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Cornell University’s Pi Beta Phi sorority discovers a need for PR February 15, 2010

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Cornell University’s Pi Beta Phi sorority found itself in the hot seat at the beginning of February 2010 after its list of rules for new pledges was posted on the internet. As one online critic suggested, the rules were “petty, cruel, and God-awful rude” in a way that mirrored the portrayal of Greek life in the popular film, “Mean Girls.” Among those rules getting attention are the requirements that pledges avoid wearing watches with timers or Indiglo lighting, that they not wear satin unless they weigh under 130 pounds, and that they never expose a “muffin top.” Also, the sorority demands that pledges not have chapped lips or mustaches, they must always wear blush, and that their hair should be freshly colored.

Although Cornell University asserted that the sorority did nothing wrong, the Pi Beta Phi national chapter has suggested that it is working with the Cornell chapter to address the misconduct. The national chapter’s director, Wendy Drochelman, publicly stated: “The e-mail that has circulated does not in any way reflect the way the chapter conducts recruitment and the chapter fully understands the implications of the e-mail to the general public. We have acknowledged the error in judgment that led to the composition of this email and have apologized to the other members of the Cornell Panhellenic community and to the National Panhellenic Conference for any implications it has caused.”

To see what critics suggest when they compare the sorority to the one portrayed in Mean Girls, watch the following ad for the popular film:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What kind of problems might this recent controversy cause for the Pi Beta Phi sorority, both at Cornell and all across the nation?

2.  Assume for a second that you are a public relations expert. What advice would you give the Pi Beta Phi local and national chapter regarding how the sorority can repair its image?

3.  Do most fraternity and sororities have clearly stated policies that help prevent these controversies from occurring?



1. Jena - February 15, 2010

So what, Pi Beta Phi Sorority has a more formal dress code for membership recruitment or “rush”. Big Deal. Who doesn’t dress appropriately for different occasions?

Pi Phi doesn’t need any PR to undo “damage”. They are one of the “best” sororities on a national level, if not the best, and they can dress anyway they want. You don’t like it, don’t join. Haters, most who were “dropped” during rush by Pi Phi, and those who hate the Greek system anyway, will dump on them for any excuse.

2. jennifer - February 21, 2010

I see no need for damage control. They have their standards and if people want to join fine, if not, fine.

3. wrenny - July 10, 2011

The dress code wasn’t for pledges, it was for rush. It’s completely different.

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