“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.