Sorority pledge suffers from Sigmatization

By The West Virginia Record | Oct 21, 2011

In the classic movie "Casablanca," Claude Rains plays Captain Renault, a corrupt Vichy police officer who must find a pretext for shutting down Rick's Cafe Americain.

Though gambling is technically illegal in French-occupied north Africa, the cafe is famous for its roulette tables, where Renault enjoys extraordinary "luck."

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" he suddenly announces, as a croupier hands him his winnings for the night.

Renault thanks the croupier in a whisper and loudly orders the cafe closed.

For good or ill, there are lots of places where rules are winked at and sticklers are unwelcome. Take fraternities and sororities, for instance. They all have rules on the books, but some of the rules are not enforced and some are enforced selectively.

Imagine Captain Renault trying to find a reason to shut down a sorority.

He might suddenly announce that he was "shocked, shocked" to find boys and beer on the premises.

This is, more or less, the position in which Marshall University student Sarah Frances Lyon found herself after pledging the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority on campus.

A week or two after pledging, Lyon said she stopped by the sorority house one morning and saw empty beer cans all over the building and fraternity boys bedded down with her new "sisters."

Unlike Captain Renault, Lyon said she really was shocked and reported the sorority rule violations to the Tri-Sigma vice president.

Her complaint was not well received, however, and sorority members responded by subjecting the new pledge to a series of reprisals, according to a lawsuit Lyon subsequently filed in Cabell Circuit Court.

Surely, our courts ought to be reserved for more important issues. Maybe Tri-Sigma authorities, university officials, and the parents of sorority members should provide more supervision for girls gone wild, but why make a federal case -- or even a circuit court case -- out of it?

And why bother belonging to a sorority that has so little to offer?

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