University of Alabama’s Segregated Sororities Under Scrutiny

by Adrienne Tooley

Sororities, often established to help women find a sense of community in male-dominated college campuses, have in some ways transformed into elite organizations that boast status and reputation. Girls work tirelessly to be desirable candidates, jump through hoops, and put up with hazing in hopes of being chosen as sister to a community of women who will help them advance both in their personal lives and their careers. But sometimes, even the “ideal” candidate cannot breach the ranks of these prestigious and exclusive organizations.

The Crimson White, the University of Alabama newspaper, recently published an exposé revealing that a qualified young woman, despite receiving very high recruitment scores from current members, was blocked by alumni members of one of the campus’s traditionally white sororities due to the color of her skin.

As of now, Time reports that administrators are working to rectify this situation and desegregate a system that has operated in this way for more than a century.

“The issue is the alumnae and not the undergraduates,” says Gentry McCreary, who served as Alabama’s director of Greek affairs from 2007 to ’11. “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.”

A meeting with Judy Bonner, the president of the university, and the sorority chapter heads ended with a proposal that, if accepted, will work to end discrimination in the Greek system. The agreement would allow the Alabama sororities to extend bids to young women who were not accepted earlier in the recruitment process, most likely allowing entry to those earlier rejected on grounds of discrimination.

“The allegations are that young women were not selected because of their race,” Bonner told TIME via e-mail. “If these allegations are true, then that is discrimination. It is against the law, university policy and the policy of the national organizations. No university organization will be allowed to discriminate against students based on their race.” 

The university has invested time in recruiting high performing students from out of state and millions of dollars in improving their educational system, and now the school is being pressured by its diverse student body to abandon the mindset of bygone eras.

Current students are glad the administration is finally addressing these issues, but they wish the response had come sooner. They worry that this new agreement is a knee-jerk response to the critical media attention facing the university, rather than a long-term solution to an age-old problem. Regardless, it is a step in the right direction; one that will hopefully begin a journey that permanently changes the University of Alabama’s sorority system for the better.

Thanks to TIME

Image courtesy of TIME

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