Why One College is Forcing Fraternities To Include Women

We know that if women are going to feel safe on campus, some things need to change. For Wesleyan University, that change starts with Greek life. This week, the school’s Board of Trustees issued a ruling that would require that on-campus fraternities must begin accepting women within the next three years, following years of challenges, allegations of sexual assault, and even a Title IX lawsuit.

In an e-mail announcing the updated policy, the Board of Trustees states that this decision has been in consideration for years.

“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,” a letter from the school reads. “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.”

The decision comes after a number of sexual assault allegations were leveled against the school over the past several years. The most recent — and high-profile — centered on the case of then-freshman Cabri Chamberlin.

In May 2013, Chamberlin attended a party hosted at the Xi Chapter of Psi Upsilon fraternity house located in Middletown, Conn. According to her lawsuit, Chamberlin was attempting to leave the party, which she described as being filled with several “underage and extremely intoxicated” students, when she raped by a male student.

In October 2010, a woman alleged that she was raped at the school’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity house during a Halloween party. In October 2012, the woman filed suit against the school, citing Title IX violations for failing to “supervise, discipline, warn or take other corrective action” against the chapter. In Septemer 2013, the school settled the lawsuit on unknown terms and banned Beta Theta Pi from campus for one year.

In 2012, Trinity College made a similar shift to their Greek Life policies. The decision, like that of Wesleyan, effectively forces fraternities to choose between cutting ties with their national chapters and shutting their doors, as many national chapters do not recognize organizations that welcome women into their ranks.

According to a 2007 Department of Justice report, 13.7 percent of female undergraduate students have been victims of at least one sexual assault since entering college. The pervasiveness of rape culture within the Greek system feeds those startlingly high numbers. This decision by Wesleyan may be the first step in curbing the bulletproof atmosphere found inside these houses’ doors.

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