The University of Alabama has blocked all journalists from covering sorority rush week this year after a fiasco last year which saw two black women denied bids to every single one of the school’s traditionally white sororities.
Even reporters from the school newspaper fall under the ban, reports The College Fix.
Last year’s debacle was a national embarrassment for the school. Members of some all-white sororities accused powerful alumnae (and, at one sorority, an administrative adviser) of intervening to deny membership to two black students. (RELATED: Alabama Sorority Sisters Blame Racist Alumnae After Black Candidates Rejected)
“People are too scared of what the repercussions are of maybe taking a black girl,” Alpha Gamma Delta member Melanie Gotz told the student rag, The Crimson White, which broke the story. “That’s stupid, but who’s going to be the one to make that jump? How much longer is it going to take till we have a black girl in a sorority?”
A year later, bureaucrats have a new totalitarian strategy to avoid bad press, which is to deny all press access to sororities and sorority members as they dole out bids to new recruits.
Calling the strategy “media guidelines,” school officials have tried to ban all employees in its office of Greek Affairs, all members of the Panhellenic Executive Council and, in fact, all sorority members from speaking to the press.
“Recruitment week is extremely busy for everyone in Greek affairs, for all the girls in Panhellenic,” University of Alabama media relations director Cathy Andreen told The Crimson White. “We will certainly have some information available after it’s over, but there’s really not anyone available for interviews right now.”
Restraints on the media are even worse on bid day, which is Saturday, Aug. 16, and which is a very big deal that plays out inside the school’s football stadium.
Journalists are outlawed from the stadium. They aren’t allowed on “the lawns of any sorority houses.” They can’t even “disrupt students as they move along the sidewalk.”
Instead, in the fashion of a Potemkin village in Stalinist Russia, the public, taxpayer-funded school will provide journalists with a list of girls who get bids to each sorority.
As the Student Press Law Center has noted, the administrative rules concerning this year’s formal sorority recruitment process is blatantly unconstitutional.
In a letter to university officials, Student Press Law Center executive director Frank LoMonte called the University of Alabama’s attempt to ban reporters from bid day a “profoundly misguided public-relations strategy” at best.
It’s a “gag order” that violates the First Amendment, LoMonte said bluntly.
“Unless there is a blanket policy that no visitor may knock on the door of a Greek house, it violates the First Amendment for a government agency to selectively exclude only journalists,” he wrote.
“There is little legal authority addressing a college’s ability to prevent students from speaking to media outlets,” he added, which is because, until now, “no college has been audacious enough to try.”
“It cannot go unremarked that the disclosures published in last year’s Crimson White article, ‘The Final Barrier,’ came about because members of Greek organizations broke ranks and did consent to speak with the news media about the outrages they witnessed,” LoMonte also noted.