University of Alabama desegregates Greek sororities — in 2013

The University of Alabama has finally taken a step in the right direction — decades too late.

Earlier this month, the university’s campus newspaper, The Crimson White, published an article addressing allegations that at least two black women were not offered bids to join any of the 16 Panhellenic sororities — which have been traditionally white — because of their skin color.

One of the women who was rejected from the sororities was described as being the perfect candidate for any sorority — high GPA, salutatorian of her graduating high school class and came from an influential family with ties to the university.

According to the article, alumnae who play a part in the recruitment process for a number of sororities were a major factor in the decision to not accept the two women. Although some sorority members came out in support of accepting the black student, alumnae reportedly threatened to cut financial support if the house accepted a black girl.

Leaders and members from these sororities — such as Alpha Gamma Delta alumna Karen Keene and director of UA President’s and Chancellor’s events Emily Jamison — shot back by either denying the allegations or defending their actions, and reiterated that the sororities do not discriminate based upon race.

But Alabama’s president, Judy Bonner, later affirmed that discrimination played a part in the recruitment process. Bonner took an unprecedented step by reopening the recruitment process, in which the sororities would now offer bids on a rolling basis to create diversity within these organizations. Seventy-two new bids were issued, 11 of them to black students, where four have already accepted their bids.

We are faced with the question of “Why now?” There’s no doubt racism and discrimination are still prevalent in America, but it is especially concerning that a well-known state university has waited until 2013 to take steps to eliminate racial segregation in an institution as large as the Greek system.

While the alumnae and leaders who were involved in the discrimination should be held responsible, the university administration should also be held responsible. There was clearly a problem within the Greek system, and administrators waited until there was a published article in the student newspaper before taking action.

However, despite the ugliness of the situation, something great came from it. Barring the fact that these black women were finally given the same opportunities as their white peers, many students of all skin colors and races came out in support of ending the discrimination. In fact, hundreds of students protested on the UA campus carrying banners that read “Last stand in the schoolhouse door,” a reference from when former Gov. George Wallace protested racial integration in schools in the ‘60s.

It’s great to know that there are hundreds of students who are willing to stand up for what is right and fight for social equality.

This isn’t just about a couple women at the University of Alabama who didn’t get a bid from sororities. This is about the racism that has plagued this country’s past and still continues to exist decades after racial discrimination became illegal, and decades after schools became desegregated.

This issue that arose at this one university should act as a lesson to all who are still discriminating or discriminated against. When surrounded by people who will fight to erase something that should have never existed in our country, change will happen.

Hopefully this will create a chain reaction that will spark the process of finally recognizing the problem of racism and working to finally eliminate it — in all of our institutions.