Fifty years after Gov. George Wallace “stood in the schoolhouse door” in an effort to prevent Vivian Malone Jones, Dave McGlathery and James Hood from enrolling in classes at the University of Alabama, The Crimson Whitereports that the school’s Greek system remains rigidly segregated.
“Are we really not going to talk about the black girl?” asked Melanie Gotz, an Alpha Gamma Delta member. She was speaking in reference to an anonymous black recruit with who didn’t receive a bid from any of the Panhellenic sororities, despite having graduated as salutatorian of her class with a 4.3 GPA, and having deep roots in the University of Alabama community.
The recruit was denied, Gotz told The Crimson White, by the chapter’s alumnae on account of a technicality: she failed to provide the exact number of letters of recommendations required. Active members in the sorority protested the denial, but were shot down by alumnae.
“It was just so cool to see everyone willing to take this next step and be the sorority that took a black girl and not care,” Gotz said. “The entire house wanted this girl to be in Alpha Gam. We were just powerless over the alums.”
Alpha Gamma Delta alumnae defended their decision to eliminate this near-perfect candidate in the first round by defending the sanctity of rush procedures: “It wasn’t anything to do with someone. It was policy procedure, and if anything, we have to follow policy and procedure with our nationals,” said Karen Keene. “That’s all I can say.”
The national chapter echoed Keene’s excuse, telling The Crimson White that “Alpha Gamma Delta has policies that govern its recruitment process. These include policies about the roles undergraduates and alumnae play in the recruitment process.”
But Alpha Gamma Delta is not alone in having denied this student a chance to join their sorority. A Tri Delta member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that alumnae in her organization also vetoed the recruit: “To my knowledge, the president and the rush chair and our rush advisors were behind this, and if we had been able to pledge her, it would’ve been an honor. However, our [alumnae] stepped in and went over us and had her dropped.”
“The only thing that kept her back,” the Tri Delta member said, “was the color of her skin. She would have been a dog fight between all the sororities if she were white.” Chi Omega also dropped the recruit, despite her receiving “perfect scores from the people in chapter the first day.”
Statements from the national chapters of these sororities and the University of Alabama itself insist that recruits aren’t denied membership on the basis of their race. John England Jr., one of the three black members of the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees, said that he will investigate the issue, as a denial based on race “is not something we at The University of Alabama will accept.”
However, there has still only been one black woman to formally pledge a Panhellic sorority at Alabama, and she did so in 2003. Raw Story contacted Gamma Phi Beta, the sorority that allowed that black student to pledge, but was told that it would not comment “for fear it might embarrass some of the other Greek organizations.”
["Profile Picture" via Alpha Gamma Delta on Facebook]
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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