Opening Thurtene to Women at Washington University in St. Louis: Background and Chronology

Opening Thurtene to Women
at Washington University in St. Louis:
Background and Chronology

·         ⧫ Passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

·        ⧫ Princeton University undergraduate Sally Frank files suit against campus “eating clubs” for exclusion of women.

·         ⧫ The Supreme Court of New Jersey ordered the two remaining male-only undergraduate clubs at Princeton University to begin admitting women.



⧫ Thurtene Carnival, a beloved and long standing campus tradition at Washington University, is the oldest and largest student-run fair in the United States.

⧫ The Carnival attracts an estimated 80,000 attendees to campus over three days each spring.

⧫ The thirteen members of the junior honorary, Thurtene, organize the event including rides, live performances, corporate sponsorship, marketing, construction, site management, finances, and the participation of approximately 50 student groups.

⧫ Carnival proceeds benefit a nonprofit selected by Thurtene members.

⧫ Thurtene Carnival in 2017 is now in its 110th year. For more than 80 years, membership in Thurtene was open only to men.



·         ⧫ Bonnie Adrian ‘92 and Heather Calvin ‘92 serve together as members of Lock and Chain, Washington University’s sophomore honor society of which Heather Calvin is President.

February 23, 1990
πŸ“ Headline: Thurtene Should Be Open to Women, Laura Meckler ‘90, Student Life, February 23, 1990
 “. . . attention all women in your first and second years here: Have you enjoyed working on Thurtene with a dorm or sorority booth or faΓ§ade? Does running the whole show sound appealing to you?  Come junior year, why not apply? You might not get in, but maybe a few years – and court battles and rallies – down the line, some other woman will.”
“. . . a change whether voluntary or forced, will open up an important opportunity from which half the students here are categorically excluded.”

September 7, 1990
·         ⧫ Thurtene, an honor society for juniors, advertises recruitment of new members in Student Life
“The Members of Thurtene 1990 Cordially Invite All Junior Men to Apply for the Honorary Which is Thurtene” 
October 5, 1990 
·         ⧫ Deadline for “junior men” to apply to Thurtene

·         ⧫ Bonnie Adrian, Heather Calvin, and Shanna Shulman apply

πŸ“ Headline: Women Apply to Thurtene: Traditions of Men’s Honorary Challenged, Cindy Glover, Student Life, October 5, 1990

“(Thurtene President Shannon) Sock said that Thurtene is heavily based on tradition, and has always been an all-male group. ‘Thurtene is a group of 13 men. It is a junior men’s honorary.”

πŸ“ Student Perspectives piece: Thurtene Must Rethink Tradition, Lisa Weinman ‘92, October 5, 1990
“Only 13 people each year can say they coordinated the largest student-run carnival in the United States. Only 13 will adorn their resumes with this peerless achievement. Only these few will earn the esteem and personal satisfaction of running WU’s favorite showcase event. No other group here, or at any other school, can make these claims. The recognition, prestige and personal fulfillment of belonging to Thurtene is unparalleled. Because this opportunity is unmatched, arbitrary discrimination is not acceptable.”

October 12, 1990
πŸ“ Editorial (and accompanying cartoon): End to a Tradition, Student Life, October 12, 1990
“Fifty years ago, it may have seemed logical for women to be excluded from Thurtene – after all, they were excluded from top management positions in practically every other area. But in 1990, when we have thrown those sexist notions away, it is outrageous that progressive college students should want to keep the outdated traditions of Thurtene.”
πŸ“ Letter to the editor: “Women Belong in Thurtene,” Andrew Kleine ’92, Student Life, October 12, 1990

October 19, 1990
πŸ“ Student Perspectives piece: “Precedent Stands Against Thurtene,” Ben Abella ‘92, Student Life, October 19, 1990
“While several opinions voiced recently in Student Life suggest that Thurtene should accept women, it is alarming to find that much of the campus remains silent. Many men (and perhaps more surprisingly, many women) staunchly oppose integration of the single-sex honorary.

October 30, 1990
πŸ“ Headline: Question of the Week: What are your thoughts on women applying to Thurtene?” Student Life, October 30, 1990

November 2, 1990
⧫ Thurtene member Greg Bauer ‘91 asserts that the university’s anti-discrimination policy does not apply to Thurtene.

πŸ“  Headline: Thurtene: Still Undecided on Women, Lucy Yang, Student Life, November 2, 1990

“‘I don’t think the (University’s anti-discrimination) policy applies because there is a very successful counterpart – the female honorary, Chimes,’ said Bauer.”

November 16, 1990
Thurtene rejects women; announces they will form a committee with Chimes, the junior honor society for women, to look at the issue of being gender-exclusive

πŸ“ Headline: Honoraries Look at Gender Issue: Committee Formed; Thurtene Rejects Women Applicants, Student Life, James Hammond, November 16, 1990
“A press release announcing the formation of the steering committee said that ‘any alteration of the current structure of either group is a step which merits extensive and careful consideration.’”

November 26, 1990
⧫ Bonnie Adrian and Heather Calvin seek legal counsel. Lynette Petruska AB ’85, JD ’88, offers to take the case pro bono

πŸ“ Headline: Pressure Put on Honorary: Women Get Lawyer, Will Challenge Decision, Dean Stephens, Student Life, November 30, 1990
“Attorney Lynette Petruska . . .  cited Thurtene’s advertisement for male applicants and the summary rejection of all the women applicants as obvious intent to discriminate – the aspect of sex discrimination cases that is usually the most difficult to prove.”

November 30, 1990
πŸ“  Student Perspectives piece: “Boycott Thurtene,” Ben Jones ‘91, Student Life, November 30, 1990
 “The men of Thurtene did not have the courage to bring their organization into the twentieth century; we must have the courage to ensure they do.”

December 4, 1990
Student Union passes a resolution opposing gender exclusivity in student honoraries

πŸ“ Headline: SU: Honoraries Should be Open, Jessica Spain, Student Life, December 4, 1990

December 8, 1990
·         ⧫ Phone conversation between Lynette Petruska and University Counsel Peter Ruger in which she requests that the University comply with Title IX and monitor the Thurtene selection process to ensure its compliance with Title IX.

December 11, 1990
Letter from Peter Ruger to Lynette Petruska: Thurtene will suspend its current selection process and will accept applications from all juniors, men and women.

December 28, 1990
Letter from Peter Ruger to Lynette Petruska answering her request that the University monitor the selection process to ensure non-discrimination
“Historical University governance patterns, as well as our confidence in the members of Thurtene to act in a non-discriminatory way, causes the University to decline to impose any form of external or internal monitoring upon the selection process.”

January 18, 1991
Letter from Lynette Petruska (pages 1 and 2)  to University Counsel Peter Ruger expressing concern about the ambiguity of the University’s position and resistance to monitoring Thurtene to ensure non-discrimination and indicating intent to seek an injunction.
“While I appreciate the fine line between enforcing the requirements of Title IX and allowing student groups autonomy, I would expect the University to be firmly committed to eliminating discrimination in all forms on its campus, especially when the discrimination complained of has been a violation of federal law for eighteen years.”

“Unless the University clarifies these ambiguities or the selection process is monitored to assure that it is conducted fairly, my clients will have no choice but to bring suit for injunctive relief in order to assure the protection of their rights. As you know, if suit is brought, the members of Thurtene will explain their selection process as a matter of public record in open court. I would think that this would be a much more intrusive process. Additionally, Washington University will have to explain, why, for eighteen years, it has done nothing about illegal sex discrimination on its campus.”

πŸ“ Headline: Thurtene to be Coed: Honorary Opens Applications to Women, Dean Stephens, Student Life, January 18, 1991

πŸ“ Editorial: One Small Step for Equality, Student Life, date unknown but likely January 18, 1991
January 22, 1991
⧫ New Thurtene deadline for junior men – and women - ad and flier

 January 24, 1991
⧫ Women interviewed for Thurtene. Interviews for Adrian and Calvin take place late at night. Each woman must appear alone in a dark room (with the exception of a lighted skull) before 13 men they cannot see whom they are taking legal action against.

⧫ Thurtene members meet later that night or early on January 25 and make admission decision circumventing pending hearing the next morning for a restraining order on their admission process. 
January 25, 1991
Fliers posted on campus announce the selection of the new members of Thurtene: 12 men and 1 woman, Suzane Kotler ’92.

University sends fax to plaintiffs’ attorney notifying her of Thurtene’s decision and asking if she still intends to pursue the restraining order.

⧫ Plaintiffs file for injunctive relief to 1) prevent Thurtene from discriminating against women, 2) restrain the honorary from announcing new members until it proved the process was fair, and 3) enjoin Washington University from providing Thurtene with aid for their projects. In light of Thurtene’s admission decision and announcement the night before, the court denies the request. 

⧫ Petruska files a civil lawsuit on behalf of Adrian and Calvin.

⧫ Thurtene members are named individually in the lawsuit; plaintiffs serve notice to them at their personal addresses (exact date(s) unknown) 

πŸ“ Headline: Women Sue Thurtene (1 and 2), Dean Stephens, Student Life, January 29, 1991
“‘It is my understanding that the university tipped [Thurtene] off that we were going to sue,’ Patruska said, noting that she was certain Ruger tipped off Thurtene’s lawyer Mitch Margo.”

“Patruska said she received a fax on Friday, January 25, saying that Thurtene had selected its members and asking whether they still intended to sue. ‘It showed bad faith on the university’s part,’ Patruska said. ‘It seems to me that the university is in bed with Thurtene and they don’t care whether they discriminate or not. It’s almost like the University is teaching people how to discriminate.’”
πŸ“ Headline: Students’ Suit Alleges Sex Bias at W.U., Tim Poor, St. Louis Post Dispatch, January 29, 1991
“Among the applicants were Heather Calvin and Bonnie Adrian, the plaintiffs in the suit. They say they were told before the interview and selection that they would not be considered.”

πŸ“ Headline: Thurtene Barrier Gone, but Not Forgotten, David Weisenfeld, Student Life

February 1, 1991
⧫ Graffiti on the faΓ§ade of the women’s building attacks plaintiff Heather Calvin:  “12+1 equals no Calvin,”  “Give it up, b_ _ _ h,” and an encircled “HC” with a slash through the letters.

πŸ“ Headline: Chalk Graffiti Attacks Student: Senators Say SU May Be Linked to Anti-Calvin Sentiments (1, 2, and 3), Dean Stephens, Student Life, February 5, 1991

February 7, 1991
⧫ Plaintiffs agree to suspend the hearing on the civil suit set for February 8 for 30 days to allow the matter to undergo review by the University’s Title IX Grievance Committee

πŸ“ Headline: Thurtene Suit Halted, WU Reviews Grievance, Cindy Gover, Student Life, February 8, 1991

“The university had decided to give Thurtene complete autonomy in their selection process,” Calvin said. “We wanted to let [Thurtene] know that the process would be subject to scrutiny . . . After going through a whole semester of this, we needed some assurances that our work wouldn’t go to waste.”

“A group that’s been in violation of the law for 18 years cannot suddenly be trusted to end discrimination,” Adrian said. “One voice out of 13 has little say for the selection process for next year.”

February 11, 1991
 Letter from Lynette Petruska (1, 2, and 3) to Title IX Grievance Committee requesting a hearing, February 11, 1991

“At the temporary restraining order hearing, Washington University defended the actions of Thurtene, even though it could not possibly know if the group had discriminated.”

February 19, 1991
πŸ“  Headline: Chimes Goes Coed, Lorrie Ackerman, Student Life, February 19, 1991
“Chimes, previously the women’s junior honorary, has decided to open its application process to men in light of recent attention to Title IX anti-discrimination requirements, according to Tracy Hammer, Chimes’ public relations director.”

πŸ“ Letter to the editor: “Carnival Not About Individual Members,” Mark Bredenkoetter, Thurtene President 1975, Student Life, February 19, 1991

“. . . it appears the motives of these two women (Adrian and Calvin) are not to assist the members of Thurtene. The goals of Thurtene are not to assist the member to find better employment and to enhance their resumes.”
March 1, 1991
⧫  Letter of determination from University Judicial Administrator Carl Conrad, reporting the results of his investigation of the abusive graffiti written toward Heather Calvin on the faΓ§ade of the Women’s building
“. . . (student name) admitted he had participated . . . (but denied having written those remarks directly abusive against yourself), and accordingly I have imposed a rather mild sanction upon him.”
Letter to the student who admitted participation in writing graffiti on the Women’s Building from Carl Conrad
“This letter is to confirm our meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 1991 in which you pleaded guilty to defacing the faΓ§ade of the Women’s building and writing abusive graffitti (sic) in violation of Section IV(A) 6, 12 of the University Judicial Code. . . . . I am imposing the following sanctions(s):  A $25 fine made payable to Washington University.”

πŸ“ Letter to the editor: “Thurtene Applicants Were Not Selfish,” Bonnie Adrian and Heather Calvin, Student Life, March 1, 1991

“. . . Mr. Bredenkoetter was not informed enough to pass judgement on our intentions. . . we never stated an interest in joining Thurtene for the purpose of ‘resume enhancing’ or 'networking' . . . we applied because we love Thurtene Carnival.”

March 7, 1991
Letter from Bonnie Adrian and Heather Calvin (1 and 2) to Title IX Grievance Committee requesting that Attorney Lynette Petruska be allowed to address the committee and identifying witness to be called to testify.

March 8, 1991
Letter from Attorney Lynette Petruska (1, 2, and 3) to Title IX Grievance Committee requesting to address the committee without having to suspend her role as advisor to her clients, noting the late date of the hearing effectively denies the clients any meaningful opportunity to participate in Thurtene even if the finding is that discrimination occurred, and expressing concern that she was never advised that the Title IX Grievance Committee was merely advisory and that the University could reject its findings.
“As the University administration has already made a determination as to the propriety of Thurtene’s conduct, and certainly cannot be an impartial judge of its own conduct, I am not sure that the Title IX Committee can give my clients any redress.”

“I find it personally disheartening that Washington University has tolerated the harassment my clients have been forced to endure at the hands of Thurtene, and later at the hands of students who disagreed with their efforts to enforce their rights.  Unfortunately, the students at Washington University learn not only through what is taught in the classroom, but through the example of the school’s leadership.”

March 22, 1991
⧫ Hearing of the Title IX Grievance Committee. Thurtene President Shannon Sock explains that academics are not important in the selection process and that the criteria are: involvement in other organizations, maturity, reaction to pressure, and cooperation and ability to work with others.  (Calvin's notes 1, 2, 3, and 4)

Note from Adrian to Calvin during the hearing: “Uncooperative because we sued them!!”

April 1, 1991
πŸ“  April Fool’s Day issue of Student Life, Student Libel, an annual tradition includes front page headlines such as “Thurtene Carnival Cancelled,” “NOW Would Have Been Charity,” and “Second Suit Hits Thurtene” (in which Wrigley a campus dog sues Thurtene for discriminating against her because she is a dog). “We Were Sent By God to Lead You” (1 and 2) by the “SU Senate Studs” references the graffiti incident:
“For example, we all hate and disrespect that bitch Heather Calvin. And the beauty of it is that we don’t need a reason! We can just play on the campus’ irrational and unsubstantiated fears that her lawsuit could somehow threaten Thurtene Carnival. Hey she deserved to be slandered anonymously by us with graffiti: she’s smarter than we are, she’s well respected by faculty and administrators, and she’s the chair of the most successful of those damned projects – course evaluations. How the hell are we supposed to perpetuate a male-dominated campus and country if Heather Calvins are running around bruising our egos. A little intimidation was called for and we rose to the occasion.”
April 2, 1991
⧫  Title IX Grievance Committee finds insufficient evidence to conclude that Thurtene discriminated in its 1990-91 selection process. Committee recommends that the University require organizations that fall under Title IX to make their selection criteria and application procedures public.(1, 2, and 3)
“Such information should include the criteria for selection, the methods of advertisement for new members, the application procedure, the specific selection procedures, and a description of the group or individuals responsible for membership selection.”
April 3, 1991
⧫  Chancellor Danforth accepts the recommendations of the Title IX Grievance Committee.

April 16, 1991
⧫ Bonnie Adrian and Heather Calvin initiated as members of Mortar Board, the senior honor society, of which Bonnie Adrian will later be elected President

April 22, 1991
Provost instructs the Dean of Student Affairs to comply with the recommendations of the Title IX Grievance Committee.
May 20, 1991
Adrian and Calvin stipulate dismissal (1 and 2) of their Title IX lawsuit having achieved:
An application process open to women for the first time

The admission of the first female member

University requirements for student groups to ensure transparent selection criteria and processes and foster equal opportunity for future generations of female students