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Rebuilding sorority causes image crisis

A national sorority’s declining membership has forced downsizing of it’s members that didn’t fit a particular criteria and is hitting home to some Greek students at BGSU.

In November, 35 Delta Zeta sisters at DePauw were interviewed, and a month later 23 were deemed insufficiently committed to the sorority, placed on alumni status and asked to move out of the house.

In response to a continuous decline in membership, Nancy Brewer, director of communications at the Delta Zeta National Headquarters in Oxford, Ohio, said the struggling chapter could be rebuilt by establishing a core of sisters that are committed to the sorority and recruitment.

CBS reported every girl that was overweight, along with the only black, Korean and Vietnamese members, were among the 23 placed on alumni status, and the 12 girls who remained where slim and conventionally pretty.

Two years ago BGSU’s Kappa Delta sorority went through reconstruction because of recruitment problems according to Holly Houtz, senior and Kappa Delta vice president of recruitment at the time.

Houtz said only five of about 30 girls were asked to come back and rebuild the chapter and they all fit a criteria similar to the Delta Zeta’s at DePauw.

Tammy Sudhoff, Delta Zeta president of the BGSU chapter, said the process was sincere and by the book, and the media is to blame for reinforcing the negative stereotypes of Greek life.

“It’s a recruitment issue,” Sudhoff said. “That’s the life of any Greek organization, and if you can’t recruit, then you’re not going to survive.”

Sudhoff said Greek life receives criticism from people who don’t know what it’s all about, and the Hollywood sorority girl stereotypes just pile up.

“When non-Greek students think about fraternities and sororities they think ‘oh well, they’re just a bunch of partiers,’ but that’s not how it is at all,” Sudhoff said. “Most people don’t know about all the community service we contribute.”

Although Brewer said the Delta Zeta’s at BGSU don’t have a recruitment problem and don’t have to worry about downsizing, other sororities on campus have attempted to fix deflating membership by similar means.

Houtz said pretty girls may sometimes be used as a recruitment strategy.

“Looks had a little to do with it. Two years ago when our sorority was bigger, it was known as an uglier sorority, and they did get rid of lots of the uglier girls,” Houtz said. “But some of those girls didn’t have the GPA’s or the time to commit as an active member of the sorority. The girls that were asked to come back were very cute, typical sorority girls, petite and cute. They didn’t ask back any of the overweight girls, there was a definite trend.”

Houtz said she was asked to come back but declined because she would be too busy to commit during her senior year.

Ron Binder, director of Greek Life, said reorganization is rare and usually happens when there is a breakdown in communication between undergraduate students, the sorority’s national headquarters, alumni and the University.

Binder said a breakdown between the University of DePauw and Delta Gamma headquarters was probably the cause of the downsizing.

“Headquarters makes all the calls,” Binder said. “We just ask them who’s coming back and what criteria did you use.”

Binder said recruiting based on values is a constant conversation and some groups have trouble articulating what values are.

“Five years ago some fraternities had beer shirts they would use as part of their recruitment,” Binder said. “Then the IFC (interfraternal council) stepped in and asked, ‘are you recruiting people to drink, is that what your value is?’ Then they had to go and change all their material.”

Houtz, along with the Kappa Delta sisters who where not asked to return, were granted alumni status, just like the Delta Zeta sisters at DePauw.

Houtz said she is not angry with national’s reorganization process, but is angry because they waited until there was no other solution to the declining membership.

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