Wesleyan Student Assembly — Wesleyan University
Minutes: November 23, 2008
Approval of Minutes
Discussion of point-bumps for students that have taken leaves of absence (Becky)
Discussion of the new University Outreach Committee (Mike)
Report from the Student Representatives to the Board (EC)
Meeting opens — 7:00 pm
1) Fight Song
2) Approval of Minutes
Minutes not approved, to be approved at the next meeting
3) Open Forum
Matt Lesser: Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, suggestions about Middletown. Also, thanks to everyone who helped during my campaign.
4) Discussion of point-bumps for students that have taken leaves of absence
[This is with regard to university housing for students who take a semester off.]
- Sami: so they would get the point bump every year?
- Cordelia: so the ‘super senior’ would vacate a potentially ‘desired house’ half-way through the semester. What would then happen?
- Benedict: I’m not only opposed to them getting the point bump, but also that they shouldn’t be guaranteed on-campus housing
- Candace: it would be fair if they were on the same level as the other seniors
- Joanna: I think that we should look at the semester they come back because that is when they are most likely to get undesirable housing
- Mike: I think that we should definitely look at the senior year in more detail
- Bradley: I’m looking at this from the point of view of what is best for the university, especially in this precarious financial situation;
- Justin: if people want to house with their friends from their ‘original’ year, why not let them join a 5 person group, but not let that count to the average
- Liana: I don’t think that we should be looking at the university’s finances above student well-being in housing.
- Joanna: this only applies to students who are going to spend 8 total semesters at Wesleyan (with a term or year off in between)
- Cordelia: do they pay fees for the fall semester only in their ‘final year’?
- Saul: there is an informal expectation with Middletown that we keep off-campus housing to a minimum
- Sami: Once their ‘original’ class graduates, they shouldn’t get the point bump for that final (extra) semester
- Benedict: Students who come back should have to apply for this point bump. Students who use this to study abroad but not pay Wesleyan tuition should not be allowed this.
- Jeff: why?
- Benedict: because they are robbing other students of financial aid
- Becky: lets focus on the main question of whether they (the super senior) should supersede the senior in that final semester
- Michelle: I would support them going into graduate student housing
- Ali: they should be encouraged to find alternate housing since the class they entered with has graduated
- Karl: I don’t know if we have enough graduate student housing — it could be problematic
- Chris Goy: the only thing I care about is that if someone goes away from a semester they should be able to stay with people from the class they entered in. Therefore, it should be a sort of mandatory minimum rather than a point bump, through which, they would be at the bottom of their original class housing list
- David: I’m not sure how Justin’s proposal would work, but I think its possibly a good idea that we should look into
5) Discussion of the new University Outreach Committee
- Mike: For the past few months, Saul and I have been discussing with President Roth: ‘How do we want the world to view Wesleyan’ in a broad sense.
Mike continues to give a brief overview of what this will entail
- Saul: everyone, please feel free to give suggestions for agenda items that you think should be up there.
- Chris: was there a reason why the head administrators in each department that this affects are not part of the core members
- Saul: we wanted flexibility and only wanted to call in senior administrators when it pertains to them because they are all very busy
University Outreach Committee
This committee will serve as a venue for ongoing discussion between elected student representatives, the office of the President, and the officers in the administration responsible for university outreach. For the purposes of this committee, university outreach may be defined as the messaging, techniques, and initiatives used by the University to engage, communicate with, and present itself to the wider Wesleyan community and to the outside world. The committee's ongoing discussion of these issues will draw meaningful feedback and advice from the student body by allowing for specialized knowledge and focused discussion of specific and sometimes sensitive material. Whereas broad annual updates at WSA meetings are certainly helpful, a sustained consultative relationship will enable productive, ongoing dialogue and promote thinking that will foster creative, worthwhile and beneficial feedback on issues relating to university outreach.
Charge, Responsibilities, and Powers:
- Provide feedback to departments including, but not limited to University Relations, University Communications, and Admission
- Communicate suggested recommendations for strategy, assessment, policy, and new initiatives to departments or individuals within the University
- Expand membership and/or create temporary or permanent subcommittees to focus on specific issues, proposals, or areas of assessment, as needed
- Meet at least two times per semester, with agenda and group composition determined by the core committee members
The committee will be composed of core members and rotating members whose presence will be determined on an as-needed basis.
- President of the University
- Special Assistant to the President for University Relations
- WSA President
- WSA Vice President
- Discuss Wesleyan's image in the region, country, and world and the impact that image has on the University's various constituencies and audiences, such as prospective students and alumni
- Discuss how Wesleyan's depth and breadth can best be presented in various settings and media
- Reflect student voice in the priorities of promoting Wesleyan's image
- Discuss strategies for engaging audiences targeted as potential students or potential donors
- Discuss strategies for engaging potential new audiences who have limited perceptions of Wesleyan
- Discuss strategies for building a more engaged, cohesive Wesleyan community
- Discuss Wesleyan's outreach into the Middletown community
*The core members will be free to expand the portfolio of the committee as they see fit
Potential Agenda Items:
- Discuss strategies to engage small donors including recent alumni, parents, and current students
- Develop strategies to create a culture of giving among current students, particularly seniors
- Provide advice on marketing practices and promotional materials sent to prospective students
- Provide advice on practices and policies related to Senior Interviewers and Tour Guides
- Provide constructive feedback on University tours
- Develop strategies for enhancing Wesleyan's presence in previously unengaged regions, both domestic and abroad
- Discuss how Wesleyan is portrayed in the news media (both traditional and non-traditional) and strategies for altering that portrayal where it is deficient
- Discuss the role of technology such as online media and social networking tools in promoting Wesleyan and reaching out to the University's various audiences
- Discuss admission criteria and their impact on shaping Wesleyan's identity and image
- Assess use of the alumni network as a resource for enhancing recruitment, community, career development, etc
6) Report from the Student Representatives to the Board [Re: Board of Trustee meeting]
- Benedict: Campus Affairs overview
- Chris Goy: I really wish that every member of the Wesleyan community could have been there at the meeting. Finance overview including Sustainability (hedging fuel costs, exterior renovations) and Budget (the situation of the endowment).
- Saul: University Relations: Fundraising was discussed. Electronic media (and its use for UR) was discussed. President Roth really wants to separate our website from others
See Full Report for more details
WSA Report from the November Board of Trustees Meeting
November 23, 2008
This year’s annual November meeting of the Board of Trustees ran from Thursday, November 20 through Saturday, November 22. This gathering constituted the Board’s first official meeting of the academic year, following the retreat which was held September 27. As guests of the board, the WSA President and Vice-President attended the meeting alongside the six Executive Committee members who serve as Student Representatives to the Board in accordance with the WSA Constitution and University by-laws.
As the Board had previously emphasized the need to prepare the University for the long-term impact of the global financial crisis, the main topic of discussion during this meeting was “The Economic Framework Going Forward.” In a break with tradition, the Board committee sessions were held consecutively, enabling the trustees and President Roth to attend each of the separate meetings and address this topic from multiple angles. At General Session, the Board considered the administration’s proposed multi-pronged approach to addressing an expected budget shortfall of over $15.5 million in the next few years. First, the administration proposed an extensive “belt tightening” exercise to eliminate $5 million from the annual budget. In addition, the Board considered a proposal for instituting significant across-the-board cuts (including a salary freeze for staff and faculty and a substantial reduction of the budget for major maintenance projects) and revenue enhancements (including a temporary rise in undergraduate enrollment and a one-time boost to the rate of tuition increase). Although the proposed solutions for rightsizing the budget were viewed as in line with the University’s core values, there remains concern that the dwindling size of the endowment will force the Board to consider even more painful sacrifices when it meets again in February.
On Friday, the student representatives to the Board split up to attend meetings of the following three Board committees:
- Campus Affairs is responsible for the Board’s activities relating to the educational program of the University as well as student affairs, including admission, residential life, health services and more. Trustee, student and faculty representatives serve on this Committee and have both voice and vote except for the Executive Session involving personnel issues. The Executive Session of the Campus Affairs Committee is usually attended by trustees and the vice chair of the Advisory Committee of the Academic Council only.
Campus Affairs was attended by Mike Pernick, Becky Weiss, and Benedict Bernstein. In addition to the normal attendees of the meeting, numerous Trustees took advantage of the new schedule to observe the Campus Affairs meeting.
After taking care of Committee governance, the Committee proceeded to a lengthy discussion of “Assessment” both of the Academic and co-Curricular aspects of a Wesleyan education. The committee sought to provide input on the faculty and administration’s ongoing work towards implementing a system of qualitative and quantitative assessment that will both satisfy NEASC and will provide Wesleyan with an opportunity for self-reflection and improvement. It was noted that Wesleyan has the opportunity to become a leader in this field and to “brand” itself if we can find a way to successfully measure the “intangibles” of what makes a Wesleyan education great. The Trustees’ suggestions as to how this might be done will be valuable as the EPC and the administration continue their work on this issue.
We then moved on to our second item for discussion: “capstone” experiences. Again, as the process of thinking about capstones is still in its early phases, the main purpose of this discussion was to provide suggestions for what capstones might look like and how they could best be achieved. It was remarked that capstones provide a valuable opportunity for a synthesis of multiple disciplines, continued academic engagement of seniors, and a shared senior experience. However questions of resources and effectiveness were also raised. Joe Bruno, Vice President for Academic Affairs, informed the committee that Academic Affairs is hoping to institute a capstone program for next year.
While it had not been on the agenda for discussion, the pleasant surprise of a 38% increase in ED1 applicationsóas reported in the New York Timesóled to a discussion of admissions. Nancy Meislahn, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, reported that the percentage of applicants asking for financial aid in the pool had not changed significantly, and reported a huge increase in the number of black students applying ED1 (a 74% increase from last year). While Dean Meislahn and Greg Pyke speculated as to possible contingent explanations for the increase, it is clear that a significant portion of the increase was thanks to the hard work of Admissions staff and coaches (peer schools only saw about a 10-20% increase in applications).
The committee received reports on new faculty appointments and on the activities of the WSA. The Committee then went into executive session to hear tenure case(s).
- Finance is responsible for the Board’s activities relating to the University’s capital and operating budgets, which include the establishment and monitoring of long-range financial planning for the University. It is also responsible for the investment policies of the University. Trustees and student and faculty representatives serve on this Committee and have both voice and vote.
- Finance was attended by Chris Goy and Jen Liebschutz. Under the topic of facilities, the committee discussed the completed construction of the two new senior houses on Pine and Fountain, the Vine St. co-generation facility which should be up and running by the time students get back from break, hedging fuel costs through 2010, and the exterior renovations that were made to 28 houses on Braindard, Wyllys, etc.
- The committee also discussed the current condition of Wesleyan’s endowment. The endowment has lost $129 million since August, when it was valued at $651 million. This loss amounts to 20% over the past 4 months, which is comparable to the 21% decline of the Russell 2000 index over the same period. Assuming a 5% endowment return during years subsequent to the current fiscal year, we will return to the 2007 level of $710 million in 2013 at best.
- University Relations is responsible for the Board’s activities regarding the University’s relationships and communications with off-campus constituencies, including its alumni/ae and the University’s development efforts. Trustees and student and faculty representatives serve on this Committee and have both voice and vote.
University Relations was attended by Saul Carlin and Elise Rosenthal. The meeting began with an overview of University Relations’ progress towards its annual and campaign fundraising goals. A measurable decline in participation due to the current economic climate now poses a serious challenge to our fundraising efforts. As of October 24, $11.2 million in gifts and pledges have been raised since this fiscal year began on July 1; an additional $63.8 million must be raised by June 30, 2009 to meet the annual goal. Surprisingly, fundraising for the Wesleyan Annual Fund is actually ahead of where it was at this point last year.
Next, Campaign Director Anne Bergen presented UR’s metrics for analyzing Wesleyan’s donor base. The presentation was followed by a discussion of the strategic use of price points for endowed scholarships and professorships when making solicitations for campaign donations.
Director of Communications Mark Bailey presented the strategy for synthesizing Wesleyan’s “Big Ideal” of Practical Idealism with ongoing and future communications efforts. This concept, which was developed by University officers in consultation with the public relations firm Ogilvy and Mather, describes how Wesleyan “transforms individual potential into purpose and result”. Associate Vice President for ITS Ganesan Ravishanker added to the presentation by outlining “Wes2.0”, the University’s strategy for using electronic media to aggregate and distribute content over the Internet.
Newly elected committee vice-chair Robert Allbritton ’92 then led an open discussion of ideas for incorporating electronic media more directly into the University’s communications strategy. The discussion focused on the need to redesign Wesleyan’s homepage to deliver abundant and meaningful content in a simple, streamlined way, while incorporating features that will set the homepage apart from others. The Wesleyan-Allbritton Studio, a plan to help Wesleyan speakers get airtime on television networks, was also discussed before time ran out.
On Saturday morning, the Board met for a two-and-a-half hour General Session before entering their afternoon Executive Session. Presentations and discussions at this meeting included:
- Martha Gilmore, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, gave the faculty presentation. Her talk began with an overview of her work studying the surface conditions of Venus, Mars, and Earth via sample retrieval and remote sensing. The presentation ended with a discussion of Wesleyan’s role as a regional leader in the study of planetary science, and the need for Wesleyan to continue to be regarded by its peers as a trailblazer in academia.
- President Roth and Jim Dresser, Chair of the Board of Trustees, both spoke to the need for Wesleyan to come together and defend our core values during the present crisis, while also being mindful of the established guidelines for how the endowment may be spent, which are designed to protect the future capacity of the University.
- John Meerts, Vice-President for Finance and Administration, presented the administration’s recommendations to the Board of Trustees for eliminating $15.5 million from the University’s annual operating budget.
The administration’s recommendations for budget reductions are as follows:
- It was proposed that approximately $5 million of the deficit be eliminated by extending the University’s current departmental “belt tightening” exercise. Of this amount, approximately $1.7 million would be eliminated from Academic Affairs and $329,000 from Student Affairs.
- It was proposed that $2 million of the deficit be eliminated by freezing staff and faculty salaries for the 2009/2010 academic year.
- It was proposed that a proportion of the deficit be eliminated by cutting the annual increase of the budget for major maintenance projects.
- It was proposed that $200,000 of the deficit be eliminated by canceling two of the four new faculty lines planned for 2010/2011.
- Other major cuts would include, but would not be limited to, reducing the number of graduate stipends, as well as eliminating annual increases in the technological development fund, the library acquisition fund, and the capital budget.
The administration’s recommendations for revenue enhancement are as follows:
- It was proposed that $3.9 million of additional revenue be realized by increasing undergraduate enrollment by 30 students over the next four years, for a total of 120 students.
- It was proposed that $870,000 of additional revenue be realized by increasing tuition in 2009/10 by 5.9% instead of 5% as originally planned.
John Meerts concluded by presenting the sobering calculation that an additional $1.7 million will have to be eliminated from the operating budget for every $25 million of further loss from the endowment. The Board encouraged the administration to make cuts in a timely fashion, while acknowledging that all of the proposed changes will all come with considerable pain. Finally, members of the Board asked the administration to be mindful of the potential unexpected or long-term damage to the University’s core values that might accompany the two major proposals for revenue enhancement, such as adverse effects to student life and goodwill among middle-class students or prospective students impacted by the tuition increase.
- Joanna: If they add 120 students, wouldn’t Professors need to teach more?
- Mike: No; the only change might be that some classes might have to increase max numbers
- Chris Choi: would these 30 / class would be admitted the same as the rest of the class
- David: the reason there is class appropriate housing for 2 classes this year is because there are slightly lower numbers for those two grades
- Karl: while this situation is miserable for all of us, it is for everyone else (other New England small schools). What we need is to be doing is squeezing our belt at the same rate or just lower to remain competitive.
- Allison: has anyone taken into consideration, the students who are not on financial aid now, but due to the economy, will apply next year?
- Michelle: I think we need to consider making the off-campus housing easier for students
- Candace: it is cheaper to stay off-campus by renting a house; the issue is with the food.
- Saul: I like that we are focusing on the core values of Wesleyan here
- Chris Goy: I think that any student who could have attended the board would be proud of the fact that trustees who are somewhat disconnected from the university hold the values that we hold dear, just as dear; they were just as passionate about retaining those values
- Benedict: in some ways this conversation is optimistic; things are not suddenly going to get better. We will have to accept these cuts.
- Mike: I want to take a moment to talk about the tuition increase. This will really impact the middle-class who are the ones on little or no financial aid, and are the ones already worst hit by the economic crisis.
- Ben: I think that the theme that is emerging from this discussion is ‘ask not what Wes can do for you, but what you can do for Wes’
- Saul: this has become a time when we have to choose which short to mid-term values we are prepared to sacrifice for the long term survival and well being of the university.
- Karl: I think that the expansion of students should be considered a short term fix before we go from being a ‘liberal arts school’ to a ‘university’
- Greer: will the board be voting on these proposals in February? How will they take into account changes between now and then?
- Benedict: they are not bound to these proposals
- Jeff: the university is looking at cut where you can, as they should. I think that we should be focused on what we can’t allowed to be cut.
- Vickie: I was wondering about whether there is something in discussion to raise more revenue from summer programs
- Ben: the key is in finding a balance between the cuts and keeping the ideals of the school alive
- Candace: when we are talking about cuts — I can see that the number of PSafe officers on duty might be reduced, or the transport facility. The thing we want to remember is that some of these ‘small’ cuts have a big impact.
- Karl: I think that students should focus on ways to reduce the costs that they place on the university.
7) Committee Reports
- Candace: the Sexual Misconduct and Assault Policy doesn’t address stalking at all
- Mike: I know we were looking at getting some seats on Middletown governance. We really should get a seat on public safety
- Chris: Straw poll to see how many people have used the UOC ever
- Strawpoll: Yes 9
- Bradley: would there be any way that the MPD officer in the substation could follow up on a university call to PSafe about drugs/alcohol/any other illegal thing
- Jen: I disagree. I think Wesleyan students are Middletown residence, and they should be held to the same standards as everyone else. I can’t agree that Wesleyan students are too intimidated to go down to the police station on Main Street
- Micah: we want to minimize police presence on campus as much as possible. If Middletown Police want to seriously question a student, they will take them down to Main Street. It’s the real world, folks it’s Connecticut.
- David: I think it is a huge waste of resources. We don’t need to be spending any more resources than a file cabinet.
- Candace: I think it is highly problematic; we are a part of Middletown
- Cordelia: I think there are other ways of getting the police notified in cases such as sexual misconduct etc. and having the student taken to MPD
- Karl: I generally do not advocate for doing what the police says, I advocate for student liberalism.
- Meherazade: is the pressure from international schools due to the fact that we send far more students abroad then we allow on exchanges
- Candace: one of the things that drives me nuts about the CRC is when you go in and they tell you to look up a website
- Benedict: I think it would be cool if we could get professional looking murals. Also, coconut added to desert is not always good.
- Michelle: what’s happening with investor responsibility?
- Candace: my issue is with the bathroom signs being continually vandalized
- Benedict: what if it wasn’t a sign fixed into the wall? What if it was etched into the door?
- Bradley: if people are resorting to vandalism, clearly, they don’t feel like their voice is being heard
- Jeff: how easy are these signs to pry off?
8) New Business
- Becky: I really need feedback from people who have lived in smaller program housing about bathroom cleaning
- Jen: these proposed cuts are not currently not on the table for cutting
- Elise: if Undergrad Housing doesn’t support this proposal, who brought it up?
- Michelle: I’m not sure the minimum of 3 days a week is actually being carried out
- Candace: why can’t the program house come together and create a cleaning schedule like people in wood frames do?
- Jeff: we’re not asking people living who live in the program house to pay more money or anything, just be more responsible
- Mike: when you live in a program house, there is a selection process. You have the benefit of living in a house — it’s a really special thing
- Elise: people who live in program houses pay as much as dorm living, so we should get the same benefits
- Karl: this is a great place to make cuts. I want to know if that means we will be employing less people
- Mike: we are going to have elections in a few weeks. Along with the election, we will have a poll, so if you have things you want to know, talk to your committee chair.
- Saul: we are planning to have a WSA party on the 5th of December. Send me your picture if you don’t want me to put up the picture I took on the website
- Jen: the transport committee is trying to put together a bus for Christmas break
- Justin: we completed our fundraiser for Wesleying, thanks to everyone who donated. We made twice as much as we had hoped
- Chris: the Argus published an album review of a country album. I would like everyone to come up with an economically solid plan for budget cuts for the university.
Meherazade Sumariwalla ’12