Dear President Roth,
There has been a great deal of controversy with regard to financial aid on this campus over the past year and a half. Many numbers and statistics have been floated from all sides of the discussion. We have heard talk about a 68-32 split in University resource allocation. We have heard that we are “need-blind” for 90 percent of applicants and that we use class-based discrimination for only 10 percent of admitted students. We have heard that your administration is doing all it can to support diversity and affordability, but we have heard others question whether there might be parts of the budget less central to Wesleyan’s core ethical and educational mission than financial aid, which could be cut further in order to increase access. All this comes amidst an important and ongoing conversation among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and administrators about the safety and inclusivity of the on-campus community for minority groups. In short, as members of this community we have frequently been asked to question whether we are doing all we can to make Wesleyan the most inclusive place it can be.
We, the undersigned, have grown increasingly concerned that there is currently no way for students, alumni, and community members to give money to Wesleyan in a way that directly increases financial aid spending, whereas donors to other programs have this option. For example, the College of Social Studies has been able to accept donations specifically to endow and fund its fall and spring banquets, without any corresponding decrease in the academic funding it received from the University; likewise, the athletic department received donations for a new turf field without any subsequent decrease in their University budgets. Because alumni found these causes to be important and donated the necessary money for them to be realized, they were able to create substantive on-campus changes with their gifts.
There is no equivalent system for donations to financial aid. It is at present impossible for donors to actively increase the amount Wesleyan spends on aid each year over the amount we initially choose to budget. This fundamental, unjustified asymmetry in current University policy prevents alumni, students, and parents who are primarily interested in supporting inclusivity and social justice at Wesleyan from giving their money in a way that satisfies their values and interests.
Under current policy, a gift to the University is interpreted by some as a demonstration of active support for Wesleyan’s current spending priorities across the budget. To donate, even specifically to financial aid, means accepting that one’s donation will support a 32 percent discount rate and no higher, while simultaneously accepting and, in effect, subsidizing the other fiscal priorities which compete with financial aid. In light of the fact that gifts that do not change policy are seen as a barometer of satisfaction with the policies of the University at a given time, many in the Wesleyan community feel they cannot give to Wesleyan right now, because such donations would constitute too broad a statement of support for the University’s policies.
Although some of us have actively participated in protests against current Wesleyan policies, we are all sensitive and cognizant of the reality that Wesleyan depends on gifts to continue to operate. Furthermore, we readily concede that boycotting Wesleyan’s fundraising efforts has the negative and potentially self-defeating side effect of making it more difficult for Wesleyan to fund financial aid packages for students who need them. However, many students and alumni feel caught in a double-bind: they acknowledge the problems with boycotting, yet resist endorsing Wesleyan’s current fiscal priorities as a whole. In order to maintain financial support from students and alumni, we think it is critically important that Wesleyan begin accepting a new type of donation that produces an immediate increase in the amount of aid available for poor and middle-class students.
A signature below indicates support for the following two proposals, which would offer new ways to give to Wesleyan: 1) Each donor should be able to specify that 100 percent of a gift goes to increase financial aid for the following school year; 2) Each donor should be able to specify that 100 percent of a gift goes into the endowment for financial aid, to be drawn at a rate equal to the annual draw rate of the endowment as a whole, and could be spent only on permanently increasing the number and quality of financial aid packages that the University offers.
We believe that creating these new options for giving will empower more people in the Wesleyan community to donate in a way that directly supports their priorities for the University. Though our policies and ideologies often differ, we think all sides of the debate over financial aid are invested in a more inclusive Wesleyan. By working together on clearly workable changes like this one, we can come closer to making our shared goals and vision for Wesleyan a reality. This will undoubtedly help the “SWAG” committee recruit willing donors from among their senior classmates. It will also help many others who work so hard on fundraising efforts here, from alumni class officers, to the staff in University Relations, to the many students employed at the Red and Black calling society. The many staff and volunteers who give their time and effort to fundraising will now be able to proudly and truthfully say to parents, students, and alumni who are concerned about the inclusivity of a Wesleyan education that their money will go directly to increasing the diversity and vitality of the Wesleyan student body, both now and in the years to come. It is our view that we are capable of working together to make Wesleyan a better, more inclusive place.
We are under no illusions that this policy will solve all of the many problems of class-based exclusion and discrimination at Wesleyan. If this proposal is accepted, the need-aware policy will remain in place, there will still be much work to be done on issues of socio-economic diversity and inclusion. However, we believe that the school should enact this policy change to empower members of the Wesleyan community with the means to give to their alma mater without implicitly endorsing all of our school’s budgeting decisions as they currently stand.
President Roth, you recently said to “Smithsonian Magazine,” “We will do anything we can to make sure that people who qualify for an education of this caliber can have one.” This is a clear opportunity for you to do so.
Benny Docter ’14, Danny Blinderman ’14, and Josh Krugman ’14
Wesleyan Student Assembly Leadership:
Nicole Updegrove ’14 (President, WSA)
Mari Jarris ’14 (Former Vice-President, WSA)
Nicki Softness ’14 (Chair, Student Budget Committee)
Scott Elias ’14 (Chair, WSA Financial Aid Committee)
Allison Greenwald ’14 (Student Manager, Red and Black Calling Society)
Molly Stern ’14 (Class Director, SWAG)
Paulette Campo ’14 (Class Director, SWAG)
Jose Jaime de Venecia IV ’15 (President, Psi U)
Everton Laidley ’14 (President, Phi Beta Sigma)
Matthew B Gross ’15 (President, Beta Theta Phi)
Roxy Capron ’14 (President, Rho Epsilon) 15
Peter George ’15 (President, Delta Kappa Epsilon)
Eric Jones ’16 (President, Chi Psi)
Shinekwa Kershaw ’15 (President, Eclectic Society)
Duane J Chen ’15 (President, Alpha Delta Phi)
Michael Creager ’15 (Incoming President, Alpha Epsilon Pi)
Editors of Campus Publications:
Samira Siddique ’15 (Managing Editor, Wesleying)
pyrotechnics (Editor, Wesleying)
Olivia Horton ’14 (Executive Editor, The Wesleyan Argus)
Abbey Francis ’14 (Executive Editor, The Wesleyan Argus)
Claire Bradach ’15 (Executive Editor, The Wesleyan Argus)
Other Student Leaders:
Christian Hosam ’15 (Intern, University Organizing Center)
Izzy Rode ’14 (Head Resident, Residential Life)
Lucy Britt ’14 (Co-Site Director, Let’s Get Ready)
Julian Theseira ’14 (Co-chair, Freeman Asian Scholars Association)
Chloe Rinehart ’14 (Co-Site Director, Let’s Get Ready)
Ben Florsheim ’14 (President, Wesleyan Democrats)
Michael Migiel-Schwartz ’14 (Founder, Wesleyan Democratic-Socialists)
Emily Sannini ’14 (President, Woodrow Wilson Debate Society)
Matthew Conley ’15 (Vice President, Finance The Woodrow Wilson Debate Society)