Why would this son of Wesleyan University, Class of 1975, join in an on-going argument with his alma mater on the cusp of his fortieth reunion? Because leaders who practice distortion, discrimination and deception need to be called out on it. Based on their attacks on the school’s 147 year old Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (and, by extension, my DKE brothers and me), Wesleyan’s current leaders are guilty of those offenses.
First, some background: in the name of creating “a more inclusive, equitable and safer campus” Wesleyan’s President, Michael Roth ’78, and its board chair, Joshua Boger ’73, advised the University committee in September 2014 that within the next three years residential fraternities must become fully co-educational.
What happened next is a point of disagreement between DKEs and Wesleyan leaders. The University’s perspective was stated by Michael Whaley, vice president for student affairs in a February 25, 2015 Wesleyan newsletter article entitled “Update on Greek Life.”
The plan submitted by DKE, as well as subsequent communication from the organization, did not include a timeline or detail for its proposed approach to partner with a sorority to achieve co-education; nor did it adequately assure the university that female residents would have full and equal access to common areas of the house. The fraternity repeatedly failed to take meaningful steps or make reasonable commitments toward residential co-education; indeed representatives of the fraternity consistently rejected the goal of co-education.
However, none of this is true, and DKE has the paper trail to prove it in court.
The truth is that DKE has made repeated and significant offers to co-educate the DKE House as a residential facility with a nationally-recognized sorority and measurable benchmarks, and it remains committed to making that happen. But Wesleyan’s leadership has negotiated in bad faith, and each time we met their demands – all their demands – they moved the goal posts.
That leads us directly to the matter of discrimination. Wesleyan prides itself on offering student housing that honors diversity and equity. If a student seeks a single-sex or a coed floor, the University has an option. And it doesn’t stop there: Wesleyan offers additional options based on religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and even sexual practices (some of which were news to me.)
So how does a group of incredibly diverse guys who enjoy sports, the fellowship of good times, and respite from the University’s not infrequent bouts of intellectual mayhem (interests they would absolutely freely share with similarly inclined Wesleyan women) fit in? If they want to live together under the same roof, that’s not allowed if that roof happens to belong to a fraternity. The University, acting in the spirit of political correctness run amuck, knows best.
Sorry, but given the absence of some compelling considerations that require the DKE housing option to be treated differently from all those other characteristics-driven housing options, it sounds like discrimination to me.
In the meantime, the same University leaders have sat silent while a handful of campus zealots, recklessly chanting allegations from the sidelines, assert DKE brothers are elitist and entitled oligarchs looking to oppress others. Nothing could be farther from the truth: the DKE brother from a privileged background is the exception, vastly outnumbered by young men from ordinary means. To the extent that the majority achieve success and are of service to others, it is due to hard work and, in part, their Wesleyan educations.
So what is really going on? Speaking for myself, I see Wesleyan’s leaders playing two games. For them to pretend otherwise is flat out deception. The first game is “WesU Monopoly.” The second is “Self-Promotion”.
Let’s begin with WesU Monopoly – Wesleyan is a business, with expenses and overhead. Buildings and services are two parts of the overhead and that includes dormitories and food services. Every student who sleeps in non-University housing (for example, a fraternity), represents lost revenue. Every student who eats in a private dining club (again, a fraternity), gives rise to another pile of cash lost to Wesleyan.
So what is Wesleyan’s corporate chieftain, Michael Roth, up to? Having successfully begun to suppress dining clubs, he has now moved on to the next target – independent housing like DKE’s. His goal is to squeeze every residential dollar out of the thirty-two students who might live there, diverting that cash instead to the company’s coffers. It’s simple: the University will brook no competition because the University wants it all.
Then there is Self-Promotion – I’ve spent a lot of my professional life swimming in political waters. I quickly recognize someone who is on the move. First comes the book and then the flogging of one snappy, attention-catching extraneous “issue” or another, which often involves finger pointing and accusation.
Congratulations, Mr. President, on the publication of your book, ‘Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters’ and the following it is gaining you with the Washington Post, the New York Times and in numerous other venues. It was followed by your assault on what you have allowed some to characterize as the rape culture of DKE (Reader, please note: the assertion is false.) Tell me, Michael, which colleges and universities have made the short list of those where you intend to seek your next presidency?
It’s time for Wesleyan’s leaders to stop this madness. The University must return to its historic legacy as a protector of honesty, integrity and diversity. The distortion, discrimination and deception have got to go. I urge Wesleyan’s leaders either to accommodate DKE’s efforts to continue as an important member of campus life or to step aside for others who will.