Fall Trustee Meeting

This past weekend the Board of Trustees held its fall meeting. Student resources were high on the agenda, and we heard an excellent presentation from Bob Coughlin, who recently assumed the position of Director of Financial Aid. It was clear to everyone that while the University devotes more than 50 million dollars a year to scholarships, some students and their families feel extraordinarily stretched by the economic demands they experience. How best to support these folks is a key project going forward.

In the Campus Affairs committee, discussion extended from the final report on the Class of ’19 to a reminder that recruiting the class of ’20 is already well underway. Indeed, Early Decision applications are up again this year! We also considered reports from Antonio Farias on equity and inclusion, especially on Title IX issues, and heard from students on changes brought about on the social scene with three fraternity houses closed this year. There will be more extensive discussions of faculty hiring, the curriculum and advising over the course of the coming months.

The Finance Committee considered both long- and short-term issues. We discussed modest increases to our tuition plans in order to support our investments in financial aid, and we also considered long-term physical plant needs. The University’s economic condition is strong, and there is a general commitment to build capacity to support our mission for years to come.

Speaking of building capacity, the University Relations committee talked extensively about finishing the THIS IS WHY campaign with a big push. We are especially interested in raising funds for paid internships for financial aid students, and in endowing more scholarships generally. The committee acknowledged that we will want to maintain fundraising momentum even after the close of the campaign, and we will have to communicate effectively in order to do that. The Wesleyan community has been very generous, and we will find new ways of attracting this support.

Over lunch we heard from a group of five students about their advanced research work. From elephants to the physics of lung function, from carbon taxes and hydrogen bonding to performance pieces, the Trustees had a great opportunity to consider the amazing range of Wes graduate and undergraduate students. At the full board meeting, the Academic Deans described their roles in building the curriculum, monitoring courses access, and planning for interdisciplinary research and teaching.

After the formal meeting concluded, a group of Trustees met with several representatives of the students of color community. We had the opportunity to listen to students describe their experiences on campus, their frustrations and their fatigue. I think we all left with a more nuanced sense of the challenges that a good number of our students face, and of the work that remains to ensure that the reality of life on campus lives up to our rhetoric about it.

The Board will return in February, and I know that the WSA is planning an open house with students in which some Trustees will participate. Communication between the Board and the campus is a key facet of their work.