Almost half the members of the Delta chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi at Tufts University walked out in protest of the treatment of a trans pledge.
The trans student has since been admitted into the sorority, but the members who left say that it’s too late, and the damage has been done.
When Alpha Omicron Pi’s national organisation found out that the chapter was considering extending an invite to a trans pledge this September, it tried to stop them.
“They said that they didn’t want us to extend her a bid, basically,” said the chapter’s former president Kristin Reeves.
“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.”
The national organisation wasn’t happy about that though, and quickly warned that it could open the sorority up to legal problems.
That’s because fraternities and sororities have an exemption from Title IX, a federal law that restricts single-sex educational organisations.
It was feared that admitting a trans member might violate the sorority’s single-sex status, and thus threaten its Title IX exemption.
The group eventually reached the right decision, and decided to permit any member who identified as female – including the prospective trans pledge.
But by then a number of the Tufts chapter’s members had already begun to question the sorority’s values.
“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.
That prompted Reeves, along with 46 other members, to leave Alpha Omicron Pi entirely.
“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.”
“I can no longer be a part of an organization that rejects — or even hesitates to welcome — inclusivity and diversity,” wrote another member, Tai Williams, as she left.
“In my opinion, it is absolutely despicable that Alpha Omicron Pi would even consider the possibility of excluding an individual based on gender identity.”
The trans student, who has decided to remain unnamed, thanked her fellow students for their solidarity and support.
“We are friends, we are allies, we are sisters,” she wrote in an op-ed in the Tufts student paper.