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Race's Role in Rushing

In wake of Alabama sorority scandal, University ISC, sororities addresses discrimination

The University of Alabama endured a barrage of national criticism after multiple news sources reported in the past two weeks that there is an alarming lack of racial diversity within the school’s popular sororities. When considering whether this is an issue here at the University, it depends on who you ask.

Alabama’s newspaper, the “Crimson White,” reported that many members of the school’s Greek system are consciously trying to prevent racial integration within exclusively white sororities. An article noted that in 2013, the alumni or advisors of Alpha Gamma Delta, Delta Delta Delta, Chi Omega, Pi Beta Phi and possibly others, intervened remove a black student from consideration during the formal recruitment process, despite the fact that the students were highly qualified for bids. Since the article’s publishing, Alabama has been taken to task for its heavily segregated sororities.

But Maurice Apprey, dean of African-American Affairs at the University, said segregated sororities are not unique to Alabama.

He said the problem is simply “more explicit” at Alabama, and thus, it is easier to condemn that university’s Greek system and blindly assume that such race issues do not exist elsewhere. However, he went on to say that “in other parts of the country, [racism] is more subtle and only selectively reported.”

Until a few days ago, Alabama student Carla Ferguson remained the only African-American to have ever pledged one of the school’s Panhellenic sorority since the school was integrated 50 years ago. Ferguson became the first black member of a traditionally white sorority when she accepted a bid to Gamma Phi Beta in 2003. This week, in response to allegations that they discriminate against minorities, Alabama’s sorority leaders rushed to amend their segregated Greek system, accepting multiple African-American pledges last Friday.

Mimi Montgomery, a fourth-year College student and rush chair of sorority Delta Delta Delta (Tri Delta) here at the University, said the University’s sororities exhibit more racial diversity than those at Alabama.

“Within my chapter alone, there is a lot of diversity,” she said. “We have friends [in Tri Delta] from Turkey and the Dominican Republic, for example.”

Molly Gardner, public relations chair of the Inter-Sorority Council, provided a similar report, but could not provide data to support those claims.

“The Inter-Sorority Council does not have a question on the registration form that includes race and/or ethnicity,” she said. “This is not something that [our computer management system] or we keep track of …We do not collect this information because chapters do not consider this a factor.”

Many African-American students decline invitations to ISC sororities, Apprey said.

“Over the last 32 years, black students have been selectively recruited to join white fraternities and sororities,” he said . “In any case, class or light skin complexion or perception of pedigree, is invariably implicated in who is known to be invited to join.”

If racial segregation does in fact exist here — whether consciously or subconsciously — there is an ongoing effort to eliminate it entirely.

“We have friends from all over — all different cultural backgrounds — and we appreciate the varied experiences and diverse opinions different people can bring,” Montgomery said.


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