BERGER: A lingering concern
The Greek system at the University has yet to practice full racial equality
Recently, after two black girls were denied bids at sororities, members of the University of Alabama’s sorority system came out and exposed lingering racism, especially among the alumni. After being condemned for segregation in the sorority system, Alabama is making structural changes within its Greek organizations — such as a new recruitment process in which new members can be added at any time — that students hope will increase the chances for prospective members and will also permit black women to be admitted to the school’s historically white sororities.
When I heard news of social segregation at Alabama, I could not believe such practices still existed. But after further contemplation, I began to see how unsurprising Alabama’s situation is. Looking at the many Greek systems in our region, and even examining the University’s own sorority and fraternity life, it is clear that a sort of segregation continues — even if it is not intentional like Alabama’s.
There are 16 Inter-Sorority Council sororities on Grounds, but there are also some sororities that identify themselves as “historically black.” There are four historically black sororities, three of which are active.
Even with a “fair” selection process in place, it is clear that segregation does exist on some level in most Greek systems. However, this segregation, I argue, does not derive from a malicious intent, or the intent to discriminate based on race or creed alone. It is a result of history, of traditions that extend back to when these groups were formed. Yes, there are historically white and historically black sororities on Grounds. But unlike in Alabama, all races are allowed to join either type of group.
Some believe, however, that racism persists within our Greek system. I have heard of cases of girls being rejected from fraternity parties and other social events because of their race. From the girls’ own accounts, fraternity brothers told them they could not enter because they were black.
While such cases may not be common, they still occur, and we cannot let them continue.
To respond to the problem of disconnect in the sorority system, there should be mixed parties between the historically black fraternities and sororities and the historically white fraternities and sororities. There were a few last year that people enjoyed and believed were successful. In addition to these mixers, groups should pursue philanthropy initiatives together. These collaborative efforts may lead to a more comfortable and diverse Greek system. I say “comfortable” because students may feel uncomfortable in Greek life because of the lack of fellow minority students. This inequality can be a deterrent to rushing in the first place, which can explain the low numbers of minorities in sororities compared to the number of Caucasian girls. However, with an increase in joint events, diversity will hopefully be promoted.
At this point, Alabama sororities are making changes to their Greek system, though those changes should have been made long ago. But it doesn’t matter which state or school you’re from. I think we should all look at Alabama and instead of judging them, ask ourselves this: is the Greek system here welcoming to all races? We might think everyone feels comfortable rushing any sorority, but when sororities are historically only of one race, and students are still being denied to attend Greek-related events because of their race, it shows that racism is an obstacle we must still overcome — and hopefully something we can change.
Meredith Berger is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. Her columns run Mondays.