Wesleyan Goes to War with Freedom of Association

Troubling news down in Connecticut. President Michael Roth of Wesleyan University, one of the so-called “Little Ivies,” has recently issued a stunning letter which declares that starting next fall, students “will be prohibited from residing in — or using for social activities — houses or property owned, leased or operated by private societies that are not recognized by the University. Students who violate the policy will face punishments up to and including suspension.

The policy is aimed squarely at Wesleyan’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which currently remains unrecognized by the university. The school hopes to force the fraternity to seek recognition from the college or else have its membership subject to suspension. Not surprisingly, though, such a broadly worded policy also in effect bars students from associating with other private societies in the vicinity of Wesleyan, such as the Elks Lodge.

In addition, the policy blatantly violates the school’s own “Joint Statement on the Rights and Freedoms of Individuals,” which promises that the college will not inhibit any of the students’ “rights of citizenship” either on or off-campus. Of course, freedom of association has been considered a First Amendment right since 1958’s NAACP v. Alabama. Count on one of the nation’s most liberal universities to initiate a policy opposing a major civil rights decision 

— Blake Neff