The sorority house of Alpha Omicron Pi is pictured on the evening of Nov. 2. (Scott Fitchen / The Tufts Daily)

Half of AOII Delta sisters drop to protest international organization

Nearly half of the members of the Delta chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) left the sorority on Oct. 14, according to Kristin Reeves, the former president of the chapter.

Reeves, a junior, said she stepped down as president on Oct. 5, following continued correspondence with the AOII international organization regarding extending a bid to a transgender woman.

According to Reeves, on Oct. 12, the Leaders Council (LC) of AOII Delta elected senior Amanda Wisti to serve as interim president until an election can be held in December for the next full-year term.

During recruitment period this fall, a representative from AOII’s international headquarters visited Tufts to supervise recruitment and learned that a transgender woman was participating, according to Reeves. Reeves added that on Sept. 16, the representative asked the national organization if AOII Delta could extend a bid to a transgender woman.

“They said that they didn’t want us to extend her a bid, basically,” Reeves said. “They were like, ‘well, we’re not saying you never could, we’re just saying right now you can’t.’ I was really mad about this, as was the rest of the chapter, so we unanimously decided to give her a bid anyway.”

Courtney West, assistant director of public relations for AOII International Fraternity, pointed out that the student in question was extended a bid by the Delta chapter.

According to Katherine Tapper (LA ’12), the current chapter advisor for AOII Delta, members of the Delta chapter participated in a conference call early in the afternoon of Sept. 17 that included Reeves, Tapper and AOII’s delegate to the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), an umbrella organization overseeing 26 national and international sororities.

According to Reeves, by Oct. 14, following a meeting on Oct. 12 with a representative from AOII international headquarters, 40 to 45 women had dropped out of the sorority. AOII Delta chapter‘s website states that there were 81 women in the sorority before Oct. 14.

Reeves explained that the AOII’s NPC delegate informed her during the conference call that the extension of a bid to a transgender woman could put the organization at risk of being in violation of federal law.

“A representative of the National Panhellenic Conference told me that in doing that, that was a risk to their Title IX status as a single-sex organization, and so by extending a bid to a transgender woman, that could potentially bring on the possibility of lawsuits, and I was like, ‘Okay, well, I’m calling bulls— on that,'” Reeves said, referring to the AOII delegate to the NPC that was on the call.

According to the NPC Unanimous Agreement, NPC member groups have the right to exist as women-only private social organizations, as stipulated by Title IX.

Tapper said that AOII Delta ultimately decided to maintain “within our own official governing documents” that someone who identifies as female is indeed female.

While the international headquarters of AOII did eventually assure the Delta chapter that it would not be in violation of the organization’s policy by extending the bid and that they had reconsidered their initial opposition, members of the Delta chapter had already begun to reevaluate if their values aligned with those of the international organization, Reeves said.

“But then what happened was because of all these conversations about — are they really not gonna allow us to accept a transgender woman—then this like kind of veiled threat of would we get our charter pulled? What’s going on there? It kind of started a conversation about ‘do our values align with AOII international,” Reeves said.

According to the NPC Manual of Information, all college panhellenic associations and their individual members must follow the guidelines laid out in the organization’s Unanimous Agreement, which stipulates that all member groups must be women-only.

“There [were] a lot of questions about what … a female [is], and I think that’s a conversation that we’re having nationally as a country as well,” Tapper said.

Reeves, who stepped down as president Oct. 5, said she left because she refused to take part in a system she believed had racist, classist, transphobic and homophobic underpinnings.

“I left because I’m not participating in a system like that,” she said. “I refuse to take part in it, and by staying, for me, it would be allowing it to happen.”

According to West, this is a mischaracterization of the sorority’s beliefs.

“Alpha Omicron Pi believes that all individuals are unique, with inherent worth and dignity, and should be treated with respect,” she told the Daily in an email.

Reeves went on to say that her decision between staying or leaving was a decision between silence and protest.

“If [an organization] doesn’t support you in the ways that it should … it’s not worth being in it,” Reeves said. “I have a ton of great memories and good times that I got out of AOII, and those won’t disappear, but good times aren’t worth ruining lives.”

Wisti noted that sorority members had discussed leaving AOII well before this particular issue came to light.

“People had already tossed around the word[s] disaffiliation and self-suspension,” she said. “It wasn’t specifically in regards to this one instance that they decided to leave.”

Senior Tai Williams wrote a self-suspension letter to AOII headquarters documenting her decision to leave.

“I can no longer be a part of an organization that rejects — or even hesitates to welcome — inclusivity and diversity,” she wrote. “In my opinion, it is absolutely despicable that Alpha Omicron Pi would even consider the possibility of excluding an individual based on gender identity.”

Williams also commented on the permanency of the friendships she has made as a member of the chapter.

“The friendships I have formed within the chapter, and the sense of community I felt, were and are indispensable and cherished … However, these positive experiences do not discount the culmination of incredibly negative and violent (mentally harmful) instances that Alpha Omicron Pi, as a national organization, has perpetuated. Thus, I am no longer a part of this organization,” Williams wrote in her statement.

Wisti and Tapper both stressed that no sense of antagonism exists between members of the sorority who left and those who remain.

“There’s no animosity, there’s no hate,” Tapper said. “It’s very sad that [others] left, but … the friendships still remain. Even though the bond of AOII is not there anymore, there’s still a friendship bond.”

Reeves said there were discussions among some women who left of creating an unaffiliated, local sorority. Sisters who have been initiated into a NPC sorority are ineligible to join new sororities. She said that creating a local sorority, similar to the recently-established local fraternities Pi Rho and Pi Delta, would enable the sisters to make decisions independently from the larger organizations.

“The benefit of local organizations is that you’re only reporting to yourselves, you’re responsible for your own actions, which means that you need to hold yourself accountable,” Reeves said. “But it also means that if something happens, you have the ability to change it and improve it.”

West added that despite the large exodus of members, AOII international remains supportive of the Delta chapter.

“There are still many women in Delta chapter who are dedicated AOII members. The chapter will continue to recruit members who embrace diversity, are passionate about social action, and are dedicated to maintaining their high standards of excellence,” she told the Daily in an email.

Tapper said that the remaining members of the Delta chapter plan on working from within the organization to influence its policies.

“We know that it’s a conversation that is ongoing … I think that the chapter here is very proactive to make sure that all of Greek life is as inclusive as possible in breaking down stereotypes and not just on the Tufts campus, but also being a part of a national organization,” she said.
CORRECTION AND CLARIFICATIONS: An earlier version of this article stated that a representative from the National Panhellenic Conference participated in a conference call with Former AOII President Kristin Reeves, Tapper and other women from AOII’s international headquarters. The woman referred to as the NPC representative was actually AOII’s NPC delegate. The Daily regrets this error.

An additional comment was also added from Courtney West, assistant director of public relations, to provide further clarification on the international organization’s continued support of the Delta chapter.

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11 Responses

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  1. SomeGuy
    Nov 08, 2016 - 03:12 AM

    And once you get tired of the white nationalism, body shaming, misogyny, evangelical christian patriarchal bullshit etc. head on over to r/gendercynical

    • Monk
      Nov 08, 2016 - 07:10 AM

      I’ll take this litany to be parody. But then, the transgender phenomenon would seem to be parody in and of itself.

      • SomeGuy
        Nov 08, 2016 - 01:00 PM

        LOL, I take it you’ve never spent any time on one of Reddits nastiest alt-right hate subs. It just takes a few minutes to see what other hate subs r/gendercritical folks subscribe to, to see just how toxic and hateful they are. As for your opinion on trans people you are going to need to try a lot harder than that to get a rise out of me.

        • Monk
          Nov 08, 2016 - 01:29 PM

          What is Reddit, and what makes it relevant?

          • SomeGuy
            Nov 08, 2016 - 01:47 PM

            Reddit is a pretty popular social media, content rating, discussion community. Its relevant because the person whom I was originally responding to is promoting a Reddit community that claims to be for Gender Critical Feminism but in reality there is a huge overlap between members of r/gendercritical and other subs dedicated to hating non whites, overweight people, the disabled, trans, etc. r/gendercynical is a parody sub dedicated to poking fun of and correcting blatant lies and miss information spread by others about trans people. Why do you consider the “transgender phenomenon” as if such a thing exists to be a “parody in and of itself”?

          • Monk
            Nov 08, 2016 - 04:32 PM

            OK, thanks for the civil reply. I see that Wikipedia goes on to describe the largest Reddit age group is 18-29 years old. I can see how Reddit can be thin on mature, reasoned, constructive posts.
            Now, you will have to understand that I base my beliefs and comments upon the millennia-old wisdom of classical philosophy and theology that forms the basis for Catholic thought and life. And I absolutely do not expect to convert you by explaining myself. But you politely asked a question.
            Natural Law recognizes procreation as the primary purpose of sexual activity. The loving communion of persons is certainly also an essential aspect of authentic sexual activity. If either or both of these elements is absent, the act falls short of its potential, and is possibly a crime, as is rape, for example. In order to protect the persons involved, Catholic theology holds that both, the possibility of procreation and loving communion must be present to prevent exploitation and self indulgence. If the two bases for an authentic sexual act as I describe here are considered necessary, then transgenderism is simply sexual confusion and misconduct. Further, Christians and Jews believe that men and women are created in the image and likeness of God, who created them male and female, genderwise, not in between, and not something to be rejected. The current pope went so far as to lament, “Today, in schools they are teaching this to children – to children! – that everyone can choose their gender.” And “We are experiencing a moment of the annihilation of man as the image of God.” And he described transgenderism as “ideological colonization.” And an issue intended to confuse and convert people into thinking that gender is a fluid thing, part of the propaganda that suggests there are no absolutes. That there are no truths. So, it goes far beyond an individual person’s subjective feelings. If there are no moral absolutes, no truths, then there is only moral chaos and anarchy. And no one will have any basis for self-respect.

          • SomeGuy
            Nov 08, 2016 - 07:07 PM

            I’m not a person of faith and the Catholic Church and its teaching hold no interest for me. I had a long response written up just now and deleted it. I’m going to have to just disagree and bow out of a conversation I simply don’t have the emotional energy to engage in. If anything you seem well intentioned, I do hope that good information finds its way to you and you adjust your opinions accordingly. Every trans person I know myself included simply wish to go about our day without harassment and abuse by individuals or by a system that is not very friendly to us.

          • Monk
            Nov 09, 2016 - 05:00 AM

            Fair enough. And I have deep respect for you on the basis of your remarkable civility, which is no minor virtue these days.

  2. Tori Browning
    Nov 08, 2016 - 03:36 PM

    Keep living in your little TERF bubble sweetie, see where it gets you.

  3. NobodyN
    Nov 08, 2016 - 10:46 PM

    Well done; the old prejudices are no longer valid at universities which are under Title IX governance as well as being responsible for preserving the civil liberties and physical security of all students. The international chapter needs to shame its “leaders” for not leading but trying to live in an antiquated environment. The same at WSU where the “leaders” have failed to create a positive environment leading to the current stand-down of all Greek life. All Greek organizations need to monitor their chapters better and clean out the top levels when any chapter fails, when Greek life at any campus fails (the Panhellenic councils) and when any given Greek organization fails at more than one campus then that organization needs to clean out its leadership and start over.

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