Since crash last reported on the whole Beta-gate situation, there’s been a whole lot of chatter ‘round these here cyber-space parts. The comments section on that post was completely balls out with emotion (as well as sarcasm), and the ACB’s been in a flurry with opinions being volleyed from left and right. Chatter has even spilled over to the pages of the Argus, where the editorial as well as my esteemed colleague lesanjuan spoke out against the issue. Of course, it’s problematic to hold up these specific sources and take them to be representative of the student body’s general discourse – what with the ACB being the seedy Chlamydia-filled internet back-alley it is and the total amount of written responses being miniscule in number compared to the actual number of Wesleyan students.
But it cannot be denied that the voices making themselves heard do raise some rather pressing issues that have concerned us before and should concern us now. Whether those voices fairly represent the views of the entire student body or not, these are issues that affect all of us both in terms of our conduct and in terms of the ideals we’re apparently supposed to hold, if not now then eventually.
I’m writing this because there’s a real conversation going on about this issue, and it’s just the kind of conversation that I believe this student body needs (once you avoid the trolls). Barring the brave folks at the Argus, it’s a conversation that has generally taken place behind closed doors, beneath pseudonyms, and often in poor grammar but still in earnest. (Indeed, a good deal of it is playing out in the surreal platform that is the ACB – but one feels the peculiar nature of our times calls for it.)
When you get to bottom of it, you see that it’s fundamentally a discussion about what matters to us on a very basic level – because, to be honest, this whole shit-spraying fan isn’t really about Beta, or partying, or our “right” to drink underage. It’s about not being patronized, it’s about not being bullied, and it’s about being treated with some damned dignity.
What we have here is a moment of true education. But it’s a moment that I fear will slip by unnoticed due to the underground nature of its conversation. The lack of a compelling public arena is a fatal condition for such productive discourse. I seek to help counter this, by roughly tying together the narratives of what is being said and has been said so far in the hope that publicity will give this moment better momentum.
A brief word on my methodology: I am quite aware of the ACB’s general facetious nature, as well as its reputation of being a high-density habitat for trolls. I also, however, understand that it doesn’t take a 4.2 GPA to figure what’s a sincere opinion and what’s sarcasm. I hope. I think. Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that. Anyway:
1. This hubbub isn’t really about Beta; it’s about the nauseating notion of the administration overstepping its boundaries and utilizing improper courses of action to achieve objectives that can perhaps be characterized as hypocritical, patronizing, and counter-intuitive.
While a considerable portion of the discourse involves a significant amount of bro-bashing, bro-advocacy, and general bro-centrism, the more consistent posters focus on the fact that the ramifications of this issue transcends the Beta-Administration feud and showcases the administration’s apparent lust for control. As this poster somewhat cogently points out,
“This is not about Beta but this is about how students are ‘forced’ by the administration. While Wesleyan is a private university whose primary commodity IS knowledge…students come here not only for knowledge but also to become an individual in society in which the PEOPLES’ opinion matter.” [ACB, post 8]
Ze’s not alone in this. A commenter on crash’s post writes
“So here’s my issue: the university has the rights to require us to pay for their housing. They do NOT have the right to require us to live in their housing, NOR do they have the right to tell us that we can’t go to private residences.
Ultimately, the university can make Beta students pay for university housing AND support the full costs of the frat building. I don’t see how it is in their rights to prohibit students from sleeping in Beta, though. Similarly, students shouldn’t be prohibited from attending Beta parties. In fact, EATING at Beta is also apparently disallowed (see the revised policy).
This is an administrative overstep that needs to be corrected– this is not within their powers.” [Wesleying Post]
2. Precedence is a dangerous thing.
This policy has resurrected the ghost of prior administrative decisions thought unjust by the greater student body but nobody did a thing about. This includes the open container ban, as well as the Tour de Franzia debacle last year that saw no real follow-through support for the targeted victims of the administration. One is compelled to feel that the university is flexing its muscles confidently now because it has been allowed to flex freely before.
“Maybe you don’t care about beta…that’s you’re prerogative, but the lofty policy just implemented and the open container ban both set dangerous precedents. As an upperclassmen it probably won’t impact me, but we can’t predict what will happen for the freshman and future generations of Wesleyan students. Perhaps nothing will happen; no one really knows, but what I do know is that this expansion of administrative power diminishes our rights as students and individuals in an institution that is ostensibly all for student empowerment and action.” [ACB, post 15]
This is further concurred by another poster, who writes
“I have literally never stepped foot into Beta in my 2.5 years here, so I couldn’t care less about it. But even though it’s worded to apply specifically to intimidate Beta into rejoining campus housing, this policy sets a seriously dangerous precedent of administrative power.” [ACB, post 8]
This last one displays a mindset that transcends the dichotomous simplification of this issue being a “for bros” or “against bros” situation, leading me to postulate that…
3. Some abstract string of unity is being loosely formed across social groups in reaction to the university’s decision.
Traditionally we see a lot of fratboy-nonfratboy tension on the ACB and on campus in general, but more semi-cooperative-spirited opinions have floated around as of late:
“i don’t like beta or frats very much either, but the ends don’t justify the means.” [ACB, post 3]
“Social stratification is a dangerous thing, and at wesleyan it’s starting to grow pathetic. At the end of the day, we are all students in the same community, and like it or not, agree with it or not, legal or not, simplifying this policy into pro-beta or against beta is not just dumb, it distorts the story here and divides our community in an instance when the policy being implemented, at a university which holds the standard of proof at the SJB at “preponderance of interest” rather than a far more equitable “clear and convincing evidence,” is an affront to us all and should be a concern for all.” [ACB, post 15]
If nothing else good comes out of this situation, we at least have this, right?
4. Something must be done. And soon!
Self-explanatory. A poster writes,
“The administration clearly thinks they are acting reasonably here. If Roth really believes this shit, he should be able to defend these views in person. We should petition for an open Q&A in the chapel for Roth or Whaley to actually address student concerns on these issues. Shits retarded. If no decent compromise results from discussion (which so far has not even been offered) then civil disobedience is a must. We really can’t just let them cowardly address this behind the safety of an email. It makes me embarrassed to go to a school led by such wimpy administrators.
Another dramatically calls out,
“Can we all sign a petition against this, can we stage a civil disobedience movement by congregating at beta? Can we call out the administration on how childish they have been? Why can’t we stand up and fight against this?” [ACB, OP]
Of course, you get the occasional possible joker, who writes something like
“this friday, i propose the student body wear lacrosse pinnies as a show of solidarity” [ACB, OP]
Though when I read it again I’m not so sure if that was intended to be sarcastic. Hmm.
5. Even if something could be done, nobody’s up to take the lead.
At one point, somebody posted:
“somebody fucking organize!
make posters, set times, group together, enumerate grievances (don’t just make it all about beta; it’s really all part of a bigger problem with a bloated and power hungry administration anyways), and fucking do something about it!
you can fucking bet i’d be there.” [ACB, post 5]
To which a reply was:
“you organize. this is the problem with wesleyan. everyone always leaves it up to someone else.” [ACB, post 10]
This mentality, I suspect, is pretty common across the board. But a momentary pause’s worth of thought would highlight the difficulty of such leadership. A pretty big reason behind the posters writing (and trolling) beneath the veil of anonymity is due to a fear of the potential backlash they may suffer either from the administration itself or other concerned parties should they be identified as the author of their posted opinions. Indeed, this reasoning fuels the entire social mechanism of platforms like the ACB in the first place. What’s perhaps being thought is that placing one’s self in the leadership role to stand up against the policy is like walking straight into the line of fire. Either that, or nobody has the time to do such things because there’s too many fucking papers to write.
6. There’s a whole lot of apathy goin’ on.
On the one hand, you get a lot of hands being thrown into the air like
“What the fuck happened to us?” [ACB, post p]
“this school sucks… what the fuck is the administration thinking?” [ACB, post 28]
On the other hand, you also get severe cynicism:
“The administration doesn’t care what you think. It’s a private university and they’ll do whatever they want.
The ONLY thing that will make a difference is a decline in enrollment. So in order to affect that you can (a) transfer or (b) get the media to give significant attention to this matter (doubtful) or (c) find some other way to affect admissions and enrollment for class of ’15.
The only thing that matters is money. Welcome to the real world.” [ACB, post 5]
“if you protest, i will throw eggs at you.” [ACB, post 5]
This negative school of thought proves itself a clearly dominant force in the discourse. There are many who consider the staging of an opposition a “luxury issue,” and there are more who think it’s just a complete waste of time. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re not. We’ll have to see. Furthermore, the controversies surrounding Beta and their parties (notably on the charge of security and suspicions of sexual assault) constantly throw the conversation into a state of regress; but a counter-point to this has been put forward that there are more legitimate and honorable channels to address these very real problems.
Right, I’ve spent a little too much time on this post. I’ve got a whole damn book to read for class tomorrow. But I hope this has painted a somewhat accurate picture of what’s going on in our collective heads. Before I sign off, I’d like to add one last thing:
Something happened here. Something that just doesn’t feel quite right. Now, I’m going to level with you folks: I don’t really care much about any specific part of this debacle. I don’t really care much for Beta, or DKE, or for frats in general. I don’t care about Wesleyan’s image, or it’s history, or it’s student body as a whole, in fact.
But I do care about principles, about ideals, and about hypocrisy. And I do care when there is blatant bullying.
Anyway, I’m off. See you around, Wes!
[Update, circa 11.45am on Feb. 16th]: Other interesting threads of conversation include: the SJB needing a raise on their standard of proof and the shift in the character of the student body (which seems to tie heavily to Roth’s direction).
Keep the discussion going! And please, maintain reason.