If you’ve checked your Wesleyan email in the past 24 hours, you’ve surely seen an alert from P-Safe Director Dave Meyer and Student Affairs VP Mike Whaley regarding recent reports of sexual assault at Beta. Details are blurry and scarce, but the Middletown Police have been involved, and we are led to believe that this is not a single isolated incident. Regardless, the email affirms that the administration will not hesitate to “pursue campus judicial charges against any students who may have been involved” and “continue to do all [it] can to support those who brought these reports to our attention.” (Over at Tenured Radical, an outspoken Wesleyan Professor of History and American Studies, who prefers to remain nameless on hir blog, takes a self-empowerment stance on the issue, listing ten positive students can take to prevent rape and sexual assault on campus.)
And, perhaps not altogether surprisingly, the University is taking the opportunity to remind us to study hard, eat our vegetables, and—you know—stay the hell away from Beta, because goodness knows what goes on in that place. From Meyer and Whaley’s all-campus email:
These recent reports have renewed our concern about illegal and unsafe behavior on Beta’s premises, as well as our concern for the safety and well-being of Wesleyan students living at the residence or visiting the house. We remind all members of the community that this privately-owned house does not have any formal relationship with the University. Further, we advise all Wesleyan students that they should avoid the residence because we cannot establish the safety of the premises.
These words sound familiar. In recent months, the University has made no secret of its tenuous at best relationship with Beta. It first withdrew recognition of the frat in June, 2005, after “members of the organization failed to satisfy the requirements to remain in [Wesleyan’s] ‘program housing’ system . . . and prohibited representatives from our office of Public Safety from addressing behavioral and/or safety concerns on their property.” Since then, Beta has retained its off-campus status, and will not be granted on-campus housing status unless it signs the Wesleyan University Fraternal Organization Agreement, which permits Public Safety to patrol the house as it does any other on-campus housing. No dice. As President of the Baird Association Adam Diamond ’03 put it: “The University doesn’t necessarily have the right to send their Public Safety officers to patrol [the house]—we’re adequately protected by the Middletown Police Department.”
Last March, the University reminded students of Beta’s unaffiliated status—and, more controversially, advised students to steer clear of the premises, expressing great concern for “the safety of those students who choose to affiliate with the house or attend events there against our advice.” At the time, a prominent Wesleying blogger ’10 (now alum) questioned the University’s motives and almost parental tone, blasting the email in question as “condescending fear mongering”:
I get that the administration wants to make it clear that whatever happens in Beta is not their fault. But there must be a way to make it clear that you’re not liable for these things without making the independent frat look like a den of sin and danger. Even more importantly, there must be a way for admins to acknowledge our freedom to make certain decisions without making it all about how bad things will happen to us if we don’t listen to the adults. Unless something else has been going on at the house that I don’t know about, this email just seems like condescending fear mongering.
One anonymous commenter remarked that the administration’s safety concerns almost certainly pertained to issues of sexual assault and rape. Another, bothered by that conclusion, and apparently agreeing with whatshername‘s stance, wrote in:
This is fucking ridiculous. No one gets sexually assaulted at beta, the brothers who live there are actually really good guys. Stop spreading nonsense.
Given this week’s unfortunate development, I’m curious to see how, if at all, opinions regarding the Beta controversy have changed. Should the administration continue to take an active role in dissuading students from visiting the frat? Might its unflattering characterization—as a “den of sin and danger”—be more warranted now, in the wake of recent reports, than it was in March? Are efforts at re-affiliating the frat with the school even feasible at this point, or worthwhile?
And moreover, what aren’t we doing to prevent sexual assault?
Weigh in in the comments, if you’re so inclined.