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article imageU. of Alabama president admits Panhellenic racial segregation

By Brett Wilkins     Sep 18, 2013 in Lifestyle
Tuscaloosa - Following multiple sororities' rejection of a "perfect candidate" because she is black, University of Alabama President Judy Bonner acknowledged that the school's Greek system remains racially segregated and promised to take steps to address the issue.
The Associated Press reports several hundred people marched in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday to protest ongoing racial segregation among the university's fraternities and sororities. The demonstrators gathered at the steps of the university administration building under a banner that read, "Last stand in the schoolhouse door," a reference to the school's forced integration 50 years ago this June, when the school's first black students, Vivien Malone and James Hood, were ushered through the university's doors by federalized National Guardsmen over the objections of racist Governor George Wallace and much of the white student body.
Meanwhile, in a video statement, University President Judy Bonner invoked that historic moment while segueing into a candid admission of persistent racial problems at UA.
"Today the eyes of the nation are once again on the University of Alabama," Bonner said. "This time, it's because our Greek system remains segregated, and chapter members admit that during the recruitment process that ended a few weeks ago, decisions were made based on race."
One of those decisions, which made national headlines, involved the blanket rejection by all 16 Panhellenic sororities of what the UA student newspaper, the Crimson White, called "the perfect sorority pledge on paper." The young woman, who wishes to remain anonymous out of fear for her personal safety, had impeccable credentials. According to the White:
This candidate was what most universities would consider a prime recruit for any organization, sorority or otherwise. She had a 4.3 GPA in high school, was salutatorian of her graduating class and comes from a family with deep roots in local and state public service and a direct link to the University of Alabama.
There was just one problem: the young woman is black.
When Melanie Gotz, a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority-- one of the Greek letter organizations the rejected black woman sought to join, asked her sorority sisters if they really weren't going to "talk about the black girl," she was met with silence.
"People are too scared of what the repercussions are of maybe taking a black girl," Gotz told the White. "That's stupid, but who's going to be the one to make the jump? How much longer is it going to take 'til we have a black girl in a sorority? It's been years, and it hasn't happened."
Actually, it did happen once, about 10 years ago, when local Carla Ferguson accepted a bid from Gamma Phi Beta. But that was long ago, and the failure of the UA Greek system to integrate has made the school something of a pariah, a throwback to the days of Bull Connor, church bombings, lynching and Ku Klux Klan terror.
Today, things are a bit more complicated. The majority of Gotz's sisters, for example, actually wanted to extend a bid to the rejected black rushee.
"The entire house wanted this girl to be in Alpha Gam," Gotz told the White. "We were just powerless over the alums."
Indeed, members of other sororities which snubbed the potential recruit repeatedly blamed alumni for the racist rejection of the super-qualified black candidate.
"If we had been able to pledge her, it would've been an honor," an active sister in the Delta Delta Delta sorority told the White. "However, our alumnae stepped in and went over us and had her dropped."
The Tri Delt insists that there would have been "a dog fight between all the sororities if she were white."
A Chi Omega sister also claims that an alumnus-- rush advisor Emily Jamison-- is the reason why the black rushee was rejected. Chi Omega's philanthropy chair reportedly resigned from the sorority in disgust over the incident, and members of the sorority asked national headquarters to investigate whether racial discrimination is to blame for the woman's rejection.
A member of Pi Beta Phi who wishes to remain anonymous told the White that alumnae actually threatened to cut off financial support if their sisters extended a bid to the same black woman.
As for Alpha Gamma Delta, Gotz told the White that alumnae cited letter of recommendation requirements as the reason for the black rushee's rejection.
"We have to follow policy and procedure with our nationals," explained Alpha Gamma Delta alumnus Karen Keene.
University of Alabama sorority bid day:
John England Jr, a circuit court judge and one of three black UA trustees, joined President Bonner in vowing to deal with the persistent problem of Panhellenic segregation.
"I made some inquiries and found out there were other black young ladies who were also not accepted through the rush process," England told the White. "So I have requested the [UA] leadership to find out what's going on. I have talked to them about my expectation that no organization will accept or deny a potential member based on race. It is not something we at the University of Alabama will accept."
"While we will not tell any group who they must pledge, the University of Alabama will not tolerate discrimination of any kind," President Bonner told the AP.
One of the steps being taken by the Alabama Panhellenic Association (APA) is to reopen the bidding process and allow sororities to recruit more members.
Still, racism persists. Yardena Wolf, a 19-year-old UA sophomore and member of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, moved out of her sorority house after facing social media backlash for speaking out against the continuing Greek segregation.
"I faced some difficulties in my room and my house, so I thought it would be better if I moved out," the Oregon native told the AP.
Other out-of-state students, even those from other Southern states, said they were alarmed by the level of institutional racism in the UA Greek system.
"[It] came as a shock," Houston native Khortlan Patterson, 19, told the AP.
"We're in the 21st century, [and] we're the only campus I know that has Greek life the way it is," Alpha Gamma Delta's Gotz told the White. "We have entirely separate black and white fraternities and sororities, and it's just sad."
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