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author—that colleges and universities are institutionally and structurally threatened by powerful organizations with outdated (and morally detestable) principles and priorities.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.
From Beta Theta Pi:
The brothers of Beta Theta Pi cordially invite all Wesleyan students to participate in a discussion about responsible drinking practices. Beta Theta Pi junior Bobby Cunningham has spent this semester putting together an extensive presentation regarding safe drinking habits. He will lead the discussion, focusing on what we can do as individuals as well as a community to encourage and promote sensible alcohol consumption and avoid the consequences of excessive drinking.
Please stop by 184 High Street at 9:15 pm TODAY to find out what you can do to not only better yourself but also improve social responsibility amongst the Wesleyan community. This will be a great opportunity to focus and reflect on responsible vs. irresponsible drinking, learn about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, and adopt smarter, safer drinking habits. There will be fun facts and non sequiturs galore.
We look forward to seeing all of you on Wednesday night.
Date: Wednesday, December 4
New Time: 9:15 PM – 10:15 PM
Place: 184 High Street
From Joey Amendola ’16:
Come join the brothers of Beta Theta Pi for their first rush event. No commitment necessary, just some free BBQ and some information about us.
Date: Fri, Sept 6
Time: 6-8 pm
Place: 184 High St
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.
This letter is published on behalf of the 2012–2013 Executive Board of the Mu Epsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi:
To the Wesleyan Community:
The members of Beta Theta Pi share the campus’ outrage at the allegation of physical assault and attempted sexual assault at our chapter house early Sunday morning. We are cooperating with the University and the Middletown Police Department as they seek to identify the alleged attacker, and will continue to help the authorities in every way if and when he is found and arrested. Events such as this compromise the sense of safety and security that we as members of a campus community deserve, and we have zero tolerance for such actions. Unfortunately, sexual assault at Wesleyan remains a problem, and we share the belief that sexual assault, like any kind of assault, is always problematic and utterly unacceptable. That our house became the location of this unfortunate and intolerable crime is a powerful reminder to the entire Wesleyan community that we collectively need to do a better job at raising awareness and prevention of these types of events. Beta Theta Pi plans to strengthen our partnership with Wesleyan’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and we will continue to plan programs for our members such as last semester’s WESpeak-WEStand Bystander Intervention program, which aimed to create a campus culture that is actively engaged in the prevention of sexual assault. We all need to do our part in creating the safer community we deserve, and the incident early Sunday Morning makes it self-evident that we need to do better. Our thoughts, prayers, and solidarity are with the survivor.
We encourage anyone with any information about the incident to call Public Safety at 860-685-2345 or the Middletown Police at 860-344-3200.
—The 2012-2013 Executive Board of the Mu Epsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi
“No Wesleyan student should feel unsafe on campus.”
If you’ve glanced at Wesleying in the past week or so, then you’re already familiar with the federal lawsuit that refers to Beta as a ‘Rape Factory’ and accuses the University of failing to protect students from sexual assault and rape. (Since last weekend, the case has received national media coverage.) Vincent Vecchione ’07 and Holly Wood ’08 (yes, that Holly) have responded with an online petition calling on the Board of Trustees to require that ResLife analyze all other instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape and assess how well the office responded. According to Vecchione, every signature on the petition sends an email to the Board. The full text appears below.
In light of the recent allegations of the administration’s horrifying mistreatment and cruelty toward a rape victim in 2010, it is crucial that Wesleyan University analyze all other recorded charges of sexual crimes reported to the Offices of Residential Life and Public Safety. The best way to do this is for the Office of Residential Life to analyze every prior notice of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, then review how the Office responded, and whether this response was effective. Special attention should be paid to cases of representatives of the administration “gaslighting” or otherwise diminishing the criminality of harassment, assault and rape to undergraduates.
If you have no idea what I’m referring to then you might want to read this first. Or this. Or this, or this, or this. Also this. And maybe this, too.
Anyway, the point: this story has been getting a good deal of news coverage, all the way from Wesleying and The Argus, to the Hartford Courant, to HuffPost, Salon, and more. In addition to this post on the coverage, keep an eye out for a more substantive post from pyrotechnics this weekend. Round-up with brief sketches of coverage below:
BuzzFeed is the first source to challenge some of the contentions of the lawsuit, in particular the campus identity of Beta Theta Pi as a “Rape Factory.” BuzzFeed contacted several current and former students, including our very own Zach, to inquire after the use of this particular term around campus. Some commenters on our earlier piece questioned its use, as did many quoted in the BuzzFeed article, but most do note a stigma around Beta that isn’t exactly positive. All in all, BuzzFeed seems to have done some proper research before writing, taking the time to discuss Beta’s historical image, Beta’s relationship with the University, and some of the confusion surrounding events of the 2010-2011 academic year.
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, Beta was the primary subject of some controversy very recently, 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.
Tonight at Beta Theta Pi, via Nate Howell ’14:
Join us for our first rush event! Beta Theta Pi, Mu Epsilon Chapter, will be holding a barbecue at our house, located at 184 High St. (corner of Church St and High St). This is an open event, designed to give current brothers and prospective brothers a chance to meet one another. Please feel free to spread the word to other guys you think may be interested. The barbecue, being the first rush event, is an excellent opportunity not only to meet everyone involved, but also an opportunity to see the house. It’s a relaxed and fun event, no pressure whatsoever. The barbecue starts at around 6 and goes until around 7:30, so even if you can’t make the whole thing, stopping by even for just a few minutes is still a great way to get a preliminary feel for everything. Any questions can be directed to Nate Howell ’14 (NHowell@wes), Matt Gross ’15 (MBGross@wes), Rex Bernstein ’15 (RBernstein@wes) or Nate Ryan ’15 (NJRyan@wes). We look forward to seeing you soon!
Date: Today, September 14
Time: 6 pm – 7:30 pm
Place: Beta (184 High Street)