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MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) — Wesleyan University in Connecticut on Monday ordered its fraternities with houses on campus to become coeducational within three years, a move it says is not just about bad behavior but also equality.
Wesleyan follows Trinity College in Hartford, which began the transition starting in 2012, citing problems with drinking and drug use in Greek organizations. It also comes less than a month after Wesleyan closed the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house after a woman attending a party there was seriously injured after falling from a third-floor window.
But school spokeswoman Kate Carlisle said the changes are not a response to any one incident.
"This has been the subject of ongoing concern and discussion among the people in the administration, the school community, the alumni community and so forth for a number of years," she said.
The decision was announced in a letter to the university community from President Michael Roth and trustees Chairman Joshua Boger. It requires Greek organizations with houses on campus to have both male and female members and to have each gender "well represented" in their organizational leadership to qualify for housing on campus and the use of university spaces.
"Our residential Greek organizations inspire loyalty, community and independence. That's why all our students should be eligible to join them," Roth and Boger wrote. "Although this change does not affect nonresidential organizations, we are hopeful that groups across the University will continue to work together to create a more inclusive, equitable and safer campus."
Peter Smithhisler, the chief executive of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, said any school that dictates what type of organizations students can join is "inhibiting fundamental principles of freedom of expression and freedom of association upon which our country is premised and upon which it functions."
"It is essential that fraternities be allowed to decide for themselves if they wish to offer co-ed membership," said Smithhisler, whose trade association represents 74 male fraternities.
Smithhisler said Trinity and Wesleyan are the only two schools he knows of that have mandated fraternities be coed.
Wesleyan, a private liberal arts school in Middletown, has about 2,900 undergraduate, and 200 graduate students. It is well known for its progressive student body and faculty, satirized under a pseudonym in the 1994 movie "P.C.U.," which was written by two former Wesleyan students.
The school has no residential sororities and just two active all-male residential fraternities — Delta Kappa Epsilon and Psi Upsilon. Neither immediately responded to requests for comment.
Wesleyan has several non-residential fraternities and one non-residential sorority, Rho Epsilon that are not affected by the policy change. Another fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi, has been coeducational for several decades, Carlisle said. Roth was the president of that organization when he was a student at Wesleyan in the 1970s, Carlisle said.
Trinity's move also followed several high-profile incidents involving fraternities and a report that found increased drug and alcohol use among members of single-sex Greek organizations. That report also found those students had lower grades than the average Trinity student.
Trinity's response also requires students to have at least a 3.0 grade-point average to join a Greek organization and for the organizations to maintain a 3.0 average or higher as a group. The organizations also must contribute to the college through programming, service, philanthropy or some other social effort. The groups have until the fall of 2016 to comply.
"Progress to date has been focused on activities and programs that foster a co-educational environment," Trinity spokeswoman Kathy Andrews said in an email to The Associated Press. She said the college hopes its efforts "result in quantifiable progress."