A Howard University Student Stirs Controversy After "Denouncing" Her Affiliation With a "Divine Nine" Sorority

Zora Sanders denounced her D9 Howard University sorority. People are split on her decision as some call sororities cults.

Jamie Lerner - Author

May 23 2024, Published 1:46 p.m. ET

One of the most prestigious universities in America, Howard University, also has a reputation for its sororities that are part of the “Divine Nine.” Howard is a historically Black university (HBCU) and the founding home of five of the nine D9 sororities and fraternities, one of which is Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, founded in 1913.

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But after Zora Sanders denounced her Delta Sigma Theta membership, D9 brothers and sisters, along with defectors, had a lot of controversial opinions. Some have gone as far as saying that Zora should have “quietly” quit and that she needs to be silenced and even chastised for her denunciation, while others have supported her decision, calling sororities cults. So what’s really going on?

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Zora Sanders decided to denounce her membership in the Howard University chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.

Zora upset not just the sisters in her Delta Sigma Theta chapter, but also brothers and sisters from D9 sororities and fraternities around the country because of the precedent she set with her denunciation statement. Zora is a rising senior at Howard University working toward a bachelor’s degree with a double major in Political Science and Government, and History.

According to her LinkedIn, she’s a star student — she was selected as a research fellow as part of the Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowship surrounding international relations in South Korea, works on Howard University’s Student Search Committee, and is the executive chief of staff at Howard’s Student Association, as well as a volunteer at the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs.

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Clearly, before even getting into the sorority drama, Zora is a go-getter who is unafraid to make decisions that she can stand by as she works toward political aspirations.

She titled her denunciation letter, “Denouncing Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated,” showing that she’s not denouncing her chapter, but the entire organization. She shares that she was a spring 2024 initiate in the Alpha chapter, and she “renounced and denounced membership as of May 1, 2024.”

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Throughout her research, she shares that she didn’t understand the requirements and that while she initially compromised on her values, she decided she did not want to participate in the requirements any further, which include “pyramid pinning in the induction ceremony” and “kneeling down and [reciting] two oaths at a ceremonial table.”

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She added that she was told by the president that her oath would follow her until “Final Judgement” and that she made obligations that she can “never be free.” She was also told to follow the “ritual book,” “swear an oath of allegiance,” and perform a “ritual ceremony,” and that she made a “covenant.”

However, those who are part of the Delta sorority and other D9 organizations have not refuted Zora’s allegations, and are instead angered that she spoke out in the first place. HBCU Shade Room shared a video of a woman claiming that Zora should have been vetted more carefully. She chastised Zora rather than the sorority for crossing boundaries and sponsoring “cult-like” behavior.

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Rumor has it that there will be several more D9 sorority denunciations because of the cult-like behavior.

In Zora’s denunciation, she discusses how the sorority worshipped Minerva and encouraged the initiates to take religious oaths, which go against her religious beliefs. One TikToker, Te-Erika, also called out a student named Angela who similarly denounced her membership, as she talked about how sororities have been compared to cults because of their rituals related to Greek gods (like Minerva).

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Angela denounced from Alpha Kappa Alpha because it was investigated for hazing rituals that led to all the students’ expulsions from the college despite no evidence being found. They were “abandoned” by their advisor along with the regional and state chapters of the sorority, and were then told they were suspended from the organization but that they could rejoin for a fee five years later, proving that sororities and fraternities are a business first.

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While some criticized Zora for denouncing after accepting her initiation, others are understanding that we’ve all made decisions we regret. It’s very likely she thought that participating in Delta Sigma Theta would look good on her résumé, but after going through the process, she felt it defied her values and would rather put her energy into other endeavors.

Regardless of the timeline, many are now coming out of the woodwork to agree that sororities are cults, but is that true?

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Are sororities cults?

Cults require a leader, an ideology, and some amount of manipulation and secrecy at the highest level, which does seem to exist in Greek life. But that could be said about many campus activities, so our best advice to potential sorority members is just to be careful with who and what you get involved with.

Not all Greek life and D9 organizations are bad, but they’re not all good either, so if there are red flags early on, follow that intuition and get out of a situation that may not align with your values.

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