Trinity College has reversed a controversial plan to force its Greek houses to go co-ed, the college’s president Joanne Berger-Sweeney announced last week.
The now-abandoned changes were first announced in 2012 by former Trinity president James F. Jones Jr. as a way to improve community and equality on campus. The plan was met with some resistance from both current and graduated students who were in Greek life.
As Inside Higher Ed reported at the time, “Many opponents say that even if Trinity doesn’t explicitly intend to abolish the fraternities and sororities, that is in effect what the college is doing. That is because chapters that include members of the opposite sex are not recognised by the national Greek umbrella organisations.”
In a letter last week to the Trinity community, Berger-Sweeney writes, “I have concluded that the coed mandate is unlikely to achieve its intended goal of gender equity.”
“Furthermore, I do not believe that requiring coed membership is the best way to address gender discrimination or to promote inclusiveness,” she writes. “In fact, community-wide dialogue concerning this issue has been divisive and counterproductive.”
The decision also seemed to endorse a view that students should be allowed to join organisations that were explicitly single-sex.
“Students who support the goal of assuring gender equity also want the option of joining single-sex Greek organisations,” Berger-Sweeney writes. “I support this.”
Since its announcement in 2012, the plan did not seem to have much of an effect on campus life. Even by the 2014-2015 academic year, no female students had joined a fraternity and no male students had joined a sorority, The Chronicle of Higher Education notes.
Berger-Sweeney told The Chronicle that gender equity did not necessarily equal a co-ed Greek community, but rather, “that individuals of both sexes feel empowered to create the kind of climate and atmosphere that they want on campus.”
“I couldn’t even find a strong rationale for why it would work,” she said, after looking at other college campuses that have considered co-ed policies.
One of these campuses may be Wesleyan University, which in 2014 announced that all its residential fraternities must accept and house both male and female students with the next three years. Members of Wesleyan’s Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter are currently suing the school for discrimination.
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