Arrow-right Camera


WSU Sorority Decides To Lift Fine But Misses Point

Sun., Jan. 14, 1996

Listen. All that mindless clucking and fluttering you hear is from sorority snob sisters scurrying for cover like scared chickens in a henhouse.

The snooty Tri-Delts of Washington State University have had a positively amazing change of heart regarding Summer Vail, the 19-year-old WSU sorority member who dared stand up to her preppy peers.

Remember, last Sunday I told you how Vail refused to pay a $400 fine the Tri-Delts slapped on her because she chose summer school over Rush Week partying. Delta Delta Delta pooh-bahs told the sophomore from Spokane to either pay up or get out.

Well, guess what?

After all the threats and yammering, Vail’s fine was suddenly lifted. The Tri-Delts will also repay those members who were too gutless to fight the fines they received last summer for skipping rush because of classes.

Vail says thanks, but no thanks.

She enjoyed being a Tri-Delt, but Vail’s sorority days are over. She found an apartment and today will move her belongings out of that big, white sorority house on Greek Row.

The ill will generated by thumping the Tri-Delts would make remaining a member as much fun as a bad case of stomach flu.

One sorority sweetheart already made a nasty suggestion that Vail’s unpaid fine was the reason for canceling a Lake Coeur d’Alene party cruise. “At this point,” says Vail, “leaving is the best thing.”

Vail, who joined the Tri-Delts as a freshman, took a pre-calculus class and final exam last August at Spokane Falls Community College. The sorority charged her 50 bucks a day for missing eight days of mandatory rush.

Rush is the time when pledges are tested to see if they can hold their liquor well enough to join the Greek system.

Vail believes the sorority’s about-face is just a reaction to bad publicity. In a Jan. 10 letter to Vail’s attorney, Heidi Silvey, Tri-Delt mouthpiece Nancy Baskin first trashes the student for taking her grievance to a newspaper. “I personally find this approach very unprofessional,” writes Baskin. “Now a private matter has become a very public matter….”

This woman may not appreciate giving the Tri-Delt’s soiled laundry a public airing, but she apparently has no qualms using public property for sorority business. Baskin, who works for a federal judge in Boise, used the U.S. District Court fax machine to send Silvey her bitter surrender.

“It just infuriated me,” says Vail’s mother, Renee, of Baskin’s letter. “She missed the whole point. I can’t tell you how many times we called the chapter house before we took it to the press.”

The saddest part of all is that the Tri-Delts haven’t really learned anything. They used an ambiguous rush contract as their lame excuse to void Vail’s fine and return the fines already collected.

But they still intend to fine future Rush Week dropouts. “Until the chapter decides to change this policy,” writes Baskin, “I will continue to support summer school not being an excuse for missing rush.”

In other words: Lord help the poor kid who chooses academics over being a party animal.

Vail, who graduated with honors from Mead High School, found her grades mired in mediocrity at the sorority house. “Most of the time it’s rather loud and obnoxious,” she says. “College is tough for anyone, but it’s tougher when there’s a lot of distraction. “

As ridiculous as Vail’s fine was, it was peanuts compared with a penalty imposed on one of her sorority friends. That student, Vail says, attended an out-of-state summer school and paid a $1,000 fine. “You can get caught selling crack cocaine and not get a $1,000 fine,” quips an astounded Renee.

This young woman has shed plenty of tears standing up for her convictions, but she’s also learned a great lesson. And isn’t that what going to college is really all about?

Yes, says Summer Vail: “It all boils down to the fact that I had to do what is right.”

, DataTimes

Tags: column

Click here to comment on this story »