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Women in the Fraternity

This is not a black history topic, but nonetheless still very important. Everyone knows that women have been permitted since 1976, but did you know how Title IX influenced the decision? What about the events surrounding it? Read on to find out.

There were talks and inquiries surrounding women being admitted into the fraternity since 1970! Yes, 1970. At this time, membership was declining very rapidly. Allowing women members in 1976 reversed the continuing steep decline in membership of the Fraternity and started a growth cycle in the Fraternity.

The first step in paving the way for women to join Alpha Phi Omega was the Constitutional Convention in 1967, which removed the requirement that members have affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America.

Starting at the 1970 National Convention, co-ed membership was sponsored by Zeta Chapter and co-sponsored by several other chapters but failed to reach the two-thirds majority at the National Conventions to alter the organization's bylaws.

Chapters began to admit women anyway by using only the first letter of their first name. Many chapters that attempted to register women with the national office would receive the paperwork and fees back for women initiates.

At the 1974 National Convention, the Fraternity allowed chapters to have women as affiliate members of the fraternity.

This is where Title IX comes into play.

Title IX is a law that prohibits educational institutions from discrimination on the basis of sex. Almost every college that APO-USA has a chapter at counts as receiving Federal Funds and thus Title IX applies since any type of federally backed student loan counts as federal funding. This law extends to sports, clubs, and Greek letter organizations EXCEPT social GLOs (such as the D9 and National Panhellenic Conference.) Campuses which allow orgs that discriminate based on sex are at risk of losing federal funding. APO investigated and lobbied to get Title IX altered OR an interpretation of it made so we wouldn't be affected at least into 1977 obtaining exemption, but it was not eligible.

All in all, Title IX is the reason that APO, GSS, KKPsi, TBS, and many other organizations are coed.

By 1974, there were colleges including, Lafayette College, where the University had decided that Title IX meant that all non social organizations HAD to be co-ed. Without affiliate membership or going co-ed in 1976, we would have lost a lot of chapters due to de-recognition by their administration (such as Theta chapter at UVA)

All in all, due to Title IX the fraternity HAD to go co-ed by 1976. As we all know this happened at the 1976 National Convention.

As with many major changes, this one caused a great deal of dismay, especially among several long-established chapters. Many of these chapters threatened to disassociate with the national fraternity if they were forced to become co-ed. So, a "gentleman's agreement" was formed and basically stated that;

"Single-gender chapters chartered before the 1976 National Convention may remain single-gender unless they become inactive or coeducational. All petitioning groups seeking to charter or re-charter will be and remain co-educational."

This "gentleman's agreement" remained in effect until July 2005 at the National Board of Directors meeting where a resolution was passed: "The actions of the 1976 and 1998 National Conventions have attempted to clarify the Fraternity's open membership policy...The National Board is charged with...enforcing the membership policies of the Fraternity as well as ensuring compliance with applicable laws, and upon advice of legal counsel, all chapters must practice open membership without regard of gender." A decision by the 2006 National Convention on December 30, 2006, has essentially upheld the Board's previous resolution, adding additional clarifications to the transitional process for the all-male chapters, including a timeline for completion of their transition to co-educational status by the 2008 National Convention, and the establishment of a committee consisting of active members and alumni to assist with the process.

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