The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama is infuriated over recent allegations that its school’s sorority system is being disrupted by racism. The school newspaper, The Crimson White, has reported that two all-white sororities passed over two prospective members because they are African Americans. One of the students has been identified as the step-granddaughter of former Alabama Supreme Court Justice John England Jr.
Paul Bryant Jr., the president pro tem of the Board of Trustees has stated that the school does not support segregation in any organization. University President Judy Bonner said the administration was working with sorority chapters and their national organizations to remove any barriers, according to The Huffington Post. "We are going to help our young people do the right thing," she said.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, an alumnus of the University of Alabama, said that he believes the pressure to bar African Americans from the four sororities on campus comes from alumni, not current students. According to current sorority sisters, alumnae are either using their voting powers to veto racial integration or threatening to withhold donations and other assistance.
Melanie Gotz, an Alabama student and a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, told The Crimson White on Friday that her fellow sisters almost universally wanted one of the students in question to join them, but that they were “just powerless over the alums.”
The two students, who have not been specifically named, reportedly participated in rush activities and boasted more than enough academic and social credentials to receive a bid. Nevertheless, they were passed over by 16 white sororities. Pledging was suspended at Alabama until further notice, according to a statement released by their Dean of Students, but was reinstated on Monday, Sept. 16.
Why the sororities are all-white in the first place is not clear. The Crimson White reported in 2012 that other large Southern universities, such as Auburn and the University of Mississippi, have integrated their Greek systems to a further extent than UA. In addition, they report that only one black student has ever successfully gone through the Pan-Hellenic recruitment process in the history of the school. Gotz stated that they are the only campus she is aware of that has “entirely separate black and white fraternities and sororities."
The University of Alabama became infamous for poor race relations in 1963 when then-Governor George Wallace stood in an auditorium doorway in a symbolic attempt to bar black students Vivian Monroe and James Hood from enrolling and only stepped aside when federal marshals were called in by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
Boston College, of course, is not home to Greek life of any kind, aside from a grassroots effort to create a fraternity off campus. Greek life is consistently criticized nationwide for its tendencies towards dangerous hazing activities, especially pressuring new pledges to drink in dangerous excess. Its supporters, however, point to the connections members make with other students at their schools and nationwide as a positive reason for their existence.
There are few calls at BC for Greek life to be instated. With a large drinking culture and a tendency for cliques or groups to form as it is, the creation of fraternities and sororities may only increase social division on campus.
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Featured image via UA Panhellenic Association/Facebook.