WORDS: BENJAMIN ROMERO '16, MANAGING DIRECTOR
“So what are we going to do?”
Sophia Jennings ‘16 and I are sitting on her newly christened porch on Lawn. It’s Saturday, the first weekend of the year. As a freshman, leaving campus for the weekend was considered a light moral sin, so we’ve had this conversation a million times, the ritual tallying of events for the evening.
“Uh Warren, I guess? Maybe Eclectic?”
Freshmen trot by Sophia’s porch. They look eager, lost, and blatantly bewildered, as I’m sure I did not-so-long ago (read: yesterday).
“Yeah, I guess so."
As we make our through the standard serving of denim weddings and sweaty soccer boys, we both felt off. By the end of the night, we found ourselves wandering along Pine, with faces of disillusionment.
To be fair, it’s our fourth year and we’re prone to arrive with some level of destructive nostalgia. Freshmen year! The parties! The people! That boy in the Tiger Costume! “It’s just not the same,” a senior sighs from hir Fountain porch. This narrative has been touted by our predecessors, and I’m sure it will be touted by those long after us.
And yet, I feel haunted by a mounting series of tangible evidence that makes it clear: yes, indeed, something is quite different.
First, in a seemingly protective move, the university reduced the fire capacity limits on all woodframe and program house spaces last year. Whereas previously, woodframe houses had a universal capacity of forty-nine or less, Wesleyan Fire Safety, Physical Plant, and the Middletown Fire Department individually accessed each space. To be fair, a universal policy seems ludicrous. A two-person house and a six-person house cannot contain the same amount of people, even if it is the paradise that is the two-person house on Pine with two bathrooms.
Still, the numbers vary wildly and seem designed programmatically to discourage large gatherings. Open House, for example, had its capacity reduced from 49 to 22. If you’re counting, this means that, yes, each resident of the 7-unit Open House can only have two guests at a time, perhaps with one resident getting frisky with three. Moreover, the limits seem haphazard. As a two-person unit, 122b Knowles has a total capacity of 38. As a six-person unit, 59 Pearl has a total capacity of 15. Though I’m sure there was some methodology applied, it still seems designed to indoctrinate the ‘proper use’ of wood frame houses, e.g. study groups and playdates with curfews.
Then, the fraternities one by one were shut down. To be clear, I am not commenting on fraternities as associations. This is not to minimize the critical dialogue around this question nor to provide a latent defense of fraternities. Rather, I hope to focus on how the absence of these spaces affects the social sphere. These were (are?) some of the largest spaces on campus to hold events. These were (are?) spaces dedicated to student-run events. It remains to be clear whether Michael Roth is (was?) supportive of making new student-run spaces accessible. Without these spaces, all of those who would normally attend fraternity functions are now forced to attend other events on campus, compounding the effect of lowering fire capacities on all spaces.
Still then, Public Safety, Residential Life, and SALD initiated updates to the social event registration policy contributing to the particularly severe strain of Wesleyan bureaucratic rigamortus. The updated policy included several significant changes. All social events, even those in woodframe houses, have a singular registration policy with a deadline of Wednesday at one o’clock. For a university known for “Wesleyan Time” of ten minutes late, this idea seems pointed, to say the least. In addition, Thursday quiet hours were changed to begin at 11pm instead of 2am, making any social event on Thursday negligible in its duration. As Method noted last year, “RIP Thursdays.”
Moreover, the policy of public safety remains unclear of what registering an event entails. How can we move forward with a policy that prioritizes realistic safety? How can we cooperate proactively? How can we avoid saying, “PSafe’s here, we should run”?
To be clear, this article does not condone binge drinking, nor claim any Beastie Boyudian “Right to Party.” Steps had to be taken, and the University did so. Rather, it’s to encourage a dialogue on how a residential university operates. It’s to disrupt the notion that Tour de Franzia can be replaced by Laser Tag on Foss. It’s to take Beyond the University quite literally, to reiterate that an education happens inside and outside the classroom. Parties do not make a university, but community does. The person from my Marx seminar playing beer pong on Fountain, the girl who’s teaching my WesBam class dancing at Eclectic, or the first stranger I came out to on the porch of WestCo- these are moments that make this campus feel alive and like home.
Wesleyan has always had a distinct sense of flexibility. We’re ingenuitive, and we’re determined. What worries me most is if we start to give up. Talking to a few seniors recently, I asked the question I’ve asked a million times, “What are you up to tonight?” One turned to me, and said, “I think we’re going to New York actually. I feel like we’ll be there a lot this semester.”