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:
Warning: readers may find the contents of this article triggering. All quotes and anecdotes used in this article were experienced or overheard by the authors.
“She’s lying.” “It was her choice to go to the party.” “But frats raise money for charity.” The response to the recent lawsuit against Psi Upsilon fraternity reflects the extent to which rape culture pervades our community. Sexual assault is by no means an exception at Wesleyan: one out of every four college women is a victim of rape or attempted rape and one in every seven college men is a survivor of sexual assault. But only lawsuits like these draw national and international attention.
In light of the reaction to the most recent lawsuit, specifically the focus on fraternity community service and fundraising, victim-blaming, and “misreporting,” we would like to redirect conversation to the real issue: how to support survivors of sexual assault and how to prevent sexual assault on our campus. Fraternities are relevant to this imperative only to the extent that we must eliminate environments in which the much wider problem of sexual assault is exacerbated. This is not a solution, but it is an immediate first step toward preventing sexual violence.
Read on for several community responses, including from Students for Consent and Communication and from President Roth.
A student filed a lawsuit against Psi Upsilon, the Wesleyan Xi Chapter, and several Psi U members on Tuesday. The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the defendants regarding a sexual assault perpetrated last spring against the student in the Psi U common room. This lawsuit does not name Wesleyan University itself as a defendant, unlike the previous lawsuit against a Wesleyan fraternity regarding a sexual assault. Instead, the lawsuit states that Psi U and its members violated its contract with Wesleyan which requires the fraternity to manage its events and keep its guests safe.
Wesleyan has, however, emailed all of us an official statement just this afternoon. President Roth’s email notes that the perpetrator of this particular sexual assault was dismissed from the University after disciplinary proceedings, in addition to sanctions against Psi U. President Roth’s statement in full:
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.
From Simon Riker ’14:
Psi U may not be throwing any parties these days, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve completely withdrawn into our four-story man cave.
Turn the tides, see the brothers you’ve been missing and enjoy a fresh, home-cooked meal at Psi U’s eating club, Chique Chaque, tomorrow (Wednesday night) at 6:30. Entertainment will be provided by campus duo, The Blooming Youth (Alex Lough ’13 and Emma Daniels ’13).
The meal is lasagna (vegetarian too, don’t worry).
The price is 10 points.
Facebook event here!
And check out the Blooming Youth!
Date: Wednesday, September 26
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Psi U
Cost: 10 points
President Roth’s blog, Roth on Wesleyan, often provides a nice perspective on his interactions with the student body. Most recently, Roth blogged about his encounters with fraternities on campus.
At the end of the day, what’s his verdict? Fraternities are A-OK:
… As I’ve met with students around campus this year, I have visited with all the fraternities, including the Eclectic Society (which usually doesn’t see itself in this context). I have found them to be energetic, vital student organizations capable of making contributions to the campus as a whole…
And, while plans for expansion aren’t in the cards, it does look like a Roth administration won’t go out of its way to persecute Greek organizations:
… Fraternities have historic roots with alumni that are important to maintain, and I believe that the frats (including Eclectic) at Wes can continue to play a very positive role at the university. We will not be adding any new Greek societies because there are now many other ways for students to join together in residentially based groups. Wesleyan’s students have a rich choice of social organizations in which to participate, from the very traditional to the most avant-garde. I’m committed to keeping it that way.
Our friends from Williams over at House of Procrastination found this gem of a piece in the latest issue of Seventeen. Check out the “jerk alert.”
This is an actual news article from The New York Times dated from October 18, 1908:
Wesleyan Songs Censored
Students Will Not Sing Vulgar Ones in Public Places
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. Oct 17–The undergraduates at Wesleyan University have voted to prohibit the use of all vulgar songs about the campus or any public place.
Although Wesleyan has furnished in the past a large percentage of ministers and Bishops to the Methodist Episcopal Church, the undergraduates’ life has had much the same tone as at all the American Universities. Vulgarity has crept into many of the songs and students have sung these songs with gusto. The class societies have been the prime offenders in this matter. Some of the songs of the Tau Nu Episoln, Kappa Gamma, and Pi Kappa Tau have been particularly objectionable.
For a few years it has been the practice to sing some of these songs on the streets [in the] evenings. The student body has now placed the ban on this, and it is expected that the societies will acquiesce.
Wesleyan Songs Censored. New York Times (1857-Current File): Oct 18, 1908; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2003), pg. C8.