Psi Upsilon (Psi U) is on probationary program housing status until the end of 2015, as President Michael Roth and Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley informed the student body via email on Monday, Dec. 1.
“The fraternity will not be allowed to hold any social events during this period, and any violation of University regulations by the organization or its members during this time will result in loss of program housing status and the house becoming off-limits to students,” the email reads.
The email further explained that earlier this year the University announced a series of changes aimed at making residential Greek organizations safer and more inclusive, including making all of the Greek residential organizations coeducaional. Other changes include providing Public Safety with full access to the houses and requiring fraternity members to participate in bystander intervention training as well as other programs to curb gender-based violence.
The decision to place Psi U on probation arose from recent reports of sexual assault at the fraternity house. A student recently reported a sexual assault from the spring of 2011, citing an incident that took place after an unregistered pledge event at the Psi U fraternity. The reported assailant was dismissed from the University. Another student was dismissed from the University after being found responsible for sexual assault at a Psi U event in the spring of 2013. The University will not share the details of this incident.
“Although this latest reported incident took place three years ago, when current residents of the fraternity house were not yet associated with the organization, some sanction of the fraternity is appropriate,” the email reads.
Psi U President Daniel Wittenberg ’16 stated that the decision to place the fraternity on probation was both surprising and unproductive.
“It does not seem aimed at addressing any existing issue in particular,” Wittenberg wrote in an email to The Argus. “The Psi U that exists now is fundamentally different both in membership and in practices than the institution that existed in 2011 and 2013. Removing a space that regulates its own parties and where brothers are actively working to effectively ensure the safety of our guests only creates further divisions in the Wesleyan community. The decision does not reflect an effort to address the issues that existed or to create significant changes. Instead, the social events ban is a punitive measure that interrupts the progress we are making and sets back further implementation of safer social policies.”
He further stated that the University and fraternities must work together to create a safe space.
“We, meaning our brotherhood and the administration, should want and strive for the same thing: a safe Psi U where all students feel welcome,” Wittenberg wrote. “As a leader of the fraternity who has worked tirelessly with brothers and the administration this semester to improve our house, this decision feels like a setback that is aimed at placing blame on us as an institution rather than bringing about positive change.”
Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) President Terence Durkin ’16 and Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) President Michael Creager ’15 declined to comment on the administrative action.
Student response to the decision has been mixed, with some satisfied that the University is setting a precedent for future incidents and others concerned that the punishment is out of date and will affect the social scene.
Matt Chilton ’16 expressed concern with how the decision was made.
“I think the abrupt decision to suspend Psi U from social activities was unreasonable and should have been made in dialogue with the students affected by the closure, the survivors, as well as their allies in the larger community,” Chilton said. “This sends the wrong message: that top-down administrative action can shut out our voices if it sees fit.”
Anna Pezanoski-Cohen ’17 focused more on the impact that banning social events at Psi U will have on the campus concert scene.
“While I understand the University’s response to such a grave issue, I do think that the suspension of Psi U social events will negatively impact the event scene on campus, especially the important music scene that continually used Psi U as a venue for its most important events,” Pezanoski-Cohen said.
Anthony Dean ’17 disagreed, asserting that Psi U falls under the University’s jurisdiction.
“The University has its reasons, and I respect those reasons,” Dean said. “There are events that happen at Psi U and people enjoy those events that happen at Psi U. The thing is, they can’t happen just at Psi U…. There are so many other places where events can happen. I think because of the circumstances, it’s reasonable for them to put Psi U on probation.”
Roth explained that it is necessary to hold groups responsible for these incidents.
“We have mechanisms for holding groups responsible as well as [holding] individuals responsible,” Roth said. “Holding groups responsible is much more difficult in some respects because the people in the group at the time may not have been in the group when the incident occurred. But nonetheless, groups assume the benefits and the liabilities.”
Furthermore, the campus-wide email explained that this decision is consistent with the University’s policy to support survivors, punish assailants, and change the culture so as to eliminate elements that lead to sexual assault. However, the email emphasizes that sexual assault is not only an issue with Greek organizations; rather, it is a problem on campuses all over the country.
“Our university has the responsibility to provide a safe residential learning environment where all students can experience the freedom of a transformative education, wherever they live or choose to socialize,” the email reads. “We take this responsibility seriously. Therefore, in addition to taking action against individuals found to have perpetrated a violent act, any campus-based organization that has sponsored events that create conditions with a higher risk of violence, including sexual assault, also will be held accountable.”
Wittenberg stated that Psi U had hoped to participate in creating a safer environment, adding that he believes the probationary status will be a setback to this goal.
“We want to play an active roll in supporting survivors of sexual assault and addressing the campus-wide issues that lead to unsafe scenarios,” Wittenberg wrote. “One way of doing that is creating safe, communal, substance-free spaces for students to have fun and socialize in, as we have all semester. The email that was sent out to the student body fails to acknowledge the progress we have made. It instead sets our fraternity at odds with the University rather than providing us with the support we need to realize the goals we, along with the administration, have set for Psi U’s future.”
Additional reporting contributed by Hyunji Ward and Sofi Goode.