WU/FUSED broadens efforts for socioeconomic diversity on campus

| Staff Reporter

WU/FUSED, Washington University’s chapter of national coalition U/FUSED, is taking new strides toward socioeconomic diversity within the undergraduate population following the increase of Pell-eligible students at the University.

An advocacy group that aims to amplify the voices of low-income and first-generation students, WU/FUSED works to ensure that the administration is addressing their concerns and accommodating them.

Members of WU/FUSED carried an eight foot ball and chain around campus on the weekend of the second presidential debate to raise awareness for student debt on college students. The group is looking for different ways to advocate for first-year and low-income students on campus.Jillian McCarten | Student Life

Members of WU/FUSED carried an eight foot ball and chain around campus on the weekend of the second presidential debate to raise awareness for student debt on college students. The group is looking for different ways to advocate for first-year and low-income students on campus.

Now that the University has made a commitment to increasing the number of Pell-eligible students, the group is looking for other ways to push the administration to enhance the Washington University experience for these students.

The group’s president, senior Shaun Ee, noted the University’s significant progress toward admitting more Pell-eligible students since his freshman year.

“When I was a freshman, we were just pushing to increase the number of Pell-eligible students,” Ee said. “About two years ago, the administration made a commitment to increasing the number of Pell-eligible students by 2020. They’re in the process of realizing that; the current freshman class is the first to reach the administration’s goal.”

Freshman and group member Zachary Leonard explained that, while WU/FUSED is excited about the increased number of Pell-eligible students, this milestone has raised larger-scale questions about the future of socioeconomic diversity within the student body.

“The school has reached its goal for Pell-eligible students, and of course that’s a good thing for the school, but we also think that there’s a lot more to be done. We’re looking at broader ways to create socioeconomic diversity in this school that go beyond just the number of Pell-eligible students,” Leonard said. “We don’t want Wash. U. to become a school with a lot of students in the top 1 percent, a lot of Pell-eligible students and no middle class.”

Leonard added that WU/FUSED plans to monitor the University’s relationship with lower-income students beyond their acceptance.

“The other question is, is Wash. U. accepting these kids and then providing the institutions that will help them succeed at our school? We want to find ways to push Wash. U. to actually help students once they’re on campus,” he said.

Ee pointed toward the University’s housing policies as a potential point of interest for WU/FUSED.

“There are a lot of points at which we think that there are possible interventions. In the way that the housing process is currently structured, there are hidden costs involved. Ultimately, we don’t want the South 40 to consist of only modern dorms,” Ee said. “If traditional dorms are remodeled in the future, we should still have some kind of housing that is cost-effective and able to accommodate lower-income students.”

WU/FUSED will be sponsoring a Housing Forum event to open up student discussion about the housing process and financial strains it may cause March 28 at 7 p.m. in Ursa’s Fireside.

“The forum is to let people air their grievances about the housing situation on the South 40 and in the Village. We think it’s important because a lot of the way that housing operates right now is under the assumption that everyone wants modern dorms, which are the most expensive housing options that Wash. U. provides. We don’t think that’s true, and we want a reality check on that,” Leonard said.

Ee reiterated the importance of focusing on socioeconomic diversity at Wash. U. outside of increasing Pell-eligible student admission.

“We’re just trying to create a more holistic perception of socioeconomic diversity instead of focusing on this very narrow, ‘How many Pell-eligible students do we have’ kind of definition. That isn’t a real representation of what diversity looks like,” Ee said.