The year is young, and the semester brand new. From my armchair, I would like to propose a list of resolutions for the Wesleyan community. This is not meant to be exhaustive – I would be disappointed if additions were not presented. But here are five to start.
1. Commit to re-establishing trust on campus.
The defining characteristic of 2014, both at Wesleyan and beyond, was turbulence. At Wesleyan, I observed a sad irony: the student body contains thoughtful young men and women who are eager expand their social and intellectual horizons – and yet it dangerously divided. Furthermore, students operate in a troubling zeitgeist, one filled with distrust. For example, many students do not trust the administration or Public Safety.
The first thing that members of the Wesleyan community must do, therefore, is to commit to a new era where trust, transparency, and integrity are the norm. It needs to revitalize the Honor Code and the Code of Non-Academic Conduct. As a whole, this code needs to be revisited, updated, and put at the forefront of student life.
2. Improve campus safety
The new Public Safety chief has been dealt a tough hand. A skeptical student body, a history of inappropriate officer behavior, a disturbing uptick in sexual violence – and that is just the tip of the iceberg. The department has started to enact overdue reforms to Wesleyan’s nightlife, including the enforcement of fire codes at concerts and in wood-frame houses. In order for the social scene to re-emerge, students must work with Public Safety and the administration to address the problems in campus safety.
Most pressingly, the community must address the dangers that women face on campus – I want to add my appreciation for the hard work that students have done to illuminate them. Members of the community may disagree on the means, but they must share both the goal of improving campus safety for all – and mutual commitment of good faith toward that end.
3. Continue to fix Wesleyan’s fiscal woes.
Since the Great Recession, Wesleyan has struggled to keep its endowment in decent shape, and the financial aid model had to be changed. Returning to the beloved model – 100% need blind for domestic applicants – would be nice, but Wesleyan should not do so if it is financially unsustainable. It needs to find a balance that provides the most possible assistance to needy students while not squeezing out the middle class.
4. Enrich the academic experience
Wesleyan may be praised for its academics and the sheer breadth of intellectual thought that emanates from the community. But it does not adequately emphasize that set of core values that students deem essential – creativity, depth and breadth of critical thought, civic engagement, social justice. Some of these values are innate to the open curriculum, but others are not as prominent.
I suggest codifying those values through new academic traditions. Firstly, core requirements rather than just general education expectations (or, for that matter, expectations that orientation spiels will stick for all four years). For example, consider a “diversity” requirement that asks students to take classes about different cultures. Whether through foreign-language classes or history classes – or many other types – there will be many ways to satisfy it. Secondly, expanding the “living and learning” program for freshmen (eventually for all freshmen, as Skidmore does). More educators would teach interdisciplinary courses with emphases on the aforementioned values, and students will live with peers who share at least one common interest – easing the transition to college and better facilitating the formation of lifelong friendships.
Wesleyan also needs to better prepare students for the workplace. From revitalizing the Career Center to adding workshops for new apps and other important tools, Wesleyan needs to increase – in frequency and in quality – the scope of its efforts. In addition, Wesleyan should ensure that all students have ways to earn academic credit for internships. Employers would obviously love to have student interns, especially if they can compensate with academic credit instead of pay. Students, in turn, can remove a year from the four-year experience and save a year’s worth of money.
5. Revitalize Wesleyan’s social life.
Only after Wesleyan ensures campus safety can Wesleyan’s social scene be truly revived. And it must re-emerge as son as possible, for a healthy social scene is crucial for the growth of all students. The shuttering of two fraternity houses, while justified, deprives Wesleyan of two large social spaces at a turbulent time. We need more spaces like those, especially in turbulent times like these. The only spaces that could possibly fit the student body are Foss Hill and the hockey rink. Working with Public Safety, students need to take advantage of existing facilities and create new, regulated environments for gatherings. Hopefully, more traditions will arise and unite the body of students now and to come.