In an email sent to the Wesleyan community this morning, the Chair of the Board of Trustees Joshua Boger ’73 and President Michael Roth ’78 informed the campus of the Board’s decision that all residential greek organizations must become fully co-educational in not just housing but within the greek organizations themselves.
The Board of Trustees convened in their retreat this past weekend, with more than half of the schedule dedicated to the issue of greek life on campus as well as the future of residential fraternities. This comes on the heel of the administration’s decision to declare Beta’s house off-limits to all students just a few weeks ago, in light of the discussions last semester within and outside of meetings in the Wesleyan Student Assembly over the issue of coeducation and residential fraternities.
Update (9/22/14 5:00PM): We asked DKE president Terence Durkin ’16 if the coeducation decision would affect their national membership and how they might implement coeducation. His response:
It is my understanding that our National Charter does not allow co-education, so this unilateral decision by the administration is problematic for us. It seems to do away with freedom of association for a specific, carefully chosen segment of the so-called Wesleyan “community”. The University is telling us who our friends are going to be, and who we must choose as our leaders. This is just not right. This is just not Wesleyan. We are exploring all options with our Alumni and undergraduates, and we will have more to say in the near future.
Dean Mike Whaley similarly reiterated that the national charter of DKE (and Beta) does not recognize coeducation, while Psi U’s does. He also pointed out that Alpha Delta Phi had a similar conflict with their national charter when they decided to co-educate in 1972. His response below:
I’ve not yet had a chance to work with any of the organizations yet given that the announcement was just made today. As President Roth’s announcement indicates, “If the organizations are to continue to be recognized as offering housing and social spaces for Wesleyan students, women as well as men must be full members and well-represented in the body and leadership of the organization.” We’ve invited each of the all-male fraternities to develop their own plans for realizing this goal, and I will be working with them as they develop and implement their plans to make sure they are likely to reach our objectives.
Psi U, whose national permits coeducation, has asked to meet with me later this week to begin discussions and planning.
You probably already know that Psi Upsilon’s national permits coeducation, while Beta’s and DKE’s do not. My understanding is that Alpha Delta Phi had a similar challenge with their national when they co-educated many years ago – how they overcame that obstacle could be instructive for the organizations.
Update (9/22/14 3:00PM): This story has been getting picked up by news organizations nationally, first by Business Insider that got a comment from Psi U’s national organization, “Psi Upsilon executive director Tom Fox said, ‘Psi Upsilon is historically a men’s fraternity which allows our chapters to admit women. It will be up to the Xi undergraduate chapter how they would like to proceed and we will support them in their decision.'” They also got a statement from Beta stating, “The Fraternity is working to better understand the specifics of Wesleyan University’s decision to force its fraternities with chapter houses to become co-educational. As that analysis continues, the leadership of Beta Theta Pi seeks to strongly underscore its belief that there is a purposeful place on college campuses for young men to come together and forge the bonds of fraternal brotherhood as they develop academically and prepare for a lifetime of civic duty.”
Notably, the Associated Press‘ coverage which is being picked up and syndicated by various news outlets across the country, writes in error that “Wesleyan University in Connecticut is ordering its fraternities and sororities to become coeducational within the next three years,” as this policy affects only residential fraternities, not fraternities in general or sororities on campus.
Update (9/22/14 11:12AM): Wesleying’s Gabe reached out to Kate Carlisle, Manager of Media Relations & Public Relations in University Communications, for comment. She informed us that “this has actually been under discussion for a long time,” and that “what was driving this was really the desire to get closer to Wesleyan’s tradition of progressive leadership… [because] the three residential fraternities—now two, effectively—were the only, not only residential spaces, but social spaces that were not co-educational.”
The University decided to move this direction now, and not anytime before because they were soliciting as much input last they could, as Carlisle puts it, “when the University felt like it had gotten a ton of information it was able to move forward with this decision at this time.”
The three-year timeline for this transition came about because “Student Affairs seemed to feel that three years would give enough time given the turnover in students and people graduating and moving on—three years seemed like a reasonable timeframe to require this in.” Carlisle pointed out that the substance and plan for this transition “are things that Student Affairs is going to be working on directly with the leadership of the fraternities… That’s not something that the University is mandating at this point—something is going to have to be worked out on the ground.”
On the issue of Beta Theta Pi, she was sparse in her response but commented, “If Beta reorganizes on campus, then they will be subject to this as well and the process will go forward like it will with DKE and Psi U… This really depends on their reorganization, if it happens.”
In terms of concerns of pushback from members of the community, Carlisle notes, “I would not characterize the administration as worried about pushback. There’s a great tradition of incredible fierce loyalty among fraternity brothers at Wesleyan, so it would not be surprising if there were some pushback, but so far, so good.”
When we reached out to President Roth and his office for comment, we were quickly referred over to Carlisle.
We will continue to update this post as we receive comment from other parties involved.
Update (9/22/14 10:12AM): Some reactions from students and alumni on social media:
I support @wesleyan_u‘s decision to mandate gender equality and inclusion in greek life. Will take adjustment, but the right move IMO.
— Peter Frank (@PeterKimFrank) September 22, 2014
The full email is reproduced below.
To the Wesleyan community:
As you may know, we have been considering the future role of Greek life at Wesleyan, and over the summer a great many Wesleyan alumni, students and faculty offered their views. Some have urged that we preserve the status quo; others have argued for the elimination of all exclusive social societies. The trustees and administration recognize that residential fraternities have contributed greatly to Wesleyan over a long period of time, but we also believe they must change to continue to benefit their members and the larger campus community. With equity and inclusion in mind, we have decided that residential fraternities must become fully co-educational over the next three years. If the organizations are to continue to be recognized as offering housing and social spaces for Wesleyan students, women as well as men must be full members and well-represented in the body and leadership of the organization.
This change is something that Wesleyan and the fraternities have been contemplating for many years, and now the time has come. The University looks forward to receiving plans from the residential fraternities to co-educate, after which it will work closely with them to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Our residential Greek organizations inspire loyalty, community and independence. That’s why all our students should be eligible to join them. Although this change does not affect nonresidential organizations, we are hopeful that groups across the University will continue to work together to create a more inclusive, equitable and safer campus. We look forward to working with all campus constituencies to improve the residential experience of Wesleyan students now and for generations to come.
Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, P’09
Chair, Board of Trustees
Michael S. Roth ’78
For more reading:
Settlement in Federal Lawsuit Against Beta and Wesleyan (9/10/13)
Lawsuit Filed Against Psi U (3/12/14)
Letter to the Campus Community: A Call to Action (4/16/14)
What’s Going on with Fraternities, Sexual Assault, and the WSA? (4/27/14)
WSA Survey Results on Frats and Sexual Assault Released (4/27/14)
Student Hospitalized After Falling from Beta Window (9/7/14)
Additional reporting by Gabe and Samira.