If you are concerned, as we are, with the profound demographic changes in the Wesleyan student body that have been attended by Wesleyan’s new need-discriminatory admissions policy, please email or call Michael Roth (firstname.lastname@example.org/860/685-3500), the President of the University, and John Meerts (email@example.com/860/685-2607), the Vice President for Finance and Administration, and explain that your deep disappointment with their institutional priorities has led you to decide against donating and against encouraging other parents, alumni, and students to give to the University this year.
When Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees decided in the spring of 2012 to switch from a “need-blind” admissions policy (in which the applications of prospective students were evaluated without knowledge of the student’s ability to pay), to a need-discriminatory admissions policy (in which applications are read and decided upon in part based upon the students’ ability to pay), many alumni, parents, and students expressed their concern to the President, the Board, and others that the new policy would decrease the many kinds of difference that Wesleyan values in its student body. These alumni, parents, and students were met with patiently condescending explanations, but no interest or intent to engage with their legitimate worries.
Now, a year later, the numbers are in and they have proven these concerned alumni, parents, and students uniformly and unfortunately correct. Compared with last year’s incoming class, in this year’s freshman class (the first chosen with the new, need-discriminatory policy), the number of students receiving financial aid decreased from 48 percent to 42 percent, the number of first-generation four-year college students decreased from 16 percent to 13 percent, the number of black students decreased from 11 percent to 8 percent, while the number of students from New England increased from 17 percent to 22 percent, and the numbers of students from all other geographic areas in the U.S. dropped or stayed flat.
Not only have we seen that our concerns about demographic changes were well founded, but we’ve learned something about strategy as well. We have learned that the University doesn’t listen when alumni and parents call, and when students demonstrate, pass resolutions, and sign petitions. The administration doesn’t feel threatened by these actions anymore, if it ever did.
That is why we are encouraging other alumni, parents, and students who care about this University to take the only kind of action that the administration really cares about, which is to refuse outright to donate to the University, to refuse outright to give them that vote of confidence in their ethically bankrupt priorities. For those of us who thought that a meaningful conversation about these issues could exist without a donation boycott, it was infuriating to learn that gifts earmarked for financial aid automatically trigger a budget adjustment where an amount equal to 68 percent of the gift is removed from the annual financial aid budget, which means that only 32 percent of each gift earmarked for financial aid actually goes toward increasing the financial aid budget, and the other 68 percent of any such gift gets swept into general operating budget, where it enables the unaccountable and unsustainable status quo: out-of-control administrative bureaucracy and the rest.
The University expresses no intention to reinstate need-blind, yet it says that if we just keep donating, things will improve. We say: Wesleyan has the means to return to need-blind now; all it needs is the courage to decide to enact a more ethical, inclusive set of priorities. We say to the University: ask us again to donate the moment you choose to take up a set of priorities we can get behind.
Until then, we urge our fellow alumni, parents, and students to consider that you may do much more to make Wesleyan excellent and inclusive by vocally withholding your donation than by donating.
In solidarity, get involved!
Krugman is a member of the class of 2014. Bieder is a member of the class of 2015.
This is the second part of a two-part Wespeak. You can find the first part here: http://wesleyanargus.com/2013/11/21/57382/.