Some of you may recall that about a year ago, the National Panhellenic Council passed a piece of legislation called Unanimous Agreement X. UAX mandated that women would henceforth have no involvement in men’s recruitment. On the surface, it kind of made sense. It could feel like an objectification of women to have them parading around in rush T-shirts simply to be used as a recruitment tool. Most people were upset about it, though, claiming the legislation is in violation of the first amendment and hinders upon women’s freedom of speech.
UAX also prohibits Panhellenic women from being elected fraternity sweethearts. Did you know that was outlawed? Me neither. Well, I mean, I kind of knew, but based on the number of sorority girls applying for sweetheart each year, it was easy to forget. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), however, is taking the agreement pretty seriously.
Maggie von Stein, a graduate of ERAU and an alumna of Theta Phi Alpha sorority is pissed. From 2002 to 2003, Maggie served as sweetheart to her school’s chapter of Sigma Chi. She took it pretty seriously — not just “bake shit and show up to every event” seriously. She was recognized nationally, as she was one of the three finalists in Sigma Chi’s International Sweetheart in 2005. She credits the fraternity for encouraging her to go Greek herself, and attributes her membership in TPA to Sigma Chi. So, like, she took it really seriously.
Living locally, von Stein and her husband, a — you guessed it — Sigma Chi, remain active in their alma mater’s Greek community, so when ERAU had an activity fair, the couple showed up with their two-year-old, all proudly donning the Sigma Chi lettered shirts they’d earned. Within minutes of their arrival, Maggie was pulled aside by a Greek adviser. She was condescendingly told she had to remove her shirt, and that if she did not, action would be taken against the Theta Phi Alpha actives. Initially she dissented, until action was also threatened against Sigma Chi…for a non-member’s actions. Von Stein complied and sat through the remainder of the event wearing nothing but a tank top in January. Horrified and humiliated, von Stein felt harassed and belittled.
She decided to take action. She sent a letter to the NPC, detailing the evident sexism mandated by UAX, an excerpt from which is below.
I’ve explained my understanding of UAX’s intent and greatly appreciate the battles fought on our behalf nearly half-a-century ago. However, after experiencing the ramifications of this agreement, it’s been taken too far and has become discriminatory in itself. The definition of sexual discrimination is treating someone unfavorably because of that person’s sex. The agreement is extremely shortsighted and is in itself a perfect example of discrimination (exactly what you were trying to prevent). Specifically, it states, “There is no place for women – undergraduate or alumnae – at men’s recruitment events.” Each time I read this statement, I’m stunned by its ignorance! You try to hide behind Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which only exempts our membership from sexual-discrimination, not who our members freely choose to support! Furthermore, I have listened to Sweethearts, Wives, Daughters, Sisters and Mothers of Sigma Chi’s give their perspective on Greek Life to potential new members. Most memorable, a Sigma Chi Mom, whose Son lost his battle to Leukemia at 23, would recount the days following her Son’s death and the amazing show of love and support by her Son’s Fraternity Brothers. She would conclude with a reminder to the young potentials, they are embarking on a journey of life-long duration, echoing the support they will receive from their Brothers throughout their lives and even offering her own home and a hot meal if ever needed. Fraternity men should not have to pretend as if women with strong-ties to their organizations do not exist (literally being forced to cover up their Sweetheart’s photo on a composite). It is a deliberate misrepresentation and falsification of the organization’s identity to hide such women from potentials. To the outsider looking in, it can often be most comforting to hear from another outsider, not just those perspectives from within the organization. Yet, UAX denouncesthe participation of Panhellenic women in men’s fraternity Recruitment events.
Denounce: to pronounce, especially publicly to be blameworthy or evil.
Hazing is evil, sexual-assault is evil, but Sweethearts? This is where you remind me that UAX states the Sweetheart position can remain. But you’ve taken away one of the most important aspects of being a Sweetheart. We are an ambassador of the organization to the outside world; being non-members we can best relate to those also on the outside – looking in. At ERAU, during each semester’s dedicated Greek Recruitment Week, Sigma Chi hosts a Spaghetti-dinner for the undergraduates, alumni, potential new members and guests. During this event the undergraduate leadership, distinguished alumni and sweethearts speak to their experience with Sigma Chi. Each year I volunteer to speak and will continue to do so, regardless of your agreement. I was disheartened to see the role that remains for the current chapter sweetheart in the wake of UAX. Being Greek herself, she stealthily entered from the back of the room, quietly dropped off a plate of cookies and quickly made her exit before any rush monitors noticed her presence. How sad; instead of being there to listen to Greek leaders speak and perhaps one day become a speaker herself, NPC Policy tells her she’s only good enough to bake – now back to the kitchen before someone notices. Essentially, you’re telling Sweethearts: make a choice, it’s us or them – you can’t have both. It’s sending a message to Fraternities; if they don’t want to deal with more Panhellenic drama, elect a non-Greek as Sweetheart. The University administration, empowered by UAX, is telling women on campus they cannot speak for and represent what they believe in! How can you support such blatant sexism?
Von Stein maintains that if amendments are not made to UAX, she will have no choice but to disaffiliate from Theta Phi Alpha..