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The Delta Zeta – DePauw saga, episode III: The empire strikes back

March 28, 2007, 7:59 pm

The Delta Zeta sorority — having been freshly kicked off of DePauw University‘s campus for reasons spelled out here — is now suing the university:

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Terre Haute alleges DePauw broke its contract with the Delta Zeta sorority and damaged the reputation of its members.

“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 that it be allowed back on campus, get a public apology, and be awarded unspecified damages.

I’m now thoroughly confused about the exact relationship between universities and Greek organizations. I had been thinking that the relationship was something like symbiosis. The Greek organization desires to be on campus for recruitment and other purposes, and the university desires the Greek organization to be on campus for purposes of housing, student life, retention, and so forth . But if one party decides it doesn’t desire the other anymore — whether it’s for blatant violations of university policies (e.g. hazing) or because of “incompatible values” as DePauw claims — they can pack up and leave (or in this case, be sent packing).

But evidently that’s not it — there is a contract involved. So the relationship must go beyond just mutual coexistence, or the Greek organization being there at the university’s pleasure, and extend into some kind of legal, contractual agreement that the university has to obey unless there’s a compelling, legally viable reason to break the contract. Or at least that’s how DZ’s lawsuit seems to frame it, although it remains to be seen if that suit has any legal merit. (DePauw, naturally, thinks not.)

So a university, if I understand this right, is in a contractual relationship with its Greek organizations, and the Greeks’ presence on campus is contractually guaranteed until the contract either runs out (is there a time limit on stuff like that?) or is explicitly violated, and there’s no option for the university simply changing its mind about a Greek organization, no matter how compelling the reason may be.

What a mess. If I were at DePauw, I’d be thinking long and hard about how to make my university less dependent on these kinds of relationships.

Update: Here’s more from former Delta Zeta member Mommy, Ph.D. It’s not exactly sympathetic. And Fernham weighs in with: “It’s time for the sororities and fraternities to go. It’s time to find a better way to help college students find friends and overcome the social terror of moving from home into the world.”

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