Current, former AOII sisters work to make changes as Greek life evolves

The AOII sorority house is pictured on Nov. 2. (Scott Fitchen / The Tufts Daily)

Current and former sisters of Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) Delta are seeking to effect change within the chapter and in the international organization at large since half of the members dropped the chapter in October over disagreements with AOII international organization concerning extending a bid to a transgender woman.

In carrying out these changes, AOII Delta released a statement  to clarify the incident and to make clear to international headquarters that the chapter was disappointed by headquarter’s initial response, according to Amanda Danielson, vice president of communications for AOII Delta, who was responsible for drafting the statement.

“I wanted … to be firm with nationals that they messed up, that what happened wasn’t okay,” she said. “I wanted to acknowledge the incident of transphobia that happened, but also, I wanted to show that AOII International was willing to work with us, and that they do not want to be actively excluding … transgender women, and that there are ways we can change to make sure this can never happen again.”

Danielson said she hoped the statement would pressure the Constitution Interpretation and Revision Committee (CIRC) of AOII international to approve a list of suggested changes to the organization’s bylaws. Among these suggested amendments are a change from using the term “woman” to “female-identifying,” the addition of a clause that welcomes transgender women and the implementation of mandatory sexual assault and diversity trainings for all AOII chapters. Danielson also suggested changing the word “colony” to “starter” to describe a new chapter because of the potentially harmful connotations of the word.

Michaela Hurley, a cabinet officer for AOII Delta, said that CIRC has responded to the proposed changes and assured the chapter that it would be working with the sisters on this matter. Hurley, a senior, said that Amanda Wisti, a senior and the chapter president of AOII Delta, will represent Delta at a national convention next summer where there will be a vote by a council made up of chapter presidents across the country on the bylaw changes.

“CIRC has not yet given us input on the changes that we wish to make, so we have not finalized a draft of proposed amendments,” Hurley told the Daily in an electronic message. “Once CIRC returns with information about the amendments, we can circulate the changes to other chapters so that we can get four other members of the council to support bylaws changes.” 

Changes will occur at the chapter level as well. Danielson said that AOII Delta hopes to strengthen and add responsibilities to the Social Action Chair position, created in 2015, to keep sisters informed of events happening at both Tufts and in the larger community that may affect marginalized identities.

Danielson said that Harper Hopkins, the transgender woman who requested a bid from AOII Delta during the fall recruitment process, reviewed and affirmed AOII Delta’s statement before it was published.

Hopkins, a sophomore, said she hopes to implement changes on campus from outside the Greek system. She plans to create an organization that will provide a safe, accepting and inclusive space for people of all identities.

“I don’t want to speak too concretely to anything that’s going on, but there’s some very exciting stuff coming down the pipe,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins stressed that, following the October incident, friendships between sisters who left and sisters who stayed have remained strong, and that both groups have been driven by a will to implement positive change in the organization.

“There’s always more work to be done,” she said. “We’ve never finished with these fights.”

Hopkins also said she feels that Greek life at large needs to be reformed.

“There are a lot of things about Greek life that are heteronormative, cissexist, and just … not woke, and those need to change, and that’s part of a larger conversation that I think needs to be had across the board,” Hopkins said.

Greek life at Tufts will undergo major changes in the coming weeks, according to Meaghan Annett, the president of Tufts’ Panhellenic Council.

Annett, a senior, mentioned the creation of an LGBTQ resource guide to aid in educating people on the constitutions and bylaws of various organizations. Additionally, in the letter the Panhellenic Council issued in response to a Tufts Observer article about Tufts fraternities, the council mentioned adding a Diversity Inclusion Chair position to all Tufts fraternities and sororities.

“It was sort of reactionary, what happened with AOII, but now we’re trying to be more proactive in terms of how we can help each of our organizations as well as the greater Tufts community and those who are interested in joining Greek life,” Annett said.

Hopkins, while recognizing the large amount of work to be done, was optimistic about the future.

“I think any system can be fixed,” Hopkins said. “I’m an engineer, so maybe that’s why. The same kind of passion and dedication to community that can lead to horrible things can be redirected and reshaped into a positive force.”