Jake Mevorach ’16
On Oct. 25th, the administration held an open forum to discuss the new social policy. The forum began with a Psi U brother bringing up the school constitution’s guarantee to the “right to association.” Moreover, the brother said, an organization like Pike isn’t even affiliated with the school. By forcing these institutions to take on coed members they are put in a position where they will have to take on members of the opposite gender and thus lose their funding from their national organizations or they will lose their house if they do not comply with the college’s new gender equality policy. Either way, for fraternities or sororities whose charters prohibit the taking on of members of the opposite sex, this means the destruction of the organization. Effectively, this boils down to the college taking away their right to associate with an organization according to the brother. The brother went on to say that Trinity’s action against fraternities was not only flying in the face of the constitution but also was overstepping their powers by requiring non-school-affiliated organizations like pike to take opposite sex members as well. The brother went on to cite the 14th amendment right to freedom of assembly. These recurring points along with a few others, but mainly these, would form the meat and potatoes of the argument made by the fraternity brothers and sorority sisters.
Representatives of the college (members of the faculty and the student members of the advisory board) then mounted a response to the claims of the Psi U brother. There was a professor there who had at one point been a practicing constitutional lawyer who spoke to the point of the 14th amendment raised by the brother. The professor brought up the point that this was a private institution and thus the school’s policies could be made to act, to a certain extent, regardless of the precepts held by the constitution of the United States. Requiring all the fraternities and sororities to take on members of the opposite sex would be far from an infringement of the student’s inalienable rights because it would be occurring in a private institution. Then members of the student body on the advisory board who promoted the legislation mounted their own defense. Their support of the action to require coed fraternities and sororities stemmed from how the nature of the nightlife on campus highly favored men. They believed that it was unfair to deny women access to the institutions that dominated the social nightlife.
To this a pike brother responded. He said that in 1992 when the college had first brought up the idea of forcing the fraternities to acquire opposite sex members (but had not brought the idea to fruition), the fraternities had suggested that the college simply create more sororities, thus rebalancing the nightlife and allowing the organizations to continue as they were. But, rather than allow this to happen, the college had tied up the movement to do this in anyway possible. The pike brother cited the number of empty houses on Vernon Street, which could easily be tailored to the task. It seemed, to him, an acceptable solution to both parties problems.
To conclude the meeting, two members of the faculty who had both graduated from Trinity spoke up. One was a professor in the engineering department who had graduated in 1959 and the other was a professor in a humanities department who had graduated in 1962. Both self identified themselves as being members of fraternities when they had attended the college. The engineering professor said that just as many of the student body had come away angry at how the fraternities and sororities had been forced to go coeducational, many faculty were angry that the fraternities and sororities were not abolished. He went on to say that all the negative activity that went on at the college, was centered around the Greek System and its parties and it was largely responsible for the ailing reputation of the college. The humanities professor went on to say that before the college had gone coeducational in 1969, the fraternities had a largely different role and over 80% of the student body belonged to one. While they also hosted parties, the fraternities mainly served to unite the student body by varying interests and provide corresponding social outlets for their members to meet and make friends. While both expressed a fondness for the fraternities of yester-year that they belonged to, they both thought that the college had changed enough since then that fraternities had moved far from their old roles and were no longer a boon for a modern day Trinity.