Fraternities, Sororities Object as Trinity Tramples Freedom of Association; President, Board Chairman Step Down

May 7, 2013

HARTFORD, Conn., May 7, 2013—In a surprise announcement via email yesterday, Trinity College President James Jones announced his intention to step down from his post in June 2014, one year before the end of his contract. Jones reported in the same email that Board of Trustees Chair Paul E. Raether will also leave the Trustees’ top position. Trinity’s two top leaders signaled their departures as student and alumni dissatisfaction is increasing over a new social code that violates Trinity’s promises of freedom of association and effectively bans fraternities and sororities through gender quotas and other measures.

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff was on campus last night to address hundreds of Trinity students and the Inter-Greek Council.

“Students at Trinity College are promised that the college guarantees freedom of association and that this promise is a contract,” said Lukianoff. “Now the university is trying to eliminate Greek life through a heavy-handed policy that utterly ignores this promise. In light of the national news about President Jones’ early departure, those who want Trinity to live up to its own principles have the chance to make their case to the nation.”

In October 2012, Trinity’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the recommendations of a report by the Charter Committee for Building Social Community at Trinity College, including a new social code that will effectively eliminate fraternities, sororities, and other campus social organizations. Among the new requirements for such organizations are:

  • All social organizations must be recognized and approved by the college, and students are prohibited from participating in unrecognized social organizations. Students who associate with unapproved groups “will be subject to separation from the College.”
  • Social organizations may not be single-sex. “Trinity students,” the code states, “shall not be affiliated with national organizations that do not adhere to a coeducational philosophy.”
  • Quotas for gender parity in membership and leadership. By 2016, all fraternities and sororities must achieve 45% “minority gender” membership and 40% minority gender leadership. Organizations that fail to do so will be prohibited.

The new requirements are specifically targeted at Greek life on campus, as musical, athletic, and even academic and professional organizations are explicitly exempted.

Trinity also intends to seize the properties of organizations that do not comply with the new code, stating that the college will “establish a fair sale price for these assets with alumni owners and reassign them to another organization for the betterment of the College.”

Part I, Article I of Trinity’s Student Integrity Contract explicitly promises freedom of association to all Trinity students. FIRE wrote to President Jones on March 13 concerning the new code’s obvious violations of this promise. The college has not responded.

Student frustration with the new code continues to mount.

“When I entered Trinity College less than two years ago, I signed a Student Integrity Contract guaranteeing my rights to freedom of association. Now my school has reneged on that promise by threatening my organization with a policy which can only lead to our dissolution,” said Sonjay Singh, president of Trinity’s Pi Kappa Alpha chapter. “I chose to come to Trinity College because I felt like I could forge my identity as an adult without the judgment or condemnation of others. I hope that in the coming months, we can work with the administration to improve the school we love without infringing on the rights of its students.”

In a statement responding to Jones’s announcement, Board of Trustees Chair Paul Raether said, “We now feel that his wish to shorten that extended tenure by one year is in the best interest of the College … President Jones has always placed Trinity first.”

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.

CONTACT:
Robert Shibley, Senior Vice President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; robert@thefire.org

Schools: Trinity College Cases: Trinity College: New Social Code Erodes Freedom of Association