Delta Zeta Cleans House

So, you've probably heard about this by now: the sorority at DePauw University where 23 members were asked to vacate the house because they weren't "sufficiently dedicated to recruitment". It just so happens that the cadre of insufficiently dedicated members included all the sorority's black, Korean, and Vietnamese members. It included all the members who were overweight, we are told. Seemingly, it also included a large number of women who were math and science majors as well.

...the chapter appears to have been home to a diverse community over the years, partly because it has attracted brainy women, including many science and math majors, as well as talented disabled women, without focusing as exclusively as some sororities on potential recruits' sex appeal, former sorority members said.

"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."

This story disturbs me on so many levels. First, the racism involved. Second, the body image issue. We are told that all the members who were overweight were asked to leave. What I'd like to know is, by whose criterion were they overweight? Is it more accurate to say that only the very skinniest girls were allowed to remain? Because I'm guessing that the girls who were asked to leave were not, or not all, necessarily overweight. Given our society's obssession with ridiculously thin female figures, a normally healthy female could be classified as overweight by sorority standards. It bugs the hell out of me that this overweight shit is not being questioned at all.

Finally I'm upset because of the apparent association, at least in the minds of the national Delta Zeta association, between interest in academics and unsuitability for sorority life. Are they, like so many other prejudiced individuals, looking at nerdgirls and seeing ugly? Is there really only one acceptable way to be attractive if you're female on a college campus? According to national Delta Zeta - yes. And according to national Delta Zeta, being attractive is what's really important.

...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 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 must say that while I find all of this incredibly appalling - and it's particularly galling to see women oppressing each other, perpetuating sexist and racist attitudes about what makes a woman valuable or desirable - I don't find any of it terribly surprising. I don't think the Greek system on college campuses is a terribly healthy thing and so I am not surprised when I find dysfunctional behaviors manifested within it. I'm not surprised to find this kind of shit coming out of national headquarters because I believe that racism and sexism are built into the Greek system. It's amazing that Delta Zeta was allowed to operate as much outside the bounds as it seems it did, for as long as it did. It was only a matter of time before someone came along and brought them back in line with the true mission of sorority life - to be pretty, thin, and available to fraternity men.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go puke.

Thanks to Suzette Burckhard and Benjamin Franz for drawing my attention to this story.


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Thanks for bringing attention to this story, it is disturbing. I am a female college undergrad, and I hear sor-horror-ity stories all the time about pressure, initiations, etc...
I'm also going to put in a shameless plug, it is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I am the coordinator for Auburn University's NEDAW program (I promise I'm not selling anything, not trying to spam you!), and it is a really important issue for people to be aware of, eating disorders are not fad diets, they are diseases, and anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder ( Like this news story shows, society/culture can really make things difficult for people that are often at transitional points in their life when they're exposed to those pressures...I agree with you, I'd be interested to hear Delta Zeta's definition of 'overweight.'
*steps down off of her soap box*

By Anne-Marie (not verified) on 26 Feb 2007 #permalink

can anyone tell me what is the point of the greek system? And why do they use the greek alphabet?

This is very disturbing. I'm faculty adviser for the only professional only sorority (Sigma Alpha) on campus and fortunately they don't have a house. The sorority is there, as far as I am concerned, to give the young women a venue to learn leadership skills and gain confidence in themselves. While developing a network of friends and colleagues.

It seems to me that the National Office is jealous of all these brainy and bright young women. And then cut their nose of to despite their face. After all they could have recruited on the basis of being the "brainy" sorority. I'm sure there are more women on campus that do not fit into the typical sorority image who could have been recruited.

It does make me want to puke.

The United States continues to fall behind in science, math and technology yet no one seems to see the crisis. We're too busy trying to get Anna Nicole Smith into the ground and waiting to see what Britney does next. When something like Delta Zeta happens, it just sends me to the edge. We need to put these girls up on a pedestal for their values and their intelligence. In order for this country to continue to be an economic leader in the global economy, we must be able to compete and win. And, we're starting to lose folks. Wake up!

In college I got sick of being recruited by the frats, cause I couldn't see the point in paying "extry" for room and board for the chance to enter a lifelong networking society of people that I never would never hang out with any way. Yeah, it was easier for them to bring in kegs, but that was the only thing I found attractive about it. I occasionally was invited to mixers between sororities and frats, and found very few people with whom I felt any connection.

Us "dormies" did pretty well at making friends and holding mixers with other dorms. Never needed that kind of greek, and they never needed me. I think that you are right about being sick about this cause it shows yet again that just because there are women in the boardroams of corporations, that feminists are not superfluous.

Reader Michael Anes alerted me to this news story: "DePauw cuts ties to sorority accused of discrimination". Yay!

"We at DePauw believe that the values of our university and those of Delta Zeta sorority are incompatible," university President Robert G. Bottoms wrote in a letter delivered Monday to the sorority's national president, Deborah A. Raziano.

As a Delta Zeta alumna, I am sickened and disgusted at what took place at DePauw University. Shortly after I graduated from college, our chapter was also suddenly shut down. NOW I wonder if it wasn't closed for the same reason this one was shuttered, because we were a bunch of NERDS, every last one of us!
I cherish the memories of the good times and friendship I had with those young women. However DZ National has my email or resignation from their organization. Don't want ANYTHING to do with a bunch of racist bubbleheaded Barbie wannabes. However, I do wonder if there aren't a LOT of DZ's, both college students and alums, who don't want these assholes THROWN OUT of office YESTERDAY!
If so, I'd like to hear from them.

I remember having a few sororities trying to recruit me when I was a freshman in college. The girls who were kicked out are right about appearances. All of the recruiting tables at the college fair I went to had thin, tall, and conventionally pretty women. The predominantly white sororities all had blondes sitting at the tables and it made me sick.

A lot of people need to realize that these Greek organizations are businesses first. They don't care if you're best friends with everyone in your group. If nationals deem your chapter as monetarily unprofitable, you're getting shut down. If you want to join a real network, I suggest you join a professional fraternity. At least you get to hobnob with people in your field of work. An employer will be much more impressed with Phi Beta Kappa or graduating with summa cum laude honors on your resume than Delta Gamma or Delta Delta Delta or whatever.