- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A sorority at Missouri State University in Springfield is opening its doors to transgender students who identify as female.

The Xi Omnicron Iota sorority voted Aug. 30 to change its bylaws to accept the transgender students, the Springfield News-Leader (https://sgfnow.co/1idJzhc ) reported. The change took effect immediately and was made public this week, just days ahead of the sorority’s fall recruitment push, which begins Sunday.

The local Greek chapter currently has 75 active members, and several sorority leaders say they don’t know of any transgender student attempting to join in the past.

Sorority vice president Liz Lersch said the organization has a history of welcoming diverse students, including international students attending the university.

“We just want to be as inclusive as possible to all women on the Missouri State campus,” she said.

She said after news of the change spread, a transgender woman reached out to say, “Thank you.”

“She said she wished she had something like that,” Lersch said. “When I read that, it just touched my heart.”

Member Kara Venzian, who had proposed the bylaw change, said that everyone in the chapter was welcoming to her suggestion in allowing transgender students into the sorority.

“It passed with flying colors,” Venzian said.

The college’s student government association officially recognized the Xi Omnicron Iota sorority in 2002. It’s a local chapter, unique to the university and isn’t affiliated with a national organization.

The sorority also doesn’t have central housing, though many of its members live together in off-campus housing.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com

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