Facing outcry over the high price of dues and criticism on social media, Alpha Phi and the vast majority of Chi Omega members will disaffiliate from their national organizations and plot a new course.
These announcements mean that by next year, Tufts will only have two remaining sororities. This is in stark contrast from six years ago, in 2014, when Tufts’ then-four sororities were reporting record recruitment numbers.
The changes come after months of backlash. Over the summer, all elements of the Greek life system on campus took heat on Instagram from Abolish Greek Life at Tufts, an informal student movement pressing for a ban on fraternities and sororities on campus.
The organizations saw a high number of drops and decided to suspend fall recruitment due to the pandemic.
Kallisti St. John, president of Alpha Phi prior to its disaffiliation, explained in September that the sorority shared different priorities from its national chapter.
“Over the past few months, it’s become clear that we just have completely different goals for what we want … what we want to focus on right now with COVID, with the social climate,” she said.
St. John noted that the national chapter of Alpha Phi still required members to pay dues, despite the ongoing pandemic, which further encouraged the sorority to break ties with its national chapter.
Each member of Alpha Phi was able to make their own decision on whether or not to relinquish their membership. All 103 members did so, according to St. John.
“Our international [chapter] decided to send us all an email saying that the chapter has been revoked due to … no membership,” St. John said.
She expressed that Alpha Phi has worked to maintain a larger focus on diversity and inclusion, and added a diversity and inclusion chair to its structure. She said it also prioritized scholarship and disbursed over $1,000 to members who needed assistance in paying their dues.
The disaffiliation means that Alpha Phi will change its name to The Ivy and undergo several internal changes.
“The Ivy is a symbol of connectedness and linkage,” St. John said. “We’re writing a new constitution … also including a lot of bylaws to make these changes.”
Su McGlone, director of fraternity and sorority life, explained the implications of Alpha Phi splitting from its national organization.
“They’ll be able to set up support structures as well as financial and membership policies that align with their current values, that will be able to adapt to change quickly, should they need to in the future,” she wrote in an email to the Daily.
However, she also indicated some risks that result from breaking ties with the national chapter.
“They have less overall support, and they are starting from scratch so there may be some hoops to jump through that we can’t currently anticipate,” McGlone said.
McGlone said the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life will support Alpha Phi in obtaining insurance and registering its new organization with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
She hopes these changes do not point to the end of Greek life at the university.
“Like any institutionalized entity, there are a lot of things that are wonderful about fraternity and sorority life, and a lot of things that need to change,” McGlone said. “I don’t think this is necessarily indicative of a movement to end Greek Life at Tufts, at least I hope it isn’t.”
Chi Omega, another sorority, is headed down a similar path, but is taking a slightly different route.
The sorority’s leadership decided to allow each member to decide individually. Those who wished to disaffiliate were to drop their membership before Oct. 14.
Just over 20 members of the 120 member sorority chose to remain, according to Gabi Osher, the president of Chi Omega. This means that Chi Omega still has enough members to operate as a sorority.
Osher said that Chi Omega is considering several different avenues, including becoming a women’s club or local chapter. She noted there is a disaffiliation committee that is continuing to look for alternatives.
“It’s really important that if and when Greek life is phased out that there is an alternative,” Osher said. “That’s what this disaffiliation committee is trying to achieve.”
Similar to Alpha Phi, Osher said that the movement to disaffiliate was sparked by the national organization’s requirement that members pay full dues despite the pandemic’s canceling most events.
However, because the university is housing students unaffiliated with the sorority in the Chi Omega house this year, the sorority did not have to pay its rent, allowing it to cover all members’ dues. Despite this, the dues request still struck many members as tone-deaf, according to Osher, who personally supported retaining the national affiliation.
Dues were not the only source of discontent for members of Chi Omega. Some were upset over the fundamental nature of a sorority.
“A lot of people are very upset about the fact that this fundamentally is an organization and system that tends to benefit white women who are financially stable and have the means to pay … and therefore kind of exiled a lot of others without intentionally meaning to,” Osher said.
Kappa Alpha Theta, Tufts‘ youngest sorority, founded on campus in 2013, will retain its national affiliation.
The sorority has faced a large number of drops in the past three months, according to CEO Gwen Mecsas.
Mecsas spoke about the national organization’s response to criticisms against Greek life.
“Our national organization is really centering issues of systemic oppression, our organization’s history and diversity and inclusion in every single chapter across the country right now,” Mecsas said. “[That was] something that if we were going to stay a Greek organization on this campus we needed to see it from our national organization.”
As was the case in other sororities, Kappa Alpha Theta held discussions about race and inclusion during the summer, including conversations with members of Abolish Greek Life at Tufts.
The sorority has also set up alumni funds to assist members with dues and the executive board is reviewing Kappa Alpha Theta’s policies to ensure the organization is welcoming to all students.
The leaders of Abolish Greek Life at Tufts indicated tepid support for the sororities’ disaffiliation.
“While we would rather see an administration-led university-wide ban of all Greek life organizations, we are happy the chapters are taking their own initiative and think this is a step in the right direction,” they wrote in a statement to the Daily.
The leaders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said that they believe Greek life protects and perpetuates privilege on campus and expressed disappointment that Kappa Alpha Theta is not taking similar steps to Chi Omega and Alpha Phi.
The Abolish Greek Life members cautioned against the formation of new women’s clubs and local chapters.
“We are wary of replacing the current system of Greek life with social organizations or social spaces that will have many of the same features of Greek life under a new name,” they said.