In an entry on his blog titled, “Policy and Threats to Student Freedom,” President Michael Roth conceded that he made mistakes in the crafting of the language of the University’s new housing policy. The policy, which has sparked controversy both on campus and within the greater Wesleyan community, states that beginning in fall 2011, Wesleyan students would be prohibited from residing in or using for social activities houses or property owned, leased, or operated by private societies not recognized by the University. Students violating this policy would be subject to disciplinary measures, not excluding suspension from the University.

However in yesterday’s blog post, Roth wrote that through this revision, he did not intend to infringe on student rights and promised to work with the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) to draft new language for the policy. Still Roth emphasized that whatever the specific wording of the policy, the Beta Theta Pi (Beta) Fraternity will still either have to join University housing or face the consequences detailed in the policy.

“I made two mistakes in this,” Roth wrote. “First, the language (as many students have pointed out) is just too broad. Many students appear to see this as a threat to their freedom, and I want to be sensitive to that….My second mistake was not consulting enough with students.”

WSA Vice President Ben Firke ’12 agreed that the student uproar that occurred following the revision could have been avoided had the administrationworked with the student body from the start. He said that while he felt that Roth’s post was a move in the right direction, a simple revision of the language was not enough.

“I think that the language needs to be removed, and not just tweaked,” Firke said. “I think it would be good to start over from scratch…this way we could end with a result that doesn’t restrict student freedom of association while still giving us a more inclusive policy towards Greek associations. This is a first good step, but I don’t think it’s the end of the ballgame.”

According to Beta President Jeff Tanenbaum ’12, Beta members are disappointed that Roth’s announcement did not signal a fundamental shift in the policy.

“We’re still disappointed that all the terms dealing with Beta are still in effect,” Tanenbaum said. “We still think that it is an infringement on student liberties, because it’s telling you where you can and cannot go.”

Earlier this week, the WSA announced, after a vote, that it would hold this coming Sunday’s weekly meeting the Beta house, instead of at the Usdan University Center where it is normally held, as a show of student solidarity.

“The purpose of that meeting is to prove that a constructive dialogue can take place in an off-campus society, and to hear what the Beta brothers have to say…it’ll be interesting to speak to them and the student body on the property, and hopefully the President will be there,” Firke said.

Tanenbaum hopes to have a conversation with the administration at the Sunday meeting about improving the campus atmosphere for fraternities.

“We hope we get a feeling that if we do go on campus that it would be in a better environment for fraternal organizations than it currently is,” he said.

Roth told The Argus that he had not yet confirmed his schedule as to whether he would be attending the meeting on Sunday night.

According to Firke, while the matter at hand concerns student rights, a bigger issue of student-administration collaboration needs to be addressed.

“[A] larger conversation has to be had about how the administration makes these sorts of policies.”

Currently a rally to oppose the revision to the residency policy is still planned to take place on Friday night outside of Beckham Hall before the Board of Trustees dinner.

  • Roland W. Whitridge ’59

    My reply to Barbara-Jan Wilson, Vice President for University Relations

    Dear Barbara-Jan,

    Thank you for your recent email advising Beta Alumni of the recent revision to Wesleyan’s residency requirement.

    I was also interested to see President Roth’s blog on the subject, dated 2/24.  In his opening paragraph he insists that the revision is not only about Beta.  Yet in seven paragraphs and nearly 700 words he failed to convince this reader that it was about anything else. I am puzzled that it seems necessary to draft Dean Mike’s team ( how many administrators is that?) to meet with the relevant committees (plural, and how many more is that?) in order to craft language that will convince members of the Wesleyan community that residential Greek societies adjacent to campus that are not Psi U, Deke, or Alpha Delt (since they already comply) could be anything other than Beta.  In my opinion Beta is, and has been, an “energetic, vital student organization(s) capable of making contributions to the campus as a whole”.  The university defines Beta as off-campus housing, yet President Roth says, “The university has no interest in regulating the social lives of our students when they are away from campus”. 

    Henceforth, my annual contribution to the Alumni Fund will be limited to $1.00.

    Sincerely,

    Roland W. Whitridge ’59
    Member of Mu Epsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi

  • penne benne

    hi this is ben firke ’12. just wanted to say that i regret lending any support to beta. the wsa was trying to prevent university overreach in general, but advocating for beta directly was wrong and i apologize for it. im glad wesleyan is moving away from frats and I hope their spaces can be taken and repurposed for anything that isn’t frat bullshit.

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