“A toxic sense of exclusion” is how Emory Panhellenic Council (EPC) leadership and EPC chapter presidents described Sigma Chi’s choice to only include four of the eight EPC sororities on T-shirts promoting its Derby Days events.
The annual fundraiser, held last week, raises funds for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and cancer research through events and T-shirt sales, according to a Sigma Chi statement dated April 5 and sent to the Wheel on Tuesday. The T-shirts promoting Sigma Chi’s annual week of philanthropy bore the letters of Delta Delta Delta (Tri Delta), Alpha Delta Pi (ADPi), Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta) and Kappa Kappa Gamma (Kappa). Delta Phi Epsilon (DPhiE), Gamma Phi Beta (Gamma Phi), Pi Beta Phi (Pi Phi) and Sigma Delta Tau (SDT) sororities were excluded.
EPC Acting President Rachel Pan (17Ox, 19C) and all EPC chapter presidents wrote in an April 4 letter to Sigma Chi that the brothers’ behavior continued “a tradition of creating conflict … among sorority women.”
The letter states that the chapters refused to help promote or attend this year’s Derby Days events in response to the T-shirts sold at the April 4 Wonderful Wednesday.
Sigma Chi President Tom Baumgartner (19C) and Vice President Patrick Pontani (19B) apologized and said the chapter was only in contact with members of the executive boards of the four sororities printed on the shirt, they wrote in an April 10 email to the Wheel.
“It is evident in the language used in [EPC’s] letter that Sigma Chi’s practices have dissatisfied and offended many members of the Panhellenic community, and it is our hope to express remorse for these actions,” Baumgartner and Pontani wrote. “We did not take the proper steps to ensure the inclusion of the greater Panhellenic community. We … were in contact with the four sororities with which we have developed the strongest relationships, but did not reach out to all of the Panhellenic sororities.”
The EPC chapter presidents wrote in the letter that Sigma Chi did not request permission from the sororities whose letters were printed on the tees nor did Sigma Chi request those sororities’ support for Derby Days. The letter added that the deliberate exclusion of certain sororities reinforced a hierarchy and prevented chapters from acting as a community.
“We as Panhellenic women find it necessary to address this situation in solidarity and speak out against outdated, mean-spirited practices which have existed on campus for far too long,” the EPC letter reads.
In its response, Sigma Chi noted that it had a “lack of transparency” with the four sororities printed on the shirt.
“We negligently failed to make it clear that these sororities would have their letters printed on our Derby Days shirt,” the statement read. “In hindsight, we realize that our lack of transparency was problematic.”
“Each sorority chapter or women’s group must be treated equally as to provide a positive experience for all involved,” according to a 2007 Sigma Chi headquarters Derby Days manual.
The fraternity further asked all eight sorority chapters to participate in the remaining Derby Days events, which have now ended.
“Supplementary to our commitment to be more inclusive in the future, we would like to extend an invitation to the entire Panhellenic community to our remaining Derby Days events this week,” the statement reads. “We acknowledge and understand the rationale behind the Panhellenic Council’s decision to dissuade Greek women from attending our events, but … we hope that the Panhellenic community may look past the mistakes that Sigma Chi has made, and join us in unity for the remaining days of our philanthropic efforts.”
Pan declined to comment, redirecting the Wheel to an April 6 statement on EPC’s Instagram page.
“In light of recent events which have sought to divide our community, we will no longer tolerate behavior or actions that put our women in competition with each other,” the statement reads.
Gamma Phi President Serena Schmitt (19C), DPhiE President Madeline Maday (19C) and SDT President Carly Lapidus (19C) declined to comment, directing the Wheel to Pan. Tri Delta President Harper Clouston (19C), ADPi President Sarah Bair (19C), Theta President Grace Edgarton (19C), Kappa President Chelsea Leversedge (19C) and Pi Phi President Lauren Petrella (19B) did not respond to request for comment.
Richard Chess contributed reporting.
UPDATE (4/12/18 at 12:55 p.m.): Pi Phi President Lauren Petrella’s name was inadvertently excluded from the list of individuals that did not respond to the Wheel’s request for comment. The article has been updated to reflect that the Wheel contacted Petrella before this article’s publication but she did not respond.