Wesleyan University’s fraternities are being compelled to go coeducational within three years, following a vote by the school’s board of trustees over the weekend.
“With equity and inclusion in mind, we have decided that residential fraternities must become fully co-educational over the next three years,” the Middletown, Connecticut college’s board announced in a campus email on Monday. While as independent entities the fraternities could in theory defy the school, doing so cause them to be derecognized as valid social spaces by the school and will also disassociate them from the school’s housing system. Wesleyan students are prohibited from living in or spending time at Greek houses that are not recognized by the university.
The mandate has met with a mixed response from Greek leaders at Wesleyan. One fraternity president told the campus paper that going co-ed was a “first step” in reforming the school’s troubled Greek system. Another, however, expressed severe displeasure, saying the school was trying to micromanage students’ lives.
“The University is telling us who [our] friends are going to be, and who we must choose as our leaders,” said DKE President Terrence Durkin. “This is just not right. This is just not Wesleyan.”
Wesleyan is a small college and its Greek system is even smaller, with only 4 percent of approximately 1,500 men on campus joining houses (there is only one sorority, which lacks a physical plant).
Nonetheless, the school has still attracted attention as part of the wider national concern over sexual assault on college campuses. In March, a student sued the school, claiming she had been raped in front of several onlookers while attending a “strip party” at one frat in 2013.
Another house, the campus’s chapter of Beta Theta Pi, has been referred to as the “Rape Factory” by some on campus, and just last week the chapter was suspended by the national organization after a female student was seriously injured during a party at the house. Despite recent events, school officials said the move had been under consideration for many years and was not in response to any particular event.
The move is intended to prevent sexual assault by breaking up all-male environments activists say encourage misogynistic outlooks.
Earlier this year, school president Michael Roth had described as “striking” the number of students who described campus fraternities as “hostile environments.”
Wesleyan is not the first school to take such a step to curb Greek life on campus. Trinity College, also in Connecticut, drew some attention in 2012 when it made the same demands of its Greek houses, overcoming protests from both students and alumni.
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