“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?
Last semester, students campaigned against Eclectic’s history of enabling racism and sexual violence with images like this.
NOTE: Updates are provided at the bottom of the post.
Thursday night, we received knowledge that Fran Koerting, Director of Reslife has reached out to the residents of Music House offering the program house the space of 200 High Street, home to Eclectic Society since 1906, for the 2016-2017 academic year. Koerting confirmed this at 12:15PM today and said that an announcement email will be sent around early this afternoon.
The residents of Music House, after discussion, decided that they would accept Reslife’s offer for the space, which the University has owned since the 1970s when Eclectic alumni sold the house to Wesleyan for $1. When asked about offering the space of 200 High Street, Fran Koerting stated:
PSA from Martin Malabanan ’16:
Come join the WSA and members of the Greek community in discussing
Greek Life at Wes, the challenges and repercussions of having
student-run spaces at Wes shut down, and some solutions and steps
moving forward. The event will take place in a town hall format in the
Usdan Cafe area, and we invite all members of the Wesleyan community
to join in this discussion.
7-9pm Discussion of Greek Life and Student Run Spaces
-Quick overview of WSA changes, introduction of leadership, meeting
format, ground rules, community standards, goals and intentions for
II. Lack of administration transparency and communication to students
in major decisions
III. Success and challenges of coeducation process
IV. Weekend social life and the future of student run spaces
V. Open discussion, additional questions, etc.
VI. Steps forward
9pm Other announcements, WSA issues, etc.
Date: Sunday, September 13th
Time: 7:00 PM-10:00 PM
Place: Usdan Cafe
Following the University’s placement of the Xi Chapter of Psi Upsilon on probationary housing status for the rest of 2015, as well as banning all social activities at the fraternity, and Psi U’s Wespeak in January announcing their plan for coeducation, the fraternity’s program housing status has been suspended for the entire 2015-2016 academic year, according to an all campus email sent this afternoon by President Roth and Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley. In addition, the property has been deemed off limits to Wesleyan students for the duration of the suspension, similar to the sanctions placed on Beta Theta Pi last fall.
Psi U was the only remaining single-sex frat on campus whose national chapter allowed co-education, and the fraternity concluded its first co-ed rush at the end of the school year, with plans to fully co-educate by the three year timeline President Roth set in September. We will update with more info as it comes in.
This afternoon, the Argus broke the story that the Wesleyan chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon is planning to sue the university for discrimination and deceptive practices. The suit, brought by DKE in collaboration with their alumni chapter, the Kent Literary Club, and two Wes sophomores, details DKE’s interactions with the university since the co-education decision of last September before making charges associated with DKE’s recent loss of program house status for the 2015-2016 school year. After the jump are excerpts from DKE’s press release, courtesy of the Argus; statements from a Wesleyan spokesperson, and a brief summary of the lawsuit.
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.
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.
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.