Monday, March 23rd, 2009
Open Letter from Eclectic:
First, we want to thank you for your support so far. There are almost 700 signatures on the petition to overturn the House Hosting Ban. Musicians, event organizers, WSA members, faculty, enthusiastic students, and alums have expressed unease with the SJB and the administration’s actions in this case.
Unfortunately, President Michael Roth rejected our formal appeal. Before break, we were hesitant to release a factual public statement before we had gone through the provided channels of appeal, out of consideration for the pending status of our appeal, and the individual students implicated therein. Now that we’ve exhausted formal channels, President Roth is back from Asia, and we are all back from break, we turn to you.
Here are the facts as we see them: on December 8, the last day of classes, there was a party at our house. A neighbor called in three noise complaints in a row, with the intent of getting the event shut down. Some Eclectic alums had come to visit, and, disappointed that the event was stopped, moved upstairs to the Gote room with a smaller group of people. That gathering too was broken up, and the vast majority of guests left. An individual Eclectic resident started to play music in his room later, with no more than 10 friends. Public Safety stopped him. The SJB charged the Society as a whole for these infractions, despite alums and hosts’ willingness to take individual responsibility for their actions.
Our objection to this punishment is manifold: We were given an abbreviated hearing rather than a full hearing, but given a punishment that can only be dispensed by the full SJB. We believe that Assistant Director of Student Affairs Scott Backer, rather than the SJB as a whole, decided upon this ban. In the flurry of meetings that ensued with Backer, Dean Mike Whaley, and President Roth, Backer was inconsistent. The SJB sanction dated 2/26 specifically banned “performances, gatherings, parties, or any events”. After students expressed shock on Wesleying and other forums, Backer hastily sent us a new letter, back-dated to 2/26, with revised wording restricting “social events, parties, concerts, or other events that fit the requirements of the Social Event Policy”. Furthermore, Backer first told us that he was punishing irresponsible event hosts rather than Eclectic; however, in his formal “Rationale” for the punishment, he cited untried individual infractions of both members and non-members all the way back to September. He particularly alluded to guests who showed up intoxicated to our ticketed, non-alcoholic events, and required medical assistance. We are surprised to be punished for assisting students, none of whom were Society members, in what we thought was compliance with University expectations.
The student body and our Society are being antagonized for unrelated incidents that took place over a long period of time, rather than any specific, punishable incident. We believe that this punishment undermines the legitimacy of Wesleyan’s judicial system. Most importantly, we strongly believe that the punishment is overly broad, punishing not only Eclectic, but the Wesleyan student body: the dedicated hosts, musicians, organizers, and attendees that make Eclectic, and the Wesleyan campus, what they are. 70% of student-run events are scheduled to take place at Eclectic this semester. We hold Scott Backer accountable for his misled intent to squash student social life, just as he was misled when he suggested prohibition of alcohol on campus last year. We hold Michael Roth accountable for overlooking our appeal in favor of blind trust, despite the established appeals system.
We will continue to look to you for support in the coming week, and will keep you posted on our plans. Already, the Sound Co-op has expressed their solidarity with Eclectic and the student body, and disappointment with the administration’s complacency. We welcome any suggestions you might have for additional ways of communicating to the administration that student social life is not dispensable.
The Eclectic Society