University of Alabama events spark discussion of Greek discrimination
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 4, 2013 01:10
The University of Alabama school newspaper, The Crimson White, published an article Sept. 11 that highlighted a lack of integration within the Greek system at the university. Specifically, the article exposed the interference of alumni who prevented sororities from extending bids to qualified African American women.
The article brought a startling question into sharp relief: are certain university organizations still segregated according to race?
According to Miami’s Office of Institutional Research, 3.6 percent of total undergraduates in Oxford self-identified as African American or black this fall.
Vice President of Public Relations for Greek life at Miami University Kat Davies said the situation at Alabama does not reflect the values of the Greek system as a whole and certainly not that of Miami. The Panhellenic Association’s recruitment policy at Miami requires that all women receive at least one bid.
“Miami Panhellenic has a system where unless you have a grades problem or you drop out of recruitment or there’s some kind of disciplinary issue, if you go through Panhellenic recruitment, you will receive a bid,” Davies said.
According to Davies, racism in the sorority recruitment process is not an issue at Miami.
“The Panhellenic and IFC [Interfraternity Council] community at Miami, I think it’s very different. The community here is totally open,” Davies said. “The Greek community is all about creating a place where people feel like they belong. Having said [that], Miami, is not perfect. We know we could be a more diverse community but we’re trying really hard to create this atmosphere of inclusion where everyone feels welcome.”
Director of the Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Jenny Levering said she has never had women voice concern over discrimination in sorority recruitment during her term.
“In my time here, I have not had any specific complaints or problems,” Levering said. “I think our Panhellenic recruitment process is very inclusive and I think all of our chapters are very open and they run very ethical and fair recruitment processes.”
However, a source who self-identified as African American and asked to remain anonymous so as not to come under fire from the Greek community, said the issue of skin color came into play for her during formal sorority recruitment.
“As I advanced through the rounds, there was one sorority in particular that paired me with this black girl,” she said. “They kept pairing me with her every time I entered the sorority.”
The source said the pairing of another black woman with her during recruitment was irritating.
“That rubbed me the wrong way,” she said. “I personally don’t see color, especially when I’m trying to join an organization that has nothing to do with race. I was really offended by this particular sorority that continually paired me with this girl. It’s almost as if they wanted to say, ‘Hey, this is someone like you.’ That’s not what I was seeking in a Greek organization.”
The source said the problem at Miami is not nearly as severe as in Alabama, but it is present nevertheless.
“I do feel like minorities are still receiving bids,” she said. “I’ve heard a couple different sororities and fraternities openly admit that they have no intention of ever accepting minorities into their Greek organizations, but in the organization I’m in I’ve never felt out of place.”
According to the source, racism still exists in Miami’s Greek system.
“I’m not going to mention who, but a couple different sororities have been named the ‘black sororities’ because they’ll have three black girls in the entire organization and just three is enough to give the whole sorority a name. They’re obviously not the majority,” she said. “It is meant in a derogatory way.”
There is also a distinction at Miami between the Panhellenic Association and the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), which is the governing body of Miami’s historically African American fraternities and sororities. It was created in 1930 at Howard University when African Americans were still denied basic civil rights and faced exclusion.
President of Delta Sigma Theta sorority Desi Jones said she agrees there is little to no unity between Panhellenic and NPHC sororities. Jones said people do not even know NPHC exists on campus.
“[At] a predominantly white institution, it gets unnoticed,” Jones said. “It just seems like we’re not included in the things that [Panhellenic sororities] have. It would be nice to have an invitation from a sorority or fraternity like, ‘We’re having this event, can your sorority come?’ To extend an invitation to the NPHC would be nice.”
However, not all students believe there to be discrimination in the Greek community. Ryan Wheeler is a self-identified African American student and member of Kappa Alpha Order fraternity. He said he does not believe racial discrimination exists in the fraternity rush process at Miami.