After news broke last week that multiple sororities at the University of Alabama had refused women from joining their sororities because they were black, public outcry rose so quickly that a response from the usually-mute University officials seemed inevitable. On Tuesday, University President Judy Bonner released a video in which she said the college would force the sororities to reopen their bid process to give the rejected women another chance to join the sorority of their choice.
After referencing UA's noted and horrible history with race relations, Bonner said:
...our Greek system remains segregated and chapter members admit that during the recruitment process that ended a few weeks ago, decisions were made based on race. Before the formal recruitment period ended, the Office of the President and the Office of Student affairs began working with the local chapters and the national chapters in order to determine what the barriers were, whether they were real or perceived, and began to move forward with a plan to help the Greek system embrace the diversity that is represented at the University of Alabama.
Bonner called creating a continuous open bid process an "unprecedented step", which means that the college is essentially saying that women can pledge the sorority at any point during the, not just during Rush season, during a much more informal process.
"While we will not tell any group who they must pledge, the University of Alabama will not tolerate discrimination of any kind," Bonner added. "If we are going to adequately prepare our students to compete in the global society, we simply must make systemic and profound changes."
Will black women choose to go through the Rush process again, now that the alumnae called out as responsible for the racism have been effectively silenced? It seems unlikely. There's a great deal of fear of the Greek system at UA, much of it involved in large and small-scale hazing: Pressure from "the Machine" runs so rampant that it's the reason the Crimson White, the school paper originally responsible for breaking this story, used anonymous sources in the first place:
Potential whistleblowers here on campus are fearful that if they speak out, they may be subjected to mental or even physical harm. Those who choose to speak up about the unethical and even illegal actions of their organization fear the threat of dismissal from the organization with which they have identified for most of their college experience.
Despite feeling a moral imperative to speak out, many individuals choose not to out of fear of the consequences that would come from having their names attached to such a volatile issue.
You can still tell us anonymously about racism at UA or at your school in the comments here, here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.