Just When You Thought They Were Out ...: Delta Zeta Sues DePauw
By Christine Cupaiuolo — March 29, 2007
The national leadership of Delta Zeta sorority has filed a lawsuit against DePauw University — less than three weeks after the university severed ties with the national organization following the sorority’s “membership review.”
That review, you might recall, led to the eviction of almost two dozen sorority members, some of whom claimed selection was made based on appearance and popularity.
The New York Times earlier this month reported that Delta Zeta national officers said they would no longer be communicating with news organizations, but they’re making a big PR effort now.
“The wrong message is out there about Delta Zeta,” Cindy Menges, executive director of the sorority, told USA Today. “I am disappointed that there is not as much interest in the facts as there has been interest in a story that’s been created by the public at our expense.”
Menges also responded to questions in this Q&A. Asked whether decisions had to do with physical appearance, Menges responded: “These women are proud of who they are, but this campus created an image of Delta Zetas that was unfair, and in that environment our women could not be successful. Never ever would we want that (message) conveyed.”
Delta Zeta filed the claim in U.S. District Court in Terre Haute, alleging DePauw of breaking contracts and defaming the sorority. “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 a public apology, unspecified damages and a return to the university’s Greek System. It also wants DePauw to acknowledge that Delta Zeta “did not make any decision based on appearance and race,” according to media reports.
Senior Katie Holloway, who quit the sorority just before the names of the evicted were announced, said, “The graceful thing would be for the sorority to accept this and let it lie.”
DePauw officials said the suit lacks merit.
“From the beginning, DePauw University has acted to protect its students,” Ken Owen, director of media relations, said in a statement posted on DePauw’s website. “We are disappointed in Delta Zeta’s decision to initiate legal action. We believe that this lawsuit completely lacks merit and have every confidence that the courts will determine that the University acted lawfully and in the best interests of its students.”
The attorney for DZ has made a terrible error. In the complaint an incident involving the “staged” DZ DePauw recruitment is referenced. It is exactly this behavior (the staged event) by the DZ National organization wherein less attractive members of the actual house were instructed to stay out of site, and skinny blonde women from another university were imported for the event. DZ has never owned up to kicking women out of the sorority (and yes that is exactly what they did) for being overweight, dressing comfortably, or being smart rather than sassy. The behavior of the National DZ organization damages the greek system everywhere. They have not only acted shallowly (believable) but have been liars, rude and cruel to their own, and cowardly in their response to their own mistakes. Shame on them. Good news is…they have proven the DePauw defense. DePauw has been acting in the interest of her students…..and the DZ National – – – NOT.
DePauw should countersue….make DZ provide restitution for pain and suffering on the part of their staff and students.
The (now alumni status) women of DZ should also sue, for damage to grades, future income etc, as a result of being blindsided and humiliated by the DZ organization. This is the same organization which wanted a media blackout when they realized they had commited a grave error, and when the tide turned against them, started blaming the women of the local chapter for the problem. They (the national organization) a nasty bunch. If I were part of the sisterhood of DZs I would be looking at replacing the whole lot.
My daughter left Depauw mid year ‘06-07, ostensibly to transfer to the University of Louisville. She was having lots of problems in Greencastle. She says the U was definitely keeping a very close eye on the declining DZ membership since their facility could be used to help ease the very tight non-Greek housing situation on campus if DZ were to completely dissolve. This makes a lot of sense, and clears things up in my mind. Therefore, in no way is Depauw off the hook.
But DZ is making such a travesty of the situation, issuing gag orders, berating students, accusing the media…. And on and on. Unfortunately, it has the majority of folks rooting for Depauw to clobber DZ, when, in reality, closer scrutiny of the Depauw administration may be in order.
I don’t think this thing will come to trial. Once a lawsuit is announced the two parties officially shut up until trial, leaving only the nutty bloggers to hash it out. A recent glance showed the Depauw website home page to be remarkably “DZ free.” I think this is what DZ really wants, and has been so paranoid about these past few months. This will give them a chance to function without the (official) media breathing down their neck, and possibly formulate a desperately needed strategy.