When representation influences Greek recruitment

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By Matt Silich

The Alpha Phi sorority chapter at the University of Alabama made headlines last week for posting a controversial recruitment video that was later taken down because of widespread Internet outrage.

In the video, members of the chapter are shown doing just about every single activity associated with “stereotypical sorority girls.” They blow bubbles in a field, do cheesy dances with each other, hang out on a pier sporting bikinis and show off some less-than-stellar football skills with Alabama running back Kenyan Drake.

Nearly everyone pictured is blonde, beautiful and Caucasian. The video was clearly filmed with very high quality cameras and subject to pristine editing. It assuredly took quite a bit of money and time to produce.

Much of the outrage surrounding the recruitment video criticized one of two issues: The racial homogeneity of the sorority, which is on full display, and Alpha Phi, along with the Greek system in general, for a perceived lack of acceptance of other cultures. Others took issue with the video from a feminist viewpoint because of the way it represented college-aged women.

However, the amount of backlash this video received over the lack of cultural representation seems excessive. It’s not good that seemingly the entire sorority is white, but these girls put together an honest advertisement of themselves.

Certainly, strides need to be made in the Greek system to allow people of all backgrounds to feel comfortable rushing or pledging wherever they please. No Greek system is perfect, just as all societies have issues. It’s extremely important to discuss these issues and search for solutions to increase diversity, but publicly shaming one chapter for one recruiting video isn’t constructive at all.

Their recruitment video made absolutely certain that prospective students know exactly what to expect at Alpha Phi’s Alabama chapter. This shouldn’t be a major indictment on the entire Greek system, just as it didn’t prove all fraternities are racist when the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma was captured singing a horribly racist song together last spring.

The ways in which sororities or fraternities choose to represent themselves to the rest of the world are ultimately their decisions and reflect the values they choose to emphasize.

Few people who criticized Alpha Phi for their recruiting video actually made larger points about the prevalence of discrimination in the Greek system. Wringing one’s hands over what amounts to a mostly inconsequential video isn’t helping anybody.

The criticism of the video shouldn’t have resulted in forcing Alpha Phi to take it down, it should have resulted in a widespread conversation about the homogeneity of much of the Greek system in general.

There are currently 97 fraternity and sorority chapters at the University, with around 30 percent of those being predominantly non-Caucasian chapters. Nothing is wrong with this, until one takes a few quick looks at the composites of most other chapters at the University and realizes that most other chapters are composed of an overwhelming majority of white people.

Clearly, there is some sort of barrier preventing minorities from becoming part of the Greek system on a larger scale, outside of the culturally based organizations.

That Alpha Phi chapter itself shouldn’t be taken to task as much as it has been, but certainly any fraternity or sorority can learn important lessons from the response to this video. Serious consideration needs to be applied when discussing how a chapter can best represent its values, while still bringing in plenty of diverse potential new members.

The world we live in makes judgments in a split second, which makes it important for fraternities and sororities to do more than just dance around in a field and swim. They should show what makes their chapters unique, what makes it a privilege to be a member.

I’m sure that Alpha Phi had no intentions of painting their sorority members with such a broad brush, but that’s the reality of today’s world. Something as innocent as that recruiting video can really harm a chapter’s reputation if taken the wrong way.

Matt is a junior in Media. [email protected]