And then I read something like this article in today's New York Times by Sam Dillon:
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.In case you didn't follow that, read the article or just take my cynical summary as what you need to know:
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.
“I sensed the disrespect with which this was to be carried out and got fed up,” Ms. Holloway added. “I didn’t have room in my life for these women to come in and tell my sisters of three years that they weren’t needed.”
- Delta Zeta at DePauw is coming up on its 100 year anniversary. The Delta Zeta house has only 35 members and an on-campus aura of being "socially awkward."
- Delta Zeta has attracted a diverse community of members, including racial minorities, disabled women, smart women, hard science and math majors, and talented women. Sex appeal hasn't necessarily been high on the list of desired qualities. The national Delta Zeta organization wants the house to have at least 90 members for the 100th year.
- National officers came to the house and chose 23 women who would be granted automatic "alumnae" status and be required to leave the house.
- The remaining dozen Delta Zeta sisters would form the thin core around which the recruiting drive would form... oh, and some interlopers from Indiana University
A few days after the interviews, national representatives took over the house to hold a recruiting event. They asked most members to stay upstairs in their rooms. To welcome freshmen downstairs, they assembled a meet-and-greet team that included several of the women eventually asked to stay in the sorority, along with some slender women invited from the sorority’s chapter at Indiana University, Ms. Holloway said.The Delta Zeta house seems to have been a diverse near-utopia:
“They had these unassuming freshman girls downstairs with these plastic women from Indiana University, and 25 of my sisters hiding upstairs,” she said. “It was so fake, so completely dehumanized. I said, ‘This calls for a little joke.’ ”
Ms. Holloway put on a wig and some John Lennon rose-colored glasses, burst through the front door during the recruitment event, and skipped around singing “Ooooh! Delta Zeta!” and other chants.
The face of one of the national representatives, she recalled, “was like I’d run over her puppy with my car.”
“I had a sister I could go to a bar with if I had boy problems,” said Erin Swisshelm, a junior biochemistry major who withdrew from the sorority in October. “I had a sister I could talk about religion with. I had a sister I could be nerdy about science with. That’s why I liked Delta Zeta, because I had all these amazing women around me.”Right. That image of "academic achievement and social service" vice looking plastic and thin. My word, we can't have a congregation of "amazing women" interested in academic achievement and social service; what would the world come to?
But over the years DePauw students had attached a negative stereotype to the chapter, as evidenced by the survey that Pam Propsom, a psychology professor, conducts each year in her class.
That image had hurt recruitment, and the national officers had repeatedly warned the chapter that unless its membership increased, the chapter could close.
Perhaps the National should have just kept their nose out of things; if the house was meant to die, it would. Otherwise, it would continue attract diverse women who wanted to be a part of the sisterhood.