This story continues to bother me for two main reasons: I am a an alumna of Delta Zeta (yes, I was a sorority girl), and in the past ten years, I have spent a great deal of time with undergraduate women, as an undergrad myself and then as a teacher. There is no need for me to add to the general discussion of the Greek system and its problems and inherent flaws. And there is no need to restate how awful it is to exclude people based on appearance--that is clear and has been discussed extensively across the blogosphere and various media outlets.
I've been reading about this event from the perspective of all sides, including the official word from DZ nationals, and what is always at the front of my mind is the humiliation and rejection that these undergraduate women must have felt. Broader issues are certainly at hand, but my mind is on the individuals who were told that they are not good enough. Whether you call it "buying friends" or any of the other stereotypical characterizations of sororities, these young women, away from their families, were looking for a place to fit in and feel loved. And they were cast out by a form letter. Not just out of a club but out of the place they lived! How devastating that must have been for their self images!
There are many sides to the issue and many people to blame (the university, for one, which is up in arms over DZ's actions but didn't mind a few months ago when the whole chapter was about to close its doors and turn its property over to the school). One member from DePauw, pointing fingers at many guilty parties, reminds us that these women were treated badly by their fellow students for years before this happened. It is pointless for me to criticize DZ further for discrimination--plenty of people are doing that already and they, of course, continue to deny it, pointing repeatedly to their constitution and to the history of diversity in the sorority.
I want to say shame on you, Delta Zeta, for not treating these women with the common human decency to speak to them in person and to explain, if there was good reason as you claim, why they were kicked out. (And they were kicked out--we all know that alumna status means nothing when you're still on campus and have been evicted from your home!) Whatever your excuses and justifications, you told 23 women that they were no longer wanted, and you did it in a form letter. You hurt each of those women and they will have trouble recovering from such a blow. You owe them more than that.
DZ has acknowledged that they did not communicate well with the chapter, the university, and its alumnae. And they're doing a pretty weak job of communicating still. But whatever your admissions of guilt are at this point, it is too little, too late. You have done a lot of damage. You are not victims of the media that has "mischaracterized" an "isolated incident." You brought this down on yourself by failing to treat your members with sensitivity and respect and to simply care about the feelings of fellow human beings. I just hope that the solidarity that the former members have demonstrated will heal their emotional wounds and keep them from feeling isolated and ostracized.