Although their formal bonds of sisterhood were dissolved late last semester, former active members of the Richmond chapter of Alpha Chi Omega have endured through a process that initially left them stunned.
Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity, Inc. closed the Iota Mu chapter on the Richmond campus, effective Nov. 17, 2010, for risk-management policy violations within the chapter.
"We are all shocked and deeply saddened by the closing of our chapter," said former chapter president Emily Horton. "Iota Mu and its members have contributed so much to the University of Richmond community and enjoyed playing an active role on campus.
"I know my sisters and I will continue to uphold the standards of friendship, leadership, learning, and service that we value so highly, and we appreciate the outpouring of support from the administration, faculty and our fellow classmates."
One former active member of the organization, speaking anonymously because of the sensitive nature of the decision, said many members were puzzled by the decision to close the chapter. She also expressed disappointment that the national organization had not been more forthcoming with information surrounding its decision to close the chapter.
"I didn't do anything wrong and [the organization] condemned me and the entire organization for the actions of an unnamed few," she said.
Following the announcement, The Collegian obtained a document sent by Alpha Chi Omega executive director Cheri O'Neill to organization members and alumni who had inquired about the decision to close the Richmond chapter.
In the document, O'Neill clarifies the process that preceded revoking the charter of Iota Mu chapter last week for risk-management policy violations.
After being notified of risk-management issues by university officials, members of the national organization began an investigation that included conversations with chapter officers, university staff and chapter members. After allowing members a chance to respond at a meeting held Nov. 17, the organization's National Council voted unanimously to withdraw the charter. A unanimous vote is required to close a chapter and there is no appeal process regarding the decision.
According to the document, Alpha Chi Omega had not withdrawn a charter for risk-management policy violations since 2002, and it would have taken another option had it believed there to have been alternative ways to address the problems.
"Closing a chapter is the hardest decision a National Council has to make, and we would never reach that decision lightly," said Marsha King Grady, Alpha Chi Omega national president, in a press release on the organization's website.
The document also states that Iota Mu chapter was not closed because of low recruiting numbers, citing chapters at the University of Arizona, Simpson College and Denison University that had been closed specifically because of "membership numbers and finances." Alpha Chi Omega had provided Iota Mu chapter with recruitment assistance during the previous year and the chapter had shown improvement, the former member said.
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During a commitment ceremony last weekend, many former members of Alpha Chi Omega chose to accept alumni status within the organization.
"We value [Iota Mu chapter members] as members of our organization and encourage them to reach out to their sisters nationwide as they go forward in their education, professional careers and family life," Grady said a letter to alumni members.
While the decision distressed former active members of Iota Mu chapter, many are optimistic that the bonds they formed while members of Alpha Chi Omega will endure beyond their time at Richmond, the former active member said.
"Now is the time to hold on to our sisterhood and move forward because we are alumni now," she said. "While it was [national organization's] decision, throughout the rest of our lives...we will have a system of sisters.
"They're some of the most important women in my life and they always will be."
Contact staff writer Jimmy Young at firstname.lastname@example.org
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