Fraternity sues Wesleyan University over order to admit women


Five months after fraternities operating at Wesleyan University in Connecticut were ordered to accept women as both residents and members, one group has announced its plans to sue the University on the grounds on sexual discrimination.

Wesleyan, which has long been recognised as one of the nation’s most liberal higher education institutions, proposed the new policy in September after several highly publicised situations unfolded at fraternity houses (known as ‘frat houses’), a large number of which included allegations of sexual assault.

The Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity, in collaboration with its alumni organisation, Kent Literary Club, announced on Thursday that it is seeking a temporary injunction at Middletown’s Superior Court after learning that students would no longer be given the option of living as part of on-campus, single-sex fraternities during the 2015-16 academic year.

In a press release, DKE confirmed that members of its undergraduate and alumni communities are supporting the lawsuit, which accuses Wesleyan of “discrimination, misrepresentation and deceptive practices” relating to its co-education decision.

A DKE representative claimed that the organisation is being targeted unfairly, adding that the University’s “selective discrimination is an egregious example of political correctness gone wrong.”

While only two fraternities currently operate at Wesleyan, the new admissions plan was introduced as numerous universities across America were struggling with instances of alcohol abuse, dangerous behaviour and sexual assault, stemming from both fraternities and sororities.

DKE claims that, despite the University’s announcement that fraternities had three years to assimilate women into their organisations and accommodation, it was suddenly informed that it had to implement all changes within the academic year. The fraternity also pointed out that Wesleyan had rejected its suggestion that women could live in DKE housing as a sorority rather than as part of the fraternity.

Among other points of contention raised in their statement, DKE argues that the University allows other students to live in specialised accommodation, such as single-sex dormitories or housing that caters for individual interests and cultural identities. Examples include the Women of Color House, the Light House for Christian students, the Turath House for Muslim, Arab and Middle Eastern students and the Open House for LGBTQ students.

DKE attorney Kathleen Eldergill commented that fraternity members look at “all these houses and groups and the diversity” and feel that the university is saying: “We welcome everybody, but not you.”

In a statement released yesterday, Wesleyan said that “the DKE house has historically operated very differently than other special interest program houses at Wesleyan in many ways, but notably that it explicitly prohibits residence by females. This must change.”

The case is scheduled to be heard at court on 9th March. 

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