Students Push Back: WSA Chimes in on Housing Policy Debate
As a result of the growing student concerns over the change to the housing policy, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) held an open discussion about the new revisions at this Sunday’s weekly meeting. Students, members of Beta Theta Pi (Beta), and WSA representatives attended. The WSA passed a motion with a nearly unanimous vote to hold next Sunday’s meeting at the Beta house as a sign of solidarity with the fraternity. President Michael Roth was expected to speak at next week’s Sunday meeting, and the WSA representatives hope he will still show up at the new venue.
“The meeting was moved to Beta to demonstrate that students need to be free to congregate wherever they wish,” wrote WSA President Micah Feiring ’11 in an e-mail to The Argus. “It is not about being pro or anti-Beta. It is a statement of student solidarity.”
The policy, which was announced last Monday and will take effect next fall, bans students from living in or visiting property that is owned by private societies not recognized by the University. Anyone found violating the policy could face disciplinary action including suspension. Director of Public Safety (PSafe) Dave Meyer said he plans to act on the policy if necessary.
“As with any other policy violation, we will document any alleged violations and forward them to the Dean of Students,” he said.
During the meeting, Beta members expressed their concerns about the policy, contending that the University had told them that if they didn’t like the policy, they should transfer to another school. WSA representatives also advocated protesting the policy through the organization of a mass demonstration and protesting in view of campus tour groups.
“I am scared because the policy is sweeping in nature and employs broad language that could easily be applied to limit fundamental student liberties,” Feiring wrote. “I think the WSA needs to make it very clear that it is unacceptable for Roth’s administration to unilaterally limit student freedoms without consulting student representatives.”
The WSA meeting came in the wake of a small student protest held on Feb. 18 at the Usdan University Center. The protest, led by Lucas San Juan ’13, did not draw a large crowd, but many students did sign a petition calling for the University to scrap the new policy.
The protest began with San Juan giving a speech, calling for students to stand up against the new policy, and fight to have it repealed.
“This new policy gives the University the right to decide what a private society is,” San Juan said. “What is a private society? I don’t know, they can define it however they want. We will not stand for them to walk all over us.”
Many Beta members came to support the protest and help amass student signatures for the petition.
“I think this is a good start, we’re just trying to get a lot of names, as many names and as much support as possible,” said Augustin Vita ’13, a member of Beta.
As students lined up to sign the petition, there were intermittent chants of “We are not University property,” and “Freedom!”
“I think the protest is the right way to go, after all, the new residency policy is a policy gone too far,” said Pablo Liang ’14. “It’s like we’re being treated like prisoners.”
However, others took the protest less seriously.
“I just want to party,” said one student when asked why she was signing the petition.
The petition, which had 508 signatures as of Sunday night, outlined the problems with the new policy and called for its elimination.
“The new policy flies in the face of the principles of this University and every member of its community,” the petition read. “In a hasty attempt to punish one group of students, the Administration has insulted us all. We hereby demand that this new revision to the Residency Policy be retracted immediately.”
San Juan was optimistic about the results of the protest, and said he plans on presenting the petition to the administration this week.
“We got a lot of signatures and raised a lot of campus awareness,” he said. “From here we’re going to go to the WSA and get them to sponsor a protest because I know they’re angry too, and then next week we’re going to the administration to tell them to give up on this policy.”
According to Roth, he met with the Beta members to warn them about the new policy before it was announced to the student body. He said that the policy was enacted so that the University would be able to find out about crimes and injuries that occur in the fraternity house.
This new policy has also drawn national attention: the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to Roth decrying the new policy. FIRE also posted an article on their website explaining the letter and their feelings on the policy.
“How Wesleyan arrived at this trainwreck of a solution to whatever problem it has with Beta is a mystery,” the article reads. “In our letter, FIRE urged Wesleyan to revoke this unjust and nonsensical policy, and we’ve asked President Roth to respond by March 9.”
The policy change also attracted the attention of National Review Online, which addressed the issue in an article.
“Wesleyan University’s administration seems to have decided that letting students spend any time off campus is an awful idea,” the article reads. “Fight the power, Wesleyan students.”