“The Dark Powers of Fraternities” was published this morning by The Atlantic. The article is the culmination of a yearlong investigation into the systemic power of fraternities and the tragedies derived therein, and prominently (ignominiously) features our very own Wesleyan University and Beta Theta Pi. In brief, the article describes fraternity organizations’ thoroughly American heritage, their roles in transforming the nature of higher education from the priest-factories of yesteryear into the often-outrageous party scenes of the modern day, and the complex trade-lanes of power, litigation, fundraising, and tragedy that have allowed the fraternity infrastructures to survive and thrive among even the most progressive of Universities. The article gets many, many things right, and I thoroughly agree with the sentiment of the author—that colleges and universities are institutionally and structurally threatened by powerful organizations with outdated (and morally detestable) principles and priorities.
The article also gets a few minor points wrong, and misses a larger point: the cultural attitudes we—as Wesleyan students, as American collegians, literally as humans—accept and collectively promote bears as much responsibility for the horrors described as do unscrupulous power structures protecting that culture. In other words, I am responsible for the continuation of awful events like those brought to light in “The Dark Powers of Fraternities,” and so are you.
This past October, a former Wesleyan student filed a lawsuit against the University. The student, who has used the pseudonym Jane Doe in court proceedings to maintain her anonymity, says that she was raped in a locked room during the fraternity’s 2010 Halloween party by John O’Neill, 21, of Yorktown, NY. O’Neill was a guest of the fraternity and not a Wesleyan student. He was charged with first-degree sexual assault, pleaded no contest to lesser charges of third-degree assault and first-degree unlawful restraint a little over a year ago, and is now serving a 15-month prison sentence, from which he will be released next month.
According to The Hartford Courant, “The woman’s lawsuit, filed last October, charges Wesleyan with violating Title IX, the federal gender-equity law, by failing “to supervise, discipline, warn or take other corrective action” against the fraternity, actions that it says could have prevented the assault.” Wesleyan warned students in an email in March 2010 to avoid Beta due to safety concerns. Jane Doe says that, as she was not aware of that warning, she went to the frat’s Halloween party, where she was raped.
Fast-forward to the present. Lawyers for the Wesleyan chapter of Beta Theta Pi (which is also a defendant in the case) filed papers this week arguing that Jane Doe should not be able to use the pseudonym in the federal lawsuit. The Hartford Courant summarizes their motion as follows:
Lawyers for the Mu Epsilon chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Wesleyan said the woman should not be allowed to proceed with her lawsuit under the pseudonym “Jane Doe” because “it allows her to make defamatory statements against” the fraternity and Wesleyan “behind a cloak of anonymity,” according to a motion filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to start off this post and I’m not sure I’ll do better than the Hartford Courant: “A former Wesleyan University student who was assaulted two years ago during a Halloween fraternity party filed a federal lawsuit Friday accusing the school of failing to protect her from dangers at [Beta Theta Pi] fraternity, which she claims was known on campus as the ‘Rape Factory.’ ” In an extremely brief article, the Courant notes that one ‘Jane Doe’ of Maryland has filed a 27-page lawsuit in the US District Court of Connecticut, alleging that the University violated Title IX by failing to “warn or otherwise take corrective action” against the fraternity that could have prevented the assault.
As many of you may know, Betawastheprimarysubjectofsomecontroversyveryrecently, as the University, in the midst of a smoldering disagreement with Beta, changed its housing policy to specifically declare that “Wesleyan students will be prohibited from residing in—or using for social activities—houses or property owned, leased or operated by private societies that are not recognized by the University,” which essentially meant that the University could punish you for eating dinner at a ‘unrecognized’ church, or secret society, or a cupcake shop, or a strip club, or pretty much anything else. Needless to say, some people were pretty confused and pretty pissed.
Rally to oppose the new changes to the residency policy, just the latest in a long string of infringements on student rights. Let the trustees know that students still have a voice on this campus. Let them know that we will no longer bend over for the administration and let them dictate our lives. It is time to take a stand. In front of Beckham. At 7pm. On Friday. Be there.
Invite your friends, make some signs (though be an adult), and let’s bring it.
If you couldn’t make the protest in Usdan today but wish to protest the University’s revisions to its residency policy, you may sign the petition online here. (Do not sign this if you already signed the paper petition today.) Full petition text after the jump. If you have photo or video of today’s protest, send to staff(at)wesleying(dot)org and we’ll post it.
…the threat to freedom of association posed by Wesleyan University’s new policy banning students from “participating in social activities” on any property “owned, leased or operated by private societies that are not recognized by the University.”
FIRE, founded by UPenn history professor Alan Charles Kors and attorney Harvey A. Silverglate, is a non-profit group that seeks to clamp down on university administrations that gravely limit the civil liberties of their students. From a brief flick through their Wikipedia entry (thank gawd for the wikis), they appear to be an outfit who knows what they’re doing. (For evidence, see here and here and here.)
I don’t need to fill anyone in on the Beta-gate situation going on right now (If you’ve been under a rock, start here and here). Now is the time to take a stand. This Friday, we’re protesting the University’s new paternalistic and insulting residency policy. Come to the Usdan Cafe this Friday from 12-1 to show your support. Please bring signs to protest (we’re trying to keep the tone civil and show we’re adults, so no inappropriate language or personal attacks please). There will be a petition for you to sign to show your opposition to this unjust power grab.
Since crash last reported on the whole Beta-gate situation, there’s been a whole lot of chatter ‘round these here cyber-space parts. The comments section on that post was completely balls out with emotion (as well as sarcasm), and the ACB’s been in a flurry with opinions being volleyed from left and right. Chatter has even spilled over to the pages of the Argus, where the editorial as well as my esteemed colleague lesanjuanspoke out against the issue. Of course, it’s problematic to hold up these specific sources and take them to be representative of the student body’s general discourse – what with the ACB being the seedy Chlamydia-filled internet back-alley it is and the total amount of written responses being miniscule in number compared to the actual number of Wesleyan students.
But it cannot be denied that the voices making themselves heard do raise some rather pressing issues that have concerned us before and should concern us now. Whether those voices fairly represent the views of the entire student body or not, these are issues that affect all of us both in terms of our conduct and in terms of the ideals we’re apparently supposed to hold, if not now then eventually.
So, a couple days ago the WSA sent out a mass email hailing the arrival of a new feature that hopes to revolutionize the campus shuttle experience.
It’s called Blirp-it, a name which, though provocative in certain unfortunate ways for those inclined to make such provocative paradigmatic shifts in perception, stands for “Bus Line Information Retrieval Program.” (I assume the “-it” portion is for stylistic purposes intended to exert a sense of dynamism akin to Nike adverts). You can find out more about its creation here.
More info and some meditations on the addition after the jump.
Seems like the administration is really flexing its muscles this time around. Fresh from my inbox:
I write to notify you of a revision to Wesleyan’s residency requirement designed to clarify the University’s rules concerning off-campus housing. In brief: beginning Fall 2011, Wesleyan students will be prohibited from residing in — or using for social activities — houses or property owned, leased or operated by private societies that are not recognized by the University. You can find the revised policy online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/studenthandbook/residency.html
Students found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to disciplinary measures by the University, including suspension.
President Roth asked for this policy revision to address the problematic issue of having residential organizations that appear to function as Wesleyan entities yet have no Wesleyan oversight. DKE, Psi U, and Alpha Delt are recognized as part of program housing and are thus not affected by this change. This revised policy would, however, have major consequences for Beta which has chosen to not participate in program housing and is therefore not recognized by the University.