If you’ve been at Wesleyan for any amount of time you know that many students view the college’s administration negatively. In the last year alone there has been major student unrest about a whole slew of issues, including the treatment of the custodial staff, the cleanliness of the endowment, and the changes to the University’s logo. While much of the dissatisfaction about administration decisions stems from legitimate concerns, part of the animosity that students have expressed is caused by a lack of information over the way that the University’s affairs are managed. By not providing detailed explanations for many of its more controversial decisions, the administration paints itself as the enemy, making choices that seemingly go against the students’ interests without giving adequate reasons for those choices. However, since the administration is made up of professionals whose jobs it is to serve the University, it’s undoubtedly basing all of its decisions on factual data and research in order to best help the University grow. In order to rid itself of the negative images that haunt it and facilitate dialogue with the student body, the University should treat its students as equals by providing them with the same detailed information that it uses to make its own decisions. Doing so would reduce animosity based simply on misunderstanding and would also allow discussion between the two sides to focus on what improving the University means, instead of on whether the administration wants to improve the University at all.
The best example of where this information would have been critical was during the Fall 2018 Rebranding Fiasco. Last year, the administration announced out of nowhere that it was replacing the old Wesleyan logo with a new, more modern design. The student body, taken completely by surprise, was outraged. Soggy We$ Memes blew up with dozens of posts mocking the updated design and attacking the University for not including students in this significant decision. One theme that repeatedly came up in students’ complaints about the new logo was confusion over why the school needed rebranding in the first place. The University merely offered some promotional material that gave vague, buzzword-y, explanations such as “[Wesleyan] could do more to proactively differentiate ourselves in an ever more crowded marketplace.” Shockingly, such explanations failed to assuage the confusion surrounding the rebrand, leaving the student body with the sense that the University had spent millions of dollars to create an unnecessary new logo on a whim. However, unless the professionals in the administration are actually incompetent, they probably did some sort of background research to help them decide whether or not to embark on a major revamp of the school’s visual identity. Surely the data and information that administration officials based their choice upon still exists, and should be shared with the students in a way that we can understand. If said data was convincing enough to sway the opinions of the University, then it should also be convincing enough to persuade the student body that millions of dollars of tuition was not blown on some snazzy new design. By providing this information to the student body, and therefore taking its opinions seriously, the administration would alleviate some of the animosity that exists between the two groups. Acknowledging the validity of both sides’ concerns would greatly facilitate dialogue and cooperation between the two, allowing them to work together on a shared goal of improving the educational experience at the University
Treating student voices as legitimate is essential because at the end of the day, it is the students’ money that is being spent, and the students who are the sole beneficiaries of the University. While many critics argue that the students should focus on learning instead of the administrative aspects of the college, they fail to take into account the effect that the administration has on student life. Since the University costs a whopping $72,000 a year, students want to know that their money is being used wisely. Every dollar that was spent on the rebranding process could have gone towards improving facilities, hiring new faculty members, or increasing financial aid; all areas that affect a student’s educational experience. The business transaction between the students and the University hinges upon the idea that the administration will take the students’ money and use it to provide the best educational experience possible. Just like a company is required to provide its stockholders with sufficient information about its performance, so should the University be required to inform its students about how it is spending the tuition they have invested in it.
Daniel Knopf is a member of the class of 2022. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.