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June 19 2017

Jury Awards $386,000 in Damages Against University for Ousting Fraternity That Didn't Want to Go Co-ed

by Charlotte Allen

It seems that juries don't care as much about the "gender equity' pet projects of liberal college presidents as the liberal college presidents do.

From the Hartford Courant:

A  jury Thursday sided with Delta Kappa Epsilon in its claim against Wesleyan University over the closure of the DKE fraternity house on High Street in 2015.

The six-member jury spent about six hours deliberating Wednesday and Thursday before finding that Wesleyan violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, made negligent misrepresentations and interfered with the fraternity's business relationships.

The jury awarded damages of $386,000 to the Kent Literary Club, DKE's Wesleyan alumni chapter. The verdict does not automatically reopen the fraternity house, but allows DKE to seek "equitable relief" in court to argue for reinstating the fraternity's housing status.

The damage award is a major setback for Wesleyan president Michael S. Roth's largely successful crusade to force the elite private university's all-male fraternity houses to admit women or effectively shut down. The idea seemed to be that the presence of women in frat houses would somehow deter campus sexual assaults.

A 2014 Wesleyan edict, approved by the university's trustees, gave Wesleyan's all-male Greek houses three years to go co-ed or lose their status as university-approved "program housing." (Wesleyan forbids its students to live in non-approved residences.) The decree was part of a long-term trend among elite colleges in New England of either getting rid of fraternities or neutralizing their all-male identities by requiring female admissions. Over the years an array of top-ranked private colleges in New England, including Williams, Amherst, Colby and Trinity have gone that route. And at Wesleyan there were only three all-male fraternities left at Wesleyan, but because their houses were privately owned and technically off-campus, thus outside the oversight of  the university administration, they were a thorn in the side of Roth and the trustees.

The three fraternities--including DKE--duly submitted plans to let women live in their houses. But DKE also sued Wesleyan, arguing that that Wesleyan grants program-housing status to other residential spaces that exclude some classes of people:  Open House, which is for “non-normative sexuality and gender minorities” and Womanist House, a feminist-only dwelling. Perhaps because of the lawsuit, Wesleyan, arguing that DKE's plan to offer six beds in its house to women hadn't been offered in good faith and was mere foot-dragging, abruptly withdrew its program status six months into the process, barring students from residing in the house as early as the 2015-2016 academic year. That prompted the Kent Literary Club, which owns the property that the house stands on to sue for lost rent.

The jury of townsfolk in Middlebury, Connecticut, where Wesleyan is located, obviously didn't buy the university's claim that DKE had never intended to go co-ed--hence the damage award in DKE's favor..

In a statement following the verdict Wesleyan sniffed that it had only been trying "to make Wesleyan a more equitable and inclusive campus." Instead, the statement continued. "DKE/Kent Literary Club chose not to comply with this process and, instead, sued the university."

How dare they? Well, as it turned out, $386,000 worth of dare.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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