Wesleyan’s Beta house: When someone falls out the top-floor window, you’re through
In early August Psi Upsilon, the sole remaining residential fraternity house at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, was suspended for the 2015-2016 academic year over an investigation by law enforcement over alleged illegal drug activity inside its house.
Until the fall of 2014, there were three fraternity houses at Wesleyan, plus a single sorority that lacked a house of its own—a pathetic number compared with, say, with the 40-odd fraternities and sororities at the University of Virginia. But one of the three, Delta Kappa Epsilon (“Deke”) received the suspension axe for refusing to abide by a September 2014 university decree.
The decree, endorsed by Wesleyan’s trustees, gave all campus-linked fraternities three years to either admit women into their membership or lose their status as “program housing.” (Wesleyan requires nearly all its undergraduates to live in either dormitories or university-approved off-campus residences.) Around the same time in 2014 the third fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, was suspended after an apparently intoxicated female sophomore at Wesleyan fell from a third-story window in the frat house and was seriously injured.
Psi U had already had problems—it had been barred from holding social events in its house during the 2014-2015 academic year in light of a pair of allegations of sexual assault (in only one of the cases had the accused student been found responsible).
The slow-motion demise of all-male fraternities at Wesleyan is the result of the fatal intersection of two phenomena. The first is a longstanding-old ideological war against fraternities conducted by progressive college faculty and administrators perturbed by Greek houses’ resistance to campus administrative control and their often politically incorrect culture. As soon as fraternities came into existence during the early 19th century, university administrators started trying to get rid of them.
[I]n 2010, a freshman woman known only as “Jane Doe” was violently raped in an upstairs room at the Beta House while attending a Halloween party. The assailant was not a Beta member, but rather, a former high-school buddy of a Beta brother who had wandered into the party. He was arrested, pleaded guilty to several assault charges, and went to prison. In 2012 Jane Doe sued Wesleyan and the fraternity for $10 million, alleging that Wesleyan had violated Title IX, the federal law forbidding sex discrimination in education, by refusing to issue warnings or take action that could have prevented the crime. She claimed that the Beta chapter had a reputation as a “rape factory.” (Wesleyan settled that lawsuit for an undisclosed amount in 2013.)
After the Jane Doe incident Roth issued an edict barring Wesleyan students from so much as visiting organizations not officially recognized by Wesleyan. This led to “Free Beta” rallies on campus and a protest from the campus-free-speech organization FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). Eventually there was a truce, with Beta agreeing to return to program housing and to accept Wesleyan oversight.
No sooner, it would seem, had Beta resolved its problems than another female student at Wesleyan sued Psi Upsilon for $1 million, in March 2014, alleging that she had been raped by a naked Psi U pledge during a drunken strip show that was part of a raucous, booze-filled party in the Psi U common room in May 2013. The alleged assailant was expelled from Wesleyan. Her lawsuit alleged that this was the second recent incident of sexual assault involving the fraternity. Then, with Psi U on suspension, came the accident at Beta. Roth promptly banned Wesleyan undergraduates from entering the Beta house.
Posted by Charlotte Allen