A mother, her daughter and their university
Reflecting on women’s issue at SU
Four Syracuse University alumnae, all with daughters who've attended SU, find solace in knowing the university has changed over the decades.
Ariana Mintz knew where the old Kappa Alpha Theta scrapbooks were kept, but she had never searched through them since she joined the sorority. She only knew her mother, Cheryl Rosenthal Mintz, had cataloged in them her years as a Syracuse University Theta in the late ‘80s.
The binder-sized scrapbooks had sat idle, unnoticed, forgotten, and deteriorated on the bottom of a bookshelf for three decades. For Ariana, they contained more mysteries than memories. Photos of unnamed young women dressed in formal gowns lined the pages, and magazine clippings of words such as “Absolute Joy,” “Celebrate,” “Sexy,” and “Legs Legs Legs” were plastered on others. In all the disorder, Ariana found it difficult to find her mother’s face, but she knew she was in there somewhere.
“My whole life, everybody had been telling me to go to Syracuse,” said Ariana, a junior broadcast digital journalism and international relations major. Many family members had attended the university, and she dreamt of attending the Newhouse School of Public Communications. SU checked all the boxes for her future. “I had my heart set on Syracuse.”
SU’s culture was much different when Cheryl was a freshman in 1986. Marshall Street had more bars than restaurants, where businesses such as Maggie’s, Bragg’s, and Faegan’s welcomed college students to cheap drinks and good times. The Schine Student Center was dedicated a year earlier, and the construction of the Carrier Dome, which still had an inflatable roof, was finished six years before. And Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment in academic and athletic institutions, had been in effect for a little more than a decade.
Thousands of students have come and gone from SU, but four alumnae who attended the university in the last 60 years, all of them with daughters who are also SU alumna or current students, find solace in knowing the university has changed so their daughters can experience a better SU than they did.
When Dana Goldman Farrell was a student at SU in the late ‘80s, she knew nothing about women’s sports. The coverage and discussion of women’s sports from both the university and broader community, especially without social media, was slim to none at the time, she said.
Now, her daughter, Rebecca Farrell, is a member of the university’s rowing team.
“I found out when my daughter made the rowing team that two of the girls from my sorority were actually on the rowing team when we were there, and I never even knew,” said Dana, who was also a sorority sister in Kappa Alpha Theta. “They were younger than me, so I didn’t know them as well, but I didn’t even remember them being on the team.”
Rebecca, a junior applied mathematics and neuroscience major, said she appreciates SU’s athletics department for its overall treatment of men’s and women’s teams today. But there are small differences in recognition between the men’s and women’s rowing teams that still stick out to her, she said.
After Cheryl, Dana, and three of their other sorority friends graduated from SU, they kept in touch through group chats and social media. But it was pure coincidence that each of the women wound up experiencing SU for a second time — because each of their children decided to attend their alma mater as well.
“If we do go up, we go up as a group,” Cheryl said about visiting campus. “I go up with all the sisters whose kids started together coincidentally. That wasn’t in the plan, just like Dana and I meeting and ending up there together was not in the plan.”
During her junior and senior year, Cheryl sat on the student judicial board. She said she overheard many cases involving Student Code of Conduct violations, and when she was a graduate student in the College of Law, she dealt with a case involving a rape accusation.
“The student had way too much to drink, both of them [had], and the questions were, ‘What happened? Did something happen? And if it did happen, was it consensual?’” Cheryl said. “The burden [of proof] was a lot different than it is today.”
Ultimately, during the deliberation, Cheryl said the judicial board was not able to determine exactly what happened to make a final decision, so the alleged victim lost their case.
Before Title IX, young women on college campuses had fewer resources for addressing inequality. Martha Johanek Lockwood, who graduated from SU in 1966, recalled that freshman women had a curfew, but could request “special late evenings.”
Lockwood, who was one of the first female sports feature writers for The Daily Orange, thought it was worthy of coverage for the newspaper. But Marjorie Smith, the university’s dean of women at the time, told her it was a non-story, Lockwood said.
“The thing was that if women have curfews, men probably won’t stay out either, so they’ll go home too, like the dating game ends there,” Lockwood recalled. “Looking back on it now, I thought it was either her way of avoiding controversy or she didn’t see it as a problem. I used my special late evenings for The Daily Orange. The guys got to work late at The Daily Orange and did not have to ask for any special permission.”
Kate Premo, Martha’s daughter, graduated from her alma mater with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1992. Although she and her mother went to the same college, their cultural experiences differ vastly.
“I think that I was lucky that I was there at a time when women had a stronger voice and were given exposure to many more opportunities,” Premo said. “This idea of being independent and starting your own career before you started a family in the ‘90s was a more common expectation for women than it certainly was in the ‘60s.”
Other alumni, such as Linda Bruskin Berkowitz, had other reasons for attending SU. Though Title IX had passed seven years before she was a freshman, she didn’t necessarily think about women’s issues. She wanted to live away from home and meet new people.
Unlike her mother, who chose SU to escape and explore, Allie Berkowitz arrived in 2007 for all of the opportunities college would give her in the career she was seeking. She graduated with a television, radio, and film degree from the Newhouse School, and she currently works as a freelance producer in San Diego, California.
When Allie thinks about her mom’s college experiences in comparison to her own, she wouldn’t want it any other way. She was just glad her mother’s path to SU was the right one for her.
On a cold February afternoon in 2022, Cheryl, Dana, and their two Theta sisters and long-time friends, Christine Carson Moretta and Suzanna Fisch Zysk, were back visiting their sorority house on Walnut Avenue. The alumni were in town for the men’s basketball game against Duke, a tradition they’ve kept for as long as they can remember.
Looking through their old scrapbooks, the women laughed, smiled, put faces to names and reminisced through the fading photographs of the people they used to know. Nearly thirty years later, they could still remember the stories of when they were young.
On the entryway of the sorority house, thousands of photos of Theta sisters present are taped and displayed. It’s enough photos to fill the pages of dozens of scrapbooks, a sign that the members still value documenting memories.
But even as the four alumni sat in the living room with their forgotten scrapbooks, the Theta tradition of book-making seems lost to time. What remains as historical markers are the composite portraits of many graduating Theta classes. Ariana’s portrait with the class of 2023 hangs on the wall of the main living room. Cheryl’s portrait from the class of 1990 hangs in a different hallway, right across from Ariana’s bedroom.
And when they’re finished flipping through them, the old scrapbooks just go back on the shelf.
is a magazine, news and digital journalism graduate student. In addition to The NewsHouse, she also contributes and freelances for PopSugar, NYUp.com and Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard.
is the assistant executive producer for the NewsHouse, and a graduate student in the multimedia, photography, and design program.
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