After a series of scandals at fraternities on campus, officials at Wesleyan University in Connecticut ordered frats to admit women as members — or shut down.
The move came in the midst of a national debate over Greek life on campus, with racial incidents and sexual assaults making headlines even as membership and volunteerism surges at fraternities across the country.
At Wesleyan, Delta Kappa Epsilon is fighting back. They’re saying the mandate is sexual discrimination, from a university that promotes tolerance. The local chapter and its alumni organization sued the Wesleyan administration.
At the heart of their complaint is the contention that Wesleyan not only tolerates but welcomes housing based on specific interests. Students are required to live on campus all four years and can choose single-sex dorms or special-interest housing, including the “Women of Color House,” the “Light House” for Christian students, “Turath House” for Muslim, Arab and Middle Eastern students, and the “Open House,” which describes itself as a “safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexural, Asexual, [We can’t print this one!], Polyamorous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/ Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities.”
School officials have said they gave fraternities ample time to make changes but that Greek leadership was resistant. Fraternity leaders said their efforts to adapt were brushed aside and that they were blindsided by a new, fast-tracked timetable to go co-ed.
Will Croughan, a brother at DKE, writes about why the fraternity is suing:
“Upon choosing to attend Wesleyan, I was excited to be playing football. I was happy that it was only an hour and a half from home. I thought I was attending a school that practiced tolerance of varying interests and beliefs.
Unfortunately, as a member of a fraternity, I have found that this isn’t exactly the case.
Wesleyan’s own mission statement states that it seeks to build a ‘diverse’ community of students who ‘value independence of mind.’ Since coming here, I have been exposed to more different kinds of people from different walks of life than I could have imagined.
Wesleyan does an outstanding job fostering creative, thought-provoking discussion in the classroom, and, for the most part, fostering a friendly, accepting environment outside of it.
It is my belief that the wide majority of the Wesleyan student body appreciates having fraternities on campus, but certain members of the Wesleyan community have targeted us with expletives and insults on Facebook, Twitter, and multiple other social media outlets.
Their arguments attempt to portray fraternities, including the DKE house where I live, as bastions of ‘white male privilege.’
Not only is this an unproductive and unfair ad hominem attack, it is entirely inaccurate: two-thirds of our organization is on financial aid (compared to less than half of the campus as a whole) and 12 percent is African-American (as opposed to 7 percent of the entire campus).
I will admit: I am white. I am male. I was born in Westchester County, N.Y. People may call that privileged if they’d like.
But I’ve also been raised by a single mother ever since my father passed five years ago. I work two on-campus jobs to help pay for my schooling, and dedicate dozens of hours a week to the football team. And, like any other student here, I am working hard to earn my Wesleyan degree.
The argument for coeducation of all-male fraternities is one with many faces. At first, it was suggested that fraternities promote sexual assault. Yet the university’s own safety report states that 13 out of 15 forced sexual assaults in 2013 occurred in the university’s own co-ed dorms.
Subsequently, it was argued that coeducation would improve ‘gender equity’; that it would restore balance for men and women in the realm of campus living options.
Yet the administration has repeatedly ignored the efforts of our undergraduate sisters in the Wesleyan-born sorority Rho Epsilon Pi to obtain a sorority house, despite consolidated efforts from DKE alums to help fund the process. Letting Wesleyan’s only sorority have its own house would result not only in improved gender equity, but also more social space on a campus that desperately needs it.
As of now, the University has denied DKE the right to live in our own house for the 2015-2016 school year, citing an alleged failure to have already incorporated women, a mandate which we had originally been given three years to complete.
Wesleyan embraces every other student’s right to live with others based on gender, race, creed or sexual affiliation, but call it ‘brotherhood,’ and it appears that all goes out the window.”
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