Just When You Thought They Were Out ...: Delta Zeta Sues DePauw

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.”

Huh?

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.”

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