Mustang News obtained 17 letters from former members of the Cal Poly chapter of Chi Omega sorority. These members sent their letters to Chi Omega to resign their membership from the sorority.
Here are the letters led by an essay by psychology junior Nicki Butler, a former member of Chi Omega and a Mustang News opinion columnist. The letters have been edited for clarity and length.
The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
In January 2020, the Cal Poly chapter of Chi Omega formed the 2020 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to pursue diversity, equity and inclusion related initiatives within the chapter. The committee was led by a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director that existed under both the executive board and cabinet.
In light of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the numerous @ShadesofCalPoly Instagram posts about Chi Omega, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee began to pursue their work with the utmost urgency, dedication and passion.
One initiative included the removal of the legacy policy from Chi Omega, which gives preferential treatment to potential new members who have a sister, mother or grandmother initiated into Chi Omega. Other initiatives included removing Christian centered language from rituals, choosing an additional philanthropy that is based in anti-racist work, deferring recruitment to winter or spring to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion efforts were the focus of fall quarter, implementing mandatory educational racial belonging groups, openly accepting trans womxn into membership and much more.
All of these efforts were either put off for years to come or completely shut down by Chi Omega Executive Headquarters, which is the national leadership of the sorority.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee wanted to push forward anyway, which would defy orders from the Chi Omega Executive Headquarters.
The executive board of the Cal Poly chapter of Chi Omega wanted to follow orders, as they worried that breaking rules would result in the chapter’s dissolution. This created huge amounts of tension between the two groups, which led to the entire executive board except one person to step down from their positions.
From then on the Cal Poly chapter was taken over entirely by Chi Omega Executive Headquarters. Seeing the apathetic and insensitive ways that Chi Omega Executive Headquarters had treated womxn of color in this chapter, as well as their lack of urgency to pursue inclusive and equitable initiatives, more than 35 members from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee chose to resign their lifetime membership from Chi Omega.
Cate Armstrong she/her/hers
I am writing today in recognition of my membership resignation. The dismissal of the painful, lived experiences of my sisters of color amplifies every reason to leave this organization. There is nothing that can be said or done that would ever undo the invalidations that motivated this chain of mass drops. It’s plain and simple — if this organization cannot provide an equitable experience for all members, then I want no part of it. A web of tangible changes has been in the works all summer, and at each checkpoint with leadership, I have watched my sisters lose glimmers of hope in their eyes. Every single avenue to make change within the organization has been exhausted, and still, there is a deep misunderstanding of why this work is so excruciatingly necessary as an absolute top priority. The womxn of the DEI committee willingly handed over their time, energy, and love, only to be met with feelings of indifference. It is hard to express how many times I had to watch my sisters cry, scream, and recount painful memories in Greek Life only to be dismissed at the conclusion of each processing meeting in order to maintain “stability” within the chapter. Silence was never stability. Silence has been driving a wedge through our chapter all summer.
Our work as a committee highlighted institutional racism at the core. What we quickly learned was the system was operating exactly as it intended to — keeping individuals comfortable and deflecting any tangible changes the chapter asked for. I cannot sit in an organization knowing there are such deep barriers to change. We witnessed this in the prioritization of recruiting new members over the safety of the womxn of color. Forbidding the DEI committee to share presentations (specific members created these on instigating conversations through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion) prior to recruitment because you “cannot pick and choose which parts of recruitment to be involved in.” Navigating the inaccessibility of resources on the Chi Omega website (shoutout Nicki Butler for always sifting through pages of Bylaws and regulations.) Being called “mean girls” because Chi Omega National does not like what we have to say, and how we say it. Telling us slating just got revised so we have to wait until next year. Just wait, change takes time. It can only be fixed if National votes on it. Change takes time. Telling us it’s not going to work. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to work. Okay. Who do you expect to do the work for you when we are all gone? Quite frankly, it truly feels as if the top priority of the higher-ups in this organization is to put a lid on these issues rather than addressing the root of the problem in our chapter. We are only granted transparency if it is on their terms. I am hurt watching many beautiful, whole sisters have to compromise their identities for the comfort of the National organization. Our voices are our biggest tool, and if we aren’t even given a platform to be listened to, then there is simply no hope.
What always made Chi Omega so special was the fabric of interconnectedness. Our identities, involvements, and passions brought us such a rich diversity of humans in one collective community. However, what we absolutely cannot pick and choose, is which diversity we decide to celebrate. I thought I joined an organization that found beauty in difference, but it has become so blatantly clear that diversity is only celebrated when it is something that can be tokenized in a way that benefits the organization. As soon as our cries became a little too uncomfortable, it was suddenly our fault for defending a value that we were told Chi Omega embodies. I can no longer be part of an organization that will always choose toxic positivity over inclusion. The DEI Committee has shown me that two things can ALWAYS coexist: radical love and inclusion. These womxn show me the sisterhood that I have always been searching for, and I am confident that I will hold onto as I sever my ties to the National organization. These words come from a place of deep pain, but they in no way break the bonds I have formed with so many of you in this chapter. I will always be here, cheering you on to see you grow. I am always a resource, a space for processing, a hand to hold, truly whatever you need. I trust that each of you will make the best decision possible for your persons, and I will never judge you for what you feel is best. I am with you, always.
Cate Armstrong (she/her)
Ava Brackenbury she/her/hers
Wine and viticulture junior
I am writing today because I intend to join the many who are resigning their membership in Chi Omega. The Chi Omega I thought I was joining no longer exists and I came to this conclusion once the DE&I committee was chastised after pushing for diversity, equity, and inclusion; for doing their job. This may seem like a foolish comparison but bear with me. Chi Omega is like my ex-boyfriend: He thought it was okay to say the N-word despite being white, would gaslight me every time I was feeling disrespected or undervalued, had the emotional maturity of a 12-year-old, and was more interested in other girls than me. Similarly, Chi Omega was built on racism and exclusion, our nationals continually called us ‘disrespectful’ and ‘mean girls’ when we diplomatically call out racism, its leaders lacked the empathy and social awareness to help its own members, and PNM we had never met continually took priority over retaining members who put blood sweat and tears into this organization. I have since found a love that cherishes me, listens to me, respects me, and makes me feel important, just like how I hope you all find different organizations that respect you as a person as well as your time and effort.
An actual member of Chi Omega Nationals never made me feel listened to or appreciated, the only advice that I was given was to give up. I can’t imagine how those who were fighting significantly longer than I felt after being ignored or silenced time and time again. Many white womxn from nationals have the privilege of putting a band-aid over the wound that’s causing so many sisters of color to bleed out. The refusal to admit that anything is wrong and pretending like this institution is a fairy tale just shows how tone-deaf our new leaders are. We are being censored and forced into manipulative meetings to the point where we are no longer democratic. I no longer see Chi Omega reforming while still under national’s hold, that’s why I am giving up.
I understand that I’m not in a position to say a lengthy goodbye, however, I just want everyone to hear how disrespected and hurt I am, and also acknowledge that is a fraction of what the sisters of color are feeling. I am so delighted to have met so many of you but I don’t need letters to continue these friendships. Avin, Kass, Alanna, Michelle, Lauren, Erin, and so many others on the DE&I committee has shown me what TRUE sisterhood is. I honestly think that Nicki Butler knows more about our national bylaws than half of nationals. I care about so many of you and I will continue to be here for you always, but like many others, I can no longer continue to be a part of an organization that simply does not care about its members.
Love you all to the stars and back,
Nicki Butler she/her/hers
When I joined Greek Life, I promised myself that if I was going to willingly participate and pay to be a part of an oppressive system, I better do everything I could to fight to make it better. This year’s DEI committee started out as no more than five people, dreaming of a Chi Omega that loved and embraced WOC the way it loves and embraces white womxn. And so with that dream in our hearts, we pushed forward to create change. We slowly garnered support along the way. From action committees, to processing spaces, to tears of frustration, to meetings with National, I’ve seen our group of five girls grow to 50 members, all carrying the dream of inclusion upon their backs, just as so many WOC have done before us.
We met barriers at every turn, but we pushed forward anyway. When we were met with problems we found power in each other. We gave each other advice, we cheered each other on, we cried with each other and wiped away each other’s tears. I hadn’t known what sisterhood meant until I joined hands with the womxn of the DEI committee to dream of a Chi Omega that was radically empathetic, inclusive, and anti-racist.
We decided very early on, that these were not issues we would compromise on. We would not settle when it came to love and respect for our sisters of marginalized identities. We would ask for nothing less than what our sisters deserved. We would be bold in the face of ignorance, indifference, and callousness. We wouldn’t stop until we were a part of an organization we were proud of. Throughout it all, we spoke of a time where we would have to stop — where the long road of racism, white centralization, and bigotry would intersect with the weight of a dream too heavy to hold. We knew there may be a time where we would have to relinquish the Chi Omega we dreamed of, in order to not be crushed beneath its weight. That time is different for everyone.
It was when we saw the first Shades of Cal Poly post about us. It was when one of our sisters of color had to apologize on Instagram for white mistakes. It was when recruitment took priority over diversity, equity, and inclusion. It was when almost every action plan we came up with was met with a resounding no. I was when my sisters of color cried and begged on Zoom calls to be seen and supported by National, and were ignored. It was when almost our entire executive board stepped down, some of them claiming that us trying to hold them accountable was “bullying.” It was when we were told that sororities are supposed to be about ‘fun and friendship,’ not inclusion. It was when we found out that transgender womxn are not allowed in Chi Omega. It was when we were told it would take three years to even consider fixing that. It was when our sisters of color begged to be seen, supported, and loved. It was when a Chief Officer of Chi Omega told us that maybe we did not belong in Chi Omega. It was when we were called ‘mean girls’ for fighting for what was right. It was when our chapter was taken over entirely by National. It was when both our former and current DEI Directors dropped.
My heart is truly heavy with sorrow to surrender my dreams for Chi Omega, but it’s time, it has been time. I have loved learning what sisterhood is, I have loved loving all my sisters, and I have loved growing alongside them. But that growth has brought me to the limit of what Chi Omega is able to provide. I can’t go on any longer, complicit in this continuous oppression; I have to be brave and step out from underneath a white-centered narrative and continue spreading our dream. The dream of inclusion and love is one that can grow anywhere. I saw it grow so large within Omicron Mu, that it burst the walls that held this chapter up. And while I feel a little bad that our dream has brought this chapter to ruins, I also feel that any structure that breaks when forced to reckon with its own racism never deserved to stand at all.
What I have been told countless times in countless different ways is that Chi Omega is simply a place for ‘fun and friendship,’ not for radical inclusion and anti-racism. And if that is truly what Chi Omega is, then I sadly do not know how to be a Chi Omega anymore. I stand in solidarity with the countless WOC in our chapter that has not simply “voluntarily resigned” but have been forced out by a National organization that refused to see them as the amazing, intelligent, powerful, empathetic, badass womxn of color that they are.
So I sit in a sense of mourning today, not for Chi Omega, but for the sisterhood that we dreamed was possible. I’m comforted by the friendships I leave with today, and with the knowledge that I gave everything I could to this fight and I will no longer be complicit in Chi Omega’s oppression. While I soon may no longer be a Chi Omega, I know that I will always be a member of the 2020 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Despite surrendering my lifetime Chi Omega membership, I know that the sisterhood and love that I found in the DEI Committee will last me a lifetime. To my former sisters, please keep fighting righteous fights and never let your voice be silenced.
With Love and Bravery,
Lauren Chun she/her/hers
When I went through recruitment my freshman year, Chi Omega stood out to me the most because there were girls who actually looked like me in it. I didn’t know if the “sorority life” was for me because I did not know anyone else who was in Greek Life and also had no clue what it entailed. Despite this, I put my faith in Chi Omega and went through with becoming a member because I thought that I would be completely supported and loved. Clearly, this is not the case.
As a POC, I truly feel betrayed, hurt, and let down. I thought that if any sorority were to make a change on our campus, that it would be ours. But, after seeing the DE&I committee work tirelessly to make that change happen and still seeing no support from Nationals or our organization to do the same, I have realized that this change will not occur during the rest of my time here at Cal Poly.
With that being said, I no longer feel the want or need to be a part of an organization that has let me down time and time again. For the members that are staying, I am in no way shaming you for the choice you have made because I know everyone has different reasons and perspectives on their decision. All I can truly ask is that you reflect upon your actions and do everything you can to make this organization what it should be. I am still so hopeful in the growth of this chapter and I see the potential of what this sorority can be. My greatest hope is that I can hear the amazing news of what’s being done to ensure complete diversity and inclusion, with no excuses, for our members in the future and for the younger members we have now that still have a few years left.
Although I have met so many amazing and inspiring individuals within this chapter who have encouraged me to work harder, supported me throughout all of my hardships, and have laughed and celebrated with me during my victories, I can no longer be apart of an organization that, as a whole, does not support me and who I am. Please keep fighting and working hard to make these changes and please love each other unconditionally. I love you all.
Cristina Golubovich she/her/hers
Art and design junior
This chapter has meant the absolute world to me for the past two years but I have made the decision to drop. The women of Chi O have become some of my best and closest friends but I can no longer be a part of an institution such as Greek Life because of the way these things are handled. I watch my sisters pushing and pushing for change so EVERYONE can feel more comfortable and included in our spaces. What I have repeatedly seen from exec is spoon-fed answers and pushing off the real issues that we are constantly trying to address. I’m not trying to be malicious but I think the women of this chapter deserve to know why myself and so many other sisters are dropping. This does not feel like a safe space for everyone and it hasn’t for a while.
Erin Grasty she/her/hers
I also have decided to resign my membership. I can no longer allow myself to remain in a space that doesn’t support the womxn of color and those who identify with other marginalized identities in this chapter. My time in Chi Omega has been way shorter than I had initially hoped it would be and doesn’t live up to the skewed expectations that I had when joining a sorority. However, I have come to recognize that what I have gained from my short time in this space is worth much more than what I have lost. I am beyond grateful to have met such resilient, beautiful, and strong womxn in this chapter.
I know that these relationships can and will exist beyond this organization which is why I feel compelled to leave and no longer devote countless hours and energy to an organization that refuses to listen. From the past multiple months of being on the DE&I committee, it is evident to me that Chi Omega Nationals is simply not ready to make the changes that we demand. That being said, I have loved so many aspects of being a member of Chi Omega and have formed so many amazing relationships with some amazing ladies. Love you all and please reach out if you need anything.
Katie Hearn she/her/hers
Business administration senior
My time in Chi Omega has also come to an end. I came into this chapter seeking a value-based organization. An organization that would uplift womxn and elevate every individual to be the best version of themselves. That was what I saw in Chi Omega, and what I have seen in so many of you; however, recent events have shown me that this institution is not designed to uplift marginalized individuals and that it cannot enact necessary and meaningful change. Chi Omega is made by, and for, white members and the actions of national leaders have shown me time and time again that they do not see the exclusion of womxn of color as an urgent matter. Exclusion, invalidation, and dismissal of our sisters of color has become normalized in this space, and I cannot remain complicit any longer. I have come to realize that I do not align with the values of this organization and for that reason, I can no longer remain within it.
A national representative of Chi Omega told me and a few other DE&I Committee members “maybe we don’t belong in Chi Omega” and that we would “never make it in the workforce.” As your Career and Personal Development Chair, I can tell you that using my voice and standing boldly by my ethical beliefs is exactly what has brought me success in my pursuits. However, she was right when she said that I don’t belong in Chi Omega. Chi Omega wants us to sit, with our legs crossed and hands folded, while trans women are still not allowed to stand with us. They tell us to “be patient” while womxn of color wait for an equitable experience. So maybe I don’t belong in Chi Omega … I belong and yearn for an organization that empowers and enables womxn to use their voice and be uncompromisingly true to their sense of self and integrity.
To the womxn of color in our chapter, you all deserve to be seen as the whole and beautiful individuals that you are, your identities should be celebrated, and your happiness should be prioritized. I am sorry that has not been your experience in Chi Omega and I am even more sorry that you have had to share your testimonies of trauma to be seen, yet still not heard. You deserve an apology from Chi Omega National and your right to be realized and treated as human beings SHOULD be treated with urgency in this organization. To the many DE&I leaders in this chapter, Kass Newton, Alanna Hurd, Lauren Milligan, Michelle Lee, and Nicki Butler, you have inspired me and fueled me in ways that I cannot even express with words. You are incredible change-makers. Your hearts are so pure and your words are so intentional, and I have learned so much about who I want to be in knowing you. Lastly, to the DE&I committee and the allies fighting for this change, you are incredible and powerful leaders that will undoubtedly leave a mark on this world. Continue to be loud when you see injustice, and never give up on fighting for a world that you imagine for yourself and for others. Be bold, be unafraid, and be anti-racist as hell. Love you queens <3 Don’t be a stranger and know I will always be here for you whether I am in this organization or not.
Alanna Hurd she/her/hers
Sociology and psychology senior
With an incredibly heavy heart, I say goodbye to you all and send in my resignation to this organization. I have put my whole heart and soul into this work and into this chapter because of how much I love and value you all — the incredible souls I have shared this space with — as human beings. Everything I have done here, I have done because of the faith I have in all of you and the care I have for the experience of each of us here. I can no longer be a part of something that so directly harms me and the people that I love — based on racist and white supremacist practices that so many people involved in the National organization are so quick to defend and hold on to. While many of us have shared our experiences with speaking to Nationals, I can only speak to my own. It has been an experience of being made to feel small and unimportant, and one in which they have made clear to me — Chi Omega does not find it important to foster an equitable experience for womxn of color, for LGBTQ womxn, for survivors of sexual assault, or for any womxn with any sort of marginalized identity. Womxn of color in this chapter, whom you all know and love, have had to sit in meetings and phone calls and beg for the leaders on all levels to acknowledge their existence and that they are deserving of an equitable experience. I have learned that sororities are not built to embrace or allow for change and inclusion in the way that I know we need. It is incredibly difficult to leave things as they are, but I have exhausted all avenues I see, as I have fought tirelessly to create change my entire time in this organization.
I want to acknowledge the incredible womxn on the DEI committee who have shown up for me in countless ways and have fostered a community in which I have never felt more safe or accepted. These women have embodied to the fullest extent everything I believed Chi Omegas were supposed to be and they are forever my role models. I am continually in awe by the womxn who have existed in this chapter these three years I have been in here. Kass Newton, Lauren Milligan, Katie Hearn, Nicki Butler and Michelle Lee, especially, have taught me invaluable lessons on what true leadership looks like and what true and inclusive sisterhood is — showing up and fighting for the personhood and well being of the people you care about. I am sorry to see that Nationals has not prioritized all of our phenomenal womxn the way they prioritize potential new members.
I am proud of the womxn who have been and are actively and passionately advocating for change in their time in this organization. I urge everyone to reflect on their experience here, on everything they have seen come to light the past couple of months. How can you take a stand against the racism and white supremacy that is so pervasive in Greek life and sororities at all levels? What can you do about the harm being done? Now that you know it is here, it is real, and it is big — what are you doing to combat it and how are you creating a more inclusive space in this chapter? I know the light that each one of you has in your soul and I am trusting that you will keep standing by and advocating for the womxn that you share this space with. You have power. You can raise your voice and fight for what you know is right, and you will come out of it having grown and leaving an impact. While I can no longer be complicit in this system and in this — I am undeniably proud to have known and grown by you all. I love you and wish your beautiful souls wellness and happiness.
I will fiercely fight for you always. Keep doing the work, be actively Anti-Racist, educate yourself, and VOTE. You are powerful and you CAN create change. Please reach out to me with anything you might need (in life…ever).
Michelle Sungbin Lee she/her/hers
Business administration sophomore
Okay okay. I’ve held on for so long because I felt a personal responsibility to try to make this a better place for women of color who joined this chapter in the future. The actions of various national leaders are leading me to believe Chi Omega is not the place for me, as a Chi Omega National Representative told various women of color and allies during an extremely frustrating zoom call. I hate to give up. I am not one to give up easily. But National leaders have made it clear to me that women of color are not welcome in Chi Omega, and our experiences are significantly less important than that of our white sisters.
To my fellow and soon former sisters, especially those who have joined us in the fight to make this a more equitable space for all individuals, I love you all dearly. Please sit in the realization that you all have the privilege of being a cherished white sister of Chi Omega, but women of color do not, and reportedly will not for years to come, since “change takes time.” Love you all, I am still here for all of you. But I can no longer stay for Chi Omega because this organization has failed women of color time and time again.
Courtney Marchi she/they
City and regional planning senior
To my sisters,
I somewhat regret to inform you all that I have decided to resign from Omicron Mu. I had an unforgettable three-year experience in this chapter and will forever hold these friendships, teachings, and memories in my heart. This chapter opened so many opportunities to me and I am forever grateful for them; I was able to share my knowledge and love for the environment, for you guys, and for diversity work. I hold love, pride, and admiration for each and every single one of you, you are some of the strongest, smartest, kind-hearted, and most resilient human beings I have ever met. However, this kindness we have and the philanthropic work we’ve done does not surpass the hurt and hate this organization (and system) has caused as a whole over hundreds of years. The American Greek system is inherently and overtly racist, sexist, homophobic, and contributes to many other humanitarian and social inequalities. I have been a part of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee since January 2020, and the events that have played out these last nine months have made it apparent that this structure is not meant to adapt to reform; it must be abolished. I cannot, as an actively anti-racist, abolitionist advocate, continue to be an active member in, or give money to, this organization; monetary wealth is what has allowed this beast to exude the power it has. They say “change takes time, be patient, count small strides” but I believe we do not have to settle for this. Change does not need to take time, we have the power to enact the change we wish to see now; we have the capacity, the knowledge, the skills, and the resources. We need to stop making excuses and accepting crumbs from Nationals. I will always love, support, and cherish the womxn I’ve met here, but I condemn this organization.
Go with love and strength.
Jessie Marais she/her/hers
Industrial technology and packaging senior
Unfortunately, my time in Chi Omega has also come to an end. I joined this chapter with a very limited view of Greek Life; I am a first-generation in the United States and my only knowledge of sororities was from movies. It was our sisters that attracted me to our chapter so much. Our sisters are fearless, outspoken, and genuine — I was so excited to join a sisterhood that valued that.
My g-big encouraged me to apply for CC and I’m honestly so glad I had that opportunity. I learned so much from being your Marketing Director and I want to thank you all for giving me that privilege. I loved being able to represent our chapter and work with such an amazing creative team that constantly surprised me with their enthusiasm and talent.
Through my position, I began to learn about the founding principles of Chi Omega and Greek Life as a whole. Through our sisters, I was educated on how problematic Greek Life and our chapter has been for our members, specifically our sisters of color. Most of all, I have seen our sisters be reprimanded for being fearless, outspoken, and genuine because what they believe in doesn’t fit into the box Chi Omega has created. I no longer wish to contribute to this box. My decision to leave has nothing to do with the people in this chapter, I am very proud of you and I will be here supporting every one of you. We are still sisters.
Thank you again for all the memories and support,
Lauren Milligan she/her/hers
Political science senior
After much thought, I have decided that it is time I resign my membership with Chi Omega. As Sisterhood Chair I feel a certain sense of responsibility to inform you all of how I came to my decision and leave you with some ‘final words’ before I go.
I have immense love for the womxn in this organization, and this love was the motivation behind my choice to join Omicron Mu, apply for Sisterhood Director, and most recently, advocate for radical reform. Greek Life has many issues, and with our own chapter’s shortcomings coming to light a few months ago, I wholeheartedly believed that we were capable of changing the system from within. I promised myself that as an ally, I would stand beside my sisters of color and strategically utilize my whiteness as well as my position of leadership within the chapter to fight to make this a more inclusive space. I want to preface this by acknowledging how incredibly proud I am of our members, and the members of our DE&I committee, for putting up such a strong fight in the face of a powerful national organization that is so resistant to radical change. The work we have done this summer is something I will cherish and talk about for years to come, and the amount of love, friendship, and support I have felt over the past two years will stay with me for the rest of my life.
That being said, I can no longer continue to exist under and fund an organization that has shown me again and again that it prioritizes maintaining comfortability at the expense of its own members. For the past three months, I have sat in countless meetings with national representatives, all of whom refuse to acknowledge the urgency with which change needs to be implemented at all levels. I have watched our sisters of color and other marginalized groups painfully rehash their hurtful experiences, beg for their identities to be valued and cry from exhaustion just to be told that they need to be patient because change takes time. This, along with a countless number of other invalidating experiences, has led me to the conclusion that Greek organizations are not designed to embrace the kind of radical restructuring they so desperately need in order to provide an equitable experience to all members. The breaking point for me was hearing a National representative tell some of our most prominent DE&I leaders and myself that “maybe we don’t belong in Chi Omega” if we cannot respect the fragility of our white members and have difficult conversations regarding racism in private. I know that it can be overwhelming to address complex topics such as racism and inequity, but these discussions are absolutely necessary — we cannot begin to successfully dismantle systems of oppression without them.
For those of you who feel as though your time here is not over yet, particularly the white womxn, please continue putting passion and effort into this fight. The wellbeing of your members and future members quite literally depends on it. You will receive pushback, get told ‘no’ more times than you can count, and feel a hell of a lot of frustration while doing this work. Do not let this deter you. Advocate for yourself and each other always. Fight for your sisters with marginalized identities. You each are strong, powerful, and capable, and this world needs your voice. If you feel like you are just starting your education and/or inclusion efforts, know that this is a lifelong journey of learning, unlearning, showing up imperfectly and making mistakes. But it is also a journey full of love, empowerment, self-awareness, empathy, and allyship.
To the National Advisors and all members who choose to stay, I urge you to sit with and ponder the following questions going forward:
1) What diversity, equity and inclusion work have I personally done for this chapter and in my lifetime? If it is limited, have I acknowledged that it is a privilege I hold to feel ‘excused’ from doing this work daily?
2) Do I truly feel as though I understand what it means to be actively anti-racist, and do I have a comprehensive and multifaceted definition of the term ‘racism’? If not, who/what resources can I reference to start learning?
3) Am I quick to dismiss allegations of racism in Chi Omega and/or Greek Life because I feel personally attacked? Do I wish for these conversations to end so I can gain back my own positive sorority experience? How can I remind myself to decentralize my own narrative in these situations in order to better empathize with the womxn of color?
Continue to fight the good fight, my friends. And as always, please text me if you ever need anything at all.
With so much love,
Kass Newton she/her/hers
Hello all, I’m sorry that I have not checked in or shared in quite a while — I made the personal decision today that I could not justify distributing my ✨limited✨ funds to a national organization that is rooted in white supremacy. I hadn’t expected to be removed from the GroupMe so immediately after expressing this desire (prior to receiving or signing any paperwork) given the fact that I know many of my white sisters had emailed with the same intention several days before and are still present and being allowed by The Powers to remain. That was a gross misstep on my part as I consistently and constantly underestimate the racist superstructures integrated throughout! Oopsie hehe!
Avin Niknafs she/her/hers
Environmental earth and soil science junior
I have no drive whatsoever to continue this not only uphill, but upside-down battle. It feels like there aren’t many safe spaces left within this organization. Each one of you holds your own place in my heart, but I (personally) have no qualms if Chi Omega goes under anymore bc I simply have no fight left. If I have to keep justifying why caring about inclusion is important, as a woman of color, I’ll explode. I have no anger left fueling me. I lost the motivation to change this system after it refused to change the first 7,301,826 times. I wish those of you who choose to stay good luck. And I wish those of you who try and make changes the best of success. I’ve been hurt by this chapter beyond the point of healing, and no longer have any fire to pretend like it doesn’t hurt. My big is gone, my littles are gone, and I made sure I was the last one standing so no one in my lineage would feel alone in the end. Now I’m all alone, bidding farewell.
I’ve met some of the most incredible women in this chapter and would hope that you reach out always. I love you.
Sorry to give up.
Brooke Roberts she/her/hers
Nutrition science junior
I have made the difficult decision to say goodbye to Omicron Mu. I am so grateful for all of the connections I have made and all of the amazing women I have been so lucky to meet in this chapter. You all have inspired me to be the best version of myself and have impacted my life in so many unique ways. Unfortunately, I feel that Chi Omega has nothing left to offer me and I can no longer be complicit in an organization that does not value all womxn. I can no longer accept the benefits this organization has given me without these benefits being available to everyone. I love you all so much and will forever be your sister. If you need anything or want to reach out, I’m here! *yellow heart emoji*
Mia Russo she/her/hers
Public health sophomore
I was part of a sorority and now I am calling for the disbanding of Greek life.
Over the past summer, Cal Poly’s fraternity and sorority life have grappled with addressing the racist and derogatory actions and words from members of its own chapters that have been brought into the public eye.
They made weak attempts at saving face by reacting solely through social media with empty promises to its members. It quickly became apparent that the majority of chapters participated in performative activism by “promising to do better” and “apologizing” on behalf of their chapter.
What this fails to show anyone as an outsider to FSL, is the immense invalidation of pain and emotional turmoil this has given members who bravely shared their lived experiences in a Greek organization. In addition, the extreme burden of reform in Greek Life wrongfully fell on the POC members to step up to guide and educate their chapter’s leaders and members.
When joining the battle to make reform in my chapter, I quickly learned that there had been members who had brought these issues to the attention of our executive board prior to the social media outpour of racism in Greek Life. Their calls for reform had been met with backlash that diversity, equity and inclusion work was “not a reason people joined our chapter,” “could make members feel uncomfortable,” and “we didn’t have enough time for it.”
It took being publicly shamed and called out for our chapter and for Cal Poly FSL to draft actionable plans, form committees, and mobilize to reform. I was optimistic that this could be an issue fixed from the inside.
However, I have been shown this past summer that the problem stems from the system that supports people in leadership in our chapters and Greek Life at our university — the National Greek Organizations as a whole.
Getting responses from my chapter’s National organization that these reforms could take years to implement, that we needed to be more “realistic” about what we could accomplish, and seeing leaders in our chapter shy away from the uncomfortable feelings they were presented with, have all made me realize that reform to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive can only be possible to an extent when you are part of a system that is discriminatory and exclusive.
Even though I believe in the power of lifelong friendship, philanthropy, and professional development, those are all things that can exist outside of the constraints of a Greek organization.
There is only so much education you can give members of an organization whose National governing body is racist, sexist, classist, transphobic, and homophobic.
I am calling @cpfsl (PHA, IFC, and UFSC) in to address that while reform may be a great idea in theory for our individual chapters, it is not reasonable by any means to expect for the National Greek organizations that support our chapters to completely reform the system that has upheld so many morally wrong standards for years and to strongly consider disbanding.
Kiersten Stevens she/her/hers
I have decided that my time being a member of Chi Omega must come to a close. I cannot and will not put my time, money, and effort into an organization that does not value the well-being and feelings of its members, specifically those of the womxm of color in our chapter. Their voices should not be silenced when they express that major improvements should be made in making them and future non-white members feel safe and included. Those requests are the bare minimum. I won’t sit back silently when I see them struggling or turn the other cheek just because I, a cis-hetero white woman, don’t experience the pain they do. When I first joined Chi O, I saw a powerful group of sisters who were there for each other in times of need. Womxn who were all unique and had different interests but had the same values. Today, I do not see those values being upheld.
This is not to say I’m unappreciative of my time here. I have felt loved by so many of you. I knew no one coming to Cal Poly and felt like such a little fish in a big pond. Now I don’t feel so small and insignificant anymore. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have this support system when my mom died. I’m so grateful for my incredible big and amazing little, and all the friends I’ve made, but
This is not the Chi O I fell in love with … so it’s time to say goodbye. Love you all and I will still be here for anyone who needs me.