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Fraternities honor sweethearts - The Red and Black : News

Fraternities honor sweethearts

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Posted: Friday, May 2, 2003 12:00 am

To some, sweetheart is an honor, a title of which to be proud. For others, it's a title of shame and disrespect, something to avoid.

Sweetheart is a title affiliated with fraternities. Sweethearts are women chosen by the brothers, women who have "been around (the fraternity), who have hung out a lot," said John Gilbert, a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity.

They serve as party guests, public relations advocates, friends to the brothers and various other capacities.

"Basically, they are public relations people who are your friends," Gilbert said.

Sweethearts are reminiscent of the days when fraternities would have little sisters -- girls who hung out at the house and helped the brothers.

But little sisters are no longer around, dropped because of liability concerns and negative images, and sweethearts have taken their place.

The national boards of most fraternities prohibit little sisters because of the liability, said Claudia Shamp, associate dean for Greek Life.

"Over the years, fraternities became responsible for the actions of little sister organizations," she said. "They became a threat to fraternities' single-sex status that is allowed in Title IX."

But most allow for a sweetheart, and "the University supports those national policies," she said.

Little sisters also struggled with their image and reputation, said Bret Greene, former sweetheart liaison for Delta Tau Delta, a concern that was echoed by Linsey Echols, a Dance Dawg and Delta Tau Delta sweetheart.

"The brothers initially chose to call us sweethearts because the little sisters of long ago got a bad name for themselves -- they weren't very reputable, they weren't very good girls," she said.

For some, the name change has not helped the image change.

"In my sorority, we don't do things like that," said April Roland, a Delta Gamma. "We don't allow the girls to be one." Delta Gamma wanted to "uphold a good reputation," she said.

"Being a sweetheart or a little sister isn't the best thing," she said. "It's because of the things that are associated with it. To be one, you have to be the girl who is with the fraternity all the time. You have to go to all their parties, and promote their events. We don't want our girls to be around that environment -- there is a lot of drinking and other stuff."

Not all sweethearts are in sororities, but many are, said Deleigh Pearce, a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.

"I'm not one," she said. "But I have several best friends who are sweethearts. And not all fraternities have them, but most of them do."

Becoming a sweetheart requires lots of time, she said.

"Usually, you have to hang around for several years," Pearce said. "Girls are usually a junior or a senior before they are asked to be one, and often they are someone's girlfriend."

"It's a way of acknowledging them and saying, 'We appreciate you,'" he said.

"They come to our parties, and do nice things for us," he said. "But we do things for them too, like sending them flowers."

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