To date, I have been a disinterested third party in the dispute between Beta and the administration, reading the back and forth from both sides from a distance. Having never set foot in Beta House, it was an issue that didn’t concern me. However, yesterday’s distressing email announcing a revised Residency Policy has involved me—and every other student at Wesleyan—in this quarrel.
To understand the magnitude of the revised policy, a close reading is necessary. The first new paragraph states that private societies have to comply with University rules to receive formal recognition. The second paragraph merely states that single-sex societies have to comply with Title IX requirements to receive recognition. These two paragraphs are perfectly fine and non-controversial. The third paragraph is a bit problematic, declaring, “Private societies and their members must comply with all applicable University rules…” Without qualifiers, this statement appears to assert University authority over all private societies of which students are a part. Given its context in the policy, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, reading it to imply that only recognized societies have to conform to all University rules. The final paragraph of the policy is so sweeping and troubling that I will quote it in full:
“Wesleyan students are prohibited from using houses or property owned, leased or operated by private societies that are not recognized by the University. This prohibition includes using such houses or property as residences, taking meals at such houses or property and participating in social activities at such houses or property.”
This paragraph is a sweeping, massive overreach that heavily infringes on the personal freedoms and responsibilities of all students. Rather than setting guidelines for conduct, it places a global ban on all students from setting foot on property owned by private societies. As Dean Mike Whaley adds in his email, “Students found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to disciplinary measures by the University, including suspension.”
Yes, you read that correctly. The administration is threatening punishments, all the way up to the level of suspension, for so much as visiting a private property. The implication of this policy is that it dismisses the agency of all students, making decisions for us on where we can and cannot freely associate.
If the Administration has an issue with the activities of Beta House, it should present its evidence and allow students to decide for themselves. Wesleyan University is not a pre-school, it is a university of adults who can reason for themselves and make their own life decisions.
Mr. Whaley’s email concludes, “This revised policy won’t affect the great majority of you as you consider your housing options for the 2011-2012 academic year, but President Roth and I agreed that it was important to call your attention to the revision – and its potential ramifications.” This statement tries to minimize the impact of the policy, presenting it as a niche issue, not a matter of grave concern for all the students, faculty, trustees, and administrators of this University. To my fellow students, this downplaying of the impact of the policy is blatant divide and conquer tactics. We cannot and must not allow this policy to go into effect.
Finally, I would like to address the administration, particularly President Roth. If your concern about Beta is “the problematic issue of having residential organizations that appear to function as Wesleyan entities yet have no Wesleyan oversight,” as the email claims, then there are many other and better ways to go about this. If this is not the real issue, tell us. This is a policy too far—one that we will not quietly abide.
San Juan is a member of the class of 2013.