This afternoon, the Argus broke the story that the Wesleyan chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon is planning to sue the university for discrimination and deceptive practices. The suit, brought by DKE in collaboration with their alumni chapter, the Kent Literary Club, and two Wes sophomores, details DKE’s interactions with the university since the co-education decision of last September before making charges associated with DKE’s recent loss of program house status for the 2015-2016 school year. After the jump are excerpts from DKE’s press release, courtesy of the Argus; statements from a Wesleyan spokesperson, and a brief summary of the lawsuit.
“Wesleyan DKE members and alumni stand united against discrimination in any form, seek injunction to restore student housing and prevent unwarranted abuse of power.”
“Discrimination is abhorrent in whatever form it may exist,” Scott Karsten ’74 said in the press release. “President Roth’s pursuit of selective discrimination is an egregious example of political correctness gone wrong, and does a disservice to the high ideals upon which Wesleyan was founded. Not only does President Roth’s personal agenda fail to promote real diversity, it punishes the students he is supposed to protect. The current members and alumni of the DKE chapter at Wesleyan stand united against this blatant hypocrisy, and trust that justice will prevail.”
On their compliance with co-education:
“Nevertheless, instead of the three year’s time promised, the University fast-tracked its decision to deny DKE housing rights less than five months after its initial demand, and two days before the University’s housing selection process began,” the press release reads.
DKE President Terence Durkin ’16, who could not be reached for further comment at this time, also weighed in:
“Wesleyan embraces every other person’s right to live together based on gender, race, creed or sexual affiliation, but with the coeducation mandate in the fall this seems to not apply to us,” Durkin said. “Discrimination is wrong no matter what form it takes, and the university has unfairly singled us out in order to achieve their brand of ‘diversity.’”
“Giving us a mere 10 days notice, we could not achieve their demands in regards to coeducation, and therefore have lost our program housing status for next year,” Durkin said. “Our alumni have made the decision to sue and the undergrad brothers of DKE wholeheartedly support that decision in hopes that we be treated fairly. We simply want to be given back our right to live in our own house, and to continue to be strong supporters of all that is great about the Wesleyan community.”
A spokesman of the university, William Holder, responded to DKE’s claim that they had complied with the University mandate:
“Representatives of DKE expressly disavowed any commitment to co-educate. Despite repeated requests from the University and several months in which to formulate its approach, the plan eventually submitted by DKE and subsequent communication from the organization did not include any timeline or detail for its proposed approach to partner with a sorority; nor did it adequately assure the university that female residents would have full and equal access to common areas of the house.
“DKE’s annual program housing agreement was terminated for the next academic year only after the organization repeatedly failed to take any meaningful steps or make any reasonable commitments toward residential co-education before the date on which the housing selection process began. The DKE house has historically operated very differently than other special interest program houses at Wesleyan in many ways, but notably that it explicitly prohibits residence by females. This must change.”
“Wesleyan has offered DKE the opportunity to work regularly with the administration so that the DKE house might be ready for co-educated program housing in 2016. The Kent Literary Club and the Gamma Phi Chapter of DKE have instead chosen to commence a lawsuit against the University. The University is confident that this lawsuit has no merit.”
We will continue to publish updates on the situation, as well as opinion pieces with further analysis. For now, though, kitab gave us a TL;DR breakdown of DKE’s suit, which brings twelve counts against Wesleyan:
Kent Literary Club of Wesleyan University at Middletown, Gamma Phi Chapter of DKE at Wesleyan, Zac Cuzner (’17) and Tucker Ingraham (’17) vs. Wesleyan University, Michael S. Roth, and Michael J. Whaley
The first count is that Wesleyan is violating the CT Unfair Trade Practices Act because they advertised that students can live in DKE as upperclassmen, but now aren’t providing DKE as an option, so they’re being “deceptive.” This is forcing students to find other Wes housing which is more expensive.
The second charge is that Wes allows/encourages program houses to choose their residents on the basis of “characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and other protected class characteristics.” DKE cites Turath, WoCoHo, Womanist House, Open House, X House, Lighthouse, La Casa, and Asian/Asian American House, citing their mission statements, most of which contain references not to specific identities, but to commitment to relevant issues and to a desire to create safe spaces. They also cite the single-sex floors and Wes’s description of why students might feel more comfortable on such a floor. DKE claims that denying them their house constitutes a breach of Wesleyan’s promise to “all of its students, including plaintiffs… that it will offer them ‘an equitable and inclusive education’, a community that is ‘diverse and unique’ and further, that in all its operations it will not discriminate on the basis of sex.”
The third charge is fairly similar. While the second count is for a breach of contract, the third is for a breach of “Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing.”
The fourth count is “Promissory Estoppel,” the wiki article for which is too confusing to bother reading, but basically has to do with when a promise (“clear and definite promise”) has been made and then the promiser changes their position such that the promise must be kept to avoid doing an injustice to the promise (to whom the promise has been made.) In this case, Wes made promises to DKE bros and should have “reasonably expected” that they would rely on them, so “injustice can be avoided only by enforcing said promises.”
The fifth count is “negligent misrepresentation”: Again, Wesleyan made false promises, broke those promises, and plaintiffs “have suffered and will continue to suffer damages and losses.”
The sixth count is that since September 21, 2014 (the co-education decision), Wes (via Roth and Whaley) has “engaged in a course of conduct intended to deceive” plaintiffs and therefore DKE has lost its house. Wes knew that DKE couldn’t admit women because of its charter, but issued the directive anyway. Then Whaley told DKE they wouldn’t have to admit members, just let women live there and that they should draw up some plans. DKE let Whaley and others tour the house to get ideas about successful co-education from a “facilities perspective.”
[a lot more dry description of what happened]
On January 21st, Whaley told DKE that plans to have two organizations living in the house–DKE and a women’s organization–would constitute a “reasonable approach” to the directive. Then Wes said no, and that by February 6 DKE had to convert 6 beds to female occupancy with those residents having full and equal access to common spaces, to provide details of DKE’s agreement with its sorority partner (later revealed to be Rho Ep), and to show a commitment to trying to fully co-educate within 3 years. DKE said it couldn’t provide details because the directive was so vague. Wes said, ok, give us the name of your partner. DKE informed Wes that it would partner with Rho Ep and complied with all other instructions.
DKE was then denied program house status. Consequently, DKE bros (and others) can’t select DKE in housing selection. The lack of program house status will cause the house’s property value to go down, and the Kent Literary Club, which owns the house, will lose rent, which will now go to Wes. This violates the Unfair Trade Practices Act by constituting unfair competition because Wes’s actions were deceptive, in violation of public policy (all it says), immoral/unethical/oppressive/unscrupulous, injurious to consumers, including the plaintiffs, and constituted a breach of contract with KLC.
The seventh count is that the actions in the sixth count were intentional by Wesleyan.
Eighth is “tortious interference with business expectancies,” (wow law is funny and antiquated), which basically means that KLC will lose income because of all the stuff Wes has already been charged with.
Ninth is a breach of contract with KLC.
Tenth is breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing with KLC.
Eleventh is the promissory estoppel thing again only against KLC.
Twelfth and final is negligent misrepresentation thing again only against KLC.
Their demands for relief are:
1) Wes reinstates DKE as a program house.
2) “Compensatory damages under common law.”
3) Compensatory damages, punitive damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
4) “Specific performance” requiring Wes to include DKE as an option for program housing and “such other relief as this Court seems just and proper.”
The monetary damages demanded are “$15,000 or more exclusive of interest and costs.”
Fraternities Must Become Co-Ed.
“No More Freshman Pledges,” University Tells Greek Organizations.
Pro-Fraternity Actions During Homecoming.
Psi U to Coeducate This Semester.
On the Record With President Michael Roth: Sexual Assault, Frats, Need Blind.
Previous Title IX suits against the University:
Reports on DKE suit off campus:
Business Insider: Wesleyan Frat Sues For Discrimination After Being Forced to Accept Women.
Jezebel: Wesleyan Fraternity DKE Files Lawsuit Over Being Forced to Go Co-Ed.
ABC News: Wesleyan University Frat Sues Over Demand it Become Co-Ed.
Washington Post: A Fraternity Sues Wesleyan For Sex Discrimination
NY Times: Fraternity Sues Wesleyan University Over Order to Admit Women
Huffington Post: DKE Fraternity Sues Wesleyan Over Alleged Discrimination
Time: A Fraternity is Suing Wesleyan University Over an Order to Admit Women