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.
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
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.
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."
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.
invited everyone at the forum to be part of the solution.
ďAs 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
Anyone interested in
being involved should contact the Admission Office, Meislahn said.