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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

Op-Ed: AOII: Sisters still

Inflection point (n.): 1. A point on a curve in which curvature switches from upwards to downwards, or vice versa; 2. A point in time where a narrative changes dramatically, often in response to external influences.

At an inflection point in the graph of an equation, the equation’s derivative (the rate of change of the equation) reaches a maximum or a minimum. For a moment in time, as the derivative pauses in its climb or fall, everything hangs in the balance. At this point, if the equation is modelling a system, that system is often referred to as being unstable or volatile. The slightest disturbance can send the graph plunging or skyrocketing, producing an inflection point that changes the meaning of the graph forever.

For Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) Delta Chapter, that inflection point occurred on Sept. 16 when the question of whether Delta could extend a bid to a transgender woman was raised with the international organization of AOII. That woman was me. The answer was no. Delta, nevertheless, unanimously and anonymously voted to proceed with extending me a bid anyway. This is my background. This is my bias.

The recentDaily article published on Friday, Nov. 4 tells a story of what happened thereafter; it speaks of late-night conference calls, fears of lawsuits and a group divided by fundamental issues of human rights. It speaks of sisters abandoning each other over ideological differences. It speaks of a president in exile explaining her reasons for leaving the organization. This is one story. This is one narrative.

What it does not speak of is the earnest efforts of sisters on both sides of the issue to address issues of systemic inequality and structural violence, and to make right where there has been wrong. It does not speak to the love that has been expressed by members (current and former) of AOII for their (current and former) sisters.

Around the inflection point of Sept. 16, the future of Delta and its individual members did, in fact, hang in a delicate balance. One thing was clear to everyone: If AOII International chose to formally forbid Delta from extending a bid, Delta was prepared to disaffiliate, becoming a local sorority. The question on everyone’s mind was what to do in other cases. Every member agreed that AOII International had, in the past and present, displayed problematic behavior that could not be ignored. Some members felt that the best course of action was to stay in Delta, working for change from the inside. Others — like myself — felt that this was not productive, and that the only responsible choice was to stop financially supporting AOII International and work for change on a more local level.

AOII Delta was, at this point, an unstable system. The disturbance that would decide the direction of departure from the inflection point was the arrival of AOII International’s Assistant Executive Director Kaya Miller. She came with a decision for us: She was to meet with each sister and uninitiated new member over a period of two days, and ask each to make a commitment either to self-suspend (permanently leave) from AOII or to stay.

The reaction to this announcement was not positive. Miller had been sent from AOII headquarters with apparently insufficient preparation, admitting at one point during a general all-member meeting that she was not aware of any of other grievances which AOII Delta held against AOII International except for the issue of initiating trans members. Over the two-day meeting period (as well as some in the days before and after), around 40 members of the chapter self-suspended. Would this number have been lower or higher had there not been such a hard line drawn at the two-day meetings? No one can be sure. Personally, I suspect that it would have been lower.

Which brings us to the Daily’s article. I encourage the reader to take a moment, look back and reread this op-ed up to this point. Go ahead, I can wait. Done? Now, did you see any traces of enmity between those who stayed and those who left? I hope not. Were there disagreements in methodology? Yes. Were there personal relationships that swayed sisters’ decisions one way or another? Yes.

I cannot speak for every sister. I think, however, that my feelings on these issues are similar to those of many of my friends, both in and out of Delta. The reasons I left were threefold:

  1. I did not feel comfortable financially supporting an institution that had displayed oppressive policies and behaviors in the past and present.
  2. Many of my friends, the same people for whom I had joined Delta in the first place, were leaving. I wanted to be with them.
  3. I did not feel that I, personally, could contribute significantly to creating lasting change inside the structure of AOII International. I decided instead to opt for more locally-based activism and advocacy, where I felt that I could have a larger impact.
The sisters who stayed behind did so for equally valid reasons. Again, I cannot speak for them. However, to the best of my knowledge, not one sister who chose to stay did so feeling that AOII International was without fault. Not one felt that there was no room for improvement in the organization. Not one made anything less than an earnest personal commitment to endeavor to affect change from within, in the interest of making AOII a safer, more inclusive space for people of all identities.

Similarly, the sisters who left were not cowards. Nor was our departure only an act of protest. We were individuals who left for individual reasons to pursue our individual solutions to the problems we perceived in our environment. We are not the opponents, opposites or enemies of the women who stayed in Delta. We are two separate groups with similar goals and differing ideas regarding the actualization of these goals. Most importantly: We are friends. We are allies. We are sisters.

 

Editor’s note: If you would like to send your response or make an op-ed contribution to the Opinion section, please email us at tuftsdailyoped@gmail.com. The Opinion section looks forward to hearing from you.