Revamped sorority angers alumnae
One year after financial troubles temporarily kept the Alpha Chi Omega sorority from being active in the UA greek community, the organization re-emerged this semester with a crop of new recruits and optimism for the future.
However, for the women who were advised to take early alumnae status from the beleaguered University of Arizona chapter last spring, Alpha Chi Omega's return re-opened old wounds.
Emily Delph, a psychology and criminal justice sophomore, said she thought she had found a second family in Alpha Chi Omega when she pledged the sorority in fall 1998.
But when the chapter's members were asked to pay a $200 assessment fee last spring to cover the sorority's debt, Delph said she was surprised that the sorority had such a deficit.
"If you consider that each girl paid $200, and there were approximately 50 girls, you too may wonder how we accumulated this debt," Delph said. "But I trusted this organization and wrote a check for $200, payable to Alpha Chi Omega."
Delph said she had confidence that her sorority and university would see the organization out of its financial difficulties. But by April, Delph said national Alpha Chi Omega president Jan Crandall was standing in the chapter house telling the women they could not afford to remain active members at UA.
"We were advised to go alum, which many girls did that night," said Delph.
Katie Fischer, a physiological sciences sophomore, said the national organization is at fault for what the sorority members experienced.
"In one night, our entire sorority was taken away," Fischer said. "Nationals stripped the entire sorority experience away from us - especially the fall 98 girls, who were the main victims."
"I think that it is sickening that Alpha Chi Omega is being supported when they did nothing to try to support us," Fischer added. "I am a big believer of second chances - however, this organization does not deserve one."
Delph also wondered why UA is still associated with Alpha Chi Omega.
"Frankly, I am appalled at the university's lack of initiative. Why have they allowed an organization on campus which has hurt, used and abandoned their students?" she asked. "Is the university going to allow this to happen again? What has been done to help the girls who lost a huge portion of their lives? The answer is, nothing."
Fischer said some help could come in the form of an apology from the sorority.
"Nationals has never made any attempt to apologize to us. It is absurd that their jobs are to look out for our best interest," she said. "I would like to have either a written or verbal apology for the way that they treated us."
Delph said after Crandall's visit, she researched her options, looking for a way for the UA or the sorority's headquarters to help her stay an Alpha Chi Omega sister. However, she said she did not find any answers.
"The university was unwilling and incapable, the national organization was the one who had caused the mess, and nothing could be done to fix the problem," Delph said.
Delph also said she was curious how the national headquarters could afford to rebuild the sorority. "This is ironic, considering that merely a few months ago, we had not a penny for pizza,'" she said.
Ryan Koerner, a Collegiate Leadership Consultant from Alpha Chi Omega headquarters, said the national organization devoted time and effort to saving the UA chapter.
However, Koerner added that the sorority is built on the idea that each chapter - including UA's - is self-governing and self-supporting. Aside from an annual nationals' visit to each house, chapters are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
"We don't have a criteria that says when 'X' happens, we intervene," Koerner said.
Koerner admitted that the UA chapter was troubled last year, but said it is time to move ahead.
"Both the Alpha Chi Omega nationals and the (UA) members last semester will agree that we weren't in the best situation," she said. "We just have to put that in the past because it was last spring."
Koerner said the recent pledges have the freedom to create a new Alpha Chi Omega, with the guidance of the national office.
"I really think we've created an outlet for women who weren't attracted to the greek community originally, who are great women," said Koerner. "It's a democracy and they'll choose what they want to do."
The women who accepted alumnae status were contacted last summer and given the chance to change their minds. However, none of them wished to be reinstated. Koerner said she hoped the former UA members would find Alpha Chi Omega again through Tucson alumnae groups.
"At this point, we really respect their decision," said Koerner. "I hope they'll find a niche there and reconnect with the alum opportunities that we have."
UA Greek Life coordinator Kathy Adams-Reister said Alpha Chi Omega is a recognized, normally-functioning member of the campus Panhellenic Association and supported by the UA.
Adams-Reister estimated Alpha Chi Omega accepted about 40 women this spring.
"We hope they can continue to grow and become a healthy chapter," she said. "They have a great group of women who have joined."
Hillary Davis can be reached at Hillary.Davis@wildcat.arizona.edu