Wesleyan University: Violation of Freedom of Association

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University promises freedom of association to its students. Yet, in order to force a private fraternity to seek official recognition, Wesleyan has prohibited all students from “participating in social activities” on the property of any unrecognized private association. The policy is scheduled to go into effect in August 2011. FIRE has written Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth advising him that this new policy violates Wesleyan’s moral and legal obligation to its students dating back to 1969, namely its promise that “As citizens, students should enjoy the same freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and the right of petition that other citizens enjoy … both on and off campus.” The new policy effectively bans students from participating in social activities on a vast amount of off-campus property including houses of worship, the Middletown Elks Lodge, the Italian Society of Middletown, and a wide variety of private societies throughout Connecticut.

  • New Wesleyan policy bans student use of unapproved houses

    February 24, 2011

    A new student housing policy at Wesleyan is drawing ire from students and other protestors. University administrators say it’s designed to make sure students follow the university’s rules, but many students say it interferes in their private lives. The policy, which goes into effect in August for the next school year, specifies that students cannot live in housing “owned, leased or operated by private societies that are not recognized by the University.” Many protestors say the rule is targeted at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at the corner of High and Church streets. The fraternity is not formally affiliated […]

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  • Wesleyan University Students Complain New Housing Policy Exerts Too Much Control

    February 21, 2011

    Students at Wesleyan University say their social lives are being taken over by their schools administration. They fear new language in a housing policy coming into effect in the fall tells them where they can and can’t hang out off campus. “It feels like you are still living with mom and dad,” said Tom Miceli, a junior at the small Middletown, Conn., college.  They say the wording of the policy is unclear, and the college has gone too far under making the new revisions. “Students want to be treated like they are adults,” junior Jeff Tanendaum said. David Pesci, Wesleyan […]

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  • Amherst Bans Fraternities, Sororities, and Similar Organizations On and Off Campus

    May 9, 2014

    Amherst College’s Board of Trustees sent out an email Tuesday announcing that it was reaffirming its 1984 ban on the college’s recognition of fraternities and sororities—and that it would be taking things a step further this summer in a move that will take a significant bite out of Amherst students’ ability to freely associate.

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  • Partial Victory at Wesleyan University: Freedom of Association Restored, But New Policy Continues to Discriminate Against Greek Organizations

    May 9, 2011

    As the press release FIRE sent out this morning details in full, Wesleyan University has reformed a policy that would have punished students for “participating in social activities” on the property of any “private societies” not under Wesleyan’s control. The policy was intended to force the Beta Theta Pi (BTP) fraternity to officially affiliate with the university under an agreement that the fraternity had found unduly burdensome, so BTP came to FIRE for help. After we intervened and the policy generated an overwhelmingly negative response from Wesleyan students as well as national media outlets, Wesleyan altered the policy. Unfortunately, the […]

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  • Wesleyan University Partially Restores Freedom of Association, But Continues to Discriminate Against Greek Organizations

    May 9, 2011

    MIDDLETOWN, Conn., May 9, 2011—In a partial victory for freedom of association, Wesleyan University has reformed a policy that would have punished students for “participating in social activities” on the property of any “private societies” not under Wesleyan’s control. The policy was intended to force the Beta Theta Pi fraternity to officially affiliate with the university under an agreement that the fraternity had found unduly burdensome. Beta Theta Pi came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. After FIRE intervened and the policy generated an overwhelmingly negative response from Wesleyan students as well as national media […]

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  • FIRE Still Waiting on Wesleyan to Do Right on Student Rights

    March 10, 2011

    As Robert wrote here a couple of weeks ago, Wesleyan University has started to back down from its earlier intention to institute a new policy (effective this fall) that—in an effort to force the Beta Theta Pi fraternity to seek official recognition from Wesleyan—would have prohibited students from engaging in any social activities on the property of any unrecognized off-campus organization. After a groundswell of student protest and a swarm of national media, spearheaded by FIRE’s efforts, Wesleyan President Michael Roth promised to reconsider the policy and admitted its overbreadth. As he wrote in his official university blog on February 24: […]

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  • Wesleyan Realizes its New Housing Policy is Too Prohibitive

    February 25, 2011

    Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, has been in an uproar lately about a new policy promulgated by its administration aimed at forcing an independent fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, to submit to Wesleyan’s rules or watch as Wesleyan bans its undergraduates from having anything to do with the organization. Considering that the fraternity, known as “Beta,” has been at Wesleyan for 121 years, I am not sure why the Wesleyan administration is in such a rush to either absorb the fraternity or destroy it by this fall, but I am sure there’s a back story that Wesleyan students or alumni might […]

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  • This Week in the News: Wesleyan Housing Policy Revision Receives Necessary Criticism

    February 25, 2011

    A recently implemented revision in a housing policy at Wesleyan College forbids students from “using houses or property owned, leased or operated by private societies that are not recognized by the University.” This revision is especially troublesome for members of Beta Theta Pi, which must now choose between becoming a recognized program house or having its members face suspension from Wesleyan. Fortunately, this policy has received a lot of negative press from both inside and outside of the college. Three articles about the policy revision were printed in The Wesleyan Argus, Wesleyan’s student newspaper. Sid Isaar argued that FIRE is […]

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  • Local Paper Quotes Will on Wesleyan’s Policy Denying Freedom of Association

    February 24, 2011

    The Middletown Press of Middletown, Connecticut, home of Wesleyan University, is the latest news outlet to draw attention to Wesleyan’s overbroad policy restricting students’ freedom of association. In an article published today, Press writer Claire Michalewicz gets FIRE’s Will Creeley’s take on the policy. As we have covered extensively here on The Torch in recent days, the policy, scheduled to take effect in August 2011, will flatly prohibit Wesleyan students from “participating in social activities” on the property of any and all private organizations that are not recognized by Wesleyan. As Will says in the article, that just won’t do: […]

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  • ‘FOX News’ Highlights Wesleyan’s Student Rights Abuses

    February 22, 2011

    FOXNews.com is the latest to draw scrutiny to Wesleyan University’s overbearing treatment of its students with its new policy prohibiting them from “participating in social activities” on the property of private organizations unrecognized by Wesleyan. Unsurprisingly, the front-page FOXNews.com story by Patrick Manning detects a decidedly sour mood among Wesleyan’s student body: “It feels like you are still living with mom and dad,” said Tom Miceli, a junior at the small Middletown, Conn., college. They say the wording of the policy is unclear, and the college has gone too far under making the new revisions. “Students want to be treated […]

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  • Wesleyan Pretends There’s Nothing to See Here

    February 18, 2011

    A national news organization just spoke with me about Wesleyan’s very recent policy banning students from engaging in social activities on the property of any private association that is not officially recognized by Wesleyan. Apparently, Wesleyan is saying that the policy isn’t really new—that only the enforcement with disciplinary consequences is new—and that it really is only about university housing. (Perhaps this is not what Wesleyan is saying, but the journalist repeated Wesleyan’s statement to me a few times.) If that’s what Wesleyan is saying, Wesleyan is lying. Here’s verbatim what the policy actually says: Policy addition to take effect August, 2011: […]

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  • Wesleyan Students Rally at Noon Today for Freedom of Association

    February 18, 2011

    As Peter wrote on Wednesday, Wesleyan University has imposed a breathtakingly broad policy (to take effect in August 2011) restricting students’ freedom of association rights, violating Wesleyan’s moral and legal obligation to its students dating back to 1969. The new policy effectively bans students from participating in social activities on a vast amount of off-campus property including churches and other houses of worship, the Middletown Elks Lodge, the Italian Society of Middletown, and a wide variety of private societies throughout Connecticut. It substantially violates Wesleyan’s promise that “As citizens, students should enjoy the same freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and the right of petition […]

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  • New Policy at Wesleyan University Makes a Mockery of Freedom of Association

    February 16, 2011

    Today, FIRE sent a letter to Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth, along with several senior faculty members and administrators at Wesleyan, after the college imposed a breathtakingly broad policy (to take effect in August 2011) restricting students’ freedom of association rights. Here is the campus-wide e-mail sent by Vice President for Student Affairs Michael J. Whaley on or around February 14: Dear Students: I write to notify you of a revision to Wesleyan’s residency requirement designed to clarify the University’s rules concerning off-campus housing. In brief: beginning Fall 2011, Wesleyan students will be prohibited from residing in – or […]

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