Last September, sororities at the University of Alabama were accused of abhorrent institutional racism. The school’s newspaper, The Crimson White, published a shocking report that revealed systematic segregation within the school’s sororities. They discovered that sororities have only admitted one black student in 50 years (!!!), with influential sorority alumni at UA allegedly influencing the rushing process when it comes to admitting minorities.
This saga began when alumnae of Delta Delta Delta, Chi Omega, Pi Beta Phi, and Alpha Gamma Delta blocked two black students from joining the 1,896 new sorority members at the school. Pissed by the act, an Alpha Gamma Delta member leaked the story to the Crimson White about a perfect candidate being “greeted with silence” because she was black. The outcry sparked quick changes at the school’s Greek system and, according to a report in Marie Claire (via Business Insider), 21 minority women were able to join sororities that were predominantly white. A long-form piece at Buzzfeed published in April alleged that there were still big problems at the school.
Now there’s more news about about the Alabama sorority system. According to AL.com’s Melissa Brown, “More than 2,200 University of Alabama students have pre-registered to participate in the school’s Panhellenic sorority rush and school officials say the number will only grow leading up to Friday night’s kick-off convocation.” She notes that “this could be UA’s largest rush class to date, even as the process in Tuscaloosa has been the largest in the nation for the past several years.” Being “sratty” at the srattiest school in the SEC is cooler than ever:
Welcome to rush week at Alabama pic.twitter.com/tsYPhOm5DB
— Rebekah Jacobsen (@rebekahjacobsen) August 11, 2013
But what about the whole racism thing? How bad actually was it? An excellent long-form piece by Kayla Webley in Marie Claire is spilling some damning details about how abhorrent and hostle the white girl’s attitudes were towards African Americans. There’s this:
“We were told we do not take black girls, because it would be bad for our chapter—our reputation and our status,” says junior Yardena Wolf, 20, a member of Alpha Omicron Pi. “There was a list of girls who were to be dropped from rush,” says senior Caroline Bechtel, 21, a member of Phi Mu. “Anyone who was a minority was automatically added to it. Sometimes they’d say things like, ‘Oh, she wore an ugly dress,’ but it was so obviously wrong, so obviously racism.”
And this awful anecdote about the time a black girl wandered into a the “Rush-to-Pledge” room at University of Alabama’s Kappa Delta house:
At Kappa Delta, the oldest and arguably most prestigious house on campus, the rushees are seated in different rooms depending on how interested the sorority is in pledging them. The best room, called Rush-to-Pledge, is reserved for rushees whom the sorority wants to give the hard sell. Kappa Delta member Kirkland Back, 22, a 2014 graduate, says that in her years in the sorority she saw only two black women ever seated there—and one was a mistake. “This past year, a black girl ended up in the Rush-to-Pledge room,” Back says. “Someone messed up and seated her in the wrong spot … so you can imagine the sad hilarity of watching a bunch of really privileged white girls freaking out. They were like, ‘Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God! What are we going to do? She can’t think we actually like her!’ So they were like, ‘Nobody talk to her. … She’s gotta know that she’s not welcome. She’s gotta know this isn’t going to work out.’” “It’s not that we’ve never had black girls come through rush,” says Melanie Gotz, 22, a 2014 Alabama graduate and member of Alpha Gamma Delta. “I would see them in the first round, and then they all disappeared. I just figured they didn’t make the grades. Until this year, I didn’t realize that they were being automatically dropped after the first round. I feel really naïve now—I didn’t really think racism existed in such a blatant way anymore.” (When asked to respond to the allegations, national officials for each of the sororities cited their policies opposing discrimination based on race, religion, or ethnic background.) Years later, the sting of rejection black women experience remains. Melody Twilley Zeidan, now 30, was cut from every sorority at Alabama during rush in 2000 and 2001, even though she graduated from one of the state’s best schools and was part of the university’s honors program. “It’s been 14 years, and I would like to say I look back and say, ‘Sororities? Oh, that’s silly,’ but it still hurts to think people didn’t want to get to know me because of my skin tone,” she says.
If you need to visualize just how racist Alabama’s sorority system is, flip through their Greek Chic year-in-review from 2013. Or watch the video below. Unlike the 2014 issue, there’s barely a non-white girl to be found. And go read the full story at Marie Claire.
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