MIDDLETOWN, Conn. ― Wesleyan University in Connecticut on Monday ordered its fraternities with houses on campus to become coeducational within the next three years.
The move was announced in a letter to the university community from President Michael Roth and trustees Chairman Joshua Boger. It requires its residential Greek organizations to have both male and female members and to have each gender “well represented” in their organizational leadership to quality for housing on campus and the use of university spaces.
No sororities currently have houses on campus, and the order doesn’t affect Greek organizations with off-campus houses.
“Our residential Greek organizations inspire loyalty, community and independence. That’s why all our students should be eligible to join them,” Roth and Boger wrote. “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.”
The order follows a decision earlier this month to close the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house after an accident in which a woman fell from a third-story window. But school spokeswoman Kate Carlisle said the changes do not come as a response to any one incident.
“This has been the subject of ongoing concern and discussion among the people in the administration, the school community, the alumni community and so forth for a number of years,” she said.
The private liberal arts school in Middletown has about 2,900 undergraduate and 200 graduate students. It has just two active all-male residential fraternities—Delta Kappa Epsilon and Psi Upsilon. Neither immediately responded to requests for comment.
But Peter Smithhisler, the chief executive of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, said he believes that any school that dictates what type of organizations students can join is “inhibiting fundamental principles of freedom of expression and freedom of association upon which our country is premised and upon which it functions.”
“It is essential that fraternities be allowed to decide for themselves if they wish to offer coed membership,” said Smithhisler, whose trade association represents 74 male fraternities.
Wesleyan has several nonresidential fraternities and one such sorority, Rho Epsilon. Another fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi, has been coeducational for several decades, Carlisle said.
Roth was the president of that organization when he was a student at Wesleyan in the 1970s, Carlisle said.
Wesleyan is the second school in Connecticut to institute a coeducational policy for Greek organizations.
Trinity College in Hartford began the transition in 2012 after a campus report found numerous problems related to drinking and drug use among Greek organizations.