Wesleyan University's administration has decreed it a possibly equal or greater judicial offense to run around in a cape drinking boxed wine as it is to sexually harass or assault a fellow student.
Wesleyan can't figure out how to stop students from participating in Tour de Franzia, the student-run "wine-fueled shit-show of a scavenger hunt" that traditionally occurs near the end of the school year. Last month, Dean Mike Whaley, the Vice President of Student Affairs, emailed every Wesleyan parent begging for their help "in talking with your student about the very real dangers associated with the event" — unfortunately, appealing to the guardians of adult students didn't prove incredibly effective. Now, the administration has implemented a punishment system that makes participating in Tour de Franzia equal to some forms of sexual misconduct and assault.
According to campus blog Wesleying, administrators have instructed RAs to set up military-style checkpoints outside student dorms on the (still unknown) night of the Tour, emailed professors asking them to report any Tour-related information they overhear from students, and — most egregiously — promised to administer a minimum of six judicial points to students who don costumes and drink wine (or just hang out near people drinking wine) during the event. A threatening email from Dean Whaley to the Wesleyan community reads in part:
Approximately 20% of the students who participated in the Tour last spring were identified and referred to the SJB. We will ask more staff and faculty to help us monitor the event and document policy violations this year, and we want to make clear that students who choose to participate in any way (even if not drinking) will face judicial charges. We have consulted with the SJB concerning the sanctions that students should expect, and have determined that typical participants in the Tour will be assigned a minimum of 6 judicial points. Students should be warned that those who have already accrued points as well as those who engage in egregious behavior during the Tour may face immediate suspension (loss of tuition and this semester’s work). Seniors who participate in the Tour will be prohibited from participating in commencement.
"Participation," according to an email from Dean Rick Culliton, means “taking part in the scavenger hunt (whether or not you are drinking), wearing masks and/or costumes, as well as possessing and/or consuming alcohol.”
In summary: even if you're running around sober wearing something silly ("something the admin would encourage as ‘so wes’ on any other day of the week," one student pointed out), you will still "be subject to judicial action."
According to the Wesleyan Student Handbook, a sexual assault/misconduct violation counts for 5-10 points, so it's a tad specious to claim (as many students are via Twitter and Facebook) that participating in Tour De Franzia is automatically considered worse than sexual assault from a disciplinary standpoint. It's also more than fair that the administration is concerned about safety; past Tours have incited campus damage and hospitalization, and officials have students' lives (and lawsuits) to consider. Wesleyan also recently received a lot of attention for an out-of-control "Senior Cocktails" party that resulted in a lot of public sex and vomit. But the administration's harsh actions — paternalistically emailing parents, threatening to essentially implant spies outside dorms, raising communal wine-chugging to the level of sexual misconduct — seem like plot points out of a Wesleyan film major's dystopian parody.
Plus, judging by the scores of outraged students, it appears that Wesleyan's efforts have convinced undergrads who didn't really care about the Tour in the first place to participate out of protest.
If Wesleyan doesn't want to incite more bad press, perhaps administrators should focus on revamping the college's sexual assault policy — especially in light of this year's "rape factory" lawsuit — or consider working with the students instead of against them, nanny state-style.
One Wesleyan senior told Jezebel that he won't be participating in Tour de Franzia this year — if it does indeed take place despite the controversy — because the stakes are too high for seniors, even though it's a fun night "where I really feel a strong sense of community on campus."
"I think both sides can really make concessions here," he said," but I also don't think that 'college kids drink and vomit' is getting our PR people in as much hot water as any instance of sexual assault."