All-male residential fraternities at Wesleyan University in Middletown must now open their doors to female members, according to a recent decision by the college administration.
The change is intended to make Wesleyan all-inclusive, a university spokesperson said Monday. The decision will affect Delta Kappa Epsilon and Psi Upsilon, the two all-male fraternities at Wesleyan.
"With equity and inclusion in mind, we have decided that residential fraternities must become fully co-educational over the next three years," Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth and Board of Trustees Chairman Joshua Boger, both university alumni, wrote in an email notifying the school community Monday morning.
"If the organizations are to continue to be recognized as offering housing and social spaces for Wesleyan students, women as well as men must be full members and well-represented in the body and leadership of the organization," the email continues.
Just weeks ago, Wesleyan closed the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house after a sophomore fell from a third-story window during a party at the Middletown fraternity. She was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition and was most recently upgraded to stable condition. The fraternity's status was already listed as suspended prior to the incident.
But the administration's overhaul of Greek Life on campus has been a ongoing conversation for several years, according to Wesleyan leadership.
"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," Roth and Boger wrote in the email.
The university "looks forward to receiving plans" on transitioning the all-male residential fraternities to a co-ed model and said school officials will collaborate with the fraternities to provide assistance with the changes.
The mandate will not apply to non-residential fraternities.
"Although this change does not effect nonresidential organizations, we are hopeful that groups across the University will continue to work together to create a more inclusive, equitable and safer campus," Roth and Boger wrote.
Fraternity members are concerned about the restructuring. Terence Durkin, president of the Gamma Phi chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Wesleyan, said it's unclear how the fraternity's national organization will respond.
"It's somewhat of an oxymoron to have women living in a fraternity. Our national organization doesn't allow women in our fraternity," Durkin explained. "If we're forced to have women in our organization, our chapter will lose its legitimacy."
Although Greek organizations were notified of the policy change yesterday, Durkin said it was a long time coming.
"We've known this was a possibility since last spring, so we've been thinking about it. We knew it was a possibility, so we're just going to go forward an work with the administration as best we can to try to come up with a good solution," he said.
A spokesperson for Phi Upsilon's national organization said Monday that, although the fraternity is historically all-male, female members are permitted at the discretion of the university.
"We have no problem if the Xi Chapter at Wesleyan chooses to initiate women, we would work with the chapter they decide to do so" Phi Upsilon Executive Director Thomas Fox said in an email Monday night.
Other students are cautiously optimistic about the shift.
"I think gender integrating fraternities and sororities into social houses is theoretically a great thing," said Kyle Foley, a freshman. "But these are young people that are away from home for the first time. As long as you also have a culture of going out and experimenting, possibly with some alcohol and going to parties, there's still an element of danger no matter what the make-up of those social clubs is."
Foley said the university stands to gain a lot from the new policy, but cautioned that "fraternities are a symptom of a larger issue among young people."