Reflections on the Recent Hospitalizations, Arrests and Wesleyan

This post is the first in a small series of reflections on the recent events on campus, to be published over the next few days. If you have anything that you would like to contribute, please feel free to reach out to us.

I am writing this in response to the traumatic and overwhelming events that have happened over the past few days – the hospitalization of a dozen students and the arrest of four others, as well as the media and institutional reactions. I hope that this can be a space of positive dialogue and solidarity, where we share our thoughts and reflections with compassion and humanity. I hope to counter the intense and destructive negativity and inappropriateness of some of the language being used to address these events in our own community, in person and online, in the media portrayals and in the administration’s emails. These events remind of us of the importance of fostering a supportive community, one that we must build on our own, as the student body.  These thoughts hope to help support that process of reconciliation, healing, and empowerment.

One of the many take-aways from the events of the past few days is the fragility of our bodies and minds. It is inspiring and heartwarming to hear of the recovery process of our friends and colleagues, and we should be grateful for the resilience of the human form. But the events that led to twelve people being hospitalized should stand as an important reminder of the deeply fragile nature of ourselves as human, corporeal beings. Many of us go through our daily existence believing in the impervious nature of our bodies and minds, ignoring or understating the effect of our actions, whether the lack of sleep we get from schoolwork, extensive drinking on the weekends, walking around outside in yet another 10 degree day, or whatever else. (I speak from a position of able-bodied privilege and recognize that this is not the experience of all.) These things can have serious impacts on us, in the present and in the long run. And we so often fail to check in with ourselves, to see how we’re doing, how we’re handling–or not handling–all of these stresses.When I return home at the end of the semester, I invariably fall sick, laying in bed for a week, overwhelmed by the mental and physical exhaustion I’ve been holding back.  We put our bodies and minds through incredible challenges, no matter what we’re doing. This is not a commentary on the various substances we may or may not take. Those decisions are not mine, or anyone else’s, to judge. This is merely a plea to remember that, while strong in so many ways, our bodies and minds are fragile. We must recognize their intricacies and wondrous dynamics. We must take care of them.

Take care of each other. So many people are hurting in so many ways, many unable to be voiced, and it is so important that we try extra hard to actively be compassionate, loving and supportive toward each other. The note-writing event the other day was a beautiful example of this. Such practices need to continue. Check in with each other. Sit with each other in silence. Talk things through. Whatever you do, take that time to be intentional and observant in caring for one another.

It seems silly to say it out loud, but the internet can be a deeply negative and awful space. The reactions to these events have proved that to the nth degree. The amount of vile, hurtful and blatantly untrue words put out into the world through social media and internet news sources has been astounding and overwhelming. This was the first big thing to put YikYak to the test, and damn did it fail. The ridiculous rumor-mill and spewing of vitriol that emerged on the Wesleyan YikYak was absolutely horrific. It made the WesACB look tame. It also attracted the attention of students at other schools, who began to further the spread of dangerous inanities and distortions of the truth about the events across their campuses. Facebook also became a deeply confounding platform over the last week. While there have been many heartwarming and eloquent demonstrations of compassion, solidarity and community, there have also been many vindictive and juvenile comments made without care or thought for human lives. Such things can be, and have been, very overwhelming. Turning away from social media, even for just a little while, can be an important step back in order to get some perspective, move away from unhelpful negativity, and practice self-care. These forums and platforms can be productive and supportive spaces, but so often they are not. It is important to recognize when it is time to turn ourselves away from them and breathe deeply and interact with people in real, positive and compassionate ways.

The insane and appalling media frenzy that has descended, vulture-like, on these events reminds us of the huge and harmful impact that distortions of the truth, invasions of privacy, and out-of-context ideas can have. These kind of stories are being published all of the time, and it is frightening and eye-opening to see them focused on our community. The administration has  recognized this as well, but decided that the appropriate response was to respond to the media coverage of the hospitalizations by implementing police force, presenting a zero tolerance policy for drugs, and in result, staging a witch hunt across campus, intimidating people, alienating our community, and ultimately allowing for the criminalization and suspension of multiple students. This is not the only reaction to this media attention, nor does it have to be. We can approach this media attention with care and caution. We can actively ignore their exploitation of these events, whether that is in the refusal to share or engage with news articles about these issues or in our responses to the requests of reporters and newscasters.  On this note, it is essential to remember that if you choose to engage with these members of the media, you are representing Wesleyan as a community and institution to the outside world. Anything you say will be heard through unfamiliar ears, whether you are actively distorting reality or not. In almost every situation, it is infinitely better to choose not to engage, respecting the privacy of our community, and preserving the presentation of basic truths.

The solidarity meeting that took place in Espwesso the other day was a really powerful and moving moment of community. There was a strong sense of compassion and caring in the room, and people approached dialogue, organization and the sharing of space with intentionality and grace. It was a place to present updates and share sentiments, as well as a space for mobilization and organizing. Many students are seeing this moment as an essential time to confront the deeply pervasive issues on campus that these events reflect. You will probably be hearing much more about these efforts to mobilize and engage throughout the next few weeks. It is important to remember how this can be a time both of trauma and tragedy and also empowerment and community-building.

  • ’15

    The University has failed a lot of us. But also it is important to see our own faults and take responsibilities for our own actions. I think that the arrests of the 1 students have been nothing more than scapegoating. It doesn’t solve the issue that prevails on campus, substance abuse and its prevention. We as students have been enabling this for years thereby creating a culture where if a student is hospitalized for getting drunk or having a bad trip we see it as normal. This isn’t normal. In fact a lot of the controversy regarding this recent tragedy came only when the arrests were made, which I may point out were done on a point and click basis without taking into consideration the lives of the students that were arrested nor their well being after their arrests. It’s easy to point a culprit, yes the administration is horrible at dealing with these issues and more concerned with making money. But we should also evaluate our own fault in these situations. We are the ones who promote this culture, we are the ones who take drugs, we are the ones that consume alcohol excessively. Something is wrong with us, with this place, and with the way this institution is being run. Let’s get together and discuss these issues as a community and find out what is wrong so that tragedies like this don’t repeat themselves,

  • J

    ur kinda hot

  • student

    really inspiring writing. fair and thoughtful analysis. can’t wait to read more

  • student

    Psafe officers were still interrogating students who were hospitalized, as soon as they got out, threatening to have them arrested if they didn’t hand over a name. But why are we subject to interrogations by psafe in the first place? I’d much rather deal with Middletown PD, at least they don’t spy on female students and beat up naked african american students who sneak into the sauna.

  • alum

    “allowing for the criminalization and suspension of multiple students”

    and what’s the problem with that? “allowing for” implies a pretty off-base connotation, as though it shouldn’t have happened.

    • Diff alum

      Yes, these students were found to be breaking the law, but their being found out is undeniably the result of the university’s desperate, reactionary need to save face. The whole country is watching, expecting the school to take action, and now 4 people will never be able to live this down. What’s more, these students have presumably been selling/taking drugs in an environment that was more than willing to accommodate their behavior thus far, with no impunity, and now they’re being blamed for the entire culture that bore them. So perhaps what the author is saying that it didn’t have to go down like this.

      And don’t forget that it has yet to be discovered if these people are even the source of the so called “bad batch of Molly” so let’s not be so quick to say they got their just desserts.

      • alum

        And how do you propose it should have gone down? Should the school have just ignored what happened and not tried to find out who distributed the drugs that caused the hospitalizations

        “Undeniably the result of the university’s desperate, reactionary need to save face.”

        Undeniably? Please. Let’s pretend there was zero media coverage. What’s the school gonna do? The exact same fucking thing. Because that’s the correct thing to do in this situation. When there is an incident, you investigate. You don’t ignore it. Again, what would you have done differently

        • 15′

          I think the school could have proceeded by having the investigation done in a more… oh i don’t know… private manner. Without having to release the names of the accused, which now have their lives ruined forever. The university was just trying to safe its ass and give itself over to the pressure exerted by the parents and the media. At no point did it consider how the lives of the accused where going to be after this incident, at no point did they even decide to conduct the investigation in privacy as a means of keeping them safe, and at no point did they even bother to look at the evidence and see if these students where the source of the bad molly. Did the student do something wrong, yes they put themselves in a risky situation by becoming affiliated with the psychedelic scene at Wesleyan. Are they 100% guilty. No some of the responsibility also falls on the administration and the drug culture at Wesleyan that many students partake on. I assure everyone that had there been 4 other students on campus who were “known” to sell drugs these students would also be on the same shoes as the students who were arrested and are now awaiting trail. The worse thing about this situation is that it does nothing to solve the growing substance abuse problems at Wesleyan. Kids will always find ways to escape the pressure of school and experiment. This won’t stop anything. If the administration really cared about the students it would have looked into this issue a long time ago (this problem has been on the rise for years let’s not pretend like it’s the first time it has happened) but rather it waits for tragedies to occur for them to finally do something. And when they do it’s just accusing and that’s it not even looking at the root of the problem. I am so fucking sick of the way this school is being run and how it has ruined the lives of my friends! FUCK ROTH! FUCK MEERTS! FUCK WESLEYAN!

          • alum

            The media has access to the names regardless of what Wesleyan does because the accused aren’t minors. Not sure why you think Wesleyan fits into the releasing of student names. If you’re arrested, your arrest is public knowledge upon request. It was the media who made the names public. If you’re arguing about Wesleyan attempting to find the accused at all, what else is Wesleyan going to do? Someone committed a crime, it’s the school’s job to help facilitate the investigation of a crime, regardless of whether it’s murder or drug distribution.

            You’re trying to paint Wesleyan as a scapegoat. Wesleyan did nothing wrong. How else would you propose Wesleyan enforce drug laws? I’d say they should become even more strict – which involves actively investigating drug crimes. Would you rather Wesleyan turn a blind eye and, as you say, “wait for tragedies to occur?”

            You state that Wes should get the drug problem under control – this is how that happens. Your post is hypocritical – you state the school should solve the drug problem, then say kids will always find ways to experiment. You can’t have it both ways.

      • The Batman

        You’re an idiot. They acted with impunity not with no impunity. That’s a double negative. maybe you should have paid more attention during your classes and done less drugs.

  • WesNeedReflection

    See no reason why cops on campus is a bad thing. You are all subject to state and federal laws. This fact doesn’t change because the majority of the privileged kids here use and abuse drugs.

    • ZT

      Nothing suggests that the majority of students here use and abuse drugs…

      Can you name one positive thing that has been achieved by armed police forces patrolling college campuses?

  • WesStandTogether

    Beautifully written.

    Not to invalidate your thoughts (or, maybe, further deepen your disappointment with the reaction of so many staff, students, and other Middletown & Wesleyan forces), but your point surrounding “by implementing police force” is slightly misleading. Police were involved due to a 911 call, not primarily due to a reaction towards the vulturous media.

    Their involvement is a shame, the further frenzy caused by the investigation is a shame, and it’s a shame that an event that lead to such police involvement at all is a shame.

    But, you’re right. The positivity that students, alumni, families, faculty, and staff (yes, faculty and staff too) have expressed has made me proud to be a part of this community, even through these trying and deeply upsetting times. And thanks for writing this.