Girl Trouble

When CU students take the Delta Delta Delta pledge, they take it very seriously.

After the sleepover, Armstrong wrote a letter to the Boulder chapter of Delta Delta Delta, withdrawing her application for membership.

The sorority sisters were not pleased.

I can remember rush group when we were together and you were such a nice girl. And I was happy to be in a sorority with you. It was sad when you decided that this just wasn't for you because I enjoyed having you be my sister. I respected your decision that you did not want to be apart of this group and I hoped I came across like that. I did want to continue to talk to you because of the bond we had shared up into that point. But now I know that this is asking to much because of the magnitude that I have hurt you. -- from Kristin Russell's apology letter

The doors: Lili Armstrong lives a floor above two of 
her tormentors.
Mark Manger
The doors: Lili Armstrong lives a floor above two of her tormentors.
Shelter from the dorm: Several residents of Smith Hall 
(above) pledged Tri Delta sorority; one soon 
Mark Manger
Shelter from the dorm: Several residents of Smith Hall (above) pledged Tri Delta sorority; one soon unpledged.

An anonymous letter dated November 1 and titled "When Will They Ever Learn?" was mailed to Chancellor Byyny, CU president Elizabeth Hoffman, Boulder police chief Mark Beckner, the CU police department and CU's Panhellenic Council, the student organization that regulates the activities of Boulder's fraternities and sororities, whose membership totals about 3,000 every year, or roughly 15 percent of the student population.

"Dear Sirs/Madams," it began. "We are two families of daughters at CU who have pledged Tri-Delta Sorority." The letter went on to detail the drinking that had occurred at the October 29 sleepover and the alcohol poisoning suffered by several attendees. "We are OUTRAGED at this grievous error in judgment and illegal alcohol provisions to minors. Has no one learned anything from Gordie's death????

"We take responsibility for our own daughters' actions and do hold them both accountable for the decisions to drink. One of our daughters became very ill and had to be taken to our family physician. We are asking you to protect other girls whose parents are unaware of the danger these girls were forced into and could easily be again. Our daughters believe they were hazed into some of this drinking by the sorority officers due to peer pressure of the event -- being dropped off at a house without available exit transportation and no idea where they were.

"We are unable to sign this letter as we would like because our daughters have given us recent examples of serious physical and verbal retaliation of other CU students when such matters are reported with signatures. We deeply regret the anonymous nature of this report but our daughters are frightened and convinced they would be forced to leave CU if their names are known. We refuse to let a sorority change the academic decisions our daughters have made!!

"Please impose public sanctions so that these and other sorority members know there are serious consequences to endangering the lives of our daughters and other pledges. We are sure no one wants to see another young CU student die at the hands of fraternity or sorority members and, last Friday, it so easily could have ended deadly for one of our girls."

The letter was signed "Outraged, Concerned, and Begging for Assistance, Parents of CU Tri-Delta pledges."

University of Colorado officials forwarded the letter to the national office of Delta Delta Delta, which dispatched two investigators to the Boulder campus. They questioned dozens of Tri Delta pledges and members.

"The investigators determined there had been numerous violations of policy at the new-member retreat -- principally, that alcohol had been served to underage new members," says Tri Delta General Counsel Vince Slusher.

The national office immediately placed the Boulder chapter on probation for the remainder of the 2004-2005 academic year. "During the probation period, they're prevented from having social events, and they're required to step up the amount of community service the chapter provides on a regular basis," says Slusher.

If the Boulder chapter violates Tri Delta alcohol policies again during the probation period, its charter will be suspended or revoked. "If there aren't any more violations," Slusher adds, "at the end of the period our executive board will review the progress made by the chapter and make a determination whether to continue the probation."

Delta Delta Delta has 136 chapters and more than 200,000 student members nationwide, and the national office is cracking down on alcohol violations across the country. "We realize underage drinking and high-risk drinking are serious issues, and we are taking them seriously," Slusher says. (The national office declined to release the name of the Boulder chapter's president.)

Earlier this year, the national office suspended the charter of the Stanford University Tri Delta chapter after four underage pledges were hazed by sorority officers into drinking a shot of beer every minute for an hour -- more than a six-pack -- at a "power hour" hosted by Stanford football players. All four of the pledges vomited repeatedly, and one of them accused the football players of sexually assaulting her while the other three were in a bathroom throwing up.

When the Tri Delta investigators arrived in Boulder with a copy of the "When Will They Ever Learn?" letter in hand, the rumor quickly spread through the sorority that its authors were Armstrong and her mother, a community-services program coordinator with the Longmont Police Department.

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