Kathy Lohr, NPR, September 18, 2013
[Editor’s Note: An audio version of this story is available here.]
Students at the University of Alabama and community leaders are reacting to allegations that white sororities denied access to black women because of their race.
The student newspaper in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson White, ran a story that quotes sorority members who say they wanted to recruit at least two black candidates but the students’ names were removed before members could vote on them.
One of the black women who sorority members say was pulled from consideration seemed the perfect recruit. She had a 4.3 grade point average. And she’s from an influential family — the step granddaughter of Alabama Judge John England who is a University Trustee.
“Race may have played a factor or may even been the reason why, though not necessarily from the young people but from some alumni,” says Judge England.
He says some alums may have pressured current sorority members to reject black students.
In a video statement posted Tuesday, University President Judy Bonner acknowledged sororities and fraternities remain segregated. She says chapter members admit while recruiting new candidates a few weeks ago, decisions were made based on race.
“While we will not tell any group who they must pledge, the University of Alabama will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” she says.
Bonner ordered sororities to use an open bidding process which allows them to add new members at any time.
About 35,000 students are enrolled at the University of Alabama which remains predominantly white. About 12 percent are African American. One fourth of the students are members of fraternities and sororities.
University President Bonner says the nation is watching Alabama — just as it did in the 1960s when then Governor George Wallace made his stand against integrating the university. She says the students are ready to move forward and the university will work to remove any barriers they perceive.