Trinity College: New Social Code Erodes Freedom of Association

Category: Freedom of Conscience
Schools: Trinity College

In October 2012, Trinity College’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the recommendations of a report prepared by the college’s specially created Charter Committee for Building Social Community at Trinity College. The report includes a new Social Code that imposes dramatic new regulations on “social organizations,” primarily fraternities and sororities. Among its numerous requirements, the code forbids selective membership, prohibits association with national single-sex social organizations, and requires them to achieve “minority gender” parity in membership and leadership. In addition, social organizations will be required to gain recognition from the administration and any students who associate with unrecognized groups will be subject to expulsion. FIRE wrote to Trinity on March 13, 2013, citing the college’s promises of freedom of association and urging the school to honor its students’ rights. Trinity did not respond. Amidst heavy criticism from students and alumni, Trinity President James Jones and Board of Trustees chair Paul Raether announced on May 6 that they would step down from their leadership positions in June 2014; for Jones, his term will end one year earlier than his contract originally stipulated.

In September 2015, Trinity president Joanne Berger-Sweeney announced that she has asked the Board of Trustees to eliminate the coed mandate, stating, “I do not believe that requiring coed membership is the best way to address gender discrimination or to promote inclusiveness.”