Earlier this week, members of the Wesleyan community received an e-mail from Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer and Vice President for Student Affairs Dean Mike Whaley warning the community against visiting the Beta Theta Pi house in light of several reports of sexual assault. The incidents allegedly occurred the preceding weekend during parties at the house, which is technically off-campus.
“We remind all members of the community that this privately-owned house does not have any formal relationship with the University,” Meyer and Whaley wrote in the campus e-mail. “Further, we advise all Wesleyan students that they should avoid the residence because we cannot establish the safety of the premises.”
The e-mail follows a similarly cautionary e-mail sent out last March urging the community to avoid the house due to a number of cases of hospitalization for alcohol use that allegedly occurred at the house. Despite comments from students that the administration is now using the reports of sexual assault as leverage against the fraternity in response to past tensions, the University maintains that their primary goal is the safety of students.
“We are concerned about and obligated to report potential patterns of violence and ongoing threats,” Whaley wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “The reported assaults at Beta—and there has been more than one—highlight an underlying public safety issue: we cannot establish the safety of the premises. We will always inform the community when we believe that a safety issue needs to be brought to its attention.”
The e-mail from the administration also informed the community that the Middletown Police Department had been informed of the allegations, and, according to Whaley, they are handling the investigation. Lieutenant Heather Desmond, who is familiar with the case, declined to comment on any specifics.
“We have no further information than what was provided [in the e-mail],” she said.
Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer also declined to comment on the reported cases of sexual assault because the investigations are ongoing, he said.
The brothers of Wesleyan’s Mu Epsilon chapter of Beta declined to issue a formal statement in response to the University’s e-mail. However, Beta President Jeff Tanenbaum ’12 said that the fraternity has and will continue to cooperate with the Middletown Police and University administration, and offered their sympathy and support to anyone who has been victimized.
“We do not have a formal statement at this time because neither the University nor the Middletown Police have been able to produce a single fact that links any member of Beta Theta Pi to the alleged situations,” wrote Tanenbaum in an e-mail to The Argus. “However, I would like to state that Beta Theta Pi and the brothers who make up our fraternity in no way condone the crimes that the Middletown Police and the University are investigating.”
Creators of a Facebook event for a party at the Beta house scheduled for this upcoming weekend sent a Facebook message Wednesday, informing those who had received the invite of its cancellation.
“In light of this, we will be canceling our 80’s party out of respect to the victims of these crimes, NOT out of the respect for Dean Whaley and other University Officials,” the message read.
Eliza Gordon ’11, Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Intern said that the only communication she had received from the University about the incidents was the e-mail that all students had received. In light of the e-mail and reported cases, however, Gordon emphasized the value of understanding consent.
“My suggestion, for any student, is to understand what consent actually means,” she said. “It is a two way street. You need to have confidence in what you want and don’t want, and you also need to have respect for others’ boundaries.”
SART members are able to help any student regardless of whether an alleged case of sexual assault took place on or off campus.
“It doesn’t change anything, since Beta brothers are still students at the University, and I’m a resource for all students,” she said. “Any student can come to me as a victim, a friend of a victim, an accused student.”
Although any SART member is obligated to report a case of sexual assault if specific details are provided, a student is not required to file a formal University report if they choose to talk to any member of the team about general advice.
The following blog provides students with information about reporting sexual misconduct and assault as well as finding support for survivors. http://sexualviolence.blogs.wesleyan.edu/
Gordon has office hours on the second floor of the Davison Health Center on Mondays 10-12 a.m. and Wednesdays 2-6 p.m. or she can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to set-up other appointments.