On September 22, 2014 Wesleyan President Michael Roth unilaterally ordered that all residential fraternities become co-ed within three years. This edict, imposed without a vote of the Board of Trustees, would overturn 147 years of Wesleyan tradition and breech the University’s long tradition of welcoming diverse voices, opinions and living situations. If this policy is forced on the University in its current form, Wesleyan will become a monochromatic island of political correctness instead of remaining an institution that accepts a range of students and thought. One of the best articulations of the value that fraternities bring to Wesleyan was made by President Roth himself in his May 10, 2008 blog, when he wrote:
“During the course of this year I’ve heard lectures at Beta and Psi U, had social dinners at DKE and Alpha Delt, listened to a great band at Eclectic, and in each instance I’ve been impressed with how the membership is adding value to the educational and co-curricular experience on campus. Each organization has a different personality, and they add significantly to Wesleyan’s overall diversity. My own Alpha Delta Phi was already co-educational when I was an undergrad, and the house was the center of my Wes world. We published the literary magazine, and AD still is filled with musicians, writers and theater people (among others). Other frats are homes for athletes, while some are more cultural in their focus. Most combine these elements in different ways, depending on the membership in a given year.
“Fraternities have historic roots with alumni that are important to maintain, and I believe that the frats (including Eclectic) at Wes can continue to play a very positive role at the university. We will not be adding any new Greek societies because there are now many other ways for students to join together in residentially based groups. Wesleyan’s students have a rich choice of social organizations in which to participate, from the very traditional to the most avant-garde. I’m committed to keeping it that way.”
As President Roth recognized, each fraternity “has a different personality, and they add significantly to Wesleyan’s overall diversity.” Yet his coeducation decree threatens to shut down the University’s fraternities whose national charters will not permit them to admit women.
The order to dismantle the very essence of what makes a fraternity a fraternity discriminates against men of all races, ethnicities and sexual orientations who want to congregate and grow as men. The University makes provisions for other students with shared interests who want to live together, including students seeking “social justice,” writers, students who are liberal and multicultural and environmentalists. The University even recognizes that some men and women prefer to live with their own gender by providing single sex housing in the dorms.
President Roth’s decision was not based on the principle of student safety, nor could it have been, because the vast majority of sexual assaults at Wesleyan occur in campus residences, not in off-campus facilities such as fraternities.
Instead of student safety, the coeducation order was based on the principle of “gender equity.” We believe, however, that gender equity and student diversity would be best served by providing housing equity to Wesleyan’s sorority Rho Epsilon Pi. As one member of Rho Ep recently wrote in the Argus:
“As an individual empowered by my sorority to speak up for what I believe is right, and not as a voice representing Rho Ep collectively, I perceive forcing men to accept women into their homes is a mere continuation of the responsibility placed on women to change rape culture. We need more social spaces for and controlled by women–a sorority house, for instance–and a gender resource center to balance out the gendered-property power dynamic at Wesleyan. Let us create more safe spaces where all genders feel comfortable, unintimidated, and as if they have a right to be there and stand up for themselves.
Changes like these would enable equal amounts of gendered spaces that empower women without encroaching on men’s equal right to a brotherhood, and would additionally balance a male-dominated social scene and hook-up culture that is evidently unsafe and oppressive for everyone.”
While we don’t endorse every sentiment expressed in this letter, we do support the writer’s contention that fraternities should not be forced to accept women into their homes and that the solution instead is for more social spaces controlled by women. To that end, we have pledged our strong support for a Rho Ep sorority house on campus.
We have also pledged our support for programs to address the issue of risky behavior among undergraduates. Indeed, in the fall of 2014 DKE voluntarily initiated two nationally acclaimed programs: The “One in Four” sexual assault training program by Dr. John Foubert and the Safe and Sober Campus Initiative program by Dr. Steven Taylor, Medical Director, NBA Player Assistance/Anti-Drug program. These programs were highly successful and very well received by the students who participated.
We hope you will join us in our efforts to protect true diversity at Wesleyan – not just the fake diversity of embracing everyone who might look different on the outside but act and think the same way on the inside. There are a number of ways you can help.
Thank you for your support.