Although my first instinct was to hold my tongue and let this maelstrom pass, I can no longer refrain from commenting on what has transpired in the past few months at the Delta Chapter of Delta Zeta on DePauw University’s campus. I am an alum of DePauw and of Delta Chapter, and I am saddened by the national media’s predatory instincts and by the University that I have financially supported these past ten years (not to mention tuition dollars paid) taking steps to cover up its own complicity in the situation. For those of you who haven’t read about this, here is a summary of the facts (my opinions to follow of course!):
- Delta Chapter’s membership has been on the decline SINCE I WAS IN COLLEGE. So we’re talking a 10-year slump, not a momentary bump in the road.
- The collegians voted to close the chapter at the beginning of this school year.
- Delta Zeta HQ took that request to the University and was told that they would not be guaranteed that they could reopen if they did a full recolonization (which involves giving all the current college women alum status and starting from scratch with a new batch of members).
- Delta Zeta is approaching its 100 year anniversary on DePauw’s campus, so this is an important time to make sure that there’s still a DZ chapter at DPU.
- Delta Zeta conducted a membership review, as requested by DePauw University, and offered all but 12 of the members alum status.
- Six of those remaining 12 women chose alum status in protest of the other women being offered alum status.
- Some of the women who left the chapter have been interviewed by or appeared on such shows as Dateline, The View, and CNN, and have been quoted in the New York Times and other major publications.
First let me say that I have utmost sympathy for the women offered alum status. DePauw is predominantly Greek and much of the social life at DePauw revolves around the houses. I would not personally want to be an alum living in campus housing, nor would I want to be separated from my sisters (who are, coincidentally, still some of my best friends 10 years later). Honestly, I believe the timing of the whole process, which happened close to finals, was poor. But I also feel that the University put Delta Zeta in a difficult position: The month of January is a “winter term” where many students are off campus and Recruitment was the first weekend of February. Something had to be done before Recruitment, leaving DZ with little flexibility with regards to timing. I would propose that the president of DPU, Bob Bottoms, has had it out for the Greek system since I was a student and continues to undermine the houses and highlight their problems despite multiple fact-finding commissions that found that alumnae, who financially support the university, want the Greek system to remain in place and would likely sever ties to the University if the Greek system was banned from campus. I would also assert that the national media lured young women who were in an emotionally vulnerable position into providing damning interviews about Delta Zeta. If I were 19 years old, feeling hurt as a result of years of being ostracized by the DePauw community, and was suddenly called by a major network and offered the opportunity to fly to New York to talk about it, I would not refuse. It would be so easy for famous journalists to abuse their fame and influence and get these women to say whatever would make the best story (for example, that the women were given alum status because they were fat, or because they were people of color, or because they were not “sexually attractive” enough). I invite DePauw University to accept the fact that this situation exists and instead of pointing fingers or sending letters of reprimand that completely deny the University’s own knowledge of and complicity in the situation, do something to help the women who were given alum status and the women who have stayed active and are attempting to rebuild the chapter. It is a delicate situation, to be sure, but not an irreparable one. I would also invite those who have callously sent hate mail to my sisters to cease and desist. The alums involved in this situation are not only my friends, but women of immense personal and professional integrity who have dedicated many hours to serving a philanthropic organization. These women are kind and, contrary to media portrayals, concerned about the Delta Zeta women (alum and active) at DePauw. They want the chapter to survive just like I do, and they would never compromise their integrity just to get new members. They acted in the sorority’s best interest in a very delicate situation and sadly, hurt feelings and misunderstandings have arisen and been compounded by the media. I would also invite those members of the public who do not know what the Greek system is like on DePauw’s campus to look at the pictures I have posted of my family. I am an active Delta Zeta alum in good standing and it will be immediately obvious that I do not fit the “Legally Blond” image of sorority life. That is not what Delta Zeta is about (at DePauw or internationally) and the notion that women were asked to leave because of their race or sexual orientation is insulting to all who are a part of Delta Zeta.
Now I challenge the University and Delta Zeta HQ to find a swift resolution so that the DZs at DePauw can get on with what should be their primary focus: their education. And I challenge the media to research their stories before regurgitating misinformation as cold hard fact.
Some additional reading on the topic: