At Wesleyan University, that’s the solution to the problem. There are only a few fraternities on or off campus, and fewer than a hundred students live in them, but they have been the object of allegations of sexual assault, and students and faculty have demanded that something be done. Wesleyan has decided to make them coed. As the story at insidehighered.com explains :
“The fraternities are recognized as ‘program housing’ at Wesleyan, which means that it’s official housing,” said Kate Carlisle, a university spokeswoman. “We have affinity for program houses for a wide variety of groups, including Russian House, Buddhist House, and Earth House. So, if a fraternity fails to comply with the policy change, they will no longer be recognized program housing. They’ll effectively be shut down.”
While the university did not officially tie the action to sexual assault, the head of the Student Assembly stated before the administration made its decision, “The culture of these houses contributes to the culture of sexual assault in a way we weren’t willing to stand for anymore.”
Making them coed, it is assumed, will change the culture and prevent further incidents.
That’s a telling strategy in that it opts to ignore college-male culture, the “guyland” American nineteen-year-old men inhabit, and instead simply break it down. That is, we shall not hold males to standards of gentlemanly conduct; we shall not regard exemplary masculinity as embodied by protecting women from male aggression. Rather, we shall use the presence of females to domesticate them.
One wonders, however, if the administrators realize whether the gender dynamic they envision will come about. Have they envisioned the scene in which a couple of female members join in fraternity rush and vote on pledges behind closed doors with the others?
Or, what if girls entering the frats have a different agenda than the advocates? Will they consider it a way to get popular or find boyfriends? Will it become a form of status competition on campus?
And as for the males, will they vote on which women to admit? Will they be allowed to apply nineteen-year-old male criteria to nineteen-year-old females? I can imagine a nighttime meeting of the brothers, with beer flowing and cigars smoking as they review the six applicants who want to become sisters. It’s not a conversation that will please President Michael Roth.
Image from Wikimedia Commons