For several years, the brothers at one fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, got around the residency requirement by renting dorm rooms on campus while actually living at their off-campus fraternity house. Flanagan criticized Wesleyan’s manner of dealing with the Beta brothers as “roundabout.” Even after a student reported being raped at a 2010 Beta Halloween party, Flanagan wrote, the university failed to take sufficient steps to solve the underlying problem.
In September, however, Wesleyan did take decisive action. Around the same time it issued its integration mandate, the administration followed through on a threat to suspend Beta Theta Pi and ban students from entering its house. That left just two all-male residential fraternities, Psi Upsilon and Delta Kappa Epsilon, both of whose members live in student housing. Other Greek organizations exist, some of them unisex—such as the sole sorority on campus, Rho Epsilon Pi—but they’re non-resident organizations, so the integration mandate doesn’t apply.
At Wesleyan as at most colleges, Greek organizations play a large role in only some students’ lives. But several Wesleyan students told me that Psi Upsilon and Delta Kappa Epsilon exert significant influence over the social scene simply because they have the biggest places to party. Caillin Puente, a senior and co-chair of the campus organization Students for Consent and Communication, said she supports the new policy because it gives female students more clout. “I think it’s definitely fair to say that [the frats] are some of the largest social spaces,” she said.
After Wesleyan issued its mandate, the two remaining all-male residential frats responded in very different ways. Psi Upsilon made it clear that it would comply. Its national organization has never had any gender restrictions—its website asserts that “female members have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every initiated member and are called brothers.” Chapters on other campuses had already incorporated women.
In January, Psi Upsilon published an op-ed in The Wesleyan Argus, announcing that its spring rush would be open to all students. “This semester is not only an important transition for our student community, but also a unique opportunity for our chapter to pursue the resolution of a conflict that extends far beyond Wesleyan,” the op-ed read. “The success of this transition relies on the courage of students who are prepared to demonstrate an unremitting belief in gender equity.”
When I spoke to women on campus about Psi Upsilon’s policy change, they expressed varying degrees of optimism. Margaux Bueh—a member of Wesleyan’s sorority, Rho Epsilon Pi—told me that the frat would “need to rethink most of [its] pledging traditions so women feel safe and comfortable.” But Courtney Laermer, an Argus reporter, said that some of her friends who went to a recent meeting for women interested in rushing the frat said they'd had a great time. “You could tell there was no, ‘Oh, we’re forced to do this,’” Laermer said. “It was more of like a ‘We’re so excited to do this’ kind of thing.”