Over the past two weeks, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) has approved multiple recommendations made by the Fountain Avenue Commission, a subcommittee of the WSA formed to discuss issues surrounding last spring’s incident on Fountain Avenue.
The Commission, consisting of five members of the WSA, has spent the past three weeks compiling proposals and will discuss and vote on the remaining recommendations in the coming weeks.
Committee member Jared Keller ’09 explained that these proposals will be submitted to appropriate University bodies, who will then consider and amend them.
“It’s important that our recommendations go through specific channels and people that deal with these issues on a day to day basis,” he said. “It also has to be feasible. You can’t just pull policy out of a hat and expect it to happen. Negotiations have to take place.”
The Commission has approved recommendations concerning relations between students and Public Safety (PSafe), the Middletown Police Department (MPD) and the Middletown community. The Commission has also discussed and approved recommendations for guidelines for PSafe’s use of hand-held cameras, student education on policy and legal issues, social spaces for students, as well as event registration during reading and finals weeks.
Keller noted that one concern about student relations with the Middletown community is that students sometimes forget that they must abide by the rules of the community, despite the fact that they live on a college campus. Among other suggestions, the Committee recommended that seniors living in woodframe houses take initiative to introduce themselves to their neighbors and notify them if they are having a party. The Commission is also pushing for measures that will increase positive interaction between the MPD, PSafe and students. Becky Weiss ’10, the chair of the Commission, noted that Director of Public Safety David Meyer has been receptive to these suggests.
Beyond improving student relations with the surrounding community as well as PSafe and the MPD, the committee also recommended that clear policies concerning the use of hand-held cameras be created. Weiss noted that this is an issue that is a direct response to the events of Fountain Avenue. The Commission argues that camera footage not be used as a deterrent to try to get students away from a party, but that it should be available for assessment purposes.
“Some [policies] are already in place but we want them to be rethought, made stronger and more effective and truly institutionalized,” Weiss said.
The policy that the Commission suggests for hand-held cameras keeps the matter in student control. For example, it requires a subpoena for the footage to be viewed and it cannot be used to prosecute students in the Student Judicial Board.
The Commission also believes that addressing the issue of educating students on policies and legal issues will help to prevent misunderstandings between students and officers. The Commission would like a shorter Code of Non-Academic Conduct (CNAC) document to be created to increase its accessibility and effectiveness.
“We need to educate students on policy and legal issues and it is imperative to have the info readily available,” Weiss said. “It is online, in the handbook, but we want to see a concise document. Most students don’t read information until it is too late. We want to create a short document with pertinent points students need to be aware of.”
Information to be included in this document might include how to file a complaint on PSafe, an explanation of the MPD’s rights and those of students when interacting with PSafe, as well as a map indicating which homes are on University property. One particular topic of concern the Commission wants to clarify is that while PSafe may ask a student for identification, it does not mean that that student will be in trouble. Many non-compliance cases with the Student Judiciary Board arise when students refuse to show identification, thinking they will get in trouble.
The final issue the Commission approved would allow for event registration during reading and finals weeks. Currently, the University does not allow for events during this period. Since the Commission believes they happen regardless—as was proved by last spring’s Fountain incident—it recommends the policy be revised in order to make parties safer during this time.
At this week’s meeting, the WSA will discuss and vote on social event policy recommendations and PSafe protocols, such as when it should be able to request assistance from the MPD.
The Commission anticipates that the exact recommendations it presents will not be the final policies instated, but it does believe that the final policies will reflect the nature of the Commission’s recommendations.
“We know that not all of the specific suggestions will work but we want to throw out ideas that could help to create a better sense of community,” Weiss said.
Committee member Aubrey Hamilton ’12 echoed this sentiment.
“Even if we don’t get exactly what we want, we will be going in the right direction,” she said.
The Commission has faith in its ability to affect change in the University, citing both the significant power of student voices on campus and the willingness of the administration to make changes to these policies. It hopes that these recommendations will be the foundation for creating enduring policy for the University.
“While the Fountain Avenue Commission work is done, work on policy is never done,” said Cesar Medina ’09, a member of the Committee. “For it to continue, it needs student input. We shouldn’t only be reviewing policy when events like Fountain Avenue take place. We should review them constantly when students think something is wrong.”