From the Argives: 1970s Changes to Wes Pet Policy

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For anybody who was a fan of the bunny in the Nics last year or a certain cat on Home this year, a search through the Argives (Argus archives) has unearthed something for you. A short hop up to floor 3A in Olin revealed that in our past, pets were a welcome part of the Wesleyan community. In a series of articles and opinion pieces between 1973 and 1975, Argus writers covered not only the changes to the school’s pet policy but also the student outrage after the changes were made during summer break.

By the 1974-1975 academic year, having a pet was looked down upon by the administration. In the words of Dean Edgar F. Beckham, “when pet behavior is not carefully monitored and controlled, Wesleyan becomes a bad environment for many pets and a much worse environment for man members of the community.” Perhaps we can forgive the gendered language as a sign of times past.

The first article, “Beckham Defends Pet Policy” by Chris Mahoney ’76, exposes the controversy that would surround the pet policy for weeks. At the end of the 1973-1974 academic year, the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) and administration refused to implement a new pet policy because they thought it would be “‘inappropriate’ to take such action over the summer without campus discussion.” Then, over the summer, the school asked the SAC to vote on proposed new pets restrictions via mail during the summer recess. The restrictions included a $30 registration fee and tags for all uncaged animals. The SAC members voted in favor of the proposal.

In the next article, Mahoney exposes student anger about the administration trying to change policy during the summer (sounds like this is a common tactic used by the administration). Not only were students angry, but the new members of the 1974-1975 SAC also expressed their misgivings. In the article, Bob Smith ’75, a member of the SAC says, “I can’t understand the Administration’s urgency…We could have waited.”

In an editorial, the Argus charges the administration with unfair policymaking and shady practices: “If the Administration has a case to make, let it be aired publicly with opposition from interested parties.”

Student upset about the policy decisions, however, was not able to deter the implementation of the policy. In a later issue, the Argus published the complete policy. It stipulated that dogs required leashes when out of the room, that all owners register all uncaged pets and that public safety would return all unattended animals to their owner with no penalty only the first time they were found.

The current administration pet policy prohibits, with the exception of approved assistance animals, any non-aquarium-bound pets. If a pet is found, its owners are subject to a $300 fine and referral to the Student Judicial Board.

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One thought on “From the Argives: 1970s Changes to Wes Pet Policy

  1. flinternet

    Though Beckham may well have been using awkward gendered language, the construction of his sentence seems off enough to suggest, perhaps, a typo. “…Wesleyan becomes a bad environment for many pets and a much worse environment for man members of the community…” Wouldn’t this quotation make much more sense, for the writer and and for most every audience, if there were a “y” missing at the end of “man”? If replaced, it ends the sentence with “…many members of the community.” Just a thought.

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