Triota Provides Space for Conversation Outside the Classroom
by Anying Guo
The American University chapter of Iota Iota Iota (Triota) is buzzing with excitement and ideas as they discuss their upcoming events, one of which centers on pleasure and the clitoris. The organization has already had a busy semester after the success of two prior events and the executive board is ready for their next one.
Though AU’s chapter of the national women’s studies honor society has existed for years, its resurgence came in the past year. After talks with the previous e-board, the current e-board began planning their programming last semester, beginning to cultivate a community students both within and outside of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department.
After noticing a distinct lack of space and community for students in the WGSS department, co-presidents Miriam Starobin and April Emokpae began to explore their options in creating an organization that would facilitate conversation and promote inclusive programming that would fill that gap. A professor told Starobin about AU’s chapter of Triota, the national WGSS honor society with over 50 chapters nationwide, that was started in the 1990s. Starobin and Emokpae decided to restart the inactive chapter in the beginning of fall of 2018 and sent out e-board applications shortly afterwards.
“I love WGSS,” said Miriam Starobin, a senior. “I remember in [our senior capstone] it felt really powerful to be talking about things that are so radical -- things [like] reproductive health and justice, birth workers, sexual violence, queerness and queer identity, and all these wonderful intersections – and I just didn’t see a space for that [type of conversation] on campus. Especially within our own major.”
The organization now has a full e-board and has put on three events in the spring semester alone. Each member of the e-board acknowledged how WGSS may not always feel like the most accessible topic or major. So they made accessing these conversations a hallmark of their organization’s values and programming.
“I think a lot of students believe they don’t have time for WGSS classes in their course load or have the interest,” said Katie Kaschub, the treasurer of Triota. “Our organization and the events we put on give students who aren’t WGSS majors an opportunity to have the discussions that we have daily in our classrooms.”
Their first public event, Porn and Pizza, was well-attended, nearly twice the number they had anticipated, surprising members of the e-board. Emokpae remarked that an event like Porn & Pizza, where the e-board facilitated a conversation about the impact porn has had on an individual, cultural, and social level, had never been put on AU’s campus before.
“I think it is important because a huge piece of Triota is bringing WGSS conversations to people who would never have them,” said senior and secretary Elana Lipkin. “I hope that people can be inspired to pick up or double major in WGSS, so they’re actually becoming members to our community.”
Lipkin credits the e-board for their shared passion for these topics and for not shying away from making events that are outside typical norms. Triota has not yet obtained club status on campus, which means that funding comes out-of-pocket from the e-board for all their programming. They credit much of their success to Dr. Simpson, the head of the WGSS department, and Monica Morin, Senior Administrative Assistant to the CRGC which houses the WGSS major alongside other identity-specific majors.
Triota shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to their April clitoris event, the e-board has planned an alumni panel to show all the ways a WGSS degree can be used. “I feel like that’s one of the main things WGSS majors get asked: what are you going to do with that degree?” said senior and events planner Shelby Moring. “The answer is everything and anything because gender and power and all these structures influence your lives everyday.”
Though the majority of the e-board are seniors, they felt that with Triota they were leaving AU and the WGSS with something worthwhile. Since her freshman year, Moring has seen “a lot of voids being filled by different organizations,” listing The Blackprint, AUSG Women’s Initiative, and other organizations. For her and the rest of e-board, Triota represents the future for community building and conversation sparking for the WGSS community.
Sophomores Dana Colarocco and Katie Kaschub (who serve as treasurer and communications director, respectively) will be the only remaining members of the original Triota e-board, but the seniors are confident in their ability to continue on efforts in bringing WGSS conversations into campus focus.
“It’s kind of wild to think about legacies and leaving a place better than how you found it,” said Starobin. “But that’s a pretty core principle of feminism -- community and looking outside of the individual and how you can make things better for everybody. Because if it’s not good for me if it’s not good for y’all.”
Triota’s next event is called Cancel Culture and Cookies and will be held at Butler Boardroom at 8:30pm.
In a previous version of this article, faculty support and previous e-board was omitted. Triota has reached out to The Rival to clarify their support.