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 that other citizens enjoy … both on and off campus" in Wesleyan’s "Joint Statement on the Rights and Freedoms of Students."
FIRE sent a letter to President Michael S. Roth on Wednesday in defense of students’ fundamental rights at Wesleyan, calling upon Wesleyan to honor its longstanding promise of freedom of association. There is simply no way to reconcile Wesleyan’s noble statement of principle with the current actions of Wesleyan’s administration, and we are holding them accountable.
Today at noon, Wesleyan students are holding a rally at Wesleyan’s Usdan University Center to advocate for the rights that students at Wesleyan have enjoyed for more than 40 years. Since the rally plans have emerged quickly in response to immediate events, we can’t judge the level of student outrage or support by the number of students who show up. We also can’t know how many students will be there specifically to support Beta Theta Pi, the fraternity that Wesleyan is targeting with the new rule, and how many will be there to defend students’ associational rights more broadly. But the fact that at least some students are calling on Wesleyan to uphold its promises is a very good thing.
In 1969, Wesleyan University students were protesting military recruitment (photos). Students also took over Fisk Hall reportedly over race relations at Wesleyan. By June, the Wesleyan faculty had subscribed to the Joint Statement in defense of students’ rights. Will the Wesleyan faculty of 2011 again honor students’ rights and tell the administration to honor its commitments?
You can join the fight for freedom of association at Wesleyan by writing to President Roth here.