Tonight, I braved the wilds of Beta for the first time to attend the WSA meeting tonight. Contrary to what I’ve heard, the house didn’t appear to be as dangerous as say, an active war zone. What followed was a 2 hour discussion on the Residency Policy, Public Safety, and miscommunication.
In the absence of President Roth, the WSA took up a lengthy discussion on the Residency Policy. From this, several points of information emerged. The Executive Committee of the WSA met with Roth last week to issue 3 points of concern with the policy. 1: The policy was implemented top-down, with no student input. 2: The policy as written places massive restrictions on students’ rights 3: The University has no right to decide where students can live.
According to the WSA President, Micah Feiring ’11, Roth conceded the first two issues and promised revisions. While there have been no official revisions announced, it appears that the Administration will make these changes. However, the main issue behind this debate has not been resolved. The WSA ended up passing a resolution opposing the policy, with several key issues emerging during the discussion.
Beta’s issue of concern with rejoining the University has to deal with Public Safety. As a member of Beta pointed out, DKE is currently on probation due to an incident in which Public Safety entered the property in violation of policy (I didn’t take notes on the meeting, so anyone with precise information about this incident, please write in the comments). Beta members explained that they do not want Public Safety to have the authority to enter their house because of its arbitrary and capricious violations of its own policies in entering houses.
The Beta members at the meeting expressed their willingness to come on-campus if separate guidelines are created to deal with the unique circumstances of Greek organizations as opposed to program houses (at the moment, the guidelines covering frats like Psi U are the same ones governing Light House) and if there is a way to hold Public Safety accountable to its own policies.
In this spirit, the WSA voted to form a task force to deal with concerns regarding Public Safety and to create a system for accountability when it violates its own policies. Plans are also in the works between the Greek organizations (and Eclectic) to create an Inter-Greek Council, similar to those found at many other universities to promote the common interests of these organizations.
A major concern at the meeting was the manipulative use of sexual assault in the Administration’s campaign against Beta. According to the SART intern, Eliza Gordon, between 5 and 6 sexual assaults are reported on campus each year, although the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported. The email from Public Safety about sexual assault at Beta last fall was apparent sparked by three reports of assault in one weekend. It was apparently sent to students in keeping with alerting students about dangerous events on campus. However, given the lack of alerts about other sexual assaults on campus and the context of the Administration’s feud with Beta, this justification can be looked upon as capricious at best and highly suspect at worst. What is clear is that sexual assault is being unethically used as a manipulative tool in this debate.
During the meeting, the white elephant in the room was the non-attendance of President Roth. Throughout the last two weeks, the Administration has dodged directly responding to the concerns about the policy. In talking with the national press, David Pesci, the director of media relations, lied about the new policy, claiming that regulations are not being changed. Roth posted an entry on his blog, acknowledging overreach. The Argus took this up as an announcement of a change to the policy. However, the blog is merely a soapbox; it is binding in no way. There has not been an official announcement or email to students concerning the policy since the official announcement two weeks ago. In refusing to attend the WSA meeting tonight, Roth provided no explanation.
If this issue is to be resolved amicably, Roth and the Administration will have to openly respond to students’ concerns. The best venue for this is a public forum where any students can voice their concerns and raise questions regarding the Administration’s actions in regards to this policy. In closing, I’ll point out that this is not a fringe issue regarding a few students. Over 500 students have signed on to a petition calling for the policy to be repealed. The student body is demanding answers. The administration must provide them.
PS: I know this is more like serious journalism than Wesleying usually covers, but given the fast moving nature of this issue, this was the quickest way to keep the student body informed.
PS 2: If anyone finds a factual error or omission in this article, respond in the comments and I’ll deal with it ASAP.
PS 4: If anyone from the administration, faculty, or staff wants to respond to this, send me an email at lesanjuan(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll post your comments anonymously if you wish.