Tuesday, February 27, 2007

March, march on down the field for old DePauw..

News from my alma mater:
Sorority Evictions Raise Issue of Looks and Bias

New York Times

GREENCASTLE, Ind. — When a psychology professor at DePauw University here surveyed students, they described one sorority as a group of “daddy’s little princesses” and another as “offbeat hippies.” The sisters of Delta Zeta were seen as “socially awkward.”

Worried that a negative stereotype of the sorority was contributing to a decline in membership that had left its Greek-columned house here half empty, Delta Zeta’s national officers interviewed 35 DePauw members in November, quizzing them about their dedication to recruitment. They judged 23 of the women insufficiently committed and later told them to vacate the sorority house.

The 23 members included every woman who was overweight. They also included the only black, Korean and Vietnamese members. The dozen students allowed to stay were slender and popular with fraternity men — conventionally pretty women the sorority hoped could attract new recruits. Six of the 12 were so infuriated they quit.

“Virtually everyone who didn’t fit a certain sorority member archetype was told to leave,” said Kate Holloway, a senior who withdrew from the chapter during its reorganization.
This is particularly troublesome story for DePauw, even though the university was not involved. Why? Because some 85% of the students are involved in the Greek system (hey, it's an Indiana town of 6500 people!)

The system has always been screwy. I never could have been a Beta or a Phi Psi (rich face men), I didn't want to be a Sigma Nu (the offensive line) or a Delta Upsilon (stoner losers). I found my perfect niche at Alpha Tau Omega, the book jocks, the guys that girls wanted to study with but not go out with. This "bias" was built into the often insidious process known as rush.

But this story is devastating to the university at just the wrong time. First of all, high school seniors are making their final college decisions now, and beyond that, the obvious--even though it is an outside entity, the national sorority, the stories create the image of shallowness and elitism.

1 comment:

thern1 said...

In today's NY Times:

March 13, 2007
After Evicting Members, Sorority Is Itself Evicted
DePauw University severed ties yesterday with a national sorority that evicted two-thirds of the university’s chapter members last year in what the sorority called an effort to improve its image for recruitment, but which the evicted women described as a purge of the unattractive or the uncool.

“We at DePauw do not like the way our students were treated,” DePauw’s president, Robert G. Bottoms, said in a letter to the Delta Zeta sorority. “We at DePauw believe that the values of our university and those of the national Delta Zeta sorority are incompatible.”

The sorority evicted 23 members of its DePauw chapter in December, and half a dozen other women later quit in protest. The action greatly diminished the chapter’s diversity. The women the sorority allowed to stay were all slender and conventionally pretty. Those evicted included some overweight women, and several minority members were evicted or left the sorority on their own.

In an interview, Dr. Bottoms said that beginning this fall Delta Zeta would no longer be permitted to house students in its Greek-columned residence on the DePauw campus in Greencastle, Ind. Only a handful of undergraduates are currently living in the Delta Zeta house, and four of them are seniors, Dr. Bottoms said, adding that the university would help any women who had been planning to live in the residence next year to find alternative housing.

The sorority’s actions were the subject of an article in The New York Times on Feb. 25 and received widespread news coverage . On March 1, Delta Zeta’s national officers said they were cutting off communication with news organizations.

A woman who answered the telephone yesterday at Delta Zeta’s national headquarters in Oxford, Ohio, said that Cynthia Winslow Menges, the sorority’s executive director, was busy with a conference call. Thereafter, Ms. Menges did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Delta Zeta has chapters on 165 campuses nationwide. Its chapter at DePauw, a rural campus 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis, is one of its oldest.

In a message posted on its Web site this month, the sorority said: “Delta Zeta National apologizes to any of our women at DePauw who felt personally hurt by our actions. It was never our intention to disparage or hurt any of our members during this chapter reorganization process.”

That apology, however, did not bring reconciliation at DePauw.

“It’s like a thief who’s sorry that he got caught, rather than for what he did,” said Rachel Pappas, a junior who left the sorority before the evictions and organized a campus protest about it last month.

In addition to the apology, the sorority posted on its Web site statements critical of the women forced out of the DePauw chapter and of faculty members who supported them. In the letter sent to Delta Zeta yesterday, Dr. Bottoms cited the sorority’s decision to publicize that criticism as contributing to his decision.

“The arrangement we have with Greek organizations is that they’re guests of ours and we expect them to live up to university standards, and in this case Delta Zeta did not,” Dr. Bottoms said. “This means that sorority can’t exist on our campus as an organization beginning in the fall.”

Robert P. Hershberger, the chairman of DePauw’s modern languages department, who earlier this year circulated a faculty petition criticizing Delta Zeta’s treatment of the women, said yesterday in an interview: “This was the right thing to do. I doubt there will be many people here upset about this.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company