Roth Addresses “Too Broad” Housing Policy: Takes Responsibility, Promises Amendment

“I want to thank the vocal Wesleyan undergraduates for reminding their president to be more careful in his use of language, and to be more attentive to student culture. Of course, I should have known this already, but hey, I try to keep learning.”

In a new blog post, President Roth finally directly addresses the housing policy controversy after tiptoeing around the issue and perhaps spending a bit of time off campus.

Roth begins by outlining the original intention of the policy, which relates, obviously enough, to recent issues regarding Beta’s off-campus status:

Our goal was to remove a dangerous ambiguity that has existed for more than five years: the Beta Fraternity seems to be a Wesleyan organization, but the university has no oversight over the house. We wanted to accomplish two things with this change: 1. to encourage Beta to join the other fraternities and societies in working together with the school; 2. to prevent similar situations from arising in the future with private homes adjacent to campus.

But the policy itself employs dangerously vague, overreaching language [key quote: “students will be prohibited from residing in — or using for social activities — houses or property owned, leased or operated by private societies that are not recognized by the University”] that many have interpreted as a direct threat to student liberties. Here, Roth is refreshingly clear in addressing the issue, taking responsibility on multiple levels, and assuring that the policy will be clarified and amended:


I made two mistakes in this. First, the language (as many students have pointed out) is just too broad. Many students appear to see this as a threat to their freedom, and I want to be sensitive to that. The university has no interest in regulating the social lives of our students when they are away from campus, and the language we used suggests otherwise. We will change the language. My second mistake was not consulting enough with students. I did meet with some of the Beta undergrad leaders (and we have been talking about this with their alumni representatives for four years!), and I was hopeful they would join Psi U, DKE and ADP. Alas, they decided otherwise.

I told the WSA leadership yesterday that I would ask Dean Mike’s team to meet with the relevant committees to craft language that conveys that residential Greek societies adjacent to campus must be recognized by the university in order to remain open to Wesleyan students. This is the only way we can continue to have a safe system that includes our historic residential fraternities. That’s all we want to achieve with this revision.

Without question, this is a welcome change from David Pesci’s questionable comment to Fox News that “the regulations aren’t changing, just being more heavily enforced to protect the students.”

Roth continues by pointing out that yes, the 0riginally intended ultimatum to Beta will go in effect: if the frat doesn’t join with the other Greek societies in signing the housing contract, “it will be off-limits to undergraduates next semester.” There’s also the obligatory celebration of Wesleyan student activism, with regard to the housing policy and beyond, as Roth wrote about in a Huff Post piece yesterday.

So: thoughts? Is the president’s response a reasonable (and reasoned) address of student concerns? Is it too little too late? Has the administration learned a lesson with regard to sweepingly worded (and legally questionable) university policies devised behind the student body’s back? Did FIRE’s letter to Roth make its impact? To what extent did Roth word the policy in the first place (as opposed to Dean Mike Whaley, who sent out the email in question)? Should the week’s planned protest events be canceled—or at least set aside for the moment?

I want comments. I wouldn’t mind if Roth himself commented with regard to some of these questions (it wouldn’t be the first time). I know you’re out there.

  • Anon

    FUCK ROTH.

    Biggest dickhead ever and is ruining Wes.

  • Anon

    If you look at the amount of sexual assaults on campus compared to the one that happened at beta, i believe its something along the lines of 10+ on the university in the past 5 years and 1 at beta in…. well idk 10+ years. seems that the administration should be focusing on how to stop sexual assaults on campus first before they waste all this time and energy on attacking beta. Also the amount of alcohol related hospital visits is also around i believe 700+ on campus and 10+ at beta in past 5 years, so again fix the on campus problem and stop wasting time and effort the try and make one house safer when the whole campus is more dangerous. the only difference is the students don’t get an email when someone gets sexually assaulted on campus so you don’t end up hearing about it.

  • Alum09

    I think Roth is 100000% correct in his discussion over priorities. When in the last decade have you seen this many students up in arms about any issue? It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that more students will show up to protest about Beta than will go to a protest about something that really matters… like the planned parenthood rally tomorrow. Protest and talk about issues that matter to the world, not ones that make your little bubble smaller.

    That being said, the policy was a hasty and clumsy attempt at fixing an ongoing problem and liability for the university. I think Roth’s response is a step in the right direction. Know, however, that the current arrangement with Beta is unsustainable, and the Administration has drawn a line in the sand. The (lacrosse?) ball really is in Beta’s court.

  • Alumdd

    I’m losing respect for Roth. His downplaying the issue here by framing larger-scale issues (“it’s up to them”) is so fucking smarmy. This basically sets up precedent for the school to pick and choose where they don’t want students going.

  • Lookattheissues

    Does no one realize the bigger issues here: MGMT WENT TO OUR SCHOOL. THEY FUCKING WENT HERE. THE SOONER YOU AND MICHAEL ROTH SEE THIS THE BETTER OFF WE WILL ALL BE! MGMT, PEOPLE! SERIOUSLY.

  • Truth

    This is interesting. Roth made a pretty savvy move here. He’s very good at playing the good cop, which is helped in part by the Obama-style cred he rode in on. By retracting the sweeping language of the clause, he completely took the wind out of the sails of the element that was trying to frame this debate in terms of freedom of association.

    Of course, it still is, in the specific sense that it will be used. But let’s get serious; it won’t be enforced against you, you being the kid who goes to Beta for a party. How could it be? The regulations only apply as long as Beta remains private property, and private property isn’t something the University can fuck with. As it applies to nonresidents of Beta, the policy has no teeth. The way this is going to work is that the University will toss Beta brothers, starting with the President, in front of Scott Backer’s show trial of an SJB, until they cave or the alumni organization pulls sufficient donations.

    So you have every right to be pissed that the University can suspend Betas at will, but you’re a fool if you didn’t know that they can already do that to anyone they want…

  • Truth

    This is interesting. Roth made a pretty savvy move here. He’s very good at playing the good cop, which is helped in part by the Obama-style cred he rode in on. By retracting the sweeping language of the clause, he completely took the wind out of the sails of the element that was trying to frame this debate in terms of freedom of association.

    Of course, it still is, in the specific sense that it will be used. But let’s get serious; it won’t be enforced against you, you being the kid who goes to Beta for a party. How could it be? The regulations only apply as long as Beta remains private property, and private property isn’t something the University can fuck with. As it applies to nonresidents of Beta, the policy has no teeth. The way this is going to work is that the University will toss Beta brothers, starting with the President, in front of Scott Backer’s show trial of an SJB, until they cave or the alumni organization pulls sufficient donations.

    So you have every right to be pissed that the University can suspend Betas at will, but you’re a fool if you didn’t know that they can already do that to anyone they want…

    • Bob

      i think that whether or not the policy has teeth or not doesn’t necessarily matter. with all the chaos surrounding it, kids will be less likely to go to Beta out of fear of being reprimanded

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure I understand the argument of everyone saying that Beta is inherently unsafe. Is there any evidence of more sexual assaults happening there rather than somewhere else on campus? How does giving PSafe/whoever in the administration access to Beta actually keep sexual assaults from happening? I don’t see how the University’s proposed method of ensuring student safety actually functions.

  • Anon

    1. Beta should rejoin the university. Not to say that the sexual assault would have been prevented if Psafe had been able to enter the house, but their defiance is causing a lot of unnecessary grief. Why did they split from the university in the first place anyway?

    2. The protest should still happen because the administration is handling this situation in a bureaucratic manner. Setting ultimatums is not the way to reconcile, it forces people (who aren’t even directly involved with the situation) to pick sides and ultimately can causes protest. There are repercussions for acting this way. Yes, Roth said that he would consult with student committees, but he is still keeping the ultimatum in place.

    • Guest

      been a while but just wanted to say something that this entire issue has ignored.  wes forced beta off its campus, then immediately said wait please come back!

  • Anonymous

    Roth is missing the point here! He glazes over and trivializes the complaints of the student body. Yes, the immediate cause of the protests is the new residential policy and Beta, but there’s a greater overarching problem here. Many students couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Beta. The way the administration passed the policy is the problem: without student voice. The policy was simply emailed out with no regard to what students think and how the policy could appropriately address the concerns of BOTH the administration and the student body. I’m not saying there needs to be an open forum before every policy change, but he should at least work with the WSA – that’s one of the reasons they exist.
    The protest MUST go on. Students MUST reinforce their voice. Roth is playing politics right now. He’s trying to quell the revolution before it really takes shape. He pretends to be responsive to student concerns here, but his attitude near the end towards the rally shows his real intention: to shut this down specifically the rally before it happens. That’s not the attitude we want. Roth MUST listen.

    • Calm down

      You really expect a student voice in every university policy? What university on the planet does that? You don’t attend a “for students, by students” commune, you attend a university. The administration can do what it wants; be happy that Roth listens to the students as much as he does.

      • Anonymous

        “You really expect a student voice in every university policy?”
        Where in his post did you pull that from? Is it so unreasonable to you that students would have a problem with a policy that tells students where they can and cannot go?

      • Anonymous

        “You really expect a student voice in every university policy?”
        Where in his post did you pull that from? Is it so unreasonable to you that students would have a problem with a policy that tells students where they can and cannot go?

    • Joe O’Donnel

      There was student voice. For a year, Roth has been saying exactly what he wanted: Beta to join the University. He tried lots of different things to get that to happen. At all the junctures, from all appearances, everyone just told him to go away. So he played his trump card. Had the WSA held a meeting six months ago about Beta and whether it should join the University, this might not have happened. They didn’t.

      Plus, we got our voice: the vagueness has been clarified so that it only applies to Beta. That’s all that I would have asked for.

      • Joe O’Donnell

        So this is actually Joe O’Donnell (there are two “l”s, though nice try *insert faceless administrative opponent here*), reporting from PAC 4 before starting my CSS essay–sure to be mediocre-to-bad after this hectic week, but I’m fine putting the Populist movement on the back burner to address these lies and a feeble attempt at misrepresenting my views on what has clearly been egregious administrative abuse of power during the Roth years.

        Let’s review a list of grievances that I recall from my year and a half of being here:

        Forcing WestCo to rename Zonker Harris Day. Really? See Trudeau to appreciate the absurdity of this autocratic move.

        The Tour de Franzia “S”JB hearing. If there are more administrators than students making the “Student” Judicial Board decision then I’ll be damned. Also, the hearing conveniently took place at the beginning of Senior Week (after the junior SJB members had already left campus), weeks after le Tour took place. Vive la revolution, folks.

        The Open Container Policy. Another top-down, massively unpopular and weakly justified policy. An of-age student now cannot enjoy a beer on the CFA green, or at any other enclosed location on campus except Foss Hill (though as soon as the sun sets, you know what happens…). What a benevolent exception! And thanks for trusting the ability of 21+ year old students to consume responsibly without additional restriction. Yeah, we know, it’s a peer institution trend. Consider this another reminder that the administration’s quest to turn us into an Amherst/Williams facsimile is not only unappreciated but offensive. This transcends “keeping Wesleyan weird,” though I’m in favor of that. This is about you not listening to 95% of students who vehemently opposed this policy, and then strategically sending out the notification e-mail to students over the summer, when we were not exactly, well, here. They don’t teach political tricks like that in CSS, though I’m taking notes on your clever playbook.

        Finally, we arrive at the Residential Policy Revision. Finally students are catching on to a long and unquestioned trend, which has finally produced the favorable effect of President Roth trying to “keep learning.” Oh he should, and neither he nor anyone else should be fooled by whoever posted the above post, which is ACTUALLY LIBELOUS (see: my upcoming Wespeak in today’s edition of the Argus for more information on libel charges being thrown around). “At all the junctures, from all appearances…” C’mon man, I write better than that sleep-deprived at 4AM in the morning. The WSA had no knowledge of the administration’s (and Roth’s in particular) efforts to strong-arm Beta into coming back to campus. I’m also on the WSA, so “my” claim that we ignored this issue because we wanted the current situation to occur is absurd. I would have loved to have the WSA included in the negotiation process, as we actually have ideas beyond the black/white, on-campus/off-campus overly simplified calculus of the administration. Say, how about an inter-fraternity/society council (a Beta-supported idea!) like most other schools, in which fraternity/society leadership meets regularly to discuss specific issues related to safety, social event policies, programming, and other ways of being “energetic, vital student organizations capable of making contributions to the campus as a whole.”

        So we didn’t get our voice, and we received an apology for that, but a fundamental change in leadership attitude is what we’re waiting for. Until then, we’ll be protesting this. We’ll be demanding a higher and fairer standard of proof in our “student” judicial process. And, being reasonably smart, politically active students, ALSO protest the other big issues–though I have doubts about what my demonstrating in support of the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Lybia will achieve. They’re further along than we are at this point…

        So let’s unite. Have our voice heard. Reclaim some of Wesleyan’s activist spirit that seems to have been lost over the past few decades. If you’re interested in getting more involved in the cause, write a Wespeak, talk to friends, get in touch with WSA members. The bureaucratic center can only hold for so long. And check out an actual constructive policy change we could adopt while you’re at it:

        https://spreadsheets0.google.com/a/wesleyan.edu/viewform?hl=en&hl=en&formkey=dDVIX0JpMlRrV2hydnlnTWoyMkYtN0E6MQ#gid=0

        To conclude, President Roth and cabinet, after attend the Board of Trustees meeting this weekend as a student representative to the board–at which I’ll be making student views on these issues crystal clear–I plan on attending the rally to support Planned Parenthood on Saturday. Hope to see you there (it is, after all, a cause you deem worthy of rallying behind)!

        Go Wes! (the one where students have a say)
        Joe O’Donnell ’13
        Student Affairs Committee Chair
        Wesleyan Student Assembly

        P.S. Please forgive any typos or grammatical mistakes; it is 4AM and I still have an essay on Populism to write. My hope is that you’ll let any semantic/syntactic errors in favor of a truth about systemic problems in administrative leadership that has been overlooked far too long.

        P.P.S. STUDENTS OF WESLEYAN UNITE! Not sure if any Marx is read in The Past on Film, but I know President Roth is a big Hegel fan. My, how 18th-19th philosophy can impact our view of the world! And our metaphysical quasi-realist betabro conceptions of the past through the lens of shattered memory. Or something like that.

  • Anonymous

    Roth is missing the point here! He glazes over and trivializes the complaints of the student body. Yes, the immediate cause of the protests is the new residential policy and Beta, but there’s a greater overarching problem here. Many students couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Beta. The way the administration passed the policy is the problem: without student voice. The policy was simply emailed out with no regard to what students think and how the policy could appropriately address the concerns of BOTH the administration and the student body. I’m not saying there needs to be an open forum before every policy change, but he should at least work with the WSA – that’s one of the reasons they exist.
    The protest MUST go on. Students MUST reinforce their voice. Roth is playing politics right now. He’s trying to quell the revolution before it really takes shape. He pretends to be responsive to student concerns here, but his attitude near the end towards the rally shows his real intention: to shut this down specifically the rally before it happens. That’s not the attitude we want. Roth MUST listen.

  • Mprocter

    I agree that the protest should go on. Anything that limits student movement cannot be consistently enforced (24 hours PSafe stakeouts?).

    He also gets snarky at the end of the 2nd-t0-last paragrpah, after mentioning Kenya, financial aid cuts, and Planned Parenthood:
    “Of course, students don’t take activism instructions from the president, and they may still want to protest for the right to have Beta remain outside the fraternity program at Wesleyan. That’s up to them.” The protest is about the administration’s actions, not the status of Beta. Really kinda sours the whole post for me.

  • serious question

    What, if anything, has Beta done to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the safety of students who choose to attend social functions there?

    This isn’t rhetorical; I’m genuinely niterested to know if they have addressed the issue of safety directly.

  • serious question

    What, if anything, has Beta done to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the safety of students who choose to attend social functions there?

    This isn’t rhetorical; I’m genuinely niterested to know if they have addressed the issue of safety directly.

    • sorry

      *interested

    • sorry

      *interested

    • It’s Okay

      I don’t know if this is true, but apparently it’s actually them that asks the Middletown Police Department to have a car waiting outside when they’re having a party, in case anything happens.

      • Guest

        this is true. this has been in practice for the last 4 years. It is safer to have MPD present than PSafe. As MPD will always say- when something goes wrong at Wesleyan PSafe flops around until they call the police who actually handle the matter. We would rather just deal with the people in charge.

  • Angry Beaver

    The protest MUST go on as planned, this is toooo little, and we need to show the trustees whats what.

  • Angry Beaver

    The protest MUST go on as planned, this is toooo little, and we need to show the trustees whats what.

  • Wes Student Body

    We are going forward. Roth’s partial apology directly addresses only the smaller issue of the broad language but completely misses the larger problem of this administration’s need for complete control on campus. This is not a reason to cancel our plans.

    • anonymous

      yea fuck roth, acting so entitled and authoritarian… its almost as though he thinks he runs a private university or something

    • anonymous

      yea fuck roth, acting so entitled and authoritarian… its almost as though he thinks he runs a private university or something

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, and private companies shouldn’t have to allow their employees to unionize!

        • anon

          we’re not employees. we’re effectively clients.

        • anonymous

          hahaha yea thats a great analogy

          i’m scared to go to the beta protests cause what if i get fired without pension??? oh and as a side note i’m sick of being forced to study in unsafe conditions with no overtime

    • the rest of the student body

      Please don’t included the rest of us in your protest. You’re only part of the Wes Student Body. The rest of us don’t want to be associated with you.

    • the rest of the student body

      Please don’t included the rest of us in your protest. You’re only part of the Wes Student Body. The rest of us don’t want to be associated with you.

  • Wes Student Body

    We are going forward. Roth’s partial apology directly addresses only the smaller issue of the broad language but completely misses the larger problem of this administration’s need for complete control on campus. This is not a reason to cancel our plans.

  • HAHAHAHAHA

    Wow… he REALLY doesn’t want that protest with the trustees to happen, does he? XD

  • Alumna08

    Protest. First off because it still violates students’ freedom of association. Secondly, because if a student goes to a Beta function anyway and gets sexually assaulted, now ze will have both the social stigma against zim for reporting it AND will be concerned about potential consequences coming down from SJB and the administration.

    • Royboy

      No. It will not violate freedom of association when they draw back the language further to only target Beta. It’s clear that it will only be enforced and only intended to target Beta. You cannot leave a place open because you’re afraid people will feel stigmatized for reporting assault, think about what you’re saying…

      • anon

        freedom of association would be meaningless if the administration still gets to pick certain kinds of associations as not being worthy of protection.

        they may have legitimate reasons for being concerned about student safety off-campus, but I honestly don’t think Beta is an enormous student safety issue. the bottom line is they still have no legitimate authority to dictate where students can or cannot go off-campus.

    • Student Rights Rock
  • Goodmorningbabyg

    Quoted from Roth’s blog

    “”if the Beta Fraternity does not join with the other Greek fraternities and societies, it will be off-limits to undergraduates next semester. Students who violate this rule will face significant disciplinary action, including suspension. This is not an attempt to regulate the expressive activities of our students. It is an attempt to minimize unsafe conditions adjacent to campus.”

    If you go to a fraternity we, the administration, do not approve of, you will be suspended.

    This place is a baby-sitting service, not a university. What the hell?

  • Lol

    like i said. it’s all about beta and has only been about beta. the end.

    • Jon2

      Roth’s response is an improvement to the original regulation, but it is still a total failure, and something to protest against. Why?

      Because Roth, with the administration by his side, are saying that if Beta does not join Wesleyan housing, undergraduates will not be allowed in. This is the same infringement of students’ rights to free association.

      fightfightfight

      • Lolly

        Freedom of association be it in a constitutional context or an abstract one never applies to the right to come together to facilitate dangerous environments.

        DKEs never die. Betas might.

        • Lol

          AGREEED!!! Why does nobody see this?

    • Anonymous

      It is NOT all about Beta! It’s about student rights! It’s about the student voice! It’s about the administration passing policies without any student input! It’s about the administration not responding to the student interest when there’s overwhelming support for something!
      (Also, it’s not a laugh out loud. This is serious stuff.)

      • anonymous

        uhh i’m pretty sure it’s been all about beta all along

        roth confirmed that in the very article you’re commenting on by saying “if you guys are gonna act like sobbing whining dweebs over semantics then yes, i concede that the policy didn’t actually have anything to do with private societies and was about beta all along” in as many words

        and there’s not overwhelming support for beta, the voices who support beta are just the loudest. i’m 100% okay with the university coercing a fraternity that was involved with a fuckin non-student sexual assault case to be held accountable to university policies

      • anonymous

        uhh i’m pretty sure it’s been all about beta all along

        roth confirmed that in the very article you’re commenting on by saying “if you guys are gonna act like sobbing whining dweebs over semantics then yes, i concede that the policy didn’t actually have anything to do with private societies and was about beta all along” in as many words

        and there’s not overwhelming support for beta, the voices who support beta are just the loudest. i’m 100% okay with the university coercing a fraternity that was involved with a fuckin non-student sexual assault case to be held accountable to university policies