A Yale University student group is lobbying the school’s administration to allow women into all-male fraternities after the organization successfully and openly coordinated the attendance of female students at fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon’s rush events.
Will McGrew, the co-director of the student-led group Engender, which was founded last year “to advocate for a more inclusive social environment on campus,” told Yale Daily News that the group will cite Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, along with Yale’s internal policies against sex discrimination, in its argument against exclusively male clubs.
Title IX regulations apply to nearly every educational institution because — whether public or private — they receive federal funding through federal financial aid programs used by students.
“We view it as the logical next step to go to Yale,” McGrew explained, “because all of these organizations fall under the purview of Yale legally, either because they are registered as Yale organizations or it is literally all Yale students that constitute them.”
The leaders of Engender went on to claim that restricting fraternity membership to men only is a form of sex discrimination. However, the group does not feel the same way about sororities, the Daily News reported:
Engender does not currently have an official position on whether sororities should be gender-integrated. McGrew said that whereas fraternities deliberately cultivate themselves as social spaces, sororities tend towards intimate associations and do not affect wider social trends at Yale in the same manner.
The Department of Justice offers protections to exclusive organizations — like fraternities — in its Title IX rules. “Title IX exemptions include the membership policies of certain university-based social fraternities and sororities,” the DOJ manual reads.
Engender was able to coordinate the allowance of women and non-binary students into Sigma Phi Epsilon rush events after several female students expressed interest in joining.
In an uncommon turn, the fraternity leadership said that — while they wouldn’t allow women to officially join — they wanted to show an inclusive spirit by allowing both men and women to participate in January recruitment events, according to the Daily News:
Tyler Morley ’18, the president of SigEp, declined to comment for this article, but told the News in a statement last week that his organization hopes that the inclusion of women at rush events will allow the fraternity to become a more welcoming place while adhering to the bylaws of their national organization that confer membership only to men.
Engender said that the effort was intended to get people to start talking about inequalities that exist in Yale’s Greek life.
“Engender supports open access to social events for Yale students regardless of gender, race, class or sexuality,” the group said in a statement. “We hope to work with as many of Yale’s fraternities and other student groups as possible to develop a more inclusive and equitable campus climate.”
There were, according to McGrew, between five and 10 women who attended the recruitment events, and it didn’t go very well for some of them. Ry Walker, one of the women who attended the rush events at Phi Sigma Epsilon, felt her interactions with male attendees were more awkward than she expected.
“It was interesting to see how people that I interact with on a daily basis would not even acknowledge my presence,” she told the Daily News. “It made for a weird situation.”
Regardless, each of the women who participated in the rush events submitted requests to join Phi Sigma Epsilon. They were all turned down.
The advocacy group contacted leadership at other fraternities on campus, but none of them allowed women to participate in rush events.
Engender, of course, is hoping for a rule change to allow women into any and all fraternities.