As many people are now aware, the town of Mansfield passed new zoning ordinances this past June, which coincidentally happened to coincide with a lack of students attending the University Connecticut at that time, leading to a lack of student input on the new regulations. Article IV of the Zoning Regulations of the Town of Mansfield now defines fraternal organizations as: “Any group of persons organized for a common purpose, interest or pleasure. This term includes, but is not limited to social, service, and professional/academic organizations.” Any group that falls under the category of “fraternal organization” is barred from holding events off campus.
This development has been judged as unfair by a number of UConn organizations. The UConn Interfraternity Council has been particularly critical, claiming that the new definition is too broad and the problems that town residents have had with student organizations are limited to a relatively small minority. As such, it seems like overkill to ban all student groups from meeting off campus.
Officials from the town have tried to reassure students by saying that it is not just student organizations that are banned and that the law will most likely not be applied as broadly as it is worded and will be enforced on a complaint basis. Both of these, however, are poor justifications. Student groups shouldn’t feel better just because organizational meetings of the town’s residents are prohibited as well. The situation is just unreasonable for a larger amount of people. Furthermore, claiming the law won’t be applied as broadly as it’s written is very vague and doesn’t guarantee that groups will be treated equally. This lack of consistency will only create confusion and uncertainty.
Town officials and UConn students need to open a productive dialogue on this issue. There are legitimate concerns on both sides, but it is important to find an acceptable middle ground rather than simply choosing the extreme option as the town seems to be doing. Student leaders have expressed willingness to have a conversation, but the town needs to show they are receptive to student ideas.