The Greek life on campus at Wesleyan University is in for a major change from the traditional fraternity/sorority system, after university president Michael Roth announced to the campus that the three residential fraternities must begin the process of becoming co-educational organizations within the next three years.
Although for the past century the chapters of Beta Theta Pi, Delta Kappa Epsilon and Psi Upsilon have been strictly traditional, male-only fraternities, the time has finally come to change this. This in essence puts an end to the traditional gender norms that are typically associated with fraternities
“This change is something that Wesleyan and the fraternities have been contemplating for many years, and now the time has come,” said Roth in an email sent out to Wesleyan students. “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.”
Although this co-education won’t apply to nonresidential single-gender societies just yet, making this monumental change to the residential societies is a good first step. Administrators at Wesleyan University are hopeful that they can continue to make on-campus student groups more inclusive and equitable for all students, thus creating a safer campus for all in the process.
In March, the Psi Upsilon chapter at Wesleyan faced a lawsuit regarding an alleged rape at a pledge party for the fraternity the previous spring semester. Another rape lawsuit also threatened against the Beta Theta Pi chapter, which was featured on the cover of the Atlantic. All this lead up to students, faculty and alumni of Wesleyan joining together to create a petition asking fraternities to start admitting women into their chapters back in April.
This semester the debate began again following an incident of a female student falling out of a window of the Beta fraternity house; resulting in the University declaring the frat house off limits to students.
The university claims that its decision is not in response to any single incident, but it can be assumed that the change is a result of all of these occurrences.
Wesleyan follows in the footsteps of Trinity College, which changed its policy over a combination of high-profile scandals and a report that found that students in single-sex Greek organizations were more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Additionally, students in those organizations have lower grades than the average student at Trinity College, where the report was done.
The university explained that it wanted the transition to be gradual, which is why it gave the organizations three years to become fully co-educational, according to Kate Carlisle, university media and public relations manager, in an interview with the Wesley Anargus, the school’s newspaper.
“People pledge and some people graduate, so three years seemed to be an appropriate and optimal amount of time to give the fraternities to develop a coeducation plan with the help of Student Affairs and come up with something that would be a meaningful and qualified response to this,” said Carlisle.
The university’s student government presented the resolutions which enacted the change as a part of a set of policies to end rape culture and prevent sexual assault on the campus. The university is hoping that taking this step will help to create an equitable and safe learning environment on campus.