoken assumptions about Wesleyan, as well as the directions in which the administration is seeking to move the school, continue on and on.
Last semester, student-led action concerning the issue, such as the Clark Hall banner drop during Reunion and Commencement and the plethora of chalking that occurred during that time, suddenly made the severity of the situation evident to me. Just as Leo Liu ’14 discussed in his opinion piece with Benny Docter ’14 on 9/3, as an independent student, I must now question whether I would have been accepted, or whether I would even have applied in the first place. But as a philosophy student, I know we can forever dwell on hypotheticals, like those created for the sign campaign to raise awareness.
It is not a fact that the new financial aid policy will change the landscape of the Wesleyan student body. This policy change will ripple out to the entire institution, from the academic rigor of classes to the incredibly diverse array of student groups. The need-aware policy will literally change what Wesleyan is. But let’s keep it practical, what does this mean? A morphed Wesleyan will change the value of your degree. The Wesleyan that you will look (hopefully) fondly back on will not be the Wesleyan you attended. Obviously we can’t know how the school will actually change in the coming years, and it will never remain static. But an attack on diversity and meritocracy, the very principles which underlie our institution, will alter what is the “ideal” candidate. This will change how Wesleyan is perceived by the world, and will change what it means to have a Wesleyan degree. This will not only affect how potential employers will look at your resume; it will affect the perceived value of your degree with everyone you interact with.
I urge you not to remain complacent with such attacks on our community. Many students whom I have talked to (as well as the majority of responders to a Wesleying poll on the issue) are not happy with the change, but believe it is the only viable solution to our financial crisis. This is absolutely not the case, as Kevin Arritt ’13 and Eric Stephen ’13 illustrated in their opinion piece on 10/4. Additionally, the Student Budget Advisory Committee is currently working to create a report on viable financial alternatives to the need-aware policy. These alternatives do exist, as we can all attest to because we all know this institution is not perfect and has a lot of room for betterment. However, I firmly believe that we must develop innovative solutions within the philosophical framework of the school.
Wesleyan has an extremely rich activist history that has faded to mere whispers in the past few years with intermittent outbursts. It is possible that the advent of the Internet and social media have made it seem that posting comments on Wesleying or getting angry over a troll of the ACB is “activism.” It is possible that the energy which students used to physically push outwards in the form of constant banner drops, chalking, and so on is now being pushed inwards onto computers, causing it to fade in the digital abyss. November marks the ten-year anniversary of another storming of a Board of Trustee meeting, similar to the one which occurred a few weeks ago. It involved students forcing the doors open and marching in a poster of demands, in particular regards to the chalking ban, as well as issues concerning diversity, disability rights, and rape culture. Students also made paper airplanes containing demands and threw them down into another gathering the Trustees attended.
What happened? Are we not as clever and passionate as our predecessors? If everyone stands idly by when the rights of the voiceless are infringed upon, there will be no one left to speak for you. We are a community, and although it is easy to forget, our duty towards helping each other and future members of the community is more important than any one exam or any one paper. I ask you to go and help your neighbors, regardless if that is through supporting need-blind activism or through alternative channels.
Stand strong, stand together.
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