University administrators are preparing for the Tour de Franzia, an annual drinking game and scavenger hunt on campus, and they hope to prevent the event from occurring. The administration began expressing its disapproval of the event this year, beginning with an all-campus email on April 11, in which Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley warned of the severe consequences and urged students not to participate in the Tour, citing hospitalizations due to excess consumption of alcohol and vandalism of University property.
“Given the health risks and potential judicial consequences, it is my hope that this personal appeal to your good judgment will help us avoid the tragedy that I fear is likely if the Tour continues,” Whaley wrote. “I hope we will abandon this dangerous event before we suffer such a loss.”
President Michael Roth stated that he hopes the punishment of participants this year will deter students from participating in the future.
“I do think this is really a seriously dangerous activity and that the University should do whatever it can to stop it,” Roth said. “We don’t want to punish the wrong people…but if we identify people who are participating, the punishments are likely to be severe, and so I hope [that] people will find other ways of amusing themselves that don’t involve high-risk drinking.”
Director of Public Safety (PSafe) David Meyer noted that the Tour has become especially problematic in the past four to five years, as more students have been participating.
“As I said last year, this is just a big safety concern for us,” Meyer said.
In the email, Whaley outlined the consequences students may face if caught participating in the Tour: most participants will face six judicial points, which places students on disciplinary probation; students with prior sanctions resulting in points and any student showing extremely dangerous behavior will face immediate suspension with a loss of tuition and semester’s work; and graduating seniors will not be allowed to participate in commencement ceremonies.
“Approximately 20% of the students who participated in the Tour last spring were identified and referred to the SJB [Student Judicial Board],” Whaley wrote. “We will ask more staff and faculty to help us monitor the event and document policy violations this year, and we want to make clear that students who choose to participate in any way (even if not drinking) will face judicial charges.”
Several news sources, including the Middletown Patch and Jezebel, an online feminist blog, featured this email and the similar one sent by Whaley to parents of University students. According to the Middletown Patch, some parents disagree with the University’s decision to email parents.
On April 23, Chair of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Student Affairs Committee (SAC) Nicole Updegrove ’14 sent an all-campus email, detailing the role of the WSA in negotiations with University administrators, in response to Whaley’s email to students on April 11. According to Updegrove’s email, the University initially suggested cancelling Spring Fling or suspending all Tour participants.
“While we share the administration’s concerns about vandalism, disturbance of Middletown neighbors, assault, and consumption of potentially lethal quantities of alcohol, we firmly believe that no student should face suspension for mere participation, and cancellation of Spring Fling would be unfair to the campus at large,” Updegrove wrote. “The current sanctions, though very serious, are less than they would have been had students not had a voice in the process.”
Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Rick Culliton subsequently sent an all-campus email on April 24, further explaining what the University considers participation in the Tour. Culliton clarified that any participation in the Tour, even if a student is not consuming alcohol, is subject to judicial consequences.
“Some have asked if they will get in trouble while walking home from the library or from venturing outside at all,” Culliton wrote. “You will not be presumed to be a participant for simply being outside. Participation in the Tour will be interpreted as taking part in the scavenger hunt (whether or not you are drinking), wearing masks and/or costumes, as well as possessing and/or consuming alcohol.”
A member of the class of 2013 who faced judicial sanctions after being identified as a participant in the Tour last year, although he was not consuming alcohol and claims he was not participating, said that he appreciated the University’s clarity, which was not present last year, in stipulating that a student can still face the consequences even if not consuming alcohol.
“I think what I appreciate this year as opposed to last year, [and] I’m a little bit bitter about this, but last year they weren’t particularly clear as to what the deal was,” said the member of the class of 2013, who wished to remain anonymous. “This year they’re trying to be as transparent as possible, and I think that’s good on their part.”
According to Culliton’s email, Resident Advisors (RA) will patrol all residence halls and require WesIDs for entrance, admitting only students who reside in the buildings.
“One of the roles of the RAs is to help maintain healthy and safe living conditions. Another important role is to be concerned about the safety of each of their residents,” Director of Residential Life (ResLife) Fran Koerting wrote in an email to The Argus. “Having RAs at the doors accomplishes both these goals, by being able to detect residents who may need medical attention and getting them the assistance they need, and minimizing the likelihood of non-residents causing disruptions and damage within the buildings, which has happened during past Tours.”
According to Updegrove, students were not involved in the decision to patrol residential halls and to allow only residents entrance.
“Last week, I spoke extensively with Dean Mike and Dean Rick about my concerns that students who choose not to participate—because they’re sober or they’re doing other weekend activities that aren’t related to the Tour—should be able to walk around campus…without concern about being written up and given six points, so that’s been my argument all along,” Updegrove said. “This decision about the dorm rules was made completely without my consultation nor input, and I was as caught off guard about it as anyone else.”
Updegrove and Chair of the Finance and Facilities Committee Andrew Trexler ’14 are both members of the National College Health Improvement Project (NCHIP), which is dedicated to reducing high-risk drinking on college campuses. Updegrove, Trexler, and members of the SAC have been negotiating with various administrators, including Whaley and Culliton, to lessen the degree of judicial consequences that Tour participators may face.
“I have a lot of concerns,” she said. “I guess the most practical one is that if all activities except the Tour de Franzia are off limits because you can’t go to your friends’ dorms, all the academic buildings are closed, the libraries are closed, Usdan ends up getting closed, all in an effort to prevent vandalism, then students have nothing to do except go outside and participate in the Tour, which is exactly what the administration doesn’t want.”
But Updegrove noted that not all her concerns were purely practical. The policies in place, she said, offered a dangerous precedent.
“On a more ideological level, you can’t turn the campus into a police state, and you shouldn’t use student staff to do it,” she said. “Just because some students on campus are participating in an event…historically at which some students have gotten too drunk and some students have been destructive, the rest of the campus shouldn’t be punished for that and shouldn’t be treated with such distrust for that.”
Andrew Postman ’15 expressed similar discontent with the University’s decision to press judicial action on participants that do not consume alcohol.
“I think the fact that the University will be penalizing students who are dressed up and [who] participate [but] aren’t drinking is just one of the ways in which they’ll be exercising their power as a private institution to [legally violate] students’ first amendment rights to expression,” Postman said.
Postman also noted that while the University’s response to the Tour has deterred some students from participating, not all are convinced.
“I think that a lot of people aren’t participating, but I think that a lot of people know that they can just run from PSafe and probably not have to face any legal or penal action,” Postman said.
Updegrove stated that she and the SAC will continue to negotiate with administrators about Tour conditions and consequences.
“I appreciate that we’ve had a voice in the process, I appreciate that we’ve been able to decrease the sanctions, [but] I’m frustrated now that this decision [allowing only residents in the dorms] was made without our consultation. That’s why we’ll continue to make the student voice heard, and, hopefully, we’ll be able to change something.”