Karen Lin

In September 2020, Yale fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon disaffiliated from its national chapter and rebranded themselves as a social group called The Edon Club. 

The following month, the brothers of Edon voted — almost unanimously — to admit non-male members. Despite the 12 women from the class of 2023 who pledged the Edon Club in March and the six female juniors who joined last fall, the group remains male-dominated and will not issue gender quotas when assessing new members.

According to Edon’s current president Nathan Somerville ’22, the disaffiliation and co-ed decisions followed a period of growing distance between the national organization and the Yale Chapter. Edon is not the first fraternity to sever ties with its national affiliates. LEO separated from Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 2018 and the Fence Club — which also accepts members regardless of their gender identity — was revived in 2007 without its initial connection with Psi Upsilon. 

“This is a brilliant opportunity for us to change the dynamic of social life at Yale for the better,” said Somerville. “The classes below me have a lot of ideas about what they want the space to look like, and the energy to make it happen — I can’t wait to see them make this their own.”

Amy Ren ’22 said she is already working to redefine Edon and its traditions in order to cultivate a more inclusive environment. Ren was a member of the sorority Alpha Phi before pledging Edon in the fall. She now serves on Edon’s recruitment board.

“I joined Edon because Yale really lacks co-ed social spaces and it would’ve been hard for Edon to transition without the help of non-male members,” Ren wrote in an email to the News. “It was intimidating to feel so outnumbered at first, but the existing members of Edon were really attentive and genuinely cared about getting our input before making any decisions.”

Despite the new emphasis on coeducation, SigEp has a checkered history regarding gender equity. In both 2017 and 2018, Yale suspended a SigEp member due to charges of sexual misconduct

“Any member that is implicated in a Title IX/UWC investigation is required to withdraw from SigEp until the investigation has concluded,” SigEp wrote in a 2018 statement to the News. “If a member fails to withdraw from SigEp in the event of a Title IX/UWC investigation, regardless of the result of the investigation, the member is expelled from the fraternity.”

However, Title IX keeps their process confidential, which makes it difficult for fraternities and other organizations to know when a member is under investigation.

Engender — a student organization founded in 2016 to expand inclusivity on campus — has led action against sexism in Greek Life. The group petitioned Yale fraternities to admit non-male members. Three of Engender’s co-founders sued Yale and nine fraternities — including SigEp — for alleged gender discrimination in 2019, though the District Court of Connecticut dismissed the lawsuit on all but one charge last January

Will McGrew ’18 was a member of both SigEp and Engender. In a 2016 op-ed for the News, McGrew emphasized the importance of expanding inclusivity in Greek life.

“The dominance of all-male, mostly white, mostly straight social groups creates a segregated, hierarchical ‘party’ scene on campuses across the country where women, people of color and LGBT students feel devalued and excluded from spaces controlled by men who don’t look like them — and often don’t have friends like them,” McGrew wrote.

SigEp opened their 2017 and 2018 rush process to all genders, though they noted that only male pledges would receive bids due to the national chapter’s insistence on exclusively male membership. They were the only fraternity on campus to accept Engender’s petition to include women and gender minorities.

SigEp Housing of Connecticut Delta sold the former SigEp house at 31 High St. in August.

Jordan Fitzgerald | jordan.fitzgerald@yale.edu

JORDAN FITZGERALD
Jordan Fitzgerald is a staff reporter covering gender equity and diversity. She is a sophomore in Trumbull College majoring in American history.