On Wednesday night, the WSA held a town hall meeting to have a campus wide conversation about Eclectic and the future of 200 High Street, which is currently Music House. According to Director of ResLife Fran Koerting, Eclectic originally lost their program housing status after repeatedly failing to get a 16 out of 21 on the URLC’s housing assessment and being put on probation, with the final straw being the application from last fall.
The meeting was attended by a variety of students, some who are still a part of Eclectic, others who were in Eclectic but have since left, and many students who are not members of Eclectic as well. Ultimately, the URLC voted not to let Eclectic obtain program house status for the 2017-2018 school year. There were 0 votes in favor, 4 opposed, 2 abstentions, and 1 recusal. The future of 200 High will be considered separately by the URLC, and they have said that they will take the wider campus community’s opinion strongly into consideration.
In the past few months, students who want to have program houses in the 2017 fall semester were asked to submit mission statements as well as 30 signatures to the URLC in order to be considered. Music House currently occupies 200 High, however Music House was not promised this location for longer than a year. So, when the URLC began considering applications for new program houses, including Eclectic’s, the question of whether the society would regain its former house was very much an open one.
Students had many concerns about Eclectic being reconsidered for program house status, and there are a variety of opinions and experiences on both sides of the issue. A few students voiced positive experiences with Eclectic, saying that it had felt like a safe haven for students who identify as queer, as well as students of color. Others believed that while it may have been inviting for some, Eclectic’s community at the time was not supportive of other members, often citing Karmenife Paulino ‘15 as an example. You can find Karmenife’s story here.
It is worth mentioning that changes have been made within Eclectic’s leadership structure, and that the new leadership claims that they are trying to change Eclectic from the inside. The previous president was impeached by the society. The new president is Owen Christoph ’18, and the new vice president is Kafilah Muhammad ’18. Other than those positions, it is still a consensus based society, where decisions within the community are not finalized unless everyone votes unanimously. The new leadership often stated that they are trying to make changes from the inside, and have been working with their community, but did not go into specifics.
In terms of student opinion on whether the society should regain status as a program house or not, it’s not quite clear how the majority of the wider campus community feels. However, at the meeting, students who were opposed to Eclectic regaining their former house often cited that there has just not been enough time for there to be enough evidence that proves that Eclectic has changed. Many felt that one semester of good behavior does not change or negate years of “bad behavior.” They believe that the efforts that the new leadership is making are valuable, but that there needs to be more time for Eclectic to regain the rest of the community’s trust.
Here is the full email from the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee regarding the decision to not reinstate Eclectic’s program housing status:
Dear Wesleyan Community,
This afternoon, the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC) discussed and voted on whether or not the Eclectic Society would be approved for program housing status for Fall 2017. By a vote of 0 in favor, 4 opposed, 2 abstaining and 1 recusal, the committee decided to not restore their program housing status for the upcoming fall.
We appreciate the work the Eclectic Society has done to change its culture and acknowledge the negative aspects of the society’s history. We feel that they have demonstrated a return to embodying their mission statement; their Zero Tolerance Policy, mandatory Bystander Intervention trainings, and programming to create welcoming spaces are several examples of their commitment to the campus community.
However, we would like to give the organization more time to solidify this culture and to give the greater community time to heal. We are concerned with how this decision could further divide our campus. We hope that we can continue to have conversations about communal spaces on campus, student culture and leadership, and belonging at Wesleyan. We hope to see reconciliation between the members of our sometimes divided community.
The future of 200 High Street will be considered separately by the URLC, with significant community input. We would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who contributed feedback in this process and especially to those who were willing to come together in dialogue about moving forward.
Please direct any questions to members of the URLC, listed below.
All the best,
Lizzie Shackney ’17, co-chair
Fran Koerting, Director of Residential Life, co-chair
Lexi Thompson, AC
Owen Christoph ’18
Brandon Sides ’18
Henry Prine ’18
Sharit Cardenas Lopez ’19
Will Maldonado ’19
Chris Jackson ’20
There has been no word on the status of any of the other program house applications for the coming school year. If history is any predictor, an announcement will likely be made sometime early next semester about which houses were accepted by the committee.