Colorful dresses, constant chatter, warm hugs, and the sound of smooth jazz filled Roone Arledge Auditorium in Lerner Hall as AXO sisters and alumnae gathered on Sunday to celebrate their new brownstone on 114th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.
“We have been waiting for 22 years to get this house,” former chapter president Liz Matory, CC ’02, said. “When I was in school, we always had to reserve space around campus,” she said, referring to the sorority’s initiation ceremony.
Tamsin Davies, SEAS ’07, ’13, AXO’s chapter adviser, emphasized the significant growth that has taken place over the last several years. The number of members in each class has increased by about four times since 2002.
At the celebration, Davies held up a big, red, glittery styrofoam key symbolizing the key to the house.
The brownstone currently houses 22 students. Sisters say it has a cozy atmosphere—maroon couch chairs, a flat-screen TV, a kitchen, and plenty of space to relax and study. There is even a blanket with the AXO insignia woven in green and red.
“I really love living with all my best friends. It’s so great knowing everyone in the house and being able to walk by and constantly see people,” AXO Vice President of Recruitment Libby Fortin, BC ’15, said.
Seeing her sisters doing work is motivating, Fortin added. “I can get work done without having to go to Butler,” she said.
“I really enjoy having the house,” Kristin Austin, CC ’16, said. “It has given me the chance to get to know more sisters and is accessible to everyone.”
Many current students said they are particularly glad that the new brownstone allows all their members easy access. Because AXO has a larger proportion of Barnard students than other sororities at Columbia, the chapter’s former space in an East Campus townhouse sometimes presented a challenge when many students had to be signed in.
AXO recently had an event at the brownstone for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“We held the event in our house, and none of the sisters had to worry about getting in because they all have swipe access,” Chapter President Alex Salerno, CC ’14, said.
Alumnae of AXO traveled from near and far to visit the new house, and sisters from other universities attended the ceremony as well.
Su Hilty, treasurer of the New York AXO alumnae association, lived in a house with her sisters for her last two years of college at the University of Wisconsin.
“The house really is a home with your sisters,” she said. “You live together, study together, and party together. My closest friends till this day are all from AXO.”
The New York Alpha Chi Omega Alumni Association has worked to strengthen its bond with the collegiate chapter in recent years. It donated the flatware set that now sits in the kitchen of the new brownstone.
“We encourage graduates to get involved in the alumni chapter so sisters can have a chance to give back,” Hilty said.
National Council Representative Kathleen Headington summed up students’ and alumnae’s feelings when she said she hoped the brownstone would provide a place of community for current and future students. It is “more than a building, it is a home,” she said.