The newly-formed Fountain Avenue Policy Commission, consisting of five members of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), held its first public forum last Tuesday afternoon. Over 30 students and various members of the Middletown community showed up to voice their opinions and listen to the thoughts of others in an effort to improve policy regarding University social events.

The forum was the first in a series of meetings the Fountain Avenue Policy Commission plans to hold in order to discuss, and ultimately implement, new policies that will prevent events like last year’s Fountain Avenue incident from happening again. The Commission, which is comprised of Jared Keller ’09, Karl Grindal ’09, Cesar Medina ’09, Aubrey Hamilton ’12, and Commission Chair Becky Weiss ’10, held the forum because it wanted to hear from the campus community before presenting ideas to members of the administration.

The main policy issues discussed at the meeting included when and how Public Safety (PSafe) has the right to break up a party, when the Middletown Police Department (MPD) should be called, when the use of recording devices is acceptable, appropriate size limits on parties, racial profiling, and ways to improve relations between students and Middletown residents.

Many students at the forum expressed frustration about why last semester’s party on Fountain Avenue was broken up. Currently, the Social Event Policy states that a party can be broken up if there are two or more noise complaints or if it is in violation of party regulations. Last spring’s Fountain Avenue party was broken up by PSafe because it exceeded the 50-person fire-code capacity of woodframe houses and the 50-person unregistered party limit.

“I’d really like to see a policy where backyard parties can have more than 50 people,” Weiss said.

Other students attending the forum suggested that the 50-person limit should not be universally applied to all parties. Currently, a party at any campus venue, whether it is in a fraternity or a dorm room, is limited to 50 people. Members of the Eclectic Society explained that this is clearly problematic for them; since there are 20 members of the house, they already violate party regulations if they each have a few friends over. The Commission explained that it wants to consider the space capacity of various potential party venues on campus, and also consider amending the regulations in a more specific and logical fashion.

“Of course there is going to be some leniency and some over-enforcement [of the regulations],” said WSA President Mike Pernick ’10. “This issue of inconsistency is one the Commission will be looking at.”

Some students at the forum also stated concerns that the deterioration of the relationship between PSafe and the student body is at the root of issues like Fountain Avenue, although specific worries varied.

One student suggested that PSafe seems to assume that any social gathering is dangerous and reacts accordingly, often by breaking up parties rather than by simply monitoring them. Another student expressed concern that PSafe is not focusing on protecting the safety of students, especially when they use violent tactics to break-up parties. Yet another student wondered how the situation appears from PSafe’s shoes: how can PSafe effectively control gatherings if it feels it does not have respect from the student body?

The Commission believes that many of the issues raised by students at the forum will ultimately be turned into policy.

“There always has to be some compromise, but the WSA does a great job of pushing for what we want,” Weiss said. “We’ll help to create policies that will be effective and beneficial to students. It will be difficult to incorporate everything that students want because not all students want the same thing.”

Within the next month, the Commission will meet with various administrators to begin to connect student ideas with administrative input. It will submit a formal proposal for suggested policy changes on Oct. 19 and hopes to see some of the changes in effect by the end of the semester or certainly by the end of the year.

“When we get in the trenches and really start negotiating an issue, we really make progress and we get it done,” Pernick said. “I think once this commission does the work that it needs to do and develops a real proposal, that we’re going to see a lot of these policies translated into real action and real change.”

  • imwiseman

    States are as the men, they grow out of human characters.
    Quotation of Plato