Over the weekend, dozens of women attended the first set of rush events for the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, which voted over winter break to open its rush process to female students, but will not offer them bids because of the organization’s national regulations.
The female students in attendance were mostly members of the student group Engender, which was created last fall to advocate for a more inclusive social environment on campus. The group currently has 50 members, only a portion of whom are women, according to Will McGrew ’18, a SigEp member and Engender co-director.
“[Rushees] were curious to know what the goal was,” said Larissa Martinez ’20, another Engender co-director, who attended a rush event on Friday. “Most of them gave me positive feedback on it.”
The fraternity’s change in policy came after a group of female students expressed interest in joining. 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.
According to Engender’s leadership, male rushees at the events were open to discussing why women were in attendance.
McGrew noted that the move has sparked on campus conversations about exclusivity as well as the motivation behind those women rushing SigEp. However, McGrew questioned why the actions of these women are seen as “strange.”
A registered student organization, Engender hopes to start dialogue about implicit inequalities in Yale’s social life. Co-Directors McGrew, Martinez and Genevieve Esse ’19 said that while the women’s requests to rush mainly challenge fraternities as male-dominated social spaces, Engender’s mission applies to all exclusive groups on campus.
“Engender supports open access to social events for Yale students regardless of gender, race, class or sexuality,” the group said in a statement to the News. “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.”
Esse added that the group will soon have an official website and plans to publish an op-ed in the News this week.
Female students interviewed who attended or planned to attend rush events at SigEp expressed caution, saying that they would feel uncomfortable in a social setting where they would not be seen as potential brothers, unlike men rushing the fraternity.
“I am interested to see how women approach rush differently because they don’t have the same social motivations as their male counterparts — the women rushing risk social alienation, whereas the men rushing can expect a degree of social inclusion,” said Anna McNeil ’20, who plans to attend future rush events this semester.
She also noted that SigEp’s rush process seems less “hostile” than that of other Yale fraternities because it consists of more rush meals and fewer parties.
SigEp’s next rush event will take place Wednesday night.