A difficult and overdue decision: Leaving the Omicron Beta Chapter of Chi Omega

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JAMIE HOLT / THE FLAT HAT

Both the National Headquarters of Chi Omega and the Omicron Beta Chapter itself — as well as the entire White Greek Life System, perpetuate and benefit from systemic racism through recruitment practices, the dues system, and the consistent alienation and silencing of Black and Brown women. Ultimately, after much consideration and discussion, we have concluded that reform of systemic racism and practices is not possible, and we recognize the best course of action is to disaffiliate and disavow the White Greek Life system.

First and foremost, the former members who composed this letter were all participants of the very system we seek to challenge; we joined for reasons likely similar to those who are still members of Panhellenic (NPC) and Interfraternity (IFC) Councils, and we understand that these reasons are powerful and compelling. We openly invite others to engage with us in this conversation in hopes of creating an open dialogue on the issues systemic to White Greek Life.

The intention of this letter is not to demonize or chastise; rather, it is to emphasize the insidious and fundamental elements of racism within the NPC and IFC, or White Greek Life, and to push forward with a call for complete and total abolition, especially on the College of William and Mary’s campus.

There is no denying the College’s racist past: the first Black female students were accepted in 1967. Ironically, in 2018, the College celebrated “100 years of women,” which directly excluded Black women. Even after the College began accepting Black female students, it took much more time for Black women to be recruited by the Omicron Beta Chapter of Chi Omega. The very existence of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), which exists to celebrate and promote Black/Afro-diasporic pride, history and culture, shows that White Greek Life inherently excludes Black people.

The Omicron Beta Chapter has an extensive history of racism and continues to perpetuate these practices to this day. Omicron Beta fails to make meaningful contributions or pushes for accountability and ultimately, the members seem to care more about maintaining their image when met with critique. In the past, the Chapter participated in Black face and other culturally insensitive incidents.

Today, Omicron Beta’s racism is more discreet, but it is still powerful and pervasive. Some examples from recent years include culturally appropriative and racist Halloween costumes, apathy at Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conversations, microaggressive behavior, and insensitive recruitment videos. These actions were rarely, if ever, met with discipline or action from the Chapter’s executive board.

There is a clear divide in the prioritization of values within the Chapter. While the visible, performative elements of anti-racism present themselves in forums with high viewership, oftentimes the labor is allocated to the so-called “social justice warriors.” This creates a sense of ease and complacency within the Chapter, without the intensive work that is required to truly and actively address anti-racism.

This produces a veil of protection for the organization, as the small DEI conversations that were often met with indifference at the time, are referenced and idealized for social capital and as a defense against claims of racism. This raises the question: what work are the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils doing to actively dismantle racism, even when Twitter is quiet, when pressure is low, and when no one is watching? Or are these Councils merely acting as a form of performative damage control, listing action steps only to lose interest once the hashtag #BLM stops trending?

As much as the White Greek Community at the College speaks of values, there is little introspection required to be in any Chapter. The Black Lives Matter protests this summer renewed the need for us all to examine our participation in organizations. This is when Omicron Beta, among many other sororities, released statements against racial injustice, words that could have been so impactful but were empty and disappointing. While the Chapter shares messages of support outwardly in the campus community, there was little inward reflection of the Chapter or support of the DEI initiatives proposed by members, many of whom are leaving the Chapter today.

To white individuals in these organizations: we ask you to reconsider your membership.

We recognize that Omicron Beta’s shortcomings may be obvious, but it is not the sole offender; it is a symptom of a racist disease that is endemic to the White Greek system. Many non-affiliated Black and Brown students feel that IFC and NPC need to be abolished, as do we. How and why do you defend your affiliation with White Greek Life?

Our goal as an organization is to work as a platform to amplify the voices of those marginalized and traumatized by the White Greek Life system, serve as an educational resource for those who wish to learn more about the ingrained bigotry of White Greek Life, and ultimately work toward the abolishment of Greek Life from the College campus.

Through donating to anti-racism efforts, providing individuals with avenues for disaffiliation, and working with other organizations that uplift communities most damaged by White Greek Life, we aim to rid our community of the unreformable system that is the College’s White Greek Life.

Anyone with questions or interested in getting involved can follow/message us on Instagram @disaffiliate4change_wm or email us at disaffiliate4change@gmail.com.

This article was written by Sophia Kingsley ‘21, Elissa Cleland ‘21, Yasmeen Attia ‘22, Zenobia Goodman ‘22, Clare Garrity ‘21, Abby Fergus ‘21, Caroline Rhodes ‘21, Marika Scotland ‘21 and Tara McLaughlin ‘23.  

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