WU/FUSED urges WU to build on commitment to financial equity

| Senior News Editor

Washington University for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity circulated a student petition this week calling for Washington University to become a need-blind institution following Chancellor Andrew Martin’s inauguration.

Photo by Grace Bruton

The petition asked students to rate on a scale of 1-5 how urgent it is to them that the University becomes need-blind, the extent to which they know how their tuition money is being used and whether they wish they knew more about how it is used. The petition also left space for additional comments.

The organization previously criticized former Chancellor Mark Wrighton for his inaction towards the University’s lack of socioeconomic diversity. However, members of Washington University for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity (WU/FUSED) said they feel Martin’s commitment to the WashU Pledge and commitment to move towards need-blind admissions is promising news.

“We just really wanted to keep the momentum going from his inauguration and promises that he’s made on campus,” WU/FUSED member senior Rachel Hellman said. “[The WashU Pledge] was really exciting. This petition is more like an urge to make it an issue that’s going to be addressed within a manageable timeframe and not just pushed off.”

In addition to advertising on the Underpass and passing out flyers on the South 40, WU/FUSED tabled at Tuesday Tea in the Danforth University Center, Oct. 22. This week, the organization plans to post the petition in each class’ Facebook group and post flyers around campus in addition to boosting the campaign on the group’s social media pages.

At the time of publication, the petition has received 196 responses.

“I think we’ve been surprised because our push is going to be this upcoming week,” Hellman said. “We’ve already had so many more responses than we could’ve imagined.”

She said she believes that the petition’s multitude of components adds more validity to the data.

“That’s a testament to the fact this is not just something that people are blindly signing up for,” Hellman said.

WU/FUSED member senior Zach Leonard believes that this petition is an important push in encouraging the University to act on the need-blind initiative.

“In the past, we’ve heard a lot of talk from administrators that basically the money isn’t there to make this move and that it would be fiscally irresponsible,” Leonard said. “And we’ve always sort of thought that that was hard to believe because peer institutions of ours that are in similar financial situations have been able to go need-blind. The truth of it is that it’s always been the willpower, and if this becomes a priority for our school, it will happen and it can happen fast.”

The group’s goal is to get responses from 25-33% of the undergraduate student body, and is currently in the process of planning a meeting with Martin to present their results and request a “realistic but prioritized” timeline of becoming need-blind.

“Obviously we can say we want it by 2023 or whatever, but if the administration doesn’t echo that, nothing’s going to happen,” WU/FUSED member junior Lila Puziss said.

Vice Provost of Admissions & Financial Aid Ronne Patrick Turner characterized need-blind admissions as an “important and complex goal,” in a statement to Student Life, but said she is happy that Martin has shown continued commitment towards it.

“This is an ongoing process and will take some time, but we have a solid foundation of progress to build upon, including the recently announced WashU Pledge and our steady increase in the number of Pell-eligible enrollees, which now is 15% of our current first-year class,” Turner wrote. “I am excited to be part of a community with a shared commitment to continue to move forward.”

Although other student advocacy groups such as Fossil Free WashU and the Washington University Graduate Workers Union (WUGWU) have different goals, they share similar missions at their core, Hellman pointed out, and are all working to achieve transparency and access from the University administration.

“It’s all tied together because it’s a result of the financial planning of the University,” Hellman said. “So even though these are separate issues that formed because of budgeting and the way that the board works, we all have the same goal of holding the administration accountable for the way that money is allocated.”

WU/FUSED remains committed to making sure the University continues to be transparent about its plans for the future.

“I think our proactive approach towards asking for a timeline and asking for these changes is because of the history of change that’s been at this University,” Hellman said. “We would like it to be more rapid so that we can be up to pace with peer institutions who show a commitment to socioeconomic diversity. And we’re really excited by the promise of that.”

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