Yesterday afternoon, President Michael Roth released the final report of the Fountain Avenue Working Group to the campus community. The five-page report—which was researched and written by the working group over this past summer—details the events of last May’s incident between University students and Public Safety and Middletown Police, and points to issues of ongoing concern that fueled the evening’s events. In the campus-wide e-mail that accompanied the report, Roth stressed that his aims in moving forward after the Fountain Avenue incident are clear-cut.

“My goal is simple: to preserve the freedom and safety of all who study, work and live at Wesleyan within the context of our responsibilities as members of the Middletown community,” he wrote in the e-mail.

While the report will certainly be of interest to many members of the campus community, it was formulated and addressed to Roth himself. The introduction of the report explains the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Committee, and the goals Roth told them he hoped the report would achieve.

“Earlier this summer, you [Roth] charged us to review all of the available information related to the incident on Fountain Avenue in the early morning hours of Friday, May 16, to develop a concise report of what we know about the incident, and to make recommendations and outline open and on-going issues raised by this incident,” the opening line of the report reads.

The committee, which was established in the weeks following the Fountain Avenue incident, is comprised of five members: Vice President for Diversity and Strategic Partnerships Sonia Mañjon, Vice President for Finance and Administration John Meerts, WSA President Michael Pernick ’10, Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Faculty Joe Rouse and Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley.
In writing the report, the committee had three main goals, and the report is organized correspondingly.
The first section is a detailed narrative of the night’s events. With the intention of relative objectivity, the committee used various sources—from student accounts to Public Safety (PSafe) videotapes to discussions with the Middletown Police Department—to create what it believes is a temporally and factually accurate account of the night.

According to the report, the night’s events began with PSafe breaking up a 125-person party on Fountain Avenue at about 11:45 p.m. on the night of May 15th. When PSafe later returned to Fountain Avenue at 12:50 a.m., about 300 students were gathered on the street a few houses away from the location of the original party.

PSafe requested assistance from the Middletown Police Department at 1:25 a.m., when it was still unable to disperse the crowd. Three MPD cars arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, and decided to call for backup upon seeing the size and apparent rowdiness of the gathering. By 1:35 a.m., 18 uniformed officials were present on Fountain Avenue: five PSafe officers, six Middletown Police officers, two Cromwell Police officers, two Portland Police officers and three Connecticut State Police officers.

The report states that police officials made the decision to forcibly clear the streets at 2:00 a.m. when, after repeated efforts by police to clear the streets, students had still not dispersed. At this time, police officers deployed pepper spray foggers, pepper ball guns and police dogs, and also made five student arrests.

In response to questions from The Argus, Roth noted that the establishment of a cohesive account of the night is vital in moving forward, and said that he was content with the narrative the committee produced.

“The Fountain Avenue Working Group has worked diligently over the summer months to compile a narrative of the events of last spring, and they have made some important, insightful recommendations,” he wrote in an e-mail.

The second section of the report was entitled “Differing Perceptions,” and enumerated eight aspects of the night that differed based on the viewpoint of those involved. The first point, for example, noted that many students were unaware that Fountain Avenue is a city street under the jurisdiction of the Middletown Police. Other differing perceptions included the fact that many students saw the night as a harmless celebration while PSafe and Middletown Police officers viewed it as a potentially hazardous and unsafe situation.

The committee explained that recognizing these differing vantage points is fundamental to our ability to ensure that a similar situation does not occur again.
“Unless these differences are recognized, understood, and addressed, we will not comprehend what went wrong that night and how we can avoid a recurrence of these events,” the report reads.

As a culmination of the first two sections, the final section of the report formulated 11 specific issues of ongoing concern. While each of these points identified various policies that should be reviewed or revised, the committee did not detail how the administration should go about this process.

Roth stressed that he will continue to utilize the committee members in his follow-up on these issues.

“I expect to gather the members of the committee to seek their input as we review our policies and operations,” Roth wrote to The Argus. “I will also be speaking with the Middletown Chief of Police and the Mayor about the report and the status of their investigation.”

Pernick, the only student representative on the committee, suggested in an e-mailed statement to The Argus that these continued efforts in the coming weeks are just as important as the release of the initial report.

“The Fountain Avenue Report was an important first step,” Pernick wrote. “It laid out the facts of what happened and established an agenda for moving forward. But it is only the beginning of our work. What happened on Fountain last May must never happen again.”

With these ideas in mind, Pernick will propose a resolution for a WSA commission on September 23 that would work to enact substantive policy changes in the aftermath of the Fountain Avenue incident.

Although the report is meant to aid in the administrative follow-up to the incident, Whaley, who chaired the committee, noted that—just as various parties hold partial accountability for the night’s events—all members of the campus community should reflect on the report.

“It is important for all of us, as a community, to review what we know about the incident and to become involved in the important work of reflecting on what we can do together to avoid this type of thing in the future,” Whaley said.

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