Trinity College, a prominent bastion of the liberal arts in Hartford, Conn., plans to revolutionize its social scene in about a decade by requiring fraternities and sororities to go coed. The announced reform comes as the school ponders its upcoming bicentennial, in 2023.
The plan has thrust the school and its president, James F. Jones Jr., into the national spotlight, drawing howls of protest from current fraternity and sorority members, reports the Hartford Courant. Some alumni are outraged as well and are threatening to withhold donations.
More than 4,200 supporters have signed an online petition asking Jones to reconsider.
Trinity’s determination to do away with the single-sex Greek experience is one of many modifications suggested by a committee of trustees, administrators, faculty and students after a period of interviews and substantial data accumulation, according to Inside Higher Ed.
A surge in the number of alcohol poisoning incidents and drug-related hospitalizations among students caused concern among school officials and committee members. The problem is “far more severe among members of fraternities and sororities,” said the committee.
Trinity has gained a party-school reputation as its scores have slipped in recent years in the holy grail that is the annual U.S. News & World Report college ranking.
In 2004, Trinity ranked No. 24 among national liberal arts colleges, when Jones assumed the presidency. In this year’s ranking, the school is down to No. 38, behind Bard College — and well behind hated rival, Wesleyan University, which currently sits at No. 17.
“In the end, it’s really about taking a look and saying, ‘What should be the ideal environment in which students develop intellectually and as human beings?’” said Trinity Dean of Students Frederick Alford, according to the Courant.
Opponents of the coed plan suggest that the Greeks are a convenient scapegoat.
According to the Courant, Jones presented a paper last year alleging that the Greek system has a “stranglehold” on campus social life from Thursday to Sunday, calling them an invidious link to an old-fashioned era of privilege, nepotism and money. Eliminating the Greek system, he argued, would “remove from Trinity’s DNA the last remaining vestige of an anti-meritocratic structure on campus.”
“It’s like we’ve been thrown under the bus,” Amalia Nicholas, president of the school’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority chapter, told the Courant.
Kiley Hagerty, a senior and president of Trinity’s Ivy Society sorority, told Inside Higher Ed that the Greek system rescued the school’s social scene when the administration cut funding for social events, funding that was later reinstated.
“We’re the only ones providing a social outlet,” she said to Inside Higher Ed.
Opponents also charge that the coed plan spells doom for Trinity’s Greek system because national Greek umbrella organizations won’t recognize campus chapters that include members of both sexes.
While the national frats and sororities on Trinity’s campus could cut their national ties and carry on locally as coed clubs, it wouldn’t be the same.
“There really is no man who wants to be part of a female organization,” Nicholas told the Courant.