c/o Hartford Courant

c/o Hartford Courant

President Michael Roth ’78 attended the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) meeting on Sunday, Feb. 27 to report on the board of trustees (BoT) meeting that happened on Friday, Feb. 25 and to answer student questions. In continuing the biannual tradition of visiting the WSA, Roth discussed the Residential Comprehensive Fee (RCF), the planned tuition discount rate increase, the new science building, COVID-19 on campus, and University Day.

Roth began by summarizing the BoT meeting, which focused on campus culture, University finances, admissions, and the University’s role in the world. He reported that, due to inflation, the University plans to increase the tuition discount rate by almost four percent while increasing financial aid. He added that about half of the class of 2026 has been accepted so far. The University is continuing to standardize the RCF, which is currently higher for juniors and seniors than for first years and sophomores.

WSA Senator Sam Hilton ’25 opened up the Q&A section of the meeting by asking how changes in inflation could affect plans to increase the tuition discount rate. Roth explained that although the University will increase the discount rate, resulting in a higher tuition overall, it will also increase the amount of money that goes toward financial aid. 

“On the board, there are two trains of thought,” Roth said. “The most extreme version of one is we’re…too expensive, we gotta just cut the tuition rate and make it cheaper for everybody and then cut financial aid…. The other one is to make it even much more expensive for the people who don’t care how expensive it is and make financial aid even bigger for those who do.”

Former WSA Senator Emily McEvoy ’22 then asked whether the University would ensure that workers involved in constructing the new science building would be paid fairly. According to Roth, most of the workers are local and members of unions. He added that the University has prioritized a safe working environment and a diverse workforce with the construction project.

“We’re not gonna be bringing in workers from far away who get lower wages or something like that,” Roth said. “So I think it really will benefit central Connecticut, Middletown included.”

WSA Senator Yun Huynh ’25 expressed concerns about the number of COVID-19 cases on campus—which had reached a high of 265 positive cases during the week of Monday, Feb. 14 to Sunday Feb. 20—and asked how the University had made the decision to reopen indoor dining on campus. Roth noted that it is unclear how much indoor dining contributes to the spread of COVID-19, and attributed the sharp rise in cases at least in part to social events. Acknowledging debates over what COVID-19 precautions are necessary, he emphasized that students can adjust their individual behaviors according to their aversion to risk.

“We think we can relax the restrictions about in-person dining,” Roth said. “That doesn’t mean you have to dine in person, right? As far as I know, you can still get your own food and leave if you are concerned.”

Noting that many students, faculty, and staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Roth expressed optimism that the University may lift further COVID-19 restrictions, such as wearing masks in classes, if cases continue to fall.

“Anything I can do to reduce the impediments for students being together, I’d like to do, gradually,” Roth said. “…I’m hoping when it gets warm, that we can do lots of great things outside and to celebrate being together in a variety of ways.”

Huynh followed up with a question on how the tuition discount rate increase may affect grants and scholarships, including the Freeman Asian Scholarship. Roth answered that although financial aid changes with tuition, he is unaware of whether scholarships would be impacted.

Explaining that the WSA anticipates additional costs for University Day, WSA Senator Ariana Baez ’22 asked whether the President’s Office could provide additional funding to ensure that faculty and staff in attendance can participate in events and receive food for free. Roth emphasized his support for University Day, explained that he is open to increasing funding, and suggested that the WSA incorporate a concert and rethink the event’s name.

“You guys will like what you like, but I think having something for students to really kick back and be students together—as well as the other things—I think it’d be great,” Roth said. “And if we need to find some more money, I’ll do my best.”

WSA Senator Valerie Lee ’24 asked about the availability of rapid COVID-19 tests on campus, especially after spring break, which will happen from Saturday, March 12, to Sunday, March 20. According to Roth, the University is currently looking into increasing access to rapid tests.

“I agree with you that…it’s more helpful now and would be more helpful after spring break to have rapid tests than PCR tests in many ways,” Roth said.

Roth ended the Q&A with a final comment reemphasizing his support of the diversity of student opinions on campus.

“I very much want you all to plan things,” Roth said. “Not all students will like any one thing, but if you have enough cool things to do that different people find community building, including faculty and staff, that would be wonderful. And I look forward to participating in those things with you.”


Sam Hilton is an assistant news editor for The Argus.

Elias Mansell can be reached at emansell@wesleyan.edu.

Comments are closed