Uh, we won?
In February, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) flagged Wesleyan for contradicting its own commitment to freedom of speech with what it deems “substantial restrictions on students’ expressive rights” and named us Speech Code of the Month. Wesleyan last drew FIRE’s ire in 2011, during the infamous Beta-Gate, when they chastised The_Real_MRoth in an open letter for restricting our freedom of assembly with his changes to the university’s housing policy.
What exactly, you might ask, is a speech code? According to their website, “FIRE defines a ‘speech code’ as any university regulation or policy that prohibits expression that would be protected by the First Amendment in society at large.” In this case, FIRE is drawing attention to a clause in Wesleyan’s Student Handbook on discrimination and harassment.
The right to abstain from performing acts and the right to be protected against actions that may be harmful to the health or emotional stability of the individual or that degrade the individual or infringe upon his/her personal dignity.
About two weeks ago, in the scorching heat of student outrage over the housing policy revision, we reported on a letter sent to President Roth from FIRE.org—the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Most notably, the note criticized the controversial policy, expressing grace concern regarding “the threat to freedom of association posed by Wesleyan University’s new policy.”
This week, after Roth announced plans amending the policy’s “too broad” sweeping language, FIRE publishes an engaging overview of the month’s university actions and ensuing activism, concluding that the backtrack isn’t enough. The policy, which still declares Beta effectively “off-limits to undergraduates next semester,” remains an affront to the right to Freedom of Assembly guaranteed in the university’s Responsibility of the University to Its Members policy:
We’re glad that President Roth has begun to see the problems with the language as written. Unfortunately, even if the language is made less broad, there is still the fact that Wesleyan promises its students “freedom of assembly” in its “Responsibility of the University to Its Members” policy. It’s hard to see how Wesleyan will be able to reconcile its intense desire to forbid its students from being a member of the off-campus Beta Theta Pi (whether you call it a club, private society, fraternity, or what have you) with its promise to students to respect their freedom of assembly.