Sorority turmoil stirs up DPU

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Delta Zeta's sorority house is located at 201 E. Seminary St.

The DePauw University professor assigned to oversee students at the Delta Zeta sorority house for the past 10 years says she resigned last month after allegations of discrimination against the membership began to swirl.

Psychology Professor Pam Propsom told the BannerGraphic that she chose to step down from her position as the students' academic adviser in January because she disagreed with how Delta Zeta's national headquarters went about reorganizing the sorority.

"I just don't think that nationals dealt with this is a forthright and appropriate fashion," Propsom said Tuesday morning.

On Dec. 1, 2006, a letter from Delta Zeta in Oxford, Ohio, was sent to 23 women who were living in the Delta Zeta house on DePauw's campus. The letter starts off by thanking the women for participating in a recent membership review process conducted on Nov. 15 and 16.

According to the letter, the organization is working to improve its status in the community by increasing its leadership role, increasing community involvement, improving social awareness and boosting membership.

The letter goes on to tell the 23 women that they are being placed on alumna status with the organization, meaning they are no longer permitted to live in the house, but will still be considered a member.

Students were given until the end of January to "relocate from the chapter house."

Since the letters were issued, the evicted students began accusing Delta Zeta's national headquarters of kicking out only those women who were overweight, as well as minorities or those who were unpopular among their peers on campus.

The issue has propelled the students from DePauw into the national spotlight, with several of them appearing on NBC's Good Morning America on Tuesday and CNN with Paula Zahn Monday night.

Stories about the sorority also appeared in the New York Times and Seattle Times, among other national newspapers.

All this attention is taking its toll on the women, according to Cindy Babbington, DePauw's Dean of Students.

"I think they're struggling a little," Babbington said of the five women who remain in the sorority house.

Originally, 12 women were allowed to stay, according to Babbington, one of which is away from the house on an off-campus internship. Of the remaining 11, six of the women have since left the house out of protest.

Babbington said all the students who were "evicted" from the house have been relocated to other campus housing.

Reports from students indicated the women have been instructed not to speak about the issue to anyone outside the house.

Phone calls made to Delta Zeta's headquarters in Ohio were not returned.

Propsom said she believes women still living in the house and those who have left, are equally upset about the issue.

"They're upset on both sides," she said.

DePauw President Robert Bottoms expressed his dissatisfaction with the national sorority's actions as well, speaking in a letter issued to Delta Zeta on Feb. 19.

In his letter he outlined four "issues from the basis of the university's dissatisfaction with (the sorority's) actions."

Bottoms criticized the organization for choosing to reorganize the local house in the middle of the academic year. He said it was a disruption to students who were in the midst of preparing for semester exams.

He went on to inform the organization that in the future, DePauw will require all of its sororities and fraternities to wait until the end of the academic year to reorganize.

"As a result of the concerns expressed in this letter, the university is incorporating, into new living standards, a clause that will require Greek organizations with chapter houses to house students for the entire academic year unless there are behavior issues that warrant a separation of a student or students from their housing contracts," the letter states.

Some have accused the president of failing to issue his letter in a timely manner.

Ken Owen, the university spokesman, said the president and the university have been addressing the issue since December, including finding alternative housing for the students who were evicted from the sorority house.

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