Saturday, February 24, 2007

Can the good be balanced with the bad?

Picture 054
Originally uploaded by rosieposiegirl.
Fraternities and sororities play a large part in most colleges' and universities' non-academic lives. While there's certainly good that can come from these organizations, I wonder about what they teach members, and non-members.

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.

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.”
In case you didn't follow that, read the article or just take my cynical summary as what you need to know:
  • 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.

“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.”
The Delta Zeta house seems to have been a diverse near-utopia:
“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.”

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.
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?

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.


  1. I am in a "local" sorority at Montclair State University, so by national standards we are small. We have our off years and there have been times since the Spring 1985 that our numbers were really low. We, as sisters, were never desperate to add a few pretty faces just to get better numbers come pledging. My sorority even has it where we do not give bids and we don't drop pledges unless there is an issue that we feel is in great need of review. The Nationals for sororities (and fraternities), of course, have a committment to uphold the laws and standards of their organization, but they should still be morally obeying the same type of ethical laws that are put in place by the government to prevent discrimination. If Delta Zeta was worried about a good image they just made the biggest mistake and it will not only effect the chapter they have disrupted, but future generations of that chapter and other chapters throughout active campuses.

  2. BOO-FREAKIN-HOO!!! I mean seriously, come on ppl.....this is all just a bunch of whiny girls crying becasue they didn't meet the "criteria" for a certain sorority. I mean yeah, maybe they were let in based on their "local" standards but that doesn't mean they were following their national standards. Great sorority women consist of all great qualities, including but not limited to great grades, great looks, great involvements, and great social skills. Please don't tell me that you're surprised that some ugly girls are crying because they don't want to fit the stereotype. the question is: they don't want to? or they can't? this is nothing new to society. a black person can't join the KKK just like a white person can't get scholarships or join organizations strictly for black people AND, not to mention, ugly, fat ppl cannot win Miss America.....GET OVER IT!!!

  3. I'm always so glad to find tolerant, accepting, open people reading my blog. Nice to know America has so many people committed to social justice.