After a difficult semester making the move off-campus, the members of OAX are now planning for recruitment and philanthropy.
After Alpha Chi Omega violated Penn’s Alcohol and Drug Policy in January, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life placed 22 sanctions on the sorority. Former AXO members declined to go into exact detail as to what these sanctions were, but confirmed that instead of complying, they almost unanimously decided to disaffiliate and relinquish their charter.
Since April, OAX has existed as an off-campus, philanthropic organization for the women that were previously members of AXO. OAX is roughly the same size as AXO was because only a few members decided to continue their involvement in the sorority or not be a part of either organization.
“[OAX formed] when we dealt with the University for a couple of months at that point. They had given us our finalized sanctions, and we as a chapter felt that we had to make a change,” one member, who preferred to remain anonymous, said.
Even though nearly all of the members from AXO individually chose to disaffiliate and join OAX, members do not consider OAX to be a replacement of AXO. Because a few members decided to remain in AXO’s chapter, AXO and OAX are separate entities. The members of OAX interviewed for this article had no comment on the future of AXO and claim to have no knowledge of what will come of the official chapter.
Even though the AXO house is currently vacant and there are no current members in the sorority, according to OFSL, it is still an on-campus, affiliated sorority that intends to recolonize.
“Alpha Chi Omega is still an active chapter as of now, and we are working closely with their national organization about next steps,” Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Hikaru Kozuma said.
Although members accept responsibility for their actions and acknowledge that they violated the Alcohol and Drug Policy, some still believe that their punishment did not fit the crime.
“Obviously we did something wrong and we know that we deserved to be punished,” the member said. “We admitted that we were wrong. But it was out of scope.”
“We tried to negotiate with the University, and it did not work,” another member added, who also wanted to be anonymous.
Members identify their breaking point as when the University demanded that they stop their main philanthropy event called Big Man on Campus, which is the biggest student philanthropy event held at the university. All of the proceeds from BMOC are donated to women’s shelters.
“A lot of people were upset about that, and [we disaffiliated] to maintain things like that that are a real aspect of who we are,” the first member said.
In the eyes of OAX members, one of the advantages of being disaffiliated from AXO is that OAX is that the group is not obligated to send a portion of the philanthropy proceeds to the national organization. All of the earnings from their philanthropic efforts can instead be donated directly to the women’s shelters.
Even though OAX will lose the alumni network that comes with being a part of a nationally-recognized, University-affiliated organization, the Penn alumni of AXO were supportive of the chapter’s unofficial decision. The fear of straining these ties was among the organization’s biggest concerns when weighing the costs and benefits of remaining affiliated.
“The Penn alumni are fully behind us and very excited about this. And that is what I think is most important to most of us,” the first member said.
To pay tribute to their alumni, members decided to name their organization OAX. The name OAX was originally a nickname alumni used for the sorority.
“We just decided to embrace our alums even though technically we are separate now,” the second member said.
Although there are clear advantages to being an on-campus, affiliated sorority — like OFSL’s assistance in organizing recruitment and the legitimacy that the on-campus status brings to a sorority — members of OAX are confident that revoking their charter was the correct decision for them.
“This is a really positive thing for us and, we hope it will be a really positive thing for everyone else,” the second member said.
Members are also looking forward to not being subject to the stigma that is often associated with Greek life. In light of the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi most recently revoking its chapter, going off-campus seems to be a developing trend among Greek organizations at Penn.
“I think that it is more of a national trend ... personally for me, it is kind of a relief to no longer have to deal with that negative stigma [of being in Greek life], and I think some other people are starting to feel the same way,” the first member said.
Before finalizing their underground identity, OAX consulted with members of organizations at other Universities who transformed in the same way.
Beyond its philanthropic efforts, OAX values its sisterhood and the social connections that the sorority has provided for its members. The organization will still hold the same registered date nights and formals. For this reason, future recruitment for the organization will still include a social component.
“We want girls to be able to join and have the experience we had to have the opportunity to make friends,” the first member said. “I gained so much from the network of girls that we have, and we want to be able to continue that.”
Despite the fact OAX is now underground, members strive to maintain good connections with all University-affiliated organizations and the administration.
“At this point we are just happy that we are doing what is right for us, and we have no issue with the Greek community or the University,” the member added.
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