Members of some all-white sororities at the University of Alabama are accusing powerful alumnae (and, at one sorority, an administrative adviser) of intervening to deny membership to two black students.
The student newspaper, The Crimson White, broke the story last week.
The two students — the campus rag isn’t naming them — apparently participated in the formal rush week festivities at the school and boasted impeccable academic and social credentials. Nevertheless, they didn’t receive any bids from the 16 white sororities on campus.
The problem, to hear sorority girls tell it, is that alumnae are either using their voting powers to veto racial integration or threatening to withhold donations and other assistance.
“People are too scared of what the repercussions are of maybe taking a black girl,” Alpha Gamma Delta member Melanie Gotz told The Crimson White. “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?”
The school was integrated in 1963 (after at least one failed attempt) when Vivian Malone and James Hood successfully enrolled.
Gotz alleged that Alpha Gamma Delta alumnae relied on a technicality: the black candidate apparently didn’t have the right letters of recommendation.
Alpha Gamma Delta alumna Karen Keene refuted any accusations of racism.
“Your information is wrong,” Keene told The Crimson White. “It was policy procedure, and if anything, we have to follow policy and procedure with our nationals. That’s all I can say.”
Meanwhile, an unnamed member of Chi Omega told The Crimson White that its rush adviser, who is a school administrator, rejected one of the black recruits.
“I know it had to do with our adviser — is the one that dropped her,” the Chi Omega sister said. “Her name is Emily Jamison.”
The Chi Omega philanthropy chair resigned near the end of the rush period.
“Our philanthropy chair really wanted her and was rooting for her and left before the parties and everything when she found out,” the unidentified member told The Crimson White. “She was living in the house. She just packed up all her stuff and left the house and left rush.”
The story was basically the same over at Delta Delta Delta. An anonymous member of that sorority chapter charged that unhappy alumnae intruded into voting procedures.
“To my knowledge, the president and the rush chair and our rush advisors were behind this, and if we had been able to pledge her, it would’ve been an honor,” the unnamed Tri Delt told The Crimson White.
“She would have been a dog fight between all the sororities if she were white,” the student added.
Similarly, at Pi Beta Phi, a member said that alumnae swore they’d stop sending money if the sorority accepted a black pledge.
The sororities (and the fraternities) at the University of Alabama are nearly totally segregated by race. There has been only one black woman to pledge a white sorority—Carla Ferguson in 2003, who pledged Gamma Phi Beta.
Other large state schools in the Deep South including Auburn University (Alabama’s arch rival) and the University of Mississippi currently have Greek systems that are relatively more integrated.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. observed that this incident comes at a time when the Crimson Tide football team reigns as a national champion and enjoys a No. 1 national ranking.
“Alabama wouldn’t be No. 1 if it hadn’t opened the door,” Jackson said, according to the Daily Mail. “The same door that opened for football players should open for young women.”
Bear Bryant integrated Alabama’s football team in 1971. Before the team accepted a black player, Bryant had argued that the social climate at the school prohibited him from recruiting black players, according to ESPN Classic.
By 1973, about one-third of the team’s starters were black.