Last October, a former student (under the pseudonym of “Jane Doe”) filed a federal lawsuit against Beta Theta Pi fraternity, the Baird Association (which owns Beta’s house), and Wesleyan University. The lawsuit alleged that Wesleyan had failed to abide by Title IX law through failure to “warn or otherwise take corrective action” against the fraternity that could have prevented the assault on the student that occurred in Beta two years prior.
The case accumulated significant attention in national media (as well as, uh, me), especially when it came to light that lawyers for Beta were attempting to force the survivor to reveal her identity.
Welcome to utopia! Er, sorta. Well, not really. Actually not at all. Like all the world, good old Wesleyan is plagued with many social ills. Some are more intractable than others, some more terrible than others. I am not here to pass judgment. I am here only to give you the quick run-down on
all most of the things people at Wes have been getting upset about of late. To avoid showing favoritism I put these in random order (literally). Please feel free to add/question/editorialize in the comments below.
This is the Wrath Update. First up:
At Wes, University Policy prohibits the use of chalk “on sidewalks or buildings.” For many students — though definitely not all — this constitutes a violation of the right to free speech and the battle over the chalking policy has raged fiercely for over a decade. On the 3rd of October 2002, then-President Doug Bennet ’59 put forth a moratorium on Wesleyan’s storied tradition of chalking, a moratorium which was theoretically temporary but was never lifted. In those days, you could spend an hour reading chalkings on the hundred-yard walk from PAC to what’s now Usdan. Chalking was primarily used as an empowerment medium for the queer community, but, of course, a few individuals took things a little too far. I do not need to get into the details; you go to Wesleyan so you can imagine it. We still occasionally witness hateful and hurtful public messages around campus.
This past October, a former Wesleyan student filed a lawsuit against the University. The student, who has used the pseudonym Jane Doe in court proceedings to maintain her anonymity, says that she was raped in a locked room during the fraternity’s 2010 Halloween party by John O’Neill, 21, of Yorktown, NY. O’Neill was a guest of the fraternity and not a Wesleyan student. He was charged with first-degree sexual assault, pleaded no contest to lesser charges of third-degree assault and first-degree unlawful restraint a little over a year ago, and is now serving a 15-month prison sentence, from which he will be released next month.
According to The Hartford Courant, “The woman’s lawsuit, filed last October, charges Wesleyan with violating Title IX, the federal gender-equity law, by failing “to supervise, discipline, warn or take other corrective action” against the fraternity, actions that it says could have prevented the assault.” Wesleyan warned students in an email in March 2010 to avoid Beta due to safety concerns. Jane Doe says that, as she was not aware of that warning, she went to the frat’s Halloween party, where she was raped.
Fast-forward to the present. Lawyers for the Wesleyan chapter of Beta Theta Pi (which is also a defendant in the case) filed papers this week arguing that Jane Doe should not be able to use the pseudonym in the federal lawsuit. The Hartford Courant summarizes their motion as follows:
Lawyers for the Mu Epsilon chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Wesleyan said the woman should not be allowed to proceed with her lawsuit under the pseudonym “Jane Doe” because “it allows her to make defamatory statements against” the fraternity and Wesleyan “behind a cloak of anonymity,” according to a motion filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Alysha Warren writes in with an empowering and inspiring way for students to describe the impact of sexual violence on their lives through their own artwork or written prose.
WEconSent is soliciting stories from survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking and commentary from the community about these issues. We invite submissions of poetry, art work, photography and personal narratives from students who have been directly and indirectly affected by this issue to discuss how sexual violence has touched their lives.
The zine will be used in a variety of settings to raise dialogue about sexual violence in all its forms; including sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking. Your story will have the opportunity to touch the lives of individuals and foster dialogue around these important issues. This project will continue into the fall, but we aim to have a draft for use in Fall 2013 orientation.
More information about how to participate and submission details after the jump.
Deadline: Ongoing, May 30th for inclusion in Fall 2013 issue
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know that Take Back the Night is taking place tonight. But, just in case, Alysha Warren has you covered in filling you in on the details. It’s an event that should be a priority for every member of our campus community.
Students for Consent and Communication will be holding the annual Take Back the Night march as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month on Thursday, April 25th at 7pm.
Take Back the Night brings the community together to speak out and take a stand against sexual violence. The event raises awareness about sexual violence and provides survivors with a safe space to share their stories. Through the march around campus, speak out circles and candlelight vigil we will create a safe and caring space where every survivor has a voice. The speak out circles are confidential and we ask that you do not repeat anything that is heard in these circles. Onomatopoeia and the Wesleyan Spirits will share their talents and refreshments will be provided by various student groups.
Break the silence and support the Wesleyan community!!
Date: Thursday, April 25th
Location: Steps of Olin (RAIN LOCATION: Malcolm X House)
Andrew Trexler ’14 writes in on a subject that has been unfortunately relevant on campus in recent weeks and months:
To the Wesleyan community:
As you are all (hopefully) aware, sexual violence continues in our community with a tragic and alarming frequency. In an effort to promote awareness of the importance of consent, we have launched what we are calling the Wesleyan Consent Pledge. The pledge is simple:
“I pledge to actively seek and obtain legitimate consent with any and all partners, to look after the safety and well-being of my peers, and to actively combat a culture of rape acceptance in my community.”
To date, over 500 Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff have taken the pledge. We hope that every member of our community will take the pledge soon, and we hope that all will keep the pledge indefinitely.
I hope that you will join me in taking the Wesleyan Consent Pledge here.
Together, we can eliminate sexual violence in our community.
Here’s the link to the pledge.
Ali Patrick ’13 and the Sexual Violence Action Committee invite you to Speak Up and Stand Up:
Empowered bystanders create a safer community by standing up and speaking out when they witness situations that could potentially harm the health and safety of others. This workshop will provide you with the skills to move from inaction to action and intervene safely and effectively. Participants will leave with a basic understanding of the dynamics of sexual assault and demonstrate and practice effective ways to intervene with friends, fellow students and community members. This is a supplemental workshop that covers the basics of sexual assault and bystander intervention and is not the full WE Speak WE Stand training.
Date: Thursday, Nov. 1
Time: 7-8 pm
Location: Alpha Delt
Check out the Facebook event here
“We believe it is is not ethically responsible at this time for us as alumni to financially support an institution that is not willing to properly ensure the safety and respect of its student body.”
Confirming reports from Homecoming Weekend that a significant number of alumni are aware of and unhappy about recent campus controversies surrounding sexual assault and need-blind admissions, Wesleying received the following letter from members of the class of 2010. The note has been circulating via email among recent alums. In it, Anonymous ’10 expresses “serious concerns regarding two recent, unsettling missteps taken by Wesleyan University” and asks hir classmates to pledge not to donate. No doubt this suggestion will be controversial on campus (particularly in the arena of need-blind, where Wesleyan’s meager alumni giving rate is especially pertinent). No doubt it will also grab attention.
Some alumni have already defended their unwillingness to donate in the comments section of recent posts. Wesleying is interested in following up with a longer feature. If you’re an alumnus who won’t donate to the school and want to talk about it—or a caller for Red & Black—please contact us at staff(at)wesleying(dot)org.
Here’s the letter:
A few weeks ago, a former Wesleyan student filed suit against the University, as well as the national Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, its Mu Epsilon chapter here at Wesleyan, and the Baird Society that owns the building and grounds occupied by Mu Epsilon. In a nutshell, the suit alleges that the University and the other parties did not take sufficient action to prevent the rape of the former student at a Halloween Party at Beta in October of 2010. The coverage of this lawsuit, by Wesleying and by local and national news sources, involves a Brobdingnagian array of diverse but connected issues. I’m going to try to touch on as many as I can. I will inevitably sound preachy at particular points, and for that I apologize in advance.
I really hope that these statements are unnecessary, but here goes: sexual assault, like pretty much any kind of assault, is problematic and unacceptable. The environment in which sexual assault remains possible is likewise problematic and unacceptable.
This post attempts to make those things a little bit clearer, comments on the subject in light of recent events, and includes many of my own opinions tying this particular issue to broader and equally terrifying patterns of college/youth/generational/human attitude that underlie the culture of permissible rape. This post is long. You should read it anyway.
Let’s start with some facts:
- Millions of rapes occur every year, both forcible (as noted in the image above) and non-forcible. The vast majority are perpetrated by men against women, though still significant numbers of rapes are perpetrated by women against men and by men against men or women against women.
- About one in four women will be subject to a sexual assault in their lifetimes. About one in six men will be subject to the same. [United States Department of Justice]
- About one in five women at a college or university will be subject to a sexual assault during their years at school.
- A 1991 study found that 76% of boys and 56% of girls in high school believe that forced sex is acceptable under certain conditions. These “certain conditions” typically included ‘if those involved had been dating for at least six months’ and/or ‘if he spent a lot of money on her.’ [Parrot & Bechhofer, 1991]
- Sexual assault survivors are typically acquainted with the perpetrator beforehand, oftentimes being friends or even in a long-term relationship.
- Both individuals have typically consumed alcohol or other substances (about three in four perpetrators and one in two survivors). [Abbey et al., 1998]
- In most studies, large percentages of survivors interviewed that described an incident meeting the study’s definition of rape would not themselves term the incident as rape.
Some wise words from our Sexual Violence Resource Coordinator, Alysha Warren:
We grow and evolve throughout our lives. Along with these personal shifts come shifts in our relationships –- we transition in and out of romantic relationships, becoming closer with some friends and drifting away from others. Although this is a common experience, transitions can be painful. Come join us in an interactive discussion about picking up the pieces and moving forward, evaluating lessons learned and answering the age old question, “Can we still be friends?”
Place: Downey House Lounge
Date: Wednesday, October 24
Time: 7-8:30 pm
Facilitators: Alysha Warren, CAPS Extern Amy Marschall and you