Trinity College in Connecticut backs off plan to make fraternities, sororities coeducational

The president of Trinity College on Friday urged the elimination of a requirement that fraternities and sororities become coeducational, calling off an experiment she said had created rifts on campus since it was announced three years ago.

Joanne Berger-Sweeney, who became president of the private liberal arts college in Hartford last year, said in a letter to students and faculty that she concluded after months of discussions that requiring coed membership was unlikely to achieve the intended goal of promoting gender equity.

"Furthermore, I do not believe that requiring coed membership is the best way to address gender discrimination or to promote inclusiveness," she said. "In fact, community-wide dialogue concerning this issue has been divisive and counterproductive."

Trinity cited problems with drinking and drug use in 2012 when it said Greek organizations would have to admit men and women. Last year, Wesleyan University in Connecticut followed suit, ordering fraternities with houses on campus to become coeducational in a move that the school said was about equality as well as bad behavior.

Berger-Sweeney said she has asked the board of trustees to endorse the elimination of the coed mandate for all selective social organizations on the campus of 2,200 students.

She said requiring coed membership at Greek organizations would have a disproportionate adverse effect on sorority members as compared to fraternity members. At least half the local chapters would likely lose their national charters if they are no longer single sex, she said, and they include the larger of only two sororities at Trinity. Also, she said, efforts to encourage opposite-gender membership at Greek organizations have been found not to be successful.

"Thus, instead of advancing gender parity, the outcome would have been a step backward," she said.

Berger-Sweeney said Trinity is still pursuing several other initiatives to build a more respectful and inclusive campus.