Monday, March 12, 2007

DePauw and DZ Withdraw Recognition

Delta Zeta vs. Depauw Wrap-up of press releases and letters.
(There is quite a bit... Click on "Read More" to see it all.)

DePauw severs ties with troubled Delta Zeta sorority

GREENCASTLE, Ind. -- DePauw University has severed ties with the Delta Zeta sorority, where a mass eviction of members sparked allegations that only attractive, popular students were asked to remain. "We at DePauw believe that the values of our university and those of Delta Zeta sorority are incompatible," school President Robert G. Bottoms wrote in a letter delivered Monday to the sorority's national president, Deborah A. Raziano.

The university in Greencastle, 40 miles west of Indianapolis, planned a 2:30 p.m. EDT news conference to discuss the decision. The sorority's members have long had a reputation as being known more for academics than conventional beauty or partying, and their chapter was widely known among students as the "dog house."

The chapter started the school year with just 35 women in the sorority house, far short of the nearly 100 members at other sororities on a campus where 70 percent of students join the Greek system. Delta Zeta's national leadership conducted a review last fall to determine members' commitment to recruiting. As a result, it moved 23 members to alumnae status in December, evicting them from the sorority house. Six others left on their own.

A call to the executive director of the national Delta Zeta organization was not immediately returned Monday. Executive Director Cindy Menges has said Delta Zeta based decisions on the women's willingness to recruit new members to revitalize a nearly 100-year-old chapter whose numbers had fallen steadily over 10 years. But those who were asked to leave the sorority charged that they were removed because of their looks and contended they had been active and supportive members of the sorority. DePauw's decision follows a letter of reprimand sent to the national organization Feb. 19. "We at DePauw do not like the way our students were treated," Bottoms said in Monday's letter. Bottoms said the university would not recognize Delta Zeta beginning with this fall's semester.

University Announcement Regarding Delta Zeta - March 12, 2007
Today Dr. Robert Bottoms communicated with Delta Zeta president Deborah Raziano and severed the University’s relationship with the national sorority. His letter to alumni describing the reasons for his action and a copy of the letter to Ms. Raziano follow.

March 12, 2007
Dear Alumni of DePauw:

As most members of the DePauw family know, the New York Times article of February 25 about the Delta Zeta chapter on campus has resulted in significant media attention. Many of you have written or e-mailed me sharing your views, and many of you have taken the time to share your personal experiences with our Greek system. Nearly all of the responses from alumni have been supportive of the University and our early steps to intervene on behalf of our students.

I have spent significant time gathering facts and information over the past two months. As a result, it has become clear that the values of DePauw University and those of the Delta Zeta National Sorority are incompatible. Therefore, effective immediately, I have severed future ties with the Delta Zeta national, and I am including here my letter of notification to them. I wish to emphasize that our problem is with Delta Zeta national, not its local members, who have handled themselves with extraordinary poise and maturity in difficult circumstances, nor our Delta Zeta alumnae, many of whom have expressed dismay about their national’s behavior and support for DePauw. We will continue to work closely with these students and alumnae as we go forward.

We must view the Delta Zeta situation as an opportunity to face some of the problems inherent in DePauw’s Greek system. If our system is to rise above the negative stereotyping so many of you have written about, modern recruitment processes must be developed. Also, to prevent a sorority or fraternity from reorganizing in the middle of the year and displacing student residents, new housing standards must be developed.

As you know the Delta Zeta controversy arrived in the midst of the University’s major effort to improve the Greek System at DePauw. As an outgrowth of the Greek Fact-Finding Commission, trustees, students, house corporation officers, chapter advisers, faculty, alumni, and parents are working together to improve the physical structures and health and safety standards of the Greek houses, to examine new member recruitment and new member education, to refine the judicial system at DePauw, to expand the staff support and other resources for fraternities and sororities, and to curb high-risk drinking. We have been heartened by our progress and the enthusiastic support and cooperation of all our DePauw constituencies.

Our destination for this undertaking should result in a very public position that there is a new Greek tradition evolving at DePauw-one that builds on our system’s strengths within our learning community-and one that might become a national model for other colleges and universities around the country.

I thank you for your loyalty and support of DePauw.

Sincerely,
Robert G. Bottoms
President

March 9, 2007
Ms. Deborah A. Raziano
National President, Delta Zeta Sorority
c/o Alumni Affairs Office
Clarence James, Jr. Alumni House
Nicholls State University
Thibodaux, LA 70310

Dear Ms. Raziano:

Over the past weeks, I have interviewed many DePauw students, including several who were asked to take alumnae status in the sorority. I have also interviewed the women who were chosen to remain active members in your organization. I have talked with faculty, including the faculty Ms. Menges met on campus, and needless to say I have heard from many loyal DePauw Delta Zetas.

What has become increasingly clear from these discussions is that we at DePauw believe that the values of our University and those of the national Delta Zeta Sorority are incompatible.

I remain concerned by the points I raised with you in my February 19 reprimand of the sorority. Now, three weeks after my initial letter to you, my dissatisfaction with your organization continues to grow. I am proud of our DePauw students and the way they reacted to an unwarranted situation. Our students have shown a maturity beyond what one might expect of undergraduates. Yet postings on your Web site attempt to discredit any DePauw student critical of your actions. Your Web site has also been critical of our faculty for their willingness to openly discuss the way the membership review took place within the Delta Zeta chapter.

In summary, we at DePauw do not like the way our students were treated. We also disagree with your portrayal of the University in the media. We are opposed to your media freeze. One of the foundations of a university is free and open communication, which has been a hallmark of how we at DePauw have responded to this situation. We also vehemently contest the assertion on your Web site that “at all points in this process we (Delta Zeta) have worked with the University, sought their advice and acted upon their advice in our reorganization efforts.”

It is my decision to sever ties immediately with your national organization. Beginning in the fall of 2007, Delta Zeta will not be recognized by the University. In the interim, I call upon you to allow Delta Zeta alumnae to support the local chapter for the remainder of the spring semester rather than your national organization.

Sincerely,
Robert G. Bottoms
President
cc: Cynthia Winslow Menges

University Statement on Delta Zeta February 28, 2007

DePauw University is home to the Delta chapter of Delta Zeta but we are not responsible for, nor do we condone, the manner in which the national officers of Delta Zeta carried out their membership review and the subsequent treatment of their members. DePauw University disagrees with Delta Zeta’s actions and their characterization of what has occurred on campus.

It is outside our previous experience that a national organization would take actions that so negatively impact our students. Delta Zeta’s timing of its membership review, its mixed messages to their members, and its unwillingness to address our community’s concerns are markedly different from the standard of behavior that we expect from University partners.

This situation has been very difficult for our community, especially for the students who were asked to take alumna status in Delta Zeta and for the students who continue to be active in the chapter. In early December when the Delta Zeta national office sent letters to our students informing them of their status, University staff immediately responded to support them and to secure their housing for the second semester. At that time we also requested that a national Delta Zeta representative come to campus to address our concerns. Cindy Menges, the Executive Director of Delta Zeta Sorority, declined our invitation to come to campus until February 8.

Some have asked why the University did not immediately revoke Delta Zeta’s charter. Initially we hoped that we could reach an acceptable resolution for our students by communicating on their behalf with Delta Zeta national officers. When that did not occur, a formal letter of reprimand was sent by President Bottoms to the national office outlining our dissatisfaction with Delta Zeta’s treatment of our students. As this issue has continued to unfold, we have tried to be sensitive to the remaining student members of Delta Zeta who continue to live in the chapter house and to the DePauw Delta Zeta alumnae who played no role in their national office’s decisions.

There have been, and will continue to be, campus discussions about stereotyping, image and social status. Delta Zeta national actions contradict the principles of respect for individuals and their differences that we hold dear. DePauw is home to six historically Black Greek-letter organizations, one Latina sorority, 11 NIC fraternities and seven NPC sororities, including the Delta chapter of Delta Zeta sorority. In DePauw’s 150-year partnership with national and international Greek organizations, we have found that fraternities and sororities, like other student organizations, have a positive impact on students’ satisfaction and persistence toward graduation. All recognized student organizations are expected to adhere to University policies and principles and respect individual differences. We continue to seek a resolution for our students that affirms the positive legacy of the Greek system at DePauw but holds Delta Zeta’s national officers accountable for their actions.

February 19, 2007
Letter from President Bottoms to Delta Zeta can be found at
http://www.depauw.edu/student/greek/documents/DeltaZetaletter.pdf

February 19, 2007
Meeting Scheduled between Delta Zeta and DePauw Representatives

February 8, 2007
DePauw University administrators and faculty will talk with a representative from the national Delta Zeta office on Thursday, February 8. Cindy Menges, Executive Director of Delta Zeta Sorority will meet with Bob Hershberger, Associate Professor of Modern Languages; David Gellman, Associate Professor of History; Cindy Babington, Dean of Students; and Betsy Demmings, Executive Assistant to the President. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the University’s concerns regarding Delta Zeta Sorority’s recent actions as part of their chapter reorganization process. National representatives from the Sorority conducted a membership review that resulted in over two thirds of their current membership being placed on alumna status.
Representatives from the University plan to address the following issues at this meeting:

DePauw University administrators have significant concerns about the timing of the membership review and subsequent decision letters. Information received from a DePauw Delta Zeta indicates that the women were told the review team would be in place by October 1. However, the membership reviews did not begin until November. Letters informing the members of their status were received by the women one week prior to final exams.

No representatives from the national Sorority staff or their chapter adviser were present when the women received their letters. Following the membership review, no one from the national Sorority staff has been on campus to provide support and to respond to questions from those students placed on alumna status. Consultants are now on campus working with the remaining Delta Zeta actives.

The news release from Delta Zeta Sorority explaining the situation arrived on campus four days after the news was delivered to the women. Why was the news release delayed?

At issue for many parents is the fact that Delta Zeta agreed to house their daughters for the academic year. Because of this process, members placed on alumna status had to relocate mid-year.

We also have questions on behalf of our students about what will happen if any of the members choose to reject alumna status. Will they be deactivated? And if so, on what grounds?

Community members expressed their concerns in a petition written by Dr. Hershberger and signed by 55 faculty members. The petition, which was delivered to President Bottoms in early January, indicates that the signers regard the conduct of the National Council of Delta Zeta Sorority on DePauw’s campus to be unethical and call upon the University to take action.

Questions or concerns should be directed to Cindy Babington, Dean of Students, at cbabington@depauw.edu or (765) 658-4270.

President Bottoms' letter to the campus community regarding Delta Zeta December 20, 2006

Dear Members of the DePauw Community,

I know that many of you are concerned about the recent actions of Delta Zeta sorority national representatives toward our students in Delta Chapter, a matter that I take very seriously. Over the past several weeks we have worked closely with members of the local Delta Zeta chapter and communicated with the national officers. As we move forward, the staff is examining what happened at Delta Zeta, how the membership review has affected the sorority's members and the campus at large, and advising me about potential responses.

I extend my sincere thanks to the faculty and staff members who reached out to the women of the local Delta Zeta chapter and assisted them with what has been a difficult transition. All of the students who left DZ have secured new housing, thanks to the diligence of the housing staff, and I'm happy to report that we were able to place many of the women together with their sorority friends.

To all, my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.

Robert G. Bottoms

PR majors take note:
This is becoming a textbook case of how NOT to manage your national publicity.