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.
Marie Claire has a fascinatingly depressing, behind-the-scenes follow-up story about the state of the University of Alabama’s sororities a year after the problems of racism became a national headline.
“We were told we do not take black girls, because it would be bad for our chapter—our reputation and our status,” junior Yardena Wolf of Alpha Omicron Pi told the monthly magazine for women.
“There was a list of girls who were to be dropped from rush,” explained Phi Mu member Caroline Bechtel. “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.”
After the dust-up went national, CNN, The New York Times and other national media organizations sent reporters to campus. School president Judy Bonner intervened with a strongly-worded entreaty to convince the school’s all-white sororities to end their racial discrimination.
It worked, a little, as the Greek organizations managed to find a way to extend bids to 11 black women.
Bechtel’s sorority, Phi Mu, was among the sororities which admitted a black person to its ranks.
“It’s not like the floodgates opened and there are suddenly people of every color,” she told Marie Claire. “It’s still all mostly privileged white girls.”
Kappa Delta still hasn’t admitted any black women. Kirkland Back, a Kappa Delta member, explained that the sorority thinks very highly of itself and didn’t want to admit any student who hadn’t gone through the same rush process through which other members had gone.
“They thought, I got selected to be in Kappa Delta because I was worthy, and now we’re giving these girls free bids because they’re tokens?” Back told Marie Claire. “And they’re like, ‘That cheapens all of our membership and undermines the exclusivity of this organization.'”
Right now, black women constitute approximately .04 percent of the members of traditionally white sororities on the flagship state school’s campus.