The Delta Zeta – DePauw saga, episode III: The empire strikes back

The Delta Zeta sorority — having been freshly kicked off of DePauw University‘s campus for reasons spelled out here — is now suing the university:

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Terre Haute alleges DePauw broke its contract with the Delta Zeta sorority and damaged the reputation of its members.

“As a direct and proximate result of defendants conduct, Delta Zeta has incurred substantial harm to its business, including current and prospective financial losses,” the suit contends.

The sorority is demanding that it be allowed back on campus, get a public apology, and be awarded unspecified damages.

I’m now thoroughly confused about the exact relationship between universities and Greek organizations. I had been thinking that the relationship was something like symbiosis. The Greek organization desires to be on campus for recruitment and other purposes, and the university desires the Greek organization to be on campus for purposes of housing, student life, retention, and so forth . But if one party decides it doesn’t desire the other anymore — whether it’s for blatant violations of university policies (e.g. hazing) or because of “incompatible values” as DePauw claims — they can pack up and leave (or in this case, be sent packing).

But evidently that’s not it — there is a contract involved. So the relationship must go beyond just mutual coexistence, or the Greek organization being there at the university’s pleasure, and extend into some kind of legal, contractual agreement that the university has to obey unless there’s a compelling, legally viable reason to break the contract. Or at least that’s how DZ’s lawsuit seems to frame it, although it remains to be seen if that suit has any legal merit. (DePauw, naturally, thinks not.)

So a university, if I understand this right, is in a contractual relationship with its Greek organizations, and the Greeks’ presence on campus is contractually guaranteed until the contract either runs out (is there a time limit on stuff like that?) or is explicitly violated, and there’s no option for the university simply changing its mind about a Greek organization, no matter how compelling the reason may be.

What a mess. If I were at DePauw, I’d be thinking long and hard about how to make my university less dependent on these kinds of relationships.

Update: Here’s more from former Delta Zeta member Mommy, Ph.D. It’s not exactly sympathetic. And Fernham weighs in with: “It’s time for the sororities and fraternities to go. It’s time to find a better way to help college students find friends and overcome the social terror of moving from home into the world.”

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Filed under Higher ed, Life in academia, Student culture

3 responses to “The Delta Zeta – DePauw saga, episode III: The empire strikes back

  1. Thanks for the link & your comments, Robert. I think your question–what good does the university derive from the Greek system–is the right one. The social goods that students derive (perhaps) and perceive (more likely) could be obtained in other ways without all that’s ugly and pernicious in the Greek system. I’m hoping that DZ’s lawsuit is the last gasp for them–I saw absolutely nothing in the behavior of the women from national to make me feel anything but contempt.

    (Sorry about the double negative…)–Anne

  2. I fail to see what all the fuss is about. The Greeks discriminate. So? So does the National Honor Society. The Greeks discriminate on the bases of appearance? Welcome to the real world.

    The Greeks here raise hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for charity–dollars that the university would never think of donating, because of course feel good programs like yet one more diversity police force or a new deanship for disadvantaged studies is so much more important than actually doing something to help others. That’s what Greeks do for the university. The PC squad may not like the Greek system or priorities, but that’s really their problem.

    To say the university is being hypocritical here is understating the issue.

  3. David Glass

    DePauw would be very wise to take this to court.
    The DZ National organization has acted with complete disregard to the health of its members. Kicking women out of the sorority had everything to do with looks, and nothing to do with brains. If the sorority didn’t want smart and independent women in its local chapters ….fine. Dont accept them in the first place. Especially do not kick them out right before finals with the lame excuse they were not committed. It is a bald faced lie. They were not blond, they were not thin, they were not wearing short skirts and going out to party with the Frats, and finally they weren’t sexy enough. All this would become completely apparent in a trial. The suit even refers to an incident during recruitment which proves the DePauw defense. DePauw has no responsibility to the National DZ organization, but does have great responsibility for its students…and has acted completely appropriately.
    The first contract which has been violated is the one between the DePauw women of the local DZ chapter and the National DZ organization. Even if these women wanted to be part of a sorority after this experience, they can never be, the National took them when it suited purpose, and abandoned and trashed them when it did not. Shame on National DZ. If I were the rest of the “greek” system..I would be looking at controlling the reprehensible behavior of National DZ and putting them out of their misery by denouncing them.