Lawsuit Over Wesleyan Fraternity House Closure Headed For Trial

A lawsuit filed by Delta Kappa Epsilon over Wesleyan University's closure of its fraternity house is likely headed for a trial this summer, both sides said.

A judge in late April denied a summary judgment motion from Wesleyan's attorneys, and jury selection is scheduled to start May 24.

Wesleyan revoked DKE's program housing status in 2015 after it said the fraternity did not adequately respond to a mandate for Greek organizations to allow women to live in the fraternity houses.

The fraternity's alumni chapter, the Kent Literary Club, owns the house on High Street and sued to seek reinstatement. The Wesleyan DKE chapter has now been without a fraternity house for two years.

DKE in its lawsuit accuses the university of discrimination, misrepresentation and deceptive practices. Representatives said they believe Wesleyan was singling DKE out among other organizations, and that the school wants to acquire the fraternity houses on High Street as university property.

"While we are gratified by this ruling, we regret that it has come this far. It was never our desire to sue our alma mater, which we love, but we were forced into this by the Administration's refusal to work with us in a reasonable manner. We look forward to finally getting our day in court and having this adjudicated by an impartial jury of our peers," Gary Breitbord, president of DKE's Wesleyan alumni chapter, said in a statement.

The two sides disagree primarily over whether DKE took steps to comply with the university's co-education mandate. DKE said it submitted a plan that met the requirements and identified specific beds to be set aside for female residents of the house, but Wesleyan said the fraternity spent more time delaying action than responding to the request and never made satisfactory progress.

"DKE alumni were told that if they submitted a plan to co-educate the house over three years, DKE brothers would be allowed to live in their house during the coeducation process, but when the plan was submitted, new conditions were arbitrarily added that could not have been fulfilled within the deadline. And even though a more fleshed-out plan has subsequently been submitted, Wesleyan still forbids DKE brothers from living in their house until the alumni lawsuit is withdrawn," the chapter said in a statement.

Wesleyan announced in 2014 that it would require fraternities to admit women as a means to make the campus more safe and inclusive for all of its students. At that time, Wesleyan was dealing with several high-profile cases and allegations of sexual assaults at fraternity houses.

Of the case and the upcoming trial, Wesleyan said in a statement this week:

"In September 2014, President Michael S. Roth and then-Chair of the Board of Trustees Joshua Boger announced that all residential fraternities would be required to become fully co-educational over the following three years. This decision was based on consultation with the Board of Trustees and input from the Wesleyan community, including support from student government, on how to make Wesleyan a more equitable and inclusive campus. DKE/Kent Literary Club chose not to comply with this process and, instead, sued the university.

The judge did not grant Wesleyan's motion for summary judgment. While this is disappointing, the burden of proof for granting summary judgment is very high, and our defense is not at all deterred by this result. Wesleyan remains extremely confident in the merits of its defense in this action, and will continue to defend itself as the case goes to trial."

In court filings, attorneys said they expect jury selection to last three or four days, and the trial to last about a week. The case will be heard at Superior Court in Middletown.

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