The co-ed service fraternity has already begun implementing changes at UNC by referring to their members as “siblings” instead of “brothers” and has submitted an amendment to the national board that would allow members nationwide to choose how they title themselves.
Senior Sarah Margaret Christy, member of Alpha Phi Omega, said it has been a topic of conversation for awhile, but last semester an official committee was formed.
“We wanted to keep a term that kind of represented familial language — like ‘brother’ does — that was more inclusive, so we chose ‘sibling,’” she said.
Christy said the Alpha Phi Omega bylaws state that every initiated member will be referred to as a “brother.” She said the fraternity does not want to push any chapter to use a specific term, but for chapters to have the right to self-title their members, and for that title to be recognized nationally.
Christy said delegates were selected based on a vote to determine who would attend the convention, and non-delegate members submitted a paper application.
“We were limited to a number by funding so it’s going to be two delegates and five non-delegate members attending,” Christy said.
Senior Brandi Lawrence, member of Alpha Phi Omega, said she believes gender neutral language is something to actively push for.
“One of our founding principles is friendship, and in friendship we always talk about how we’re all a big family, and we can’t be a family if everyone isn’t included or welcome,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said the fraternity is working on several fundraisers to make attendance at the convention possible, such as bake sales and a GoFundMe page.
“The overall reason we’re doing this is so we can make what we’re doing ratified by nationals and so other chapters can see and make these changes for themselves,” she said.
Both Christy and Lawrence were nominated to attend the national convention.
K.C. Hemstreet, a UNC graduate and member of Alpha Phi Omega from 2012 to 2015, donated to the fraternity’s GoFundMe. Hemstreet said the idea of inclusive language was shut down every year because members felt it would be too hard to change.
“However, I always felt that language is really important, and if the fraternity was gender inclusive, then it should use gender inclusive language,” Hemstreet said.
Hemstreet said she was sad when the idea was rejected every year.
“The reality is that while the male descriptor is often used to describe all genders, we are a society that has said we believe in equality for all genders, so I support any cause to change everyday language to reflect that,” Hemstreet said.
“It’s a simple thing to change yet really meaningful overall.”