By Sophia Kirschenman
Controversy struck at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana after 23 of the 35 members of the campus’ chapter of the Delta Zeta sorority were asked by the national officers to leave the sorority. Among the 23 asked to leave, all were either Korean, Vietnamese, black or overweight.
After a psychology professor at the university conducted an annual survey of students regarding the sororities on campus, she found that Delta Zeta was considered the most “socially awkward” sorority on campus.
Delta Zeta’s national officers, concerned that the stereotype was unappealing to prospective sorority members, interviewed all of the chapter’s members, making them explain how dedicated they were to recruiting new members. On Dec. 2, the officers declared that 23 of the members were not dedicated enough to recruitment efforts and would therefore be asked to leave the sorority.
Immediately, students began protesting the move, and livid parents sent letters expressing their disgust, while faculty members signed a petition stating that Delta Zeta’s actions were immoral.
Bob Hershberger, professor and chair of the department of modern languages at DePauw, began the petition because he believed the sorority’s move was dishonorable.
“As faculty, I simply couldn’t imagine ourselves talking about ethical issues without having first addressed this issue that is literally in our own backyard,” Hershberger wrote in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press (CHP). “I hope this situation will mark a watershed moment for change in the Greek system, both here at DePauw and throughout the nation. It’s time that we live in 2007 rather than 1940.”
The Delta Zeta national officers, however, maintain that the action was due to what they perceived as a lack of dedication to recruitment on the part of the excused members. They furthermore state that race and appearance did not cause them to evict the girls.
In a statement released on Feb. 26, Delta Zeta Executive Director Cynthia Menges attempted to explain the situation at DePauw.
“In the process of addressing that situation, we misjudged how some of our communications would be received by our members, and we regret that,” Menges said. “Delta Zeta finds it offensive that recent reports have suggested that decisions made at DePauw University were related in any way to our members’ races and nationalities.”
In a response to the faculty petition and other public opinion on the campus, Robert Bottoms, president of DePauw University, wrote a letter to Deborah Raziano, national president of the Delta Zeta sorority, discussing the actions.
“As to Delta Zeta’s future at DePauwâ€¦the national organization is considering its options including closing for a period of time with some promise of being able to re-colonize in the future,” Bottoms said. “Under the circumstances we are not prepared to make such a guarantee.”
Some of the members who were evicted from the sorority experienced extreme personal hardships and considered this an attack on their self-esteem. Several even dropped their classes because they experienced depression. Out of the 12 remaining Delta Zeta members at DePauw, six resigned, citing the events as unethical.
Rachel Pappas, former secretary and one of the six members who chose to voluntarily remove herself from the sorority, called for an informal discussion on Feb. 6 to notify the rest of the campus about the Delta Zeta battle. She posted 200 fliers and an estimated 50 students attended the discussion. She feels that the Delta Zeta chapter at DePauw should be removed and she wanted the students to get first-hand input on the Delta Zeta occurrences.
“An incredibly important component of this entire incident is that it speaks volumes about what we as a society perceive the space of femininity to be,” Pappas said in an interview with CHP. “By making women of Delta Zeta into alumnae based on what appeared to me to be superficial reasons, the national sorority condoned and even participated in furthering the stereotypes that damage all women today.”