Tuesday, September 17, 2013
The University of Alabama president admitted in a video today that the school's sororities made membership decisions based on race and called for "systemic and profound changes."
Dr. Judy Bonner's statement came less than a week after a student newspaper made allegations that sororities blocked two black women from pledging.
"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," Bonner said in a video posted today.
She said the office of the president and the office of student affairs began working with both local and national sorority chapters before the formal recruitment period ended to determine what the barriers were and to develop a plan to "help the Greek system embrace the diversity that is represented at the University of Alabama."
Bonner enacted a new policy that opens a continuous bidding process to every student and every sorority so that new members can be added at any time.
"While we will not tell any group who they must pledge, the University of Alabama will not tolerate discrimination of any kind," she said. "The chapter members are ready to move forward. The University of Alabama will support them in every way possible. We will work extremely hard to remove any barriers that they perceive."
The school's sororities came under fire last week when an article in The Crimson White said the "UA Greek system is still almost completely divided along racial lines" and that the two women "tried to break what remains an almost impenetrable color barrier."
The story claimed that none of the school's 16 Panhellenic organizations offered a bid to pledge two black women, with some alumni allegedly stepping in to block them. A member of one sorority told the paper alumnae threatened to cut financial support after learning that the chapter planned to pledge one of the black students.
At least two University of Alabama sororities -- Alpha Gamma Delta and Pi Beta Phi -- told ABC News they were investigating the allegations. Neither sorority immediately responded to requests for comment on the president's statement today.
Friday, September 13, 2013
At least two University of Alabama sororities say they are investigating allegations from a student newspaper that they blocked two black women from pledging.
The article in The Crimson White said the "UA Greek system is still almost completely divided along racial lines" and that the two women "tried to break what remains an almost impenetrable color barrier."
The story claimed that none of the school's 16 Panhellenic organizations offered a bid to pledge two black women, with some alumni allegedly stepping in to block them.
One of the women, the newspaper said, seemed to be a perfect candidate, with a 4.3 high school GPA, a salutatorian and from a family "with deep roots in local and state public service and a direct link to the University of Alabama."
The recruits asked to remain anonymous, according to the newspaper.
"Pi Beta Phi leadership is taking this matter very seriously and has begun looking into the allegations cited in The Crimson White article," Pi Beta Phi grand president Paula Shepherd told ABCNews.com in an email Thursday. "If any of those allegations are found to be true, those members, alumna or collegiate, will be held accountable for their actions."
A member of UA's Pi Beta Phi chapter allegedly told the school publication that Pi Beta Phi alumnae threatened to cut financial support after learning that the chapter planned to pledge one of the black students.
Shepherd called the allegations "troubling and saddening" and said the sorority does not discriminate in its membership selection practices and that it would not tolerate any discrimination.
A student member of the university's Alpha Gamma Delta chapter told The Crimson White that most of the active sorority members voiced support for the pledge, but it was alumnae who blocked her. The student said the alums cited the chapter's letter of recommendation requirements as the reason for blocking her, according to the paper.
"At Alpha Gamma Delta, we have strong, clear policy against discrimination," Alpha Gamma Delta executive director Stephanie Sack Bailey told ABCNews.com in an email Thursday. "We instill that in all of our chapters for all they do, including recruitment. If there's a question as to whether that policy has been violated, we take it seriously, investigate and intervene appropriately."
Bailey said an investigation team is "actively looking into this situation to determine whether policy has been violated."
"UA has been working with our local chapters and their national organizations to remove any barriers that prevent young women (both the prospective new members and the chapter members) from making the choices they want to make," University of Alabama associate vice president for university relations Deborah Lane said in a statement.
Lane said that the university administration, members of the local chapters and the "vast majority" of the alumni "fully believe that this is the right time to do the right thing, and we are committed to ensuring that all students have access to and can choose from multiple opportunities that match their personal interests and goals."
She said the national and international organizations determine their own membership selection processes as well as select and supervise the chapters' alumnae advisors.