A forum on January 25 engaged more than 300 students, faculty and staff in a discussion of the administrative response to issues raised at a student-organized forum in December. The forum followed by a week the distribution of a report detailing student participation in University governance, itself a response to complaints from some students that they felt excluded from decisions that affect their lives on campus.
At the forum, held in the Chapel, senior administrators were joined onstage by leaders of the faculty and the Wesleyan Student Assembly. Professor of Philosophy Brian Fay moderated the session, during which students raised questions or made comments based on the report.
It appeared that most students had read the report, said Interim Dean of the College Peter Patton. “Some students expressed dissatisfaction about the status of specific issues they care about,” he said. “On the other hand, it seems that most now realize that Wesleyan students do have significant opportunities to influence University decision-making.”
The issues that received the most attention during the forum were student interest in having a multicultural dean, accommodations in housing for incoming students who identify as transgender, and the future of the student radio station, WESU 88.1FM. Later in the week, President Doug Bennet emailed students to describe steps the University is taking to follow up on these issues. He reiterated his intention to engage the leaders of the WSA and the faculty in a follow-up discussion of governance and communication issues treated in the report.
Bennet informed students that he, Patton and Interim Director of Affirmative Action Michael Benn would meet with leaders of student of color groups to discuss the specific issues underlying students’ expressed desire for “safe spaces,” a dean of multicultural affairs, and diversity training for faculty.
Bennet reminded students that Patton would continue to work with the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC) and the Student Life Committee to identify acceptable solutions for gender-neutral housing. While returning students may select their own roommates regardless of gender, Residential Life currently accommodates transgendered first-year students in making room assignments. In making first-year assignments, the University does not support roommate pairing of students of different biological sexes. First-year students requesting accommodation are assigned to a single room or to a double room with another student requesting accommodation. Last year, the language describing “gender-neutral housing” was not clear to many first-year students, and the URLC is working to clarify the description for 2005-2006.
Communications Director Justin Harmon will continue to work with student leaders of WESU to help them develop plans that will enable the station to become financially viable and maintain its independence. Wesleyan has committed to hiring a full-time general manager who will help bring continuity to the station and build its fund-raising and operations.
“These will not be the only opportunities available for continuing the dialogue, but I think they are a good start,” Bennet wrote. “I welcome other suggestions about how to advance these issues.”
|| Students of Color Applications Up
Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Nancy Hargrave Meislahn told those present at the January 25 forum that applications to Wesleyan have risen approximately 5 percent from last year and that applications from students of color have increased at even higher rates.
As of January 21, Wesleyan had logged 6,848 applications, as compared with 6,509 on the same date the year before, Meislahn said. Applications from African-Americans had risen 18 percent, to 504 from 428; from Asian-Americans 13 percent, to 659 from 584; and from Latinos 7 percent, to 424 from 395. The number of applications from each of these groups represented at least an 8-year high for Wesleyan, Meislahn said. Final application numbers will be available later this month.
Wesleyan has gone to extra lengths to recruit students of color, Meislahn said, since experiencing a dip in applications from African-American students. Admission Office staff held a community forum and a follow-up meeting with interested students early in the fall to solicit their advice and to engage them in helping to recruit students, Meislahn said. In addition, a letter from the dean of admission and the vice president of University Relations was sent to alumni of color seeking their help in identifying and recruiting talented prospective students.
Meislahn invited everyone at the forum to be part of the solution.
As the admission cycle moves forward there will be many opportunities for students and faculty to assist the admission office in reaching out to admitted students,” she said. “Phonathons and plans for hosting students in April are underway.”
Anyone interested in being involved should contact the Admission Office, Meislahn said.