After confusing deliberations between the administration and ResLife student staff, program houses can now host only as many concerts and parties as it hosts program-specific events.
The Office of Residential Life has imposed a new policy governing the use of Program Houses as concert and party venues for the Fall 2016 semester. The new policy states that Program Houses are permitted to host one concert or social event for every mission-based program held each month.
What is a mission-based program? Well, each program house on campus has a Mission Statement that can be found on ResLife’s website, and mission-based programs are events that are organized by either the House Manager or other residents of the house and reported to ResLife as contributing to that particular house’s mission. These events are just one of many factors that ResLife considers when evaluating whether a house can remain in good standing with the University and thus keep its program housing status.
As per the factors linked above, HMs must report/organize at least 3 mission-based programs each month. I reached out to the director of ResLife, Fran Koerting, for a statement of the policy and its implications. Based on her research, the new policy should not have any effect on the number of concerts held on campus on any given weekend. Read on for her statement in-full:
The primary goal of each Program House is to provide unique educational and cultural, campus inclusive programming. Over the past few years, some of the houses have been perceived more as musical venues than for their missions. In an effort to shift the focus back to the mission of the houses, and maximizing the educational potential of each, program houses may only host as many musical events per month as programs focused on their mission, and need to operate within their determined fire code capacities.
Since the programming requirement is three per month, houses may sponsor up to three concerts/parties per month. In reviewing the data from last year’s programs, there was only one house that exceeded this number, and it only happened twice, so this shouldn’t negatively impact student social life on campus. There is no limit on concerts/parties that are related to the mission of the house.
Therefore, this policy does not affect events at 200 High [now Music House] or Psi Upsilon, to name just a few, or Malcolm X House, which co-programs with several student organizations. The policy is being implemented on a trial basis and will be re-evaluated at the end of the semester with the House Managers, Area Coordinators and the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee.
– Fran Koerting, Director of Residential Life
Some key points to note from the policy:
- Concerts and parties can count as mission-based programs
- The policy is in a trial period and will be reevaluated at the end of the semester
- Based on last year’s data, there shouldn’t be a major impact on the total number of concerts/parties on campus
According to a source in ResLife student staff, senior officials “acknowledged that while all houses have strayed from their mission, the policy is addressing Earth House and Middle House particularly.”
The first news of a policy change regarding concerts and parties at Program Houses came on Saturday 8/27, when I received word from sources in ResLife student staff that the administration was to place a blanket ban on all concerts and parties in program houses, senior/woodframe houses, and residential societies for the coming school year.
This “ban” was communicated in a meeting between ResLife student staff members and the Area Coordinators of all “North Side and South Side residences,” whose staff includes all Program House Managers as well as the Community Advisers in junior and senior village. According to ResLife student staff sources in attendance, no RAs were informed of the initial ban.
After the Area Coordinators told them about the administration’s decision during the meeting on Saturday, student staff asked for a written clarification of the policy and many expressed concerns about its numerous implications on campus life [see pdf at the end of this post for a detailed account of ResLife student staff reactions to this initial ban]. When HMs and CAs asked about the initial reasoning for the ban, their supervisors said that the decision was made not only to protect furniture acquired over the summer in certain houses from “jumping” that might occur at future concerts/parties, but also because the frequency and/or theme of some concerts/parties represented a stray from certain houses’ stated missions.
Since Saturday, Koerting has met with HMs and other ResLife staff to discuss questions and concerns relating to the policy change. The final policy, as stated in the email above, evolved from the ban communicated initially as a result of this student staff input.
A letter was drafted detailing the communication of the ban during Saturday’s meeting, the student staff’s questions and concerns, and a host of implications that a blanket ban could have on student life. The letter was presented on Sunday at a meeting consisting of a collection of HMs, RAs, and CAs. According to multiple student sources, the letter, while drafted by one person, was unanimously approved by the more than 30 in attendance.
It is important to note that, according to our sources, the letter is primarily a reflection of what was communicated on Saturday and a response to the initial ban, as well as a “compromise” that was communicated later that day. It does not necessarily reflect certain conversations that occurred on Monday between senior ResLife officials and student employees.
ResLife student staff asked for it to be published because of their desire to be transparent with the Wesleyan student body about the events of the last few days, to express their frustration with the lack of student involvement in the decision making process, and to share the problems that they saw in the initial ban. They would like to work in the coming days with the ResLife office as members of the staff to come up with a policy that will promote program missions without hurting Wesleyan’s music scene or put students in danger.
Again, this letter is a reflection of a time when ResLife student staff did not have clear information about the policy and though the sentiments in it are still true, according to student sources, they realize it may be outdated in some ways.
Read the letter in full here:
Key points mentioned in the letter:
- Program houses are for all of campus, and Wesleyan should support events that unify campus and bring people together in newly-renovated spaces
- Program houses such as Malcolm X House, Women of Color House (WoCoHo), AAA House, and La Casa host music and other social events to provide a safe space for marginalized students, and a restriction on concerts and parties in Program Housing would mean fewer spaces for racially and ethnically underrepresented students to gather free from a lot of factors that inhabit traditionally-white concert spaces.
- Not all houses received renovations and/or new furniture over the summer and “Houses are not just party spaces, and it seems rather inane to attribute music events as the sole cause of their ruin.” [Note: Potential for property damage was not a line of reasoning used in detailing the policy mentioned at the beginning of this post, only the initially proposed blanket ban.]
- To imply that concert audiences’ “jumping” would ruin newly-purchased furniture and threaten the structural integrity of program houses is to drastically oversimplify the diversity of the music scene at Wes
- Any further restriction on the use of larger social spaces would further force illicit behavior out of the public realm and beyond the reach of ResLife staff
All sources in ResLife student staff have asked to remain anonymous. We will update this post as the story develops.