According to President Michael Roth, the Beta Alumni Association sent him an e-mail on Friday stating that the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity would agree to join University program housing in the fall despite a series of tension surrounding housing in the past weeks. Though the details of the new arrangement have not yet been worked out, the President of the Beta Alumni Association Adam Diamond said that Beta was in close communication with the other on-campus fraternities in order to come to an agreement between the fraternities and the University.
“I confirmed to Wesleyan my desire for Beta to join Program Housing for the 2011-2012 academic school year,” Diamond wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “I also confirmed Beta will be agreeable to signing an agreement with the University if all of the other Greek organizations that own property agree to sign an agreement.”
Beta President Jeff Tanenbaum ’12 confirmed that the two parties are in negotiation.
“The undergraduates are aware of this letter and look forward to bettering our relationship with the administration to reintegrate ourselves into the Wesleyan community,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Argus.
According to Diamond, the University is expected to present an agreement to the fraternities some time this week.
A student organized rally was held outside Beckham Hall on Friday as Board of Trustees members walked from the Usdan University Center into Beckham for a Board dinner. The protesters hoped to see a reversal of the new residency policy, which currently states that beginning fall 2011, Wesleyan students will be prohibited from residing in or using for social activities any houses or property owned by private societies not recognized by the University. Roth wrote in a blog post last week that the administration would be working with students to revise the stringent language of the policy.
Though more than 200 students indicated they were attending the rally on a Facebook event page, only about 50 students showed up, which may have been a result of the freezing weather. Many of the students that attended were Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) representatives. The protesters lined the path between Usdan and Beckham and shouted, “Students have rights!” as the trustees walked by. Director of Public Safety (PSafe) Dave Meyer held open the door of Beckham for the trustees as they walked into the building.
One trustee walked into Beckham carrying what looked to be an alcoholic drink, prompting students to heckle Meyer to enforce the new open container policy. One student called Meyer a hypocrite for not reprimanding the trustee. Meyer shrugged off the charge.
“Wesleyan has always been an active campus for these types of activities,” Meyer said. “As long as the organizers abide by the policy covering these [activities], then it is just part of the job.”
Students also handed trustees a copy of the petition decrying the housing policy, which bore the signatures of over 500 students, as well as a letter written by the organizer of the rally that explained the protesters’ stance. Many students also held up signs with phrases such as “I just really don’t like your attitude MRoth,” “Roth Wes 2020, what about Wesleyan 2011,” “I am not a child,” “Not We$$$” and “Where is the we in Wesleyan?”
The organizer of the rally, who wished to remain anonymous said that the trustees meeting provided the perfect opportunity for a rally.
“The trustees are a good body to go for, since they have oversight over President Roth, who’s been spearheading this policy,” he said. “It’s been a very top down approach on [the policy].”
Board of Trustees Chair Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, P’09 said that he supported the student protesters, but that students should not exaggerate the scope of the issue, which should be focused on Beta.
“I’ve got no problem with people protesting whatever they want to protest,” he said. “I think it’s one of these issues where I would urge that everybody doesn’t extrapolate from the actual issue. That’s a problematic response and it should be dealt with it on its own merits. It becomes a pretty narrow issue, there aren’t any other cases like it.”
He said that the trustees would not get involved in the dispute because it is not a fundamental Board issue, but he hoped that both sides would come to an agreement soon.
“I’m always in favor of students voicing; it’s a positive, and I can pretty much speak for the Board on that. The Board never minds that,” Boger said. “From what I can see the process is working the way it should, and students have made their voices known and listened to, and I think it’s actually going to resolve itself organically.”
Roth said that he appreciated the student activism forraising the issue of the broad language in the policy, and that the administration would work to reword the policy and then present it to student committees. “The language was too general, and we learned that thanks to the student feedback,” Roth said. “We’ll figure out how to say make the policy more narrow. I wish I could say that this was some smart plan, but as I said in my blog post, I made a mistake.”
He also said that the attention around the issue had the positive effect of raising visibility around the University’s fraternity system.
“It makes it clear that Wesleyan still has fraternities, unlike a lot of our peer institutions,” he said. “There’s bound to be tensions with the administration and fraternities; these things happen, and you work
On Sunday, a WSA meeting was held at the Beta Theta Pi house as a sign of solidarity with the fraternity. Roth was expected to attend the meeting when it was scheduled to be held in its normal venue but decided not to come when the location was changed.
“President Roth e-mailed me earlier today [Sunday] to inform me he would not be coming to the meeting,” said WSA President Micah Feiring ’11.
“It just didn’t seem appropriate for me to attend a WSA meeting at Beta at this point,” Roth said.
At the meeting, many students voiced their frustration towards the University and PSafe, with one Beta member saying that if the policy continued, he would encourage students to not donate to the University in the future. The WSA also passed a resolution stating their official response to the policy. In the resolution, students said that they felt Roth only partially addressed their concerns in his blog post about the lack of student involvement in creating the policy and the sweeping nature of the policy. The resolution calls for the administration to completely repeal the policy.
“President Roth gave a mea culpa to two points—that it was broad and there was no student involvement,” said WSA Vice President Ben Firke ’12. “This resolution solidifies our point around the first two topics, but our rights are still being restricted. This resolution states that this is still not okay. They’re demonizing places like Beta.”
The organizer of Friday’s rally said that this was the first step in a larger plan for more student demonstrations.
“The rally is really the first step in a long line of things we hope to accomplish,” he said. “We’re hoping to bring about a reversal on the policy change, but it goes deeper than that. It’s the administration’s attitude towards the voice of the students and towards student rights. The administration has slowly been flexing its muscles, and we’d like to put at stop to that.”
He cited the Tour de Franzia events, the chalking ban, the open container policy, and the administration’s disengagement with the Committee for Investor Responsibility as reasons for a larger demonstration targeting the administration after spring break.
“We’ll be reaching out to every student group on campus to mobilize themselves and get a much larger rally after spring break,” he said.
Staff Writer Daniel Greenberg and News Editor Pei Xiong Liu contributed reporting to this article.