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?
Beginning this semester, Wesleying will hold semi-regular meetings with President Michael Roth to ask all the questions about Wesleyan University that we have wanted, but never previously had the chance, to ask him. We have quite a bit of catching up to do. As Thursday, Nov. 20 was the first of these meetings, editors Samira, kitab, and Gabe, with input from Wesleying staff, used our time to ask a variety of questions about relevant issues from the past few years. As per their request, we informed the President’s Office beforehand on the general topics we wished to cover.
Our half-hour conversation, which we are posting here in its entirety, covers sexual assault procedure, coeducation of residential fraternities, fundraising, the endowment, need-blind admissions, and academic programs. This interview was edited for clarity.
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.
c/o Rosy Capron
It’s not just radical student groups who can use banner drops for activism. Two large banners were hung outside of DKE today, promoting a pro-fraternity message: “Frats Not Fiction” and “276 High Street: DKE Owned/Operated For 147 Years…And Counting”.
It is not clear if this was done by current students or perhaps returning alumni. Either way, it is clearly timed to get attention during Homecoming, when there are many alumni, though not necessarily a whole lot of students, on campus.
In addition to these signs hanging from DKE, a small plane flew over the football field during the Homecoming game, carrying a banner that read “Wes Picks Our Bros? Fascism. Look it up.”
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 all campus email today, it was announced that Beta Theta Pi will be off limits to students for the full academic year starting on Monday, September 15. The administration’s decision was certainly amplified by this past weekend’s incident, in which a student was seriously injured after falling from a third story window. Along with this occurrence, Beta has been in the news in recent years for incidents of sexual assault. This is a definitive step for the administration, which has spent years refining housing policies to have more control over residential fraternities, in particular Beta Theta Pi.
The students who currently live in Beta will be given alternative university housing for the year. While the residence will be off limits for at least the full year, a final decision on the permanence of this resolution will be made by the Board of Trustees when they are on campus in two weeks.
Updated (9/15/14 5:29 PM): Beta is officially off limits to students for the year, starting today. An all-campus email today stated that any student found on the Beta property without permission from both the University and the alumni association that owns the house will be “charged with violating the Code of Non-Academic Conduct and sanctioned accordingly, up to and including immediate suspension. Students may also be subject to trespassing charges via Middletown Police, at the owners’ discretion.” The e-mail is reproduced below.
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.
Safety of fraternity spaces on campus, relative to other spaces:
19% say fraternity spaces are safer
31% say fraternity spaces are equally safe
47% say fraternity spaces are less safe
On April 18, the WSA sent out an all-campus email asking for student opinions about Greek life, safety, and gender equality. From April 18 to April 21, the WSA collected data. Within that time, there were 796 responses, which were close to representative of campus in terms of gender, class year, and Greek membership. A comprehensive breakdown of the survey are available here, on the WSA blog. The full set of survey results, complete with the number of people who answered each question and the questions asked, is available here: Sexual Assault and Greek Life Survey Results.
While I will be posting an FAQ post explaining Resolution B and the related resolutions later today, a few interesting excerpts of this right now, presented without comment:
This past Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities. The 6-to-2 ruling allows for the passage for similar measures in seven other states. The New York Times has an informative set of infographics showing the effects of such bans on affirmative action for minorities throughout the country.
Highlighting the results from a recent study on public college finances, Slate explores the increasing privatization of public colleges. Today, public university students cover almost half the cost of their own educations, on average.
A Brown University student, Lena Sclove, has begun an activist movement to make the campus a safer space for her and other survivors of sexual assault.
A letter from students, alumni, staff, and faculty to the campus community.
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.
At the present time, there is an unprecedented political atmosphere on campus that affords our community a tremendous opportunity to take meaningful and effective action to combat campus sexual assault: co-educate and drastically reform our campus’s three all-male residential fraternities or forbid them use of their residential facilities.
This action has long been necessary, and in pursuit of this action there are a few facts that require illumination: