Scores of students marched at the University of Alabama three years ago to protest racial discrimination in the school’s Greek system. Since then, the school’s administration has taken steps to eliminate racist practices.
The plan establishes procedures for reporting, investigating, and responding to alleged discriminatory practices. It also provides training of fraternity and sorority leaders involved in selecting new members.
David Grady, the university’s president of student affairs, praised student leaders and alumni for the progress they’ve made since 2013.
“Our fraternity and sorority community is stronger as a result,” he said in a statement. “We recognize this is a process that will take sustained focus and effort, and I am confident our student leaders will build upon the momentum generated over the last three years.”
A 2013 exposé by campus newspaper The Crimson White told the story of a well-qualified Black student who was rejected for membership by sororities because of her race.
Alpha Gamma Delta member Melanie Gotz told the paper the sorority declined to discuss the Black woman’s membership, even though she had excellent grades and came from a well-respected family in public service with ties to the school.
What the paper uncovered, though, was less about the racist attitude of the sorority members and more about the racist influence of sorority alumnae, who pressured the group to remain lily-white.
The explosive report set off a mass demonstration on campus. According to The New York Times, “several hundred” students and faculty members marched on the administration building. The Times said discrimination exists in sororities and fraternities at many other universities too, but there was a sense the University of Alabama tolerated it.
According to Al.com, the U.S. Department of Justice inquired about the racism allegations in 2013. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham revealed on Friday that it consulted with the school on how to address the issue.
U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance released this statement:
“We look forward to the University’s prompt and full implementation of the action plan. We appreciate the students who came forward with allegations about discrimination in sorority rush and made this action plan possible. We urge the community to contact our office if they have any concerns about discrimination or other civil rights violations on any campus.”
The university said it has about 10,000 students in its 62 Greek organizations — one of the largest in the nation. Since Fall 2012, the percentage of students of color in fraternities and sororities has increased by 91.5 percent.