Monday, February 26, 2007

DePauw Sorority Shows It Has Class When Its National Office Does Not

The Delta Zeta sorority at DePauw University was having some recruiting problems – the normal ups and downs of Greek life. With falling numbers, the national office was a little concerned. With the 100th anniversary of the chapter's founding coming up, the nationals wanted to more than fix the problem – they wanted to reinvigorate the chapter. So some officers from the national office came to interview every member of the DePauw chapter. They suggested that the women dress up. They wanted to see who was really committed to recruitment.

When the national officers left, the sent form letters to 23 of the 35 women living in the sorority house notifying them that they had been moved to alumna status, and should vacate the house. The women who were evicted included all the fat and non-white women. The ones they kept were white and pretty. The chapter president was one of those tossed out. According to the women who were sent off, some of the ones kept by the nationals were not very active in the life of the chapter to begin with.

To their credit, six of the 12 women who were asked to stay also resigned in solidarity with their ejected sisters. Alumni, parents, other students, and many faculty members protested. The Delta Zeta national officers who conducted the purge would not comment, while the official responses from the sorority have been mealy-mouthed.

I agree that it is time for a big shake-up at Delta Zeta – not at the DePauw chapter, but at national headquarters.

14 comments:

Delta Zeta Alumna said...

Wow. Educated sociology professor? As a student of social and cultural trends, AND a Centrist, you might do well to remember that newspapers aren't always full of facts these days- and there are always two sides to every story. It's funny how everyone is so eager to damn Delta Zeta for what it alledgedly did, when in fact they are doing exactly what they charge DZ for- stereotyping, discrimination, pathetic leadership. Where is the Greek Advisor at Depauw? How are these women who were asked to go alumna showing commitment to DZ's growth in the Delta Chapter? Why is the school begging ignorance in this situation- when they denied DZ the steps they wanted to take- demanding a mid-year reorganization if DZ wanted to keep the chapter. Since it is a single letter chapter (Delta), it was very important to DZ to make sure it's 98 years of history was kept on the Depauw campus.
People are always so quick to hate greek organizations and to believe the worst- even some of those within them. Were mistakes made? Absolutely. Should changes be made? Absolutely. Is Delta Zeta going to pay for it? Yes, I'm sure of it. Do we deserve the entire bill? No.

I'm proud of the work Delta Zeta does accomplish. I dedicate at least 100 hours a year to it's goals of sisterhood, truth and leadership. But sadly, it doesn't amount to enough for America. Whenever I travel, I meet sisters and am thrilled by the diversity throughout.
I truly feel for my sisters at the Delta Chapter-those who were removed from active status to alumnae status and those who bravely chose to work through the pain of continuous recruitment to revitalize the chapter for the future. It's a tough road for everyone around, but it seems it's a lot easier to be a GDI and just hate us.

Gruntled said...

I checked the story with a DePauw faculty member, who went looking for the other side of the story. She said, to her surprise, that this was the rare case in which the national organization was as bad as they had been portrayed, if not worse. For example, "one of the questions the women were asked in their interviews with the national rep was: "What frats do you party with? Don't you think you could party with more prestigious fraternities?""

D-rew said...

"It's a tough road for everyone around, but it seems it's a lot easier to be a GDI and just hate us."


Well hate is a bit strong of a word, but it is easy to be a GDI and think you all a bit silly at best and demoralizing at worst. In this case I am positive that you at least (alumna) are both those things. Please don't lecture to me about the sacred rights and morals of greek life and expect me to take you seriously. As someone who goes to a small college where greek life is (relatively) tame compared to some larger universities I know that almost no social greek organization has "goals of sisterhood, truth and leadership."

Anonymous said...

The girls who were asked to leave included the chapter president, secretary, sisterhoood chair, academics chair, the editor of the school newspaper, a girl whose articles were printed on the front page of USA Today during an internship, girls who adamently pledged their willingness to help the sorority, the leadership team of the only service fraternity on campus, a US Marine, and the acolades go on. To argue that these girls were not committed or upstanding members of the DePauw community is ridiculous. The girls who were asked to leave wouldn't have been members of the house if they weren't committed. No girls would have - including those who chose to stay. Things didn't get hard this year; the entire chapter has been fighting for their sisterhood for several years now. The girls of the house have been fighting nationals and the stigma of the DePauw community for years. Joining and staying in the house alone required a large amount of courage and energy. Those who stayed have not abandoned their sisters; they are still fighting for them and what the house represented before it was rejected first by the DePauw campus and then their own national "sisters." As on '06 graduate of this sorority, I hope those responsible truly look within themselves to decipher between the good, the bad, and the preventable in this case. Let's hope it produces change.

Gruntled said...

One of the women quoted in the article said that the nationals seemed to be looking for "plastic girls." These women sound like a much more interesting group to build a chapter out of. Delta Zeta should make a virtue of their variety, not weed it out.

Ken Lammers said...

Gruntled,

Same thing happened at Centre in the 90's (different sorority) except the National decided to close the chapter.

The only difference is that the chapter at Centre was too small to do it the way they did at Depauw.

Gruntled said...

I do remember the Chi Omega closing. I never heard a suggestion from the national that they should recruit only pretty girls and party with higher prestige fraternities. Nationals have every right to direct and regulate their chapters. The criteria used by the Delta Zeta nationals, though, were the wrong ones, playing to the worst of sorority life rather than building up the best.

Alex said...

I found Centre's sorority system to be quite good, actually. I served as the scholarship advisor for the Centre chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta chapter for a couple of years when we lived in KY.

I am quite saddened to hear about the DZ situation. The fact that nationals asked some of the actives to remain upstairs during recruitment activities speaks volumes. If my sorority (Theta) had asked me to do that while I was in college, I would have left too. Those DZs should be proud of themselves.

Paul Jolly said...

I don’t get it. What’s the big tizz here?

Everybody knows and accepts that Greek organizations are discriminatory organizations. The very nature of rush is for the organizations to say we feel this group is like us and therefore want them to be part of our group, or conversely we don’t think this group is like us and thus don’t want to associate our group with them.


The women of this chapter had strayed away from what the national organization deemed to be “us.” I see similarities between what happened here and what happened to the Betas at Centre. You had one chapter who, although they connected with one another within the chapter as a collective unit, they no longer lived up to the guidelines of the national chapter and thus were no longer eligible to be “us.”

Maybe “us” for this Sorority is skinny white girls (which, apparently, seems to be the case). So be it. I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s right, but to say that it’s okay for an organization to be discriminatory, then reprimand them for discrimination is hypocritical.

Gruntled said...

As I understand it, Delta Zeta had deliberately set out to create a sorority for many different kinds of women. My criticism of the national office is not simply that they had a foolish standard for what the sorority should be, but also that they punished the chapter for successfully attracting the kind of women they wanted (just not enough of them).

talleyrand said...

I wonder whether and how it would affect this debate if it is true that, as the statement on the DZ national web site claims, the majority of the women in the chapter had voted to close it down at the end of the current academic year.

It wouldn't justify filtering out all the women who are not, as it has been put, conventionally pretty, but it would send to give some credence to doubts whether the national organization acted as irrationally as it at first seemed.

WMG said...

What the Delta Zeta national offices are accused of doing is downright despicable. But I disagree with Paul who said that it is simply their national organization saying you should not be a part of "us" because you are skinny and white. If anything, the national organizations should be stopping any of their local chapters from engaging in such superficial behavior, not encouraging it. Greek organizations are meant to be life long commitments, not kicking out girls who are in because they are not pretty or because they choose to dedicate themselves to activities other than partying.
And as someone who goes to a small college where Greek life is relatively tame, I won’t lecture about Greek moral standards. But I will point out that Greeks are very active in all areas of campus. They are members of the editorial staff on the student newspaper, the student government representatives, and the athletic teams. They are members of academic and leadership honor societies. They are resident assistants and directors. They are on stage in choir and drama performances.
The minimum requirement of service hours required by many fraternity and sorority organizations is often the same as the required number of hours to be members of service fraternities. Many alumni serve on the Board of Trustees and donate large sums of money back to the college every year.
And to address the present idea that fraternities or sororities are purely exclusive social clubs, almost every single party at Centre is open to the entire Centre community. Whether or not people choose to go, the door is open. But it’s closed minded to think that Greeks don’t care about people outside of their organizations. If they did, they wouldn’t do so much that benefits the campus and the community. Not to say every campus is like Centre or that Greek organizations are without flaws, but to condemn them all as some have flippantly done in this discussion is petty and uninformed.
I didn’t mean for this to become a defense of Greek life, but rather to point out what a monumental failure Delta Zeta’s nationals seems to have executed. They have contributed to the same stereotypes that give Greeks a bad name. They have set an example for other Greeks to think, “This girl/guy may be real cool and involved, but gosh darnit I don’t think she/he is social enough or pretty enough. Oh well, maybe if they drop twenty pounds, get some plastic surgery and a drinking problem they’ll do better next year.” Whoever is responsible for what happened at DePauw needs to be handed a pink slip and someone with a semblance of an ethical code and genuine commitment to Greek ideals needs to take over.

Gruntled said...

Amen.

And to Talleyrand's pointing out that the DZ national website claims the Depauw chapter voted to close, I thank you for the information. Depauw has not mentioned this; I have written to them in hopes of clarification.

Omar Cruz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.