Well, no one died but it sure feels like we did.
I’m 21 years old and have legally possessed the right to make decisions regarding majority of my life choices since I turned 18. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I relinquished this right when I accepted my bid to the Mu Alpha chapter of the Chi Omega fraternity at the University of New Hampshire my freshman year at school. From that moment on, I became a Chi Omega before I was Hilary Gaumer and for a while, nothing made me happier. Chi Omega came to me as a saving grace at a time where I felt so desparately lost and alone; I met my best friends, got involved on campus, happily devoted countless hours to community service, and overall grew both personally and professionally.
Over the past six months, however, any positivity brought into my life by this organization was overshadowed by negativity based upon a single social event that took place on my off campus home (in which the only people who pay rent are the tenants who live at this residence- myself and six of my other Chi Omega roommates- and is in no way financially supported, or otherwise, by the Chi Omega fraternity).
It was a sunny Friday afternoon in mid September and the Mu Alpha senior class gathered at our house on 13 Madbury Road (may I please re-iterate that this residence is entirely separate from the Mu Alpha chapter house) to have a few legal drinks among 37 legal seniors and a number of sober executive board members for safe supervision. This was a celebration for the seniors and a way to kick off our senior year. We each look back at this day and remember how much fun had as a class; no one was hurt and zero casualties were suffered. That was until we realized that a fellow member of our beloved Greek community took it upon herself to report this celebration as an “unregistered Chi Omega social event in which alcohol was involved”. It wasn’t until I was asked to resign my membership that I realized nationals justified this violation by claiming that my house, once again paid for by only myself and my other roommates, was a Chi Omega property based on its perception on campus (i.e. because traditionally, Chi Omega sisters live there). I could run through all the gory details here that unfolded in the months that followed but I’ll give you the abbreviated version and leave any opinions to the reader.
After a slew of dramatic events, including being put on probation and then “seriously delinquent” status (Juvie, anyone?), our national representatives decided to conduct a membership review of every single member of the sorority to determine whether or not we were here for the right reasons. They may want to reconsider the name of this exercise and call it what it really is – a 20 minute interrogation of all of the offenses they’re accusing you and your chapter of. Each of these meetings was followed by a 10 minute meeting a day later in which the national reps determine your membership status: you could remain an existing member, be asked to resign, or be asked to accept early alumna status prior to your graduation. Aside from the two bogus claims on the behalf of two younger sisters, not a single person was asked to resign with the exception of myself and 5 of my roommates, as we were hosts to our senior class on the day of the celebration and therefore the root of all evil in Chi Omega. My sixth roommate along with the entire senior class was asked to assume early alumnae status. I would apologize for my actions and words I spat at the national reps when it was time for my meeting, but that would require me to be sorry. The laws that myself, roommates and fellow seniors so heinously violated (Chi O bylaws- in no way illegal under the U.S. Constitution) were, essentially, drinking legally with our friends and “according to younger sisters, intimidating members and therefore preventing the house from moving forward” – it’s truly a dog eat dog world when you allow your seniors to sit on couches at house meetings, isn’t it? Our entire senior class, the current foundation of the Mu Alpha chapter, was scape goated in an effort to combat some much larger problem within our chapter that is apparently the presence of underage drinking, which I was repeatedly asked about in my “membership review”. Apparently, I was unaware that not only am I responsible for my own decisions, but I must also police every underage member and rip alcohol from their hands at any opportunity. FYI – we attend the University of New Hampshire- you may have seen us on the news for parties and riots that have to be broke up by SWAT teams, but sure, I will go around writing alcohol citations to all of my sisters under the legal drinking age because, what else is there to do with my life?
What’s even more confusing however, is the lack of recognition regarding my chapter’s positive attributes. Was no praise warranted when we won chapter of excellence two years ago? Or that we currently hold the highest women’s GPA campus wide? I’m wondering where you pleasant women were when our university was recognizing us for these accomplishments. Not to mention the thousands of dollars that we raise annually for non profits, most sepcifically the Make- A- Wish foundation. It’s only that we hear from you when we are posing a liability to you and a threat to your reputation.
In May, I’ll be graduating with some of the smartest, most compassionate, hard working people that I have ever had the privilege to know not to mention become best friends with. They’ve served as leaders, positive influences and role models, charitable donors and volunteers on behalf of this organization. I wonder if our nationals considered these things when they asked us to no longer refer to us as sisters and revoke our letters. Thinking back to my original interview, not once was I asked my personal reason for joining Chi O nor if I had contributed anything to the house. Their verdict to attempt to eliminate us from the house came with great anger but also deep disappointment that I have allowed myself to lose sight of my own values, and participate in an organization which demeans, bullies and represses its members as our national representatives have done to us throughout this process. Perhaps it is my fault for failing to realize that I relinquished my independence and overall, the right to live my life by my own perrogative the day that I accepted that bid; and for that I will take full responsibility. However, I want people both within and outside of the Greek community to realize the outright tyranny bestowed on myself and fellow sisters and I beg you to stand up for what you believe in and never accept defeat when you know you are being wrongly accused.
Fortunately for myself, disregarding this surreal disaster, Mu Alpha has given me so much that I am grateful for which can never be taken away from me when you wipe my name from the role book. To my beautiful sisters, I will always be grateful for your friendships and inspirations. You’ve bettered me in more ways than one and for that I am eternally indebted to you.
“The moment you feel you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away”
P.S. – Shout out to the Greek/ Larger UNH community for the overwhelming words of support following the recent events; you rock never change!