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.
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.
“[Fox Searchlight Pictures] received the benefits of their unpaid work, which otherwise would have required paid employees.” – Judge William H. Pauley III on the suit brought against Fox by Eric Glatt ’91 (below) and Alex Footman ’09
In September 2011, we posted about two Wesleyan alumni, Alex Footman ’09 and Eric Glatt ’91 who brought a class-action lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures. The two argued that, when they interned on the set of Black Swan, they performed menial tasks exclusively that had no educational value. By law, unpaid internships must provide some sort of educational experience and cannot simply be used to replace paid employees with unpaid labor. The two interns argued that they had not received the educational experience they should have gotten from the experience.
Just recently, Federal District Court Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that, as Fox Searchlight Pictures treated the workers as if they were regular paid employees and did not provide any sort of educational value to the internship, the interns should have been paid. The judge explained his logic to The Hollywood Reporter:
Lee ’10: “If I ever become a famous filmmaker, I promise I will pay my interns.”
Wesleyan is in the New York Times this weekend. So are unpaid internships. It’s not what you think.
First there was the story of Alex Footman ’09, the aspiring filmmaker and Wesleyan graduate who served as unpaid production intern on the set of Black Swan in 2009 and later brought a highly publicized open class-action lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures for labor exploitation. (Footman penned a New York Times op-ed in February, imploring the Labor Department to “take this matter seriously and step in to enforce its regulations.”) Then there was Lucy Bickerton ’08, the latest Wesleyan alumnus to turn an entertainment industry internship into a well-publicized lawsuit. Bickerton interned for PBS interviewer Charlie Rose in 2007. She “did everything an employee does except collect a paycheck,” she now claims. So, half a decade later, she’s suing for the minimum wage compensation she says she is owed.
The latest New York Times piece, headlined “Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships,” casts an eye on the circumstances that lead to these lawsuits. It mentions Eric Glatt, the 40-year-old intern who sued Fox Searchlight with Footman, but not Footman himself or Bickerton. Its point: unpaid internships are no longer the domain of the summer vacation. Rather, in this job market, “many college graduates who expected to land paid jobs are turning to unpaid internships to try to get a foot in an employer’s door.” And today, postcollege internships are available not only in nonprofit work, but also in “fashion houses, book and magazine publishers, marketing companies, public relations firms, art galleries, talent agencies,” and even some law firms.
It doesn’t take journalist Steven Greenhouse ’73 long to arrive at the exploitative side of the practice. (Edit: frequent commenter John Wesley writes in to let me know that the article’s author is an alumnus as well.]