Updated: Sept. 17, 2018 at 11:52 p.m.
Dozens of women were kicked out of Chi Omega this week after the organization’s national chapter conducted a review of each member’s status, former members of the sorority said.
In interviews, four former members – who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from Chi Omega’s national headquarters – said nationals cracked down on the GW chapter after students hosted an unauthorized mixer with a fraternity in April. They said representatives from the national organization terminated about 30 students’ memberships – including roughly 10 who live in the sorority’s housing in Strong Hall and will now have to relocate.
“I don’t really want to be part of an organization that can be so vindictive, that could put its members through so much turmoil, through so much instability,” one of the former members, whose membership was terminated Monday, said.
All four former members said the chapter has been at odds with the national headquarters throughout the last academic year, starting August 2017 when the chapter released a statement condemning a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., against orders from the national headquarters. The national organization had released its own statement, which members of GW’s chapter thought wasn’t strong enough and didn’t condemn white supremacy, the members said.
“We just couldn’t stand for that so we released our own, and since then I would say we probably had a target on our backs,” a former member, who was kicked out of the sorority Monday, said.
After the group released the statement, representatives of the national chapter became increasingly distrustful and targeted GW’s chapter for an unauthorized mixer later in the year – something they don’t typically do for other chapters, the members said.
The former member whose membership was terminated Monday said she lives in Strong Hall but is no longer eligible to live in the building and has been “left in the dark” about her living situation. She said she has been asked to leave but doesn’t know when she will have to move out or where she will go.
She added that the executive committee is not allowed to discuss the students who were removed under threat of being removed from the chapter themselves.
Flannery Lawrence, the president of Chi Omega, declined to comment, deferring to national headquarters.
Whitney Plumpton, the director of marketing and public relations at the sorority’s national headquarters, declined to comment or provide any information about the membership revocation.
University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said each woman’s membership status in a sorority is determined by the organization’s national chapter. She said Chi Omega headquarters notified the University that they are communicating directly with members of GW’s chapter to discuss membership statuses with each student.
She said GW does not comment on specific investigations and declined to say whether Chi Omega members broke the student code of conduct. She said charges against student organizations are listed on the University’s website on a document that is updated at the end of each semester when there is a violation to report. The document was last updated in fall 2017.
Csellar added that students living in Greek properties must remain in good standing with their organization.
“When a student is no longer eligible to live in a Greek property, the University will work with each student individually to find an alternative room assignment to move into,” Csellar said in an email. “Additionally, the University will work with the organization and their leadership on strategies for meeting their occupancy requirements.”
Former members said during some students’ membership reviews, officials from national headquarters questioned students with pictures detailing possible conduct violations from their social media pages, including photos where members were visibly drinking alcohol or holding red Solo cups. They said some members were also presented with screenshots of texts describing the unauthorized mixer.
They said the chapter was temporarily suspended in the spring after the mixer, but officials didn’t start individually reviewing all membership statuses until this week.
“I have been notified today of allegations of inappropriate behavior by members of your chapter, which includes human dignity violations, plans to violate Chi Omega’s rituals and rule enforcement issues,” Shelley Potter, the national president of Chi Omega, wrote in an April 29 letter to the chapter, which was obtained by The Hatchet.
One former member said in her review meeting, she was pressed “intensely” by a representative from the national headquarters but declined to give specifics of the meeting, saying the information could reveal her identity.
“I felt attacked and belittled,” she said. “The questions were loaded.”
Another former member said the membership revocations could affect the on-campus reputation of GW’s Chi Omega chapter and decrease its “social influence.” She said that on top of the former members who were removed, there are more who have said they will disaffiliate or who have already disaffiliated.
“You couldn’t catch me in letters on campus,” she said.
But the former member who lives in Strong Hall said she hopes the reputation of the sorority will not be ruined because the members were not the problem – only the national headquarters.
“The reason I’m speaking about this is not because I hate it – it’s because I love it,” she said. “We are able to let the rest of this campus know that we are a great organization.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the student conduct violations document was last updated in spring 2016. It was last updated in fall 2017. We regret this error.