Read on for several community responses, including from Students for Consent and Communication and from President Roth.
A student filed a lawsuit against Psi Upsilon, the Wesleyan Xi Chapter, and several Psi U members on Tuesday. The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the defendants regarding a sexual assault perpetrated last spring against the student in the Psi U common room. This lawsuit does not name Wesleyan University itself as a defendant, unlike the previous lawsuit against a Wesleyan fraternity regarding a sexual assault. Instead, the lawsuit states that Psi U and its members violated its contract with Wesleyan which requires the fraternity to manage its events and keep its guests safe.
Wesleyan has, however, emailed all of us an official statement just this afternoon. President Roth’s email notes that the perpetrator of this particular sexual assault was dismissed from the University after disciplinary proceedings, in addition to sanctions against Psi U. President Roth’s statement in full:
Late last night we learned that a survivor of a sexual assault had filed a lawsuit against the Psi Upsilon fraternity at Wesleyan and its national organization. We have not spoken publicly about this matter out of concern for the survivor’s privacy. Now that civil proceedings have commenced, on behalf of the university community, I want to express our horror at this shameful assault. Sexual violence will never be tolerated on our campus. Our internal investigation of the incident, which took place last spring at an event held in violation of university regulations, led to the perpetrator’s dismissal from the university and sanctions against the fraternity and individual members of it.
At Wesleyan there are three residential fraternities. Their buildings, housing a total of 67 students, are owned by their respective organizations. While these fraternities have had some autonomy, all have seen increased scrutiny over the past few years. We intend to focus our attention on improving the safety of these spaces. There is already a Title IX Task Force led by the Board of Trustees in coordination with our Vice-President for Equity and Inclusion, which is working to ensure gender equity throughout the Wesleyan educational experience. In addition, we will be gathering information to present to the Board as it considers what role, if any, residential fraternities will have on our campus in the future.
Sexual assaults on college campuses are not, of course, only a fraternity issue. This is a national problem, and it’s important to raise awareness about these heinous crimes. I look forward to working together with all campus constituencies to continue to improve our ability to care for survivors, vigorously pursue perpetrators, and create a positive campus climate in which sexual violence has no place.
Michael S. Roth
All of this comes amidst much conversation around the role of fraternities on campus. Last month, The Atlantic published a cover article on the power fraternities and the problems they often cause—including Wesleyan’s own Beta Theta Pi, which was the subject of the full back third of the article. Earlier this week, alum Zach Schonfeld ’13 published an article in Newsweek about those few Wesleyan-like colleges and universities that have fully eliminated fraternities from their campuses.
Within the Wesleyan Twitter-verse, conversations are a-flyin’ around the relative benefits and costs of fraternities at Wesleyan. Most look something like this:
As President Roth notes, Wes has three residential fraternities (in the strict sense of the word) among a larger host of Greek organizations: DKE, Psi U, and Beta. These three don’t really lack for members or pledges, and plenty of folks attend their parties. Some of the frats have even taken considerable steps to combat these issues, including extensive bystander training, something the Inter-Greek Council is considering as a requirement for all Greek pledges. But, still, even though frats aren’t the only place incidents like this one are perpetrated, they do come up at frats far too frequently, despite across-the-board under-reporting…
Let’s keep the community conversation going. What do you think about Wesleyan’s Greek life? Sound off in the comments.
[Edit pyrotechnics 4:00PM: Below is a public response from the Presidents of Students for Consent and Communication, wholly separate from this article; in email correspondence, expressed a wish to “emphasize that they believe that this conversation should be about more than just fraternities and should revolve around sexual assault as a whole on this campus.” I’ve posted their letter here simply to keep everything in one place. Please read it.]
In response to the recent dialogue over the lawsuit and the larger ongoing conversation about Sexual Assault on our campus and beyond, the Students for Consent and Communication (SFCC) want to make ourselves available to you, our fellow students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members, as a resource and a partner in combating sexual violence.
Sexual Assault happens to people of all genders, sexual orientations, ability, ethnicities, and races. It happens all over campus: not just in Greek Houses. We, the SFCC, want the campus to know that we support survivors, we support people working on this issue, we support change, we support the administration making changes to its current policy, we support the work of the Sexual Assault Response Team, we support students trying to change their attitudes toward violence on campus, but most of all we support action to stop this horrible epidemic of violence.
We have been working for several years as an independent student group in conjunction with the University and other interested parties to address specific policy concerns and make positive changes. In addition to several programs we have put on this year, we are also looking forward to meeting with President Roth in the coming weeks regarding our specific concerns. We want to offer ourselves as a resource to the community as a whole. We stand for action and change and we invite you to stand with us. There are simple ways you can end rape culture at Wesleyan and in the world:
- Call people out when they propagate rape culture (i.e. I raped that test; ze deserved it)
- Take time to read and review sexual assault reporting protocol at Wesleyan so that you can help a friend and refer hir to the right resources.
- Attend a Bystander intervention Training or Consent workshop to learn more about the issues on campus and how you can help
- Support survivors of sexual violence by remembering that sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault
- Pledge to be an active bystander and intervene when you see something wrong
- Keep the dialogue going and talk to your friends about what is happening on campus
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, while it is important to note the significance of this month it is also worth noting that our campus should support survivors and stand for action all year round. In honor of the month we do have several events planned. The largest and most significant event is Take Back the Night (TBTN), which is a global movement to end sexual violence. This year our event seeks to incorporate more voices and more ideas. This year’s event will take place on Thursday April 24th, please consider coming out and showing your support for survivors. We are preparing to meet with the administration about the University’s Sexual Assault policy, and if you or your organization wants to voice any concerns, please fill out this form and we can share your thoughts during our meeting. If you want to join the conversation about sexual violence please feel free to attend one our weekly meetings and if you have suggestions, comments, or want to learn how you or your organization can get involved please email us.
Nina Gurak ‘16 and Caillin Puente ‘15
Students For Consent and Communication Presidents