“I mean, I studied abroad in Athens. Is that what you mean by Greek Life?”
This is part of our 2016 Unofficial Orientation Series. A quick reminder that you can check out the welcome post here and past years’ series here.
This one is gonna be fun to write. If you’re reading this, odds are you’re internally pondering one or more of the following three questions: (1) Wait, I thought Wes didn’t have Greek Life like all the other small liberal arts colleges?, (2) Is wilk about to tell me that the frats are back??? Keg! Keg! Keg! Keg! Seven! Seven! Seven! Seven!, or (3) I thought Greece left the EU?
In short, here are the answers:
Credit for this photo goes to Karmenife Paulino and Tess Altman at Reclamation.
Note: This interview discusses sexual assault. It was also conducted prior to Winter Break and doesn’t reflect certain changes on campus since then.
I knock at some small senior house right off of Cross street, and a muffled cry of, “Be right there,” can be heard from behind its chipping red door. The door opens, and this is the first and last time that I ever meet Karmenife Paulino ’15 – I follow curly, auburn hair up the narrow staircase as we say our hello’s and I am taken to her room. Her room is cozy and dim, with colored lights strung up on the left wall next to artwork and posters. My eyes graze over the mid-packing mess that I’ve interrupted, led to a mannequin in bondage gear leaning on the right wall.
She sits on her bed, crosslegged and comfortable, her body turned at an angle from mine, as I take a seat on the bottom most edge and gracelessly stumble through introductions. She’s patient as I rummage through my bag for my questions, and we begin.
What exactly is Reclamation?
The all-male residential fraternity Psi Upsilon has been placed on probationary housing status and suspended from all social activities through the end of 2015, according to an all-campus email today from President Roth and Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley.
These new sanctions come as a direct result of two reported sexual assault cases against Psi U—one of Wesleyan University’s three all-male residential fraternities, and one of five total Greek residences, on campus—with the first incident occurring at an “unregistered pledge event” in spring 2011, and the second in the spring of 2013. The second case is detailed in a lawsuit filed in March 2014, currently pending against Psi Upsilon, the Wesleyan Xi Chapter, and several Psi U members (but not against the University itself), that asserts negligence on the part of the defendants. The perpetrators in both cases, according the University, were “dismissed from the University after being found responsible for sexual assault.”
Although the email acknowledges that many or all of the current fraternity members were not present at the time of either assault, the University believes that “some sanction of the fraternity is appropriate,” and the resulting decision is “consistent with our policies to support survivors, punish assailants and change the culture so as to eliminate elements that lead to sexual assault.” This action follows a busy semester of changes to and increased oversight of Greek life on campus, including the announcement that the Beta Theta Pi house would be off-limits to students for the 2014-2015 academic year. The entirety of the email has been reproduced below.
Following Monday’s announcement that Wesleyan’s single-sex residential fraternities (Psi Upsilon, Delta Kappa Epsilon, and theoretically Beta Theta Pi) must fully coeducate within three years, the University has already taken steps to enforcing this policy—but with new requirements affecting all of Greek life on campus. Beginning this semester, all Greek organizations are prohibited from taking freshman pledges.
In an email to residential Greek organization presidents on Tuesday, but which was only today brought to the attention of non-residential organizations (reproduced below), Dean Mike Whaley discussed the hiring of a new Greek Advisor and listed additional “safety measures” that now must be put into place by all Greek organizations on campus. The residential Alpha Delta Phi and Eclectic Societies are impacted, as well as the non-residential fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (presumably Chi Psi, too) and non-residential sorority Rho Epsilon Pi.
Most notably, the University announced the elimination of “rush/pledging of first-year students,” starting immediately. Under this change, no students will be allowed to join Greek organizations until at least their sophomore year. Outside of frosh, rushing/pledging will continue as planned. In an email to Wesleying, Whaley clarified that “We are not eliminating rush/pledging this year. We are implementing a restriction on first-year students rushing/pledging during their first year on campus. Many institutions have a similar restriction.”
Princeton University passed a policy prohibiting freshman pledging in 2011, which began implementation in the fall of 2012. California Polytechnic State University did so in 2010, following the death of a freshman in an initiation ritual.
“The rationale, in part, is to allow frosh to get established with their academics and the campus prior to rush/pledge activities,” Whaley said. “Frosh can also be quite susceptible to peer pressure so we hope to reduce the possibility of hazing activities by implementing this restriction.”
In an email sent to the Wesleyan community this morning, the Chair of the Board of Trustees Joshua Boger ’73 and President Michael Roth ’78 informed the campus of the Board’s decision that all residential greek organizations must become fully co-educational in not just housing but within the greek organizations themselves.
The Board of Trustees convened in their retreat this past weekend, with more than half of the schedule dedicated to the issue of greek life on campus as well as the future of residential fraternities. This comes on the heel of the administration’s decision to declare Beta’s house off-limits to all students just a few weeks ago, in light of the discussions last semester within and outside of meetings in the Wesleyan Student Assembly over the issue of coeducation and residential fraternities.
Update (9/22/14 5:00PM): We asked DKE president Terence Durkin ’16 if the coeducation decision would affect their national membership and how they might implement coeducation. His response:
It is my understanding that our National Charter does not allow co-education, so this unilateral decision by the administration is problematic for us. It seems to do away with freedom of association for a specific, carefully chosen segment of the so-called Wesleyan “community”. The University is telling us who our friends are going to be, and who we must choose as our leaders. This is just not right. This is just not Wesleyan. We are exploring all options with our Alumni and undergraduates, and we will have more to say in the near future.
Dean Mike Whaley similarly reiterated that the national charter of DKE (and Beta) does not recognize coeducation, while Psi U’s does. He also pointed out that Alpha Delta Phi had a similar conflict with their national charter when they decided to co-educate in 1972. His response below:
I’ve not yet had a chance to work with any of the organizations yet given that the announcement was just made today. As President Roth’s announcement indicates, “If the organizations are to continue to be recognized as offering housing and social spaces for Wesleyan students, women as well as men must be full members and well-represented in the body and leadership of the organization.” We’ve invited each of the all-male fraternities to develop their own plans for realizing this goal, and I will be working with them as they develop and implement their plans to make sure they are likely to reach our objectives.
Psi U, whose national permits coeducation, has asked to meet with me later this week to begin discussions and planning.
You probably already know that Psi Upsilon’s national permits coeducation, while Beta’s and DKE’s do not. My understanding is that Alpha Delta Phi had a similar challenge with their national when they co-educated many years ago – how they overcame that obstacle could be instructive for the organizations.
Update [9/10/14, 4:58pm]: President Michael Roth sends an all campus email about the recovering student’s condition:
We have all been deeply concerned about the condition of the student who was injured in a fall from the third floor of Beta Theta Pi early Sunday morning. She remains in the Intensive Care Unit of a Hartford hospital, and those close to her have very much appreciated the expressions of support and care from the Wesleyan community. I spent some time with the family at the hospital this morning. We are all hopeful for her recovery and would love to welcome her back to Wesleyan whenever she is healthy enough to resume her studies. Meanwhile, we will keep her and her family in our thoughts.
Michael S. Roth
Update [9/10/14, 12:44pm]: President Michael Roth and Dean Mike Whaley just emailed the student body to announce that Beta has been shut down for the remainder of the school year. Students are banned from returning to the house, and Beta’s residents are being moved to alternative housing. For more information and updates on the situation, click here.
Update [9/8/14, 7:40pm]: The Hartford Courant published an update, saying that the student is now in “stable” condition.
Update [9/8/14, 12:10pm]: WFSB published a more in-depth story of the incident.
Read after the jump for more updates as well as information on Dean Whaley’s original email and news reports on the situation.
The contents of the following article contain offensive, derogatory language, and material that may be triggering for survivors of sexual assault. The names and some of the details in this article have been changed for privacy and legal concerns (but more about that last bit later).
Written in bold black sharpie, the phrase “She said stop, I said Hammer Time,” was one of the first things that Dan and I saw on move-in day. I was helping him load his things into the room he was renting at Wesleyan University’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity, where we both lived last summer, as tenants. This was not the only message left for Dan—writing covered almost every square foot of wall.
I had just moved into my own room earlier that sweltering afternoon in May, and I was already growing slightly unimpressed with the misogyny. I would be lying if I didn’t say that over the summer that I lived in Beta, the impact of the graffiti grew smaller and smaller, till it felt the way bathroom obscenity feels. Still, on move in day the abrasion wasn’t calloused over yet.
First, however, a few words on how I ended up living in Beta. I had originally planned on living in official universities dorms for the summer research session. Then I got an email saying that Beta would be offering housing for a third of the price: only $300 a month.
In addition to cheapness, there was the benefit that the house was big enough for nearly all my friends who were staying on for the summer. The house had a yard equipped with a charcoal grill, a huge living room where we could hold open mics, parties, etc, and a refrigerator big enough for twelve 30 racks of Miller—not to even mention the king-sized beer pong table. On top of it all, I had leased early enough to get my pick of the rooms. I ended up in the Beta president’s suite.
TRIGGER WARNING: The following discusses the issue of sexual assault at Wesleyan and may be triggering for some readers. Community and official support resources can be accessed here, here, and here.
If you’ve been on campus this semester, you’ve probably had at least one conversation about sexual assault and residential fraternities. Since spring break, there have been four contentious WSA meetings on the subject, drawing sexual assault survivors, fraternity brothers, and other members of the community together to discuss policy to reduce sexual assault, and what that means for Wesleyan’s residential fraternities. The discussion has morphed into a discussion encompassing not only sexual assault and fraternities, but also male privilege, gender equality, gender relations, and how all of those impact the social spaces in which we move daily.
Despite all the discussion on this topic, there has been considerable confusion on both sides about the various resolutions that have been introduced. This FAQ post aims to clear up some of that confusion.
Sexual assault has always been a problem on campus, but we haven’t talked about it much until a few months ago. Likewise, we don’t seriously discuss the role of fraternities on campus very frequently. How did the current discussion begin?
Last spring, a Wesleyan student was raped in the common room of Psi U. Following the incident, the student who committed the rape was dismissed by the University. The survivor left the University as well. In early March of this year, the survivor sued Psi Upsilon, the Wesleyan Xi Chapter of the frat, and several Psi U brothers for negligence. It was this lawsuit that set off the current discussions about sexual assault and fraternities.
Unless you shut yourself off from the world this past week, you probably read, or at least heard mention of, The Atlantic’s feature story on fraternities and their dangers, which highlighted Wesleyan University and Beta Theta Pi. The article explores the role of fraternities on campuses, especially in the crafting of party culture and the rise of sexual assault. The article is long, but well worth the read, and has reopened space for dialogue on these issues.
Image via The Atlantic
“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.