Fraternal Wesleyan

Thursday night the brothers of the DKE fraternity invited my family and me to a barbeque, just across the street from the President’s House. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and the brothers (many of whom are athletes from football, hockey and baseball squads) made us feel very welcome. Kari saw some of her students, and Sophie was impressed at the prodigious amount of meat and BBQ sauce that seemed to disappear in moments. I hadn’t been in DKE since my student days, when frats held many all-campus parties (they still do). In the intervening years, some of our peer institutions have discontinued fraternities, and I have heard many stories from our own alumni about their perception of unfair treatment of frats at Wesleyan. Yet in the last week or so these organizations have welcomed over 100 new members. What is the role of fraternities at Wesleyan?

As I’ve met with students around campus this year, I have visited with all the fraternities, including the Eclectic Society (which usually doesn’t see itself in this context). I have found them to be energetic, vital student organizations capable of making contributions to the campus as a whole. Of course, there are times when fraternities are part of situations that call for disciplinary measures, and the members have to obey school regulations, like everyone else. Any organization that becomes a locus for serious infractions will lose its standing as a part of the Wesleyan community. Fraternities know this at least as well as everybody else.

During the course of this year I’ve heard lectures at Beta and Psi U, had social dinners at DKE and Alpha Delt, listened to a great band at Eclectic, and in each instance I’ve been impressed with how the membership is adding value to the educational and co-curricular experience on campus. Each organization has a different personality, and they add significantly to Wesleyan’s overall diversity. My own Alpha Delta Phi was already co-educational when I was an undergrad, and the house was the center of my Wes world. We published the literary magazine, and AD still is filled with musicians, writers and theater people (among others). Other frats are homes for athletes, while some are more cultural in their focus. Most combine these elements in different ways, depending on the membership in a given year.

Fraternities have historic roots with alumni that are important to maintain, and I believe that the frats (including Eclectic) at Wes can continue to play a very positive role at the university. We will not be adding any new Greek societies because there are now many other ways for students to join together in residentially based groups. Wesleyan’s students have a rich choice of social organizations in which to participate, from the very traditional to the most avant-garde. I’m committed to keeping it that way.

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9 thoughts on “Fraternal Wesleyan

  1. … Did you really just post “Fraternal Wesleyan” without acknowledging the ethnic fraternities and sororities on this campus? You e-mail reads as a comprehensive coverage of the Greek roll call on this campus, sadly it is not. “I have visited with all the fraternities, including the Eclectic Society (which usually doesn’t see itself in this context).”

    The complete “list” includes:
    Alpha Phi Alpha, Psi Upsilon, Eclectic, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Beta Theta Pi, Alpha Delta Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Delta Phi

    Thank you for the support, President Roth.

  2. Derek:
    You forgot Kappa Alpha Psi… and I think you missed the point of the President’s blog entry, which was commenting on the house atmosphere that is provided by the on-campus fraternities. The other Greek organizations have an important relationship with Wesleyan, but it is fundamentally different from the one formed by the ones with houses.

  3. Yes we too should be recognized, so perhaps a suggestion is for the Ethinic Greek Council to outreach to the President at DKE has done. . .
    Nyasha Foy, Class of 2006
    Delta Sigma Theta

  4. I wanted to write about the unwarrented targeting of students that I just witnessed. 9 police cars came to fountain avenue presumably to clear the street. They parked in the street and waited for over an hour, inciting the students to REMAIN in the street, and waiting for someone to provoke them. I stood in front of one of my friends house, worried about what might happen. Then, before I knew it, the officers were tear gassing all the students, using pepper spray and shooting paintball guns at students, even students who were not in the street and were on porches. Some of my friends were sitting on THEIR own porch, when the police fired rubber/ paintball bullets and tear gas directly at them. I saw one student get tasered and attacked by a dog. Other friends raised their arms to signal that they didn’t intend the police any harm, yet, the officers still aimed their weapons at the students and refused to listen. It is my belief that the police came to fountain prepared to attack the students in this manner. This was an unnecessary response to an overgrown party on the last night of school. These officers put students in danger, some of whom had asthma attacks in response to the tear gas. One of my friends, an innocent bystander, who stood near a porch, was tear gassed and still can barely see. Her eyes are bright red and puffy and she is in serious pain. This is an embarrassment to the University and Middletown, and a serious breach of the police officer’s responsibility to PROTECT citizens. There was no need for this violent and disproportionate response to students socializing in the street. I hope Wesleyan will respond strongly to this travesty. I am still shaking.

  5. Curious bad luck blog for the venerable new President. This morning’s news laments the horrors of the Wesleyan student riot on Vine Street. Seems that the Wescops couldn’t handle the unruly partiers and called in reinforcements. When it was all over, five went with the cops for their party rewards while hard earned community respect has been lost for WESSTUDENTS. It may be debatable but the riot gear, pepper spray, kanines, rubber bullets, and batons may have escalated the “riot.” It is obvious, however, that the cause was lack of student leadership. The party givers have ALWAYS been responsible for their guest safety and actions. Where were the student leaders who allowed this to happen? Where were the “leaders of tomorrow” who stood up and took charge? This was NOT Mr. Roth’s doing but it may be his undoing. The honeymoon is over, boys and girls, it’s time to grow up !

  6. Well done, President Roth, for sending the message that fraternities, and other ‘frat-like’ associations, are part of the vitality and diversity of Wesleyan. Contrary to one reader’s assertion, I do not think President Roth was presenting an ‘incomplete’ list of worthy campus associations, as ‘Derek’ implies. Rather, President Roth was commenting that he had visited the Greek groups with houses. Obviously all of the groups cited in the above comment are important parts of the fabric of Wes, and make up the ‘rich choice of social organizations’ on campus to which President Roth referred. It is this olla podrida of groups, organizations, houses, and social associations that make Wesleyan great, fraternities included. I bet there aren’t many other schools that can claim a menu like DKE, Psi U, the Womynist House, Skull and Serpent, Alpha Delt, Eclectic, and the Nietzche Factor on one small campus. Let’s give our President credit for visiting with these groups (more such visits to come, I’m sure) and recognizing that they all have a role to play at Wesleyan.

  7. I appreciated your comments on the positive role fraternities can play at Wesleyan. Those thoughts might well be followed up by allowing students to live in fraternity housing without also paying dorm fees to Wesley for rooms they don’t have. At risk of overloading the blog, I am attaching a letter I wrote to Doug Bennett in December of ’04, which, I might note, was never acknowledged. December 24, 2004

    Douglas J. Bennet
    Wesleyan University
    Middletown, CT 06459-3501

    Dear President Bennet:

    I appreciate your letter of December 2, but feel impelled to express my concerns with its content. I find I disagree on two counts with the assumption that the “program housing” must not discriminate on the basis of gender, one philosophical and one practical.

    On the philosophical level, I strongly believe that Wesleyan students should be permitted the maximum ability to make their own choices concerning life style. I am by no means committed on principle to the survival of male fraternities at Wesleyan, should they simply expire because students decline to join. I do strongly object to the notion that students should not be allowed to make that choice. That choice should include both the ability of students to join a unisex institution and to live in housing of their own choice. As near as I can tell, our society has not been threatened by organizations ranging from the Boy and Girl Scouts of America to the Knights of Columbus and Masonic order, nor even such reactionary organizations as the Daughters of the American Revolution. These institutions are simply some of the many options available to the American people to join or not as they choose. I believe students that are capable of obtaining admission to Wesleyan University are entitled to no less choice.

    I would note that two of my more memorable experiences at Wesleyan involved participation in Beta. Our chapter successfully pledged and initiated the first black member of the national fraternity. We made that choice in spite of what we knew would be opposition from the national leadership, and we made it with no pressure from the university. As treasurer of the fraternity, I turned a money losing operation into a profitable one, by using some of the skills obtained in micro-economics in the CSS. The opportunity to run a small business would certainly not have been available had I been relying on university cafeterias and housing. For better or for worse, fraternities provided Wesleyan students with real life decisions and opportunities not available in the structured university institutions.

    On a practical level, the fraternities were constructed for male residents. I know of no institutions that force opposite sexes to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters, with the exception of troops under combat situations. While I would agree that the fraternities should play constructive roles on the campus and in the community, and even that eating clubs should be open to non-fraternity members (as they were in the sixties), it seems to be stretching political correctness to assume that all-male housing for a few dozen students would threaten the fabric of the university.

    I hope you will work with the Houses and mix philosophy with common sense, so that the university will find a way to truly relish diversity, not homogenization, and that students will be offered the maximum opportunities to make their own choices. In the meantime, I will reluctantly shift my Wesleyan contributions to the Beta house, to do my part to provide students with the opportunities I was afforded during my time at Wesleyan.


    Joel L. Johnson, ‘64

  8. I too wrote a letter in support of fraternities to former President Bennet, and mine, too, was never even acknowledged to have been received.

    When I wrote another note to President Roth, however, he got back to me THE SAME DAY. And given this post, I think things are definitely taking a turn for the better.

    Joel, the eye of Wooglin smiles upon you.

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