NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
by Emily Bills
As Phi Beta Pi is caught in a whirlwind of national controversy surrounding Dixie State University, its leaders strive to keep on keeping on.
Although the club is still under restraints by DSU administration to deny Greek letters in its name, President Indigo Klabanoff, a senior communication major from Boston, said all the national recognition means the club’s hard work has paid off.
Members of DSU administration have been actively battling against the decision to charter a club or sorority with Greek letters. Past students reached out to Dean of Students Del Beatty in 2009 and requested support for Greek life on campus. The decision to not allow Greek life was articulated and reaffirmed again in 2012 and now again in 2013. Klabanoff continues to move forward and has been using the media as an outlet for help.
Beatty said the media’s attention has had the reverse affect that Klabanoff hoped for.
“It’s just more of a nuisance than anything else,” Beatty said. “I personally feel like it makes [administration] want to dig their heels in the ground even more.”
Last month, Phi Beta Pi organized its first breast cancer fundraiser, and its next event will be a women’s career conference held Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. in the Gardner Ballroom. Klabanoff is treating the club as if it were a recognized sorority in hopes to prove to DSU administration it is passionate about the community.
“We identify ourselves with Greek letters in an expressive way,” Klabanoff said. “Being in a sorority to me is aspiring to be more, to be leaders, and to help out in the community.”
DSU administration stands firm on its decision to ban Greek letters from the name of any club or organization sponsored by the university. However, it encourages Phi Beta Pi to continue to do everything it is doing in the community but with no Greek letters attached. When Klabanoff originally approached Beatty, he urged her to start a club instead, with no avail. With attorneys involved, it’s become a “big deal” that could have easily been avoided, Beatty said.
Phi Beta Pi is expecting no special treatment aside from the other clubs, and members of other clubs have been disassociating with Phi Beta Phi in order to uphold their reputations, Klabanoff said. She said it’s impossible for others to know what it’s like to be involved in a sorority unless they are fully involved — just like any other organization.
“Unless you’re in that situation when you’re sitting in a circle with girls, and you’re doing these bonding games that are emotional, and you see these strong girls who have different sides . . . You might think we’re dumb, but it’s hard to explain unless you’re in it,”
Although Shelby Johnson, a junior medical radiography major from Lehi, never pledged, she still helps out when she can and is close with the women involved in the club. Johnson said Klabanoff is somewhat strict when it comes to rules and missing meetings, and she’s adapted these rules from other sororities by learning about them.
“Once you’re in a sorority – you’re always in the sorority,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the girls don’t want to be labeled with the party stereotype, and there is a high standard to be upheld. She said none of the women drink or advertise alcohol during meetings or to any of the other members.
“We want to build a sisterhood, so throughout life, we can always have these connections,” Johnson said.
Erica Ridd, a sophomore psychology major from Salt Lake City, continues to strive for Greek letters in the club’s name because she would otherwise feel as though she gave up on herself and her sisters.
“It’s bigger than I was expecting,” Ridd said. “These girls are a second family to me in a sense. If I gave up on them, I would feel like a failure.”
Klabanoff, Johnson and Ridd all agreed the connections being made within the sorority now are important for the rest of their lives.
The club meets once a week, and it plans future events. Ridd said all the media’s attention has proven which members are loyal and those who are not.
“There [are] some politics going on,” Ridd said. “Some are just there for the ‘Oh, yeah, I’m in a sorority,’ and [there are] others who really participate.”
Ridd also said the media has divided the club. Some members are campaigning for more change, and others are not.
Klabanoff said it’s “ridiculous” and “outrageous” that DSU administration is still fighting back with arguments that are no longer valid. She said administration keeps flip-flopping its reasoning why the club can’t have Greek letters in its name.
“All we are asking for is a club with Greek letters,” Klabanoff said. “That’s it – period.”
Members of FIRE (Foundations for Individual Rights in Education) have told DSU administration they are violating Phi Beta Pi’s civil rights. However, Beatty said the attorney general told them there is no problem and urges DSU to ignore the media’s pressure because there is no valid case.
“There is all sorts of correspondence going on,” Beatty said. “This is a big deal.”
Until members of DSU administration state otherwise, Phi Beta Pi will continue to hold meetings and strive for more recognition.