Are Current DePauw Students Being Left Behind?

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DePauw University announced a $200 million donation, the greatest in DePauw’s history, at a celebration in the Green Center of Performing Arts on Wednesday, Feb. 7. However, many students at the university did not see this generous windfall as anything to celebrate. Many of us, myself included, worry that the funds will not be allocated properly to benefit students. 

The last year at DePauw has faced massive budget cuts to all departments, the availability of student jobs has decreased and employed students have been forced to work reduced hours. Mold plagues many of the duplexes, dorms, and Rector Village. Multicultural fraternities and sororities do not have easy access to laundry. The laundry machines the students do have access to are often out of order or infected with mold. Faculty and Staff are underpaid, especially contingent faculty. Student organizations budgets have been cut. All of the recently proposed resolutions by the DePauw Student Government (DSG) were rejected. And tuition was raised 3.5%, while student scholarships have not been raised. 

This $200 million collective donation should be a beacon of hope for DePauw students; however, many of us do not have faith that DePauw’s administration will allocate funds to improve student life within the DePauw community. 

Of course we do not expect to see the fulfillment of the grand plans this donation will fund. But how are we supposed to celebrate this money when our tuition was just raised and when almost every department has had significant budget cuts? Current students have watched their departments lose funding, their jobs and organizations cut, and living spaces deteriorate, all while having to pay more to attend this university. Why should we celebrate this donation? What is DePauw doing to benefit the people who are currently paying to go here?

We have called for transparency several times from the university but these calls have gone unanswered. I hope we are given a comprehensive breakdown of where this money will go. It was announced that $64 million will go to the Creative School. Dr. White has also stated that renovation of residential buildings is one of DePauw’s highest priorities, though it is still unclear if current students will see any improvement. But what else will this money be used for? We assume most of the money will go into the endowment to cover DePauw’s financial deficit.  But will any of the money go to the problems students have identified? Will any of the money lead to increased pay for faculty and staff? Perhaps the raised interest that is generated from placing this donation in the endowment cannot cover all the issues laid out in this article. After all, I agree that the money should first and foremost go into ensuring the financial sustainability of this school through the endowment. However, we deserve to know if any of this money will fix current campus problems, if not for us, then for future students. DePauw students deserve a comprehensive breakdown of where their tuition is going. 

Right now it feels like our tuition is going towards DePauw’s future, not towards us students. Money is being moved around and saved at the expense of our campus experience so DePauw can build the college it wants to see in the future, a future the current students have paved the way for through their projects, initiatives, organizations, and dollars. I understand a lot of money goes into running a school. Some student wants may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but we at least deserve to know why our tuition was raised and where those additional fees will be allocated.

On DePauw’s part, they have broadly laid out that the money will go to the endowment, the Creative School, and across various programs and departments. We have also been told that “students of today won’t feel all of the immediate effects of the $200 million [donation.]” It feels as though the DePauw students of today will continue to feel the effects of budget cuts and watch the campus scrimp and save our money and cut our programs, to ensure a prosperous future. 

It does make sense, DePauw’s enrollment rates has been under 2000 students since 2019. The campus has to change, it has to grow. The issue is that the campus we were promised is changing into one we didn’t want. Current students are caught in the transitional period. It’s not about us or our experience, it's about making sure the future is brighter. 

The school that was advertised to the current student body was the liberal arts experience, a small, oldbrick, picturesque campus with a flourishing music school and a vibrant artistic community. But DePauw is going a different route. It wants to be new, sleek, modern. with its glass-walled business school and ergonomic chairs. This is not the DePauw we signed up for. We are caught in a crossroads. We signed up for one DePauw, while a new one is built around us at our expense. 

It’s great to pay it forward, but I’m first and foremost paying to go to this college for my experience and my education. I’m not another donor. I’m a student. 

DePauw students live here. We don’t leave at the end of the workday. We pay to live here, and yet we have little say in where our money goes or what our living community looks like. DePauw is our landlord, and once we are upperclassmen the chances of us transferring  are low, so investing in upperclassmen housing is a sunk cause. You already have us, why would you need to upkeep our living conditions if we will still live there? 

While it would be nice to have a gaga pit, easily accessible picnic benches, new equipment for the Lilly Center, or the return of Blend, it would be even nicer to replace moldy washers and dryers. It would be nicer to have bathrooms and living spaces that are up to livable standards. It would also be nicer to have more on-campus job opportunities.

We all chose to go here. We invested money into DePauw, only to have no say in where that money is going or to even know where it ends up.  The campus culture advertised to students was simply ripped away from us.

It’s important to prepare for the future, but it's also important to invest in the present. I am so excited for future students to have an amazing experience at DePauw, but current students deserve to have that experience too.