Are you skinny or white enough for this sorority?

Some members of Delta Zeta are shown the door for their looks.

Published February 26, 2007 7:13PM (EST)

Apparently I wasn't the only one whose in box was flooded with e-mails this weekend about the New York Times' piece on girls who were evicted from their sorority house for not being pretty enough; the piece has been perched on top of the Times' most e-mailed list since it ran. A handful of the e-mails I got went something to the effect of: "Oh my God you guys, sorority girls judging each other based on looks instead of, like, academic excellence!" But this case makes it easy to see exactly why sororities -- and sorority girls -- have such a bum rap.

A survey conducted by a psychology professor at DePauw University found that the student body considered the girls of the Delta Zeta chapter as "socially awkward" (while members of a competing sorority were deemed "daddy's little princesses"). The sorority's bad rep had apparently led to sagging enrollment numbers, so, like a made-for-TV team of stylists, the national heads of Delta Zeta stepped in for an extreme makeover. They ultimately told 23 (of 35 members) that they should leave the sorority house and be granted alumna status; it just so happens that the singled-out group included all of the chapter's "overweight" members, according to the Times. Oh, and the black, Korean and Vietnamese members were shown the door, too.

Of course, there's plenty of outrage over Delta Zeta's behavior, but it seems the story's most e-mailed status is owed to the plucky attitude of the booted members. For instance, shortly before the mass eviction, a team of "slender" women from the Indiana University chapter were shuttled in to persuade incoming freshmen to pledge. "They had these unassuming freshman girls downstairs with these plastic women from Indiana University, and 25 of my sisters hiding upstairs," senior Kate Holloway told the Times. "It was so fake, so completely dehumanized. I said, 'This calls for a little joke.'" So, Holloway donned a wig and "John Lennon rose-colored glasses" and pranced through the house singing, "Ooooh! Delta Zeta!"

The rejected members -- and six who were so outraged they left in protest -- raised some noise and brought attention to the fact that the sorority had a history of trying to block women of color from the sorority. As Bitch Ph.D. points out, Delta Zeta did an impressive job of snubbing the members who wouldn't take it lying down: "If you read in between the lines of the news story, it's fabulous: they kicked out a computer science major with the research skills to go track down evidence of past discrimination in the library; a junior with the organizational skills and chutzpah to put together an open meeting at the student union to tell the DePauw student body what had really happened; and the editor of the DePauw student paper (what were they thinking?!?)."

I wonder what the psych professor's next survey will reveal about student opinion of Delta Zeta. "Shallow" and "racist" come to mind as choice adjectives. Good luck with those pledge numbers!

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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