Univ. of Alabama Faces Allegations of Segregation in Sorority System

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 17 2013 2:26 PM

Univ. of Alabama Faces Allegations of Segregation in Sorority System

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Fans walk around on campus outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium prior to the game between the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

On Monday, the University of Alabama announced it had ordered traditionally white sororities to open up and extend their recruitment of students, amidst nationwide criticism over racial bias in the school’s Greek system.

The move came after an article published in the university’s student newspaper, The Crimson White, detailed one highly qualified student’s rejection from a sorority reportedly on the grounds that she was black.

The recruit, who asked to remain anonymous, seemed like the perfect sorority pledge on paper, yet didn’t receive a bid from any of the 16 Panhellenic sororities during formal recruitment. [Alpha Gamma Delta member Melanie] Gotz and others said they know why: The recruit is black. She and at least one other black woman, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of personal safety, went through formal recruitment this year, but neither was offered a bid.
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Facing criticism, Inside Higher Ed reports, “[University] President Judy Bonner met with the leaders of the various chapters, and has ordered them to all use a rush system that could allow them to quickly admit some black members, a spokeswoman confirmed Monday night.” The new system allows sororities to offer membership to students who were not previously accepted, but, Inside Higher Ed points out, “traditionally, the system has been used by sororities that did not meet their membership goals.”

But, to some, hastily implementing a new system to improve diversity appears to be more of a quick fix than a long term solution. "Going out and offering bids to girls that have already been cut is putting a band-aid on a larger issue," Ross Green a student at the University of Alabama, told AL.com. "We see a need for the administration to come out and make a statement that racism is not tolerated on our campus."

“The issue is the alumnae and not the undergraduates,” Gentry McCreary, former University of Alabama director of Greek affairs told Time. “There’s definitely some fear, whether real or imagined, that there would be some repercussions if a sorority took an African-American member. They’re able to subvert the will of the chapter, and it’s gone on for far too long.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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