47 Sorority Members Walk Out After Being Told to 'Hold Off' Inviting Transgender Member to Join

PHOTO: Tufts University is seen here.Tufts University/Twitter
Tufts University is seen here.

More than half of the members of Alpha Omicron Pi's chapter at Tufts University left the group to protest what they said was a delay in admitting a transgender student.

The student, who has asked to remain anonymous, was eventually admitted into the Delta chapter of the sorority -- although she ultimately left in protest as well.

The 19-year-old computer science sophomore told ABC News that she had been considering joining the Delta chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi, which was chartered in 1908 at Tufts University, "for quite some time because I had friends who joined last year and it seemed like a supporting and caring environment."

When the student attended a meeting to express her interest in joining back in September she said the experience was "incredibly friendly and welcoming."

"Every sister there was incredibly nice and clearly happy to see me there," she added. "I felt very safe and everyone who was there, wanted me there."

Still, she encountered an issue when Alpha Omicron Pi International said in September that the chapter had to "hold off" extending her a bid, or an invitation to join, to check its policies.

"In not having the policy, the default is to not allow her to join. To me that action is transphobia," former president of the chapter Kristin Reeves told ABC News. "We refused to hold off. We decided to extend her a bid."

The sorority's chapter and international organization said in statements that the assertion that she wasn’t allowed to join wasn't the case.

"Because there was no official policy in place addressing the membership of transgender women, the [Assistant Director of College Experience] and AOII International were uncertain whether extending a bid to [the student] would violate the Title IX exemption it had from National Panhellenic Conference," the chapter wrote in a statement.

The statement goes onto clarify that "AOII and all other panhellenic sororities are legally exempt from Title IX and are permitted to exist as all female-identifying organizations."

"AOII International was concerned that it's membership in NPC would be in jeopardy and that it could face legal consequences if one of it's chapters was in violation of the conditions of the Title IX exemption by admitting a transgender woman," the statement continued.

Alpha Omicron Pi International's Assistant Director of Public Relations Courtney West said in a separate statement to ABC News, "The student in question was extended a bid from the Delta Chapter to join Alpha Omicron Pi (and chose to join) and at no time was the chapter threatened with disciplinary action or to be sued."

The sorority's "informal recruitment" period was delayed two days.

The anonymous student said she doesn't think anyone in the sorority meant harm, but wants systems to change to further include transgender students.

"I don’t think anyone had ill will," she added. "I think it was an outdated system to deal with another outdated system over an issue that is constantly evolving in the public eye. The way that trans people exist and the way that we are treated and documented is changing as we speak."

Still, the student left the sorority after approximately three weeks into the initiation process as did 46 other members in protest. One of those members was Reeves.

"I saw it as they didn’t want to change as hard as we were pushing to make progress," Reeves, who joined the sorority in January 2015, explained of her departure. "They didn’t want to be a part of that. They wanted to slow us down."

The sorority addressed the departure of the chapter members in a statement, saying: "There are still many women in Delta chapter who are dedicated AOII members. The chapter will continue to recruit members who embrace diversity, are passionate about social action, and are dedicated to maintaining their high standards of excellence."

The protest at Tufts University comes when many sororities and fraternities across the U.S. are reviewing their policies to be more inclusive of transgender students.