"Are we really not going to talk about the black girl?"
September 13, 2013 7:37 AM   Subscribe

"Not a lot of rushees get awesome scores," the Tri Delta member said. "Sometimes sisters [of active members] don’t get that. [She] got excellent scores. The only thing that kept her back was the color of her skin in Tri Delt. She would have been a dog fight between all the sororities if she were white." The University of Alabama's student newspaper reports on all-white sorority chapters' rejection of black applicants, including members' claims that the decisions came not from them but were handed down by alumnae. [Further coverage in the New York Times.]
posted by komara (182 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
“I really think it’s hard for Alabamians to envision how peculiar our traditions seem to outsiders,” said Andrew Grace...

Wow. Just wow.

Since a sorority is really just a fancy apartment building, can she sue under the Fair Housing Act?
posted by miyabo at 7:41 AM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


On one hand, I cannot believe this still happens in this country. On the other hand, Ted Cruz said this week that we need 100 more senators like Jesse Helms. And the thing is, it's NOT the young people who are originating the racism here. It is the adult women. Disgusting.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Since a sorority is really just a fancy apartment building, can she sue under the Fair Housing Act?

Is the 'burn it to the ground' option still right out?
posted by jaduncan at 7:43 AM on September 13, 2013 [31 favorites]


*sigh*

We have entirely separate black and white fraternities and sororities, and it’s just sad.

Yep. I didn't go greek after transferring to UA but I did take note of the differences in stance between the chapter there and the chapter of the same fraternity I did pledge with for a while while I was a freshman at GA Tech.

The GA Tech chapter had black brothers and even one gay brother. The UA chapter, which was a sort of flagship/historical chapter nonetheless, had not a single non-white member and was all upper crust rednecks (this coming from someone who isn't unfamiliar with deer/rabbit hunting) in pickup trucks.

The greek circle at UA really is a different world, judging from my exposure to it via rumor/primary sources/campus newspaper exposes, and it's a shame. A real shame.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you're being unfavorably compared to the not-exactly-racially-cool Ole Miss, perhaps it's time to reassess.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:49 AM on September 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


said Andrew Grace...

This is the same Andrew Grace that produced the documentary Eating Alabama, he's a really great guy and I have a 1 second cameo in the same. Go see it.

posted by RolandOfEld at 7:49 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The real scandal here is why a black girl with a 4.3 GPA who was salutatorian of her graduating class is wasting her time at the University of Alabama. Her high school guidance counselor should be fired.

Rednecks gonna redneck. This girl deserves a bigger stage.
posted by R. Schlock at 7:51 AM on September 13, 2013 [77 favorites]


The real scandal here is why a black girl with a 4.3 GPA who was salutatorian of her graduating class is wasting her time at the University of Alabama.

Yea, screw her for maybe wanting to go there right?
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:52 AM on September 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


If there's a point to frats and sororities aside from the demarcation of social hierarchies and networking, it is utterly lost on me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:54 AM on September 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm not that surprised that it's alumnae, not the current members. I've heard rather shocking suggestions about the current international students at my old campus from past attendees, and I think Smith's Pearls and Cashmere tumblr (and the reason for it) shows that casual racism is prevalent in many, many communities, not just Alabama. It's an enormous shame. I am glad that the current sorority members were willing to step up and expose their own chapter and alumnae this time.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:55 AM on September 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yea, screw her for maybe wanting to go there right?

Well, if she's wasting her time at an institution whose prejudice and persisting structured inequity prevent her from achieving everything she might otherwise, then she's screwing herself, isn't she?
posted by R. Schlock at 7:55 AM on September 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


One positive thing I see coming from this is that I never saw the word "Tradition" used as a defense.
posted by Badgermann at 7:56 AM on September 13, 2013


Well, if she's wasting her time at an institution whose prejudice and persisting structured inequity prevent her from achieving everything she might otherwise, then she's screwing herself, isn't she?

To be fair, this is about their social clubs, not the university as a whole. She might get a great education from a university that other family members went to, and enjoy the sports programs, etc. No matter how entrenched they are in some universities, sororities are optional social clubs.

Doesn't make this any less appalling, but just because the "Greek" system is rife with racism doesn't mean the university as a whole is. If anything, it just seems to imply that racist white women self-selected into whites-only sororities in the past, and are pushing back against non-racist current students.
posted by explosion at 7:59 AM on September 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, if she's wasting her time at an institution whose prejudice and persisting structured inequity prevent her from achieving everything she might otherwise, then she's screwing herself, isn't she?

Maybe she couldn't afford to go anywhere else, or maybe she has family she needs to be near, or maybe she just wanted to go there?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:00 AM on September 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


If there's a point to frats and sororities aside from the demarcation of social hierarchies and networking, it is utterly lost on me.

I pledged for a bit simply to see what it was like since I was the first member of my family not to die of Polio to go to college. It serves as a bit of a collective of welcoming faces, if you get in, and as a repository of advice. But honestly you're pretty much spot on that it's a dated bug and not a feature because many other orgs could, and do, handle that sort of thing just as well. NSBE was a great example of this both at UA and at Tech.

Well, if she's wasting her time at an institution whose prejudice and persisting structured inequity prevent her from achieving everything she might otherwise, then she's screwing herself, isn't she?

With her grades and qualifications I'd be very surprised if she didn't have more than one optoin to choose from, but I really hesitate to delve even that deeply into her decision making process. On the other hand I'm sure she'd appreciate your wisdom from on high regarding her collegiate choices.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's any number of reasons why a person might want to go to Alabama. As is generally the rule, the "real scandal" remains the racism.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2013 [36 favorites]


The greek circle at UA really is a different world,

It's always a matter of someone being worse. RolandOfEld when I was drinking free beer at Georgia Tech as a freshman in 1980 I was invited to pledge a fraternity, but not the black kid from Kentucky I had been coming with. Which surprised me. I asked straight out and got a straight up answer "Some of the brothers and alumni wouldn't be comfortable with it." And thus ended a very brief engagement.

Maybe stuff changes as time goes on, but surely there is a segment of Southern "society" that will never really change.
posted by three blind mice at 8:02 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


three blind mice: yea, I'm sure that's still the case in various places, as the article focuses on. But, as I said above, the chapter I pledged had both gay and black brothers and, as it turns out, is at GA Tech and goes by the same letters as another chapter at UA that is rife with the same racist overtones/standards you mention. GA Tech, again from my experience, chapters in general are leagues and leagues and leagues ahead of UA chapters.

As with alot of things, it's complicated but maybe getting better... I hope so anyway. FWIW, I didn't end up initiating because I got tired of the pedantic rites, steps, and requirements and couldn't keep up monetarily (or alcoholically) with the other brothers but I learned a bit about the system along the way, which was pretty much my goal all along.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:07 AM on September 13, 2013


I can't help but notice the parallels to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. I spit on its grave, to be sure, but I'm left with the same reaction. "Well, if you're foolish enough to want to join..."

My roomie freshman year at Central Michigan University (a uni I transferred out of after one year on campus and one year studying in Japan) was a pretty stereotypical "meathead." He'd get likkered up and drop n-bombs left and right, then start whining about how bad the general perception of frats was even though OMG they have requirements on GPA and you have to learn the greek alphabet (and here I was learning THREE) and they do community service and etc etc etc.

Can we let this die, already? The "greek" system, I mean. I've never met a hiring agent who said, without irony, "oh yeah, we totally prefer people who were in fraternities, you should totally put that on your resume."

The only good thing to ever result from the existence of fraternities was Revenge of the Nerds.
posted by GoingToShopping at 8:08 AM on September 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


Just kinda want to point out that it's this persons CHOICE to go to said university and their CHOICE to join said organization.

It doesn't matter the who, the where or the why. Having CHOICE is what makes us a "free society", whatever the hell that means.

//derail
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:10 AM on September 13, 2013


R. Schlock: "Well, if she's wasting her time at an institution whose prejudice and persisting structured inequity prevent her from achieving everything she might otherwise, then she's screwing herself, isn't she?"

From TFA:
In response, Gotz said alumnae in the room cited the chapter’s letter of recommendation requirements as a reason for the potential new member’s removal. Active sorority members then began standing up to voice support for the recruit and challenge alumnae decisions, Gotz said.

“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. “You know, I would say there were probably five people in the room that disagreed with everything that was being said. The entire house wanted this girl to be in Alpha Gam. We were just powerless over the alums.”
posted by boo_radley at 8:11 AM on September 13, 2013 [24 favorites]


GoingToShopping: "The only good thing to ever result from the existence of fraternities was Revenge of the Nerds."

don't forget animal house, you pleb.
posted by boo_radley at 8:11 AM on September 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


The students come out of these pretty well. They're coming out publicly criticizing their sororities who are preventing them from integrating.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:14 AM on September 13, 2013 [24 favorites]


As a 37-year old Ex(?)-Greek, I find the often encountered, immature self importance (and admittedly myself at the time) of brothers and sisters who are currently active in fraternities and sororities to be painfully pitiful.

"But I'm a Chi Delta!! Don't you know who we think we are?!"

I mean, the issue in this article is still bullshit, and a real issue, but mainly because it is a microcosm of the rampant racism still in play at organizations, especially club-type groups, across the country. The people involved with these racist decisions grow up and enter the workforce, become HOA members, have kids, and if never challenged, they simply never learn and spread the mess.

But still, whenever I watch Greek organizations try take themselves so seriously, I can't help but roll my eyes, groan, and shudder at the immature ignorance of my thinking I could become important simply through affiliation.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:17 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be fair, this is about their social clubs, not the university as a whole.

A thousand times THIS.


I 'effing hate the Greek system. No, I'm not someone who tried to scale that wall and failed. It honestly never crossed my mind to rush a frat. I don't want to go all into it and derail the thread, but my dilemma here is this obviously incredibly intelligent black girl will be so much better off for not associating with these people. There is no comparison to be made between the "greek crowd" and the student body at large. None. I'm an Auburn fan and would love to make snide remarks about UA, but the student body in general is from all over the world, is no more likely to be racist than any other cross section of average people, etc. In a way the greeks do the rest of us a favor by congregating together and walling themselves off.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:18 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The students come out of these pretty well.

Yes, good for those who stood up in public. But there's no better time than now to push it another step further. Break the ties with the alumni and national organization.
posted by pjenks at 8:18 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the other hand I'm sure she'd appreciate your wisdom from on high regarding her collegiate choices.

No snark here: many times when kids self-select out of top schools in making college application decisions, the fault is a lack of guidance from family and school officials. I do honestly wish I, or someone else in my position, had had a chance to speak with her before she filed her applications. Without having access to her complete profile, I can say that a black woman with a curve-busting GPA and a record of leadership at the high school level would be a competitive applicant anywhere. She may very well regret not having better advice when she's graduated and considering law school or grad school, realizing that a University of Alabama diploma opens far fewer doors than a Harvard one would. The college enrollment decision is probably the most significant one a kid makes. There's nothing wrong in stating plainly that I think she's probably undersold herself and that she may regret the decision years down the road. The fact that UA and its social organizations are not helping her excel only strengthens my certainty.

When I was 17, I got really poor advice about my own college application decisions. It bothers me to this day. It isn't just the missed opportunities from not having a more prestigious diploma on my wall. I've worked hard and (largely) rectified that error. It's not having the chance to work with brilliant and ambitious people while in college. It's the failure to stretch the scope of my worldview at a formative moment in my life. It's the wasted time and effort trying to figure out how the world really works. This young woman should not be forced to refight the desegregation battles of the '60's. She should be at an elite college learning the skills and making the connections that will help her change the world.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:19 AM on September 13, 2013 [34 favorites]


"Maybe she couldn't afford to go anywhere else, or maybe she has family she needs to be near, or maybe she just wanted to go there?"

This is exactly the kind of advice to a girl like her that should get a high school guidance councilor fired. Way better places should be giving her money to attend.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:20 AM on September 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


“I know [the recruit] got perfect scores from the people in chapter the first day, and she got cut after the first day and I know it had to do with our advisor – is the one that dropped her,” the Chi Omega member said. “Her name is Emily Jamison.”
I love the brazenness of this, the kind that only comes with a student newspaper. A named source says "There was one person, and here is her name". Awesome. I think when we get older we have a tendency to CYA and be more wary of the consequences of our actions, which is good, but can lead to a lot of "unnamed sources" and "anonymous officials" that lead to a lack of accountability. I really think (or at least hope) this kind of direct callout is a better catalyst of change, a way of telling that one person they are outside the norm and need to change and update their views.
posted by I am the Walrus at 8:20 AM on September 13, 2013 [36 favorites]


“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. “You know, I would say there were probably five people in the room that disagreed with everything that was being said. The entire house wanted this girl to be in Alpha Gam. We were just powerless over the alums.”


I gotta say that this story made me feel better than I was expecting it to, mainly because of these parts here. Obviously its a terrible thing overall, but I knew that was the case going in. Seeing how many of her potential sisters wanted to go to bat for her was really heartening and I cant say that I could see that part of the story playing out the same way even 20 years ago. These current sisters are going to be the ones that become the older Southern generation some day and there's hope and proof of change in that.

Edit just to clarify: Obviously, its angering and stupid that this is even a thing in 2013. Im not saying it isnt awful and moronic and racist. Im just saying that there is good there wanting to take root (even if the alumni wont allow it)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:21 AM on September 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Way better places should be giving her money to attend.

That's great. Inspect your privilege here. Some people even with school covered cannot afford to travel to school, or simply don't want to be away from family.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:21 AM on September 13, 2013 [27 favorites]


Did you miss that her family is connected to local politics and has a history with the university?
posted by empath at 8:21 AM on September 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


Isn't a sorority a national organization? Can't the national governing body force the issue? Or are they racist all the way to the top?
posted by pracowity at 8:22 AM on September 13, 2013


I'm not sure what made my blood boil more: The knowledge that this kind of overt racism is still going on in 2013 with seemingly little consequences for the perpetrators or reading the ridiculous formal statements by some of the members and alumnae of these organizations quoted in the article which essentially equate to, "Here is a lot of flowery language and business-speak to explain why this black woman just happened (but NOT because of racism, ok?) to not meet the entrance criteria for any Greek organization on campus"
posted by The Gooch at 8:22 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was 17, I got really poor advice about my own college application decisions. It bothers me to this day.

Yep, same page of that book. Except in the other direction. I had the quals and scores to go a big/badass school like GA Tech. And it was the wrong advice for me and I did much better at, of all places, UA. I'm not defending the racial overtones that pervade certain aspects of the campus but far be it for me to begrudge a black person attend UA if that's their choice.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:24 AM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


She may very well regret not having better advice when she's graduated and considering law school or grad school, realizing that a University of Alabama diploma opens far fewer doors than a Harvard one would.

It's certainly possible that she just didn't apply to top private schools because of bad advising or because the sticker price scared her off. It's also possible she applied to top schools and wasn't accepted; it happens.

But it also might depend on what her goals are, and on what doors she wanted to open. If she wants to make a long term home in Alabama, and wants to help effect change in Alabama, then I'd expect an Alabama undergraduate and/or law degree to open more of the right doors than Harvard degrees.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:26 AM on September 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I love the brazenness of this, the kind that only comes with a student newspaper. 

Right? And I love that the people doing the calling out are the actual sorority members. I was expecting this to be a case of the rejected pledge saying something, and the sorority going, "What? No, nothing like that ever happened. Move along now, nothing to see here..."
posted by imnotasquirrel at 8:26 AM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Just kinda want to point out that it's this persons CHOICE to go to said university and their CHOICE to join said organization.

It doesn't matter the who, the where or the why. Having CHOICE is what makes us a "free society", whatever the hell that means.

//derail


This reads kind of like you believe she got what was coming to her, and that's kind of gross. Is that what you meant, or did I misunderstand what you were trying to point out here?

What you're pointing out here seems to me, first, to be placing the blame on the incorrect party here. Surely it's the racist institution that should bear the brunt of your scorn, not the person being shut out of the sorority? Second, I suppose if we were to follow the model implied by your statement, nothing would ever change, would it?
posted by MoonOrb at 8:26 AM on September 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


This does not surprise me in the least.

I pledged a sorority at another big SEC school, though it was not considered one of the large, prestigious sorority chapters. Why? Because we were multicultural. We were the first chapter on the campus to invite ladies regardless of race. I saw only one minority in the other chapters in 4 years on campus - Tri-Delta pledged an Asian girl and WHOA THE SCANDAL.

The greek system in the south is still heavily segregated to an astonishing degree. The Panhellenic Council included the 10 or so "white" sororities, while the Pan-Hellenic Council included the traditionally black sororities. There was never any cross-over, except our chapter. And we were kicked off campus for "administrative issues".

During my time there, we definitely had issues because of our diverse membership. Some of the "white" fraternities wouldn't have parties with us, but the traditionally black fraternities wouldn't either. Because we didn't fit cleanly into either of the Councils mentioned above, we were often plain left out of all-greek activities. We basically gave all the snotty, racist frats the finger and happily partied with the ones that were accepting of us. It was an odd thing, moreso now looking back on it.

I absolutely loved being in a sorority. But if my chapter, with its modern, inclusive policies, hadn't existed, I would not have been a greek, period. It makes me sad that the chapter isn't there anymore for young ladies to be a part of.
posted by tryniti at 8:27 AM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Inspect your privilege here.

Oy. What is this? A fucking reeducation camp? Why don't you check your tone?

Addressing these sorts of issues are exactly what admissions officers do. It's their job to help talented kids become successful college students.

Did you miss that her family is connected to local politics and has a history with the university?

This is literally the only argument in favor of her matriculation at UA that I've seen in this thread. And I should have taken it more seriously. It could be that she considers a future in state politics or business and that the cultural climate of the state favors a degree from a local school rather than an elite one. I still think that's a waste, but it would be a rational decision, if that were her thinking.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:27 AM on September 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


I was in a university fraternity for my entire first undergraduate experience (1988-1993). I was active in my fraternity, I have a small number of lifelong friends from that fraternity.

When I returned to university, I refused to rejoin and refused to participate. I had no interest and when questioned, I simply said this:

We were the most inclusive, most civil, most progressive fraternity on our campus and still are. But that said, we are a dinosaur and our style of organization with its goals and methods is a testament to the worst kinds of classism, elitism and racism i can think of.

I am proud of my university fraternity - but by being a and calling themselves a greek letter fraternity, they are continuing an awful, net-negative tradition. I don't feel that in their situation they can change the entire thing from within so honestly I have to echo an above statement:

burn it to the ground
posted by Fuka at 8:28 AM on September 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I am pretty sure the National Organizations are just as pissed as the active members about this. Most national organizations have diversity programs in place to encourage the recruitment of non-white members. It seems like the perpetrators of most of this are alums that have more power than they should in their local chapters.

I am an alum of a service, rather than social, fraternity, and when I was in school, nothing pissed me off more than Alums coming in and trying to dictate how we ran our chapter. Once you graduate, it isn't yours to control. I go back to visit and the current members say they would like us to visit more, but we always argue, that we are better enjoyed in small doses. A conversation that starts with "When we were around we would do this..." has a bad habit of eventually having the words added on "... and you should do it that way too."

Although we were a service fraternity, so there was no house and no big money alumni threatening to withhold funds. Although the last part is pure conjecture on my part.
posted by Badgermann at 8:29 AM on September 13, 2013


This reads kind of like you believe she got what was coming to her, and that's kind of gross. Is that what you meant, or did I misunderstand what you were trying to point out here?

Not at all... just that people have the right to make their own decisions. Knowledge is not a zero sum game, she can't possibly be expected to be omniscient when it comes to the xenophobia about every group/organization she may or may not want to be involved in.

As a society it's our job to make sure that people, regardless of race or creed, that they have access to the same things everybody else does.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:30 AM on September 13, 2013


It could be that she considers a future in state politics or business and that the cultural climate of the state favors a degree from a local school rather than an elite one. I still think that's a waste, but it would be a rational decision, if that were her thinking.

This is part and parcel of the whole 'inspect your privilege' thing roomthreeseventeen pointed out above. She doesn't need your approval for her thinking or care if you think her attending UA is a waste. She just wants to be considered as an equal independent of skin color in the school she is currently attending.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:31 AM on September 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


She may very well regret not having better advice when she's graduated and considering law school or grad school, realizing that a University of Alabama diploma opens far fewer doors than a Harvard one would.

A full year at UA costs around $25k for an Alabama resident, a full year at Harvard costs around $55k. And I bet UA has way more comprehensive scholarship programs.

(When I was considering a similar choice between UT and private schools, UT was giving me a full ride + extra money, while the fancy schools' financial aid packages involved tons of loans.)
posted by kmz at 8:31 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Confession: I joined an Alpha chapter of a very traditional deep south fraternity at my very traditional deep south college. Chapter alumni included the sitting Senator and Mayor of the city (the only major town in the state).

Proud Boast: Our "traditions" however included openness, scholarship, and tolerance. Not only did my fraternity welcome and rush (male, sorry) members of any racial make-up you could imagine we also proudly elected a gay president to represent us. We also headed the panhellenic council and held (or through our political machine, selected) all major offices in the student council, so we were certainly not shunned on campus. Further, when the frat ("order")down the road held their annual Old South Cotillian, in which they dressed up in CSA dress uniforms and their dates wore antibellum ball gowns, we held a counter festival we called "Old North" during which two selected members dressed as Lincoln and Grant and read a lengthy (drunken) screed on the ignorance and "low breeding" of the Order and the South in general and then introduced the evening's entertainment, usually a funk band from New Orleans.

It is possible to break with the moronic intolerance of the past, you just have to be willing to tell the bigots to go to hell.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:31 AM on September 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


I was going to roll my eyes and say "Ugh, Alabama." But you know what? The sorority members who wanted her to join and who broke the story are Alabama too. And that is pretty cool.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:32 AM on September 13, 2013 [55 favorites]


The students come out of these pretty well. They're coming out publicly criticizing their sororities who are preventing them from integrating.

This is a real point of hope in the whole ugly mess.

Break the ties with the alumni and national organization.

That can be really expensive, especially for sororities, which seem to have far more paternalistic relationships with their national organizations than fraternities do (well, at least the one I was a part of). It seems common for sororities to have their houses owned by the national organization, frinstance.

If there's a point to frats and sororities aside from the demarcation of social hierarchies and networking, it is utterly lost on me.

It depends on the time and place. When I pledged, it was to one of the safe places for overachieving Python-spouting dorks. OTOH, something like 5 years after I left, apparently they were a bunch of meatheads.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:33 AM on September 13, 2013


"...or simply don't want to be away from family."

This is a REALLY shitty reason to not push yourself to new heights. If this were in fact her reason for choosing that school, I would have absolutely zero sympathy for whatever plight she may face. It's 2013. Skype is free. I've been living in Japan with my family in MI and haven't been back in six years. If a pleb like me can pull it off, someone with genius-level intellect surely can too.

Not at all trying to blame the victim here, but I REALLY hope she has a better motivation for this than "I wanna see my family in person."
posted by GoingToShopping at 8:37 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


A full year at UA costs around $25k for an Alabama resident, a full year at Harvard costs around $55k. And I bet UA has way more comprehensive scholarship programs.

Nope. Harvard's scholarship program is simple: they just don't start charging tuition until the family earns something north of $60K (can't find the number).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:38 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a REALLY shitty reason to not push yourself to new heights. If this were in fact her reason for choosing that school, I would have absolutely zero sympathy for whatever plight she may face.

Seriously, this is a huge derail, and offensive. Who are you to say what anyone's priorities in life are? And what does that have to do with the fact that every person should be able to rush a sorority regardless of skin color?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:39 AM on September 13, 2013 [108 favorites]


I just broke my favorite button.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:39 AM on September 13, 2013


This is literally the only argument in favor of her matriculation at UA that I've seen in this thread.

You may not care about debt, but others surely do.

If this were in fact her reason for choosing that school, I would have absolutely zero sympathy for whatever plight she may face. It's 2013. Skype is free. I've been living in Japan with my family in MI and haven't been back in six years.

Well bully for you! And everybody has exactly your same personality and temperament, right?

Jesus Fucking Christ there's so much fucking paternalism and second-guessing in this thread about what the student in question chose to do.
posted by kmz at 8:40 AM on September 13, 2013 [55 favorites]


But you know what? The sorority members who wanted her to join and who broke the story are Alabama too. And that is pretty cool.

Yeah, this. These are young women who argued for this woman, broke the story, and named names -- something that much more powerful people are often reluctant to do. They are Alabama and they deserve recognition for their courage. I mean yeah it's "just a sorority," but those sorority connections can be incredibly powerful when it comes to building a career, particularly a political one. These women could be -- no, are -- risking a lot.
posted by KathrynT at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [35 favorites]


Can we please get off the derail on why someone would choose the University of Alabama? Perhaps she was offered a large scholarship to attend the honors college? Maybe she likes football? Maybe her parents pushed her? Who knows, point is it's victim shaming and a stupid derail.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [49 favorites]


This is a REALLY shitty reason to not push yourself to new heights. If this were in fact her reason for choosing that school, I would have absolutely zero sympathy for whatever plight she may face.

And what if that family includes someone who is suffering from a debilitating or terminal illness? Or with a physical or mental disability that makes Skyping or whatever difficult or impossible? I mean, this really reads as if you didn't spend even 5 seconds thinking about what might be going on.

We get it, you think she's stupid, what does that have to do with the OP or the article and why do you need to keep harping on it?
posted by zombieflanders at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


This is a REALLY shitty reason to not push yourself to new heights.

Nobody, no matter how smart they are, has to push themselves to new heights if they don't want to. Everybody gets to live their life how they want to live it. If she wanted to be the smartest student at UA, rather than an average student at Harvard, that's for her to decide. Not you. Not me. Her. If she wanted to stay close to family instead of going to college, that's for her to decide.

(Yes, there are some caveats around the very complicated problem of whether a seventeen-year-old is really making an informed decision about things like this, but that's not the argument you seem to be making.)

You made decisions that have worked out for you, and that is great for you. She gets to make the decisions for her.
posted by gauche at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


they just don't start charging tuition until the family earns something north of $60K (can't find the number).

Oh, I didn't notice it in the article, where does it mention how much money her family makes?
posted by kmz at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a REALLY shitty reason to not push yourself to new heights. If this were in fact her reason for choosing that school, I would have absolutely zero sympathy for whatever plight she may face. It's 2013. Skype is free. I've been living in Japan with my family in MI and haven't been back in six years. If a pleb like me can pull it off, someone with genius-level intellect surely can too.

Yeah, fuck this person for having the wrong motivation assigned to her based on conjecture by some commenter on the internet!

I would imagine she wanted to go there because she HATES BABIES. What. a. bitch.
posted by jaduncan at 8:43 AM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


With her grades, I wouldn't be surprised if she got a full ride at UA. And I fail to see any demonstration of how her choice to go there is a "waste" - it's entirely possible to get an excellent education at a state school, and it's not like Harvard et al. are devoid of racist bullshit. Racism was (and is) alive and well at my Ivy alma mater, for example.

I was briefly in a sorority. When I joined, it was not affiliated with a national; I went inactive when it was decided (I was off campus that term) to affiliate with a national because the amount of crap we had to start putting up with - from the national org as well as alums of other chapters who wanted to "advise" us on how to run rush and recruit the "best" members - became unbearable to me. I still mourn a little the organization I joined, where the qualification for joining was wanting to join.
posted by rtha at 8:43 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]



Can we please get off the derail on why someone would choose the University of Alabama?


Yes. Also the article makes it clear that the woman's family is active in state and local public service and has ties to the university. It's right there in the article. Blaming her for wanting to go there and like "that's what she gets" isn't productive.

Also, plenty of smart motivated kids don't get into Harvard and being a minority isn't a magic key.
posted by sweetkid at 8:46 AM on September 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


[Seriously, maybe let's approach the "this is sure a derail" thing from the "let's stop talking about it" direction and just move on with the thread, folks.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:46 AM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Y'all may not personally like the sorority system, or the University of Alabama, and think having anything to do with either is a bad idea.

That's fine, but entirely orthogonal to the story of institutional racism in the linked article. If that's what you would like to discuss, perhaps open a new thread on it?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:46 AM on September 13, 2013


If alumni had tried to tell us who to admit back in the late 80s we would have completely ignored them. Now, I do seem to remember the alumni at my girlfriend's sorority were more involved, so maybe it's just more prevalent in sororities. We also had minority brothers, gay brothers, and at least one minority gay brother. And this was all at a lilly white, conservative Big 10 school. I had no idea we were so progressive.

Fraternities and sororities are just the people that live there. The character of the house changes over time and there is really no connection between one campus or another. One campus the Delts might be studious engineering geeks, another campus they could all be stoners still living in the 60s, and a third campus they are all self-proclaimed jocks.

I had a great 3 years living in a frat house. Some of those guys are still my best friends today, and I did far more community service and charity work than I likely would have on my own. I also drank far more than I would have otherwise, but we had fun. You put 30-100 young guys in a house, mostly unsupervised, and stupid shit is going to happen whether there are greek letters over the door or not. It's the nature of teenage boys. At least we were theoretically answering to a charter that expected decent behavior, even if we didn't take it quite as serious as we should have.
posted by COD at 8:46 AM on September 13, 2013


With her grades, I wouldn't be surprised if she got a full ride at UA.

I had shitty grades, but fantastic test scores and, as an Alabama resident at the time, was offered a full ride plus expenses to the honors school. My parents nearly strangled me when I turned it down for a liberal arts school!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:47 AM on September 13, 2013


I bet UA has way more comprehensive scholarship programs.
Probably not, actually, most of the tippy-top best schools have extremely good financial aid. People aren't coming out of Harvard with huge debt for the most part.

I can imagine a lot of scenarios for why she would choose to go here. Apart from family tradition and the advantage she might get in local politics or business, it's an SEC school, so maybe she's interested in sports. (Many would say this is a stupid reason, but I bet a lot of people wouldn't complain if someone went to Sarah Lawrence or Evergreen College or whatever for kind of the opposite reason.) Maybe they gave her a full ride, and sometimes those scholarship deals come with internships and other opportunities that can ultimately be more valuable than a diploma from a top-ranked school. Maybe she wanted to be the big fish in the small pond. Maybe she did apply to Harvard et al and was incredibly unlucky and it was her safety school.

On the subject of the actual story: how is it, exactly, that the alums have power? All the actual members want to accept her, and they're bold enough to go public about it. Is it that they'll lose the rights to the name from the national chapter? Is it that they are financially obligated to the national chapter, or to alums, or that they can't persist without alumni donations? I don't get it.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:50 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If these kids really wanted to make a statement they would all quit the sorority en masse and put their money where their mouth is.
posted by spicynuts at 8:54 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is it that they'll lose the rights to the name from the national chapter? Is it that they are financially obligated to the national chapter, or to alums, or that they can't persist without alumni donations? I don't get it.

Houses need repairs. Parties need partying. Etc etc.
posted by jaduncan at 8:54 AM on September 13, 2013


how is it, exactly, that the alums have power?

I can't speak to this for the chapter in question but, in an odd turn, some of my friends at GA Tech that pledged to traditionally african american fraternities had to get letters of recommendation from a certain number of alumni. I have no idea if this is perhaps also a part of the rush/pledging in question but it could certainly be a way for alumni to veto a potential candidate.

TL;DR - bylaws.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:55 AM on September 13, 2013


If these kids really wanted to make a statement they would all quit the sorority en masse and put their money where their mouth is.

Nah, stick it to 'em publicly, stay in to cause a ruckus, force the bastards to stop glorifying the fucking Confederacy.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:57 AM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, I see. That was the "letter of recommendation" process mentioned in the article.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:57 AM on September 13, 2013


I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason that the student newspaper is called The Crimson White.
posted by gauche at 9:01 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The real scandal here is why a black girl with a 4.3 GPA who was salutatorian of her graduating class is wasting her time at the University of Alabama.

Didn't anyone read the NYT? The woman is a step-granddaughter of an alumnus and a trustee of UA who is a former state legislator. You bet her family expects her to go there--if only because Grandpa was one of the first.

I love the judge's statement. The measured tones, the expressed certainty that it will be fixed. Its how you win.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:03 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason that the student newspaper is called The Crimson White.

Yea. It's from the football team's (you know they play a little football around those parts) colors. Or, serious question, did you have evidence of something more cloak and dagger? Because my casual search into the history of the color choice isn't turning up anything beyond that.

I just ask because Alabama has plenty of easy targets, like the one the original article mentions, to focus on without creating windmills to tilt at out of thin air.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:08 AM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Not to mention that the CW isn't the enemy here, it's actually really good about calling BS on this sort of thing and, feel free to read more into the wiki article as I'm not an expert in the whole journalism marketplace, is student run and about as independent as you can get.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:11 AM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read this the other day and couldn't' believe it. "No black woman has made it through recruitment at the University of Alabama's traditionally white sororities since 2003," seriously?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:11 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Emily Jamison responded to the specific allegations with a statement to The Crimson White:

“As a private membership organization, Chi Omega’s membership selection process is confidential; however, our criteria for membership is simple, we seek women who reflect our values and purposes. Our recruitment processes and procedures were followed, and while I cannot take away the disappointment a potential new member or chapter member may feel, I can share that all women were treated fairly and consistently in our process.”

The Chi Omega member said the chapter’s philanthropy chair resigned from the sorority following recruitment. Additionally, she said members of the chapter called Chi Omega national headquarters, asking them to investigate whether the decision was made with discriminatory intentions.

“Our philanthropy chair really wanted her and was rooting for her and left before the parties and everything when she found out [the recruit was dropped],” the Chi Omega member said. “She was living in the house – she just packed up all her stuff and left the house and left rush.”


You go, Philanthropy Chair. And fuck that bullshit, Emily Jamison.

And: A member of Pi Beta Phi, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that, upon learning that the chapter planned to pledge the same black student recruited by Alpha Gamma Delta and Chi Omega, Pi Beta Phi alumnae threatened to cut financial support if the recruit were to pledge.

Fuck you, alums. Fuck you.
posted by rtha at 9:13 AM on September 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


seriously?

Yep. What gets to me more is that I can't help but ask if it is crazier that that's the actually case or that people outside of the UA realm don't hear more about it in the news.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:14 AM on September 13, 2013


I can share that all women were treated fairly and consistently in our process.

I don't know about fairly, but the treatment sounds very, very consistent.
posted by jeather at 9:15 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


there's a perfectly good reason that the student newspaper is called The Crimson White

Because The Crimson was taken?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:19 AM on September 13, 2013


Shouldn't it be the Crimson and White?
posted by Naberius at 9:22 AM on September 13, 2013


Just to get off the name and back on topic, here's Wikipedia:
The CW began production in 1894 as "The Crimson-White" and derived its name from the team colors of UA athletics teams, crimson and white. The hyphen in the newspaper's name first disappeared from the masthead in the early 1960s and was gone for good by 1974.
Also of interest from that entry:
The newspaper has a tradition of bold confrontation with authority figures, including UA administrators, city and state officials, and the Machine, a select coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities designed to influence campus politics. Machine members deny the group's very existence, but The CW named it in 1928 and has covered its behavior aggressively since the late 1960s.
Seems like these folks have been fighting the good fight for a while.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:27 AM on September 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Not everyone can be in Slytherin ...
posted by mfoight at 9:32 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Inspect your privilege
Check your tone
Burn it to the ground

posted by Meatbomb at 9:32 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's a pretty crappy haiku.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:33 AM on September 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


While I think the traditionally white Greek system is elitist and silly, it seems that the traditionally Black Sororities and Fraternities help their pledges feel at home at universities and the connections they make last throughout their lives.

I have a number of friends who are "Soros" Deltas or AKA, and they are still bonded with their sisters and help each other out. It's great for networking, and they do a TON to help the new kids integrate into college.

So, take that for what it's worth.

And if you think this shit only goes on in Alabama, you're misguided. It's out in the OPEN in Alabama. Sometimes you've gotta wonder what's worse. De Jure or De Facto.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:34 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


MoonOrb: research tells me that it is a lune, never heard of such a thing until just now but there you go. 5-3-5, American haiku.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:37 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


A full year at UA costs around $25k for an Alabama resident, a full year at Harvard costs around $55k. And I bet UA has way more comprehensive scholarship programs.

I believe (though maybe they did away with it) Harvard has a policy of offering enough scholarship money to meet full financial need without loans. In other words, I doubt she picked Alabama over Harvard (assuming she applied, got in, etc) for financial reasons.
posted by hoyland at 9:37 AM on September 13, 2013


MoonOrb: research tells me that it is a lune, never heard of such a thing until just now but there you go. 5-3-5, American haiku.

Leave it to us to fuck up a perfectly good poetry form.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:40 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I joined a society in college that had broken from the alumni in 1970, largely over admitting women and minorities. The alumni sold the house to the university, disowned us, and we were left to our own devices, but still allowed to live in the house. I lived there from 1989-1992. The freedom to chart our own course was part of the appeal to me. Although the physical house has been slowly deteriorating with minimal upkeep from the university, the society is still very strong on campus and somewhat of a draw for interesting new music. Members of MGMT, Das Racist, DonChristian, and Amanda Palmer are all part of the society. I think that it is possible to break tradition and move forward in exciting ways.
posted by gkr at 9:48 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Inspect your privilege
Check your tone
Burn it to the ground


Burma Shave
posted by kmz at 10:02 AM on September 13, 2013 [25 favorites]


Hell yeah you should be able to choose your state's flagship university without people saying you were either settling or asking for trouble.

I don't really buy that the whole problem is the Greek system, not the university. Colleges have been known to expel fraternities.
posted by BibiRose at 10:07 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't really buy that the whole problem is the Greek system, not the university.

Surely you're not intimating that the problem is The Machine, are you?

(long, rambling Esquire article on the subject from 1992)
posted by komara at 10:10 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Organization that vividly, publicly and unrepentantly discriminates on gender decides to discriminate on race. News at 11.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:19 AM on September 13, 2013


what? are you talking about the sorority as the organization that discriminates on gender?
posted by sweetkid at 10:26 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Man, a lot of these comments could have come out of the 1960s. King was right: the greatest threat to equality is not the racists, it's the weak-ass, milquetoast white centrists.

I mean "Why would she even want to go to such a racist place" is basically just an updated version of "Why in the world would James Meridith want to go to Ole Miss, anyway? It's not like Mississippi has a shortage of black colleges!"
posted by absalom at 10:27 AM on September 13, 2013 [27 favorites]


The real scandal here is why a black girl with a 4.3 GPA who was salutatorian of her graduating class is wasting her time at the University of Alabama. Her high school guidance counselor should be fired.

Rednecks gonna redneck. This girl deserves a bigger stage.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:51 AM on September 13 [42 favorites +] [!]


Obviously I don't know for sure, but I would assume that her grades and record enabled her to enter the Blount Capstone Scholars program. I was similar in high school. UA offered a full ride, a monthly stipend, and a free laptop. To someone from a family with pride and work ethic but limited means, this is a tough offer to refuse.
posted by jefficator at 10:31 AM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is a shitty thing to have happened, but the (young) sorority women give me some hope. Maybe in a generation or two racism will be a weird outlier, and not the all-defining thing it is in our society today.
posted by maxwelton at 10:33 AM on September 13, 2013


Another thing that should be stated explicitly: While it is a shame that this is an issue at all, just take the prior generation as a baseline and think how awesome it is that the current membership is taking a stand. These are girls whose grandparents were heckling the integration of UA while George Wallace made his repugnant "stand in the schoolhouse door." The grandparents didn't want an integrated campus, the parents didn't want an integrated social system, and the present students find segregation more problematic than integration. Sure, this is behind the rest of the country...but I like to see the progress in it.
posted by jefficator at 10:37 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


are you talking about the sorority as the organization that discriminates on gender?

Yeah, I mean. It's right there in the name. Unless you are saying that they discriminate against trans* people, this seems kind of like unnecessary outrage.
posted by elizardbits at 10:39 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see anywhere in any of the articles that this young black woman was from limited means or poor or anything. As the NYT says "she is the stepdaughter of a state legislator and stepgranddaughter of a former State Supreme Court justice and current trustee of the university." That doesn't mean they're wealthy, but it does mean there's quite a legacy of higher education in her family, so it's not like she's first to go to college or anything like that.

Being black doesn't automatically equal poor. It's a weird assumption I keep see being brought up here, even if it's meant well.
posted by sweetkid at 10:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


It's a weird assumption I keep see being brought up here, even if it's meant well.

No one is assuming that here. People in this thread have been victim blaming, saying "well, that's what happens when you go to school in the South; don't go there." Guess what? Black students have every right to go to school in the South because they want to and they have every right not to be discriminated against.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:44 AM on September 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Fraternities and sororities are just the people that live there. The character of the house changes over time and there is really no connection between one campus or another.

But on the other hand, KA.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:46 AM on September 13, 2013


No one is assuming that here.

What? You yourself said "maybe she can't afford to go anywhere else".
posted by elizardbits at 10:50 AM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


You yourself said "maybe she can't afford to go anywhere else".

I wasn't assuming anything. I was listing a variety of reasons why someone wouldn't necessarily go to Harvard.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:51 AM on September 13, 2013


(long, rambling Esquire article on the subject from 1992)

Oh god, the Joey Viselli case was not only tragic from a political point of view, but Bama-Bino was truly one of the best things about Tuscaloosa. Please god don't let them ever get pissed at Taco Casa!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:54 AM on September 13, 2013


The students come out of these pretty well.

Yes, good for those who stood up in public. But there's no better time than now to push it another step further. Break the ties with the alumni and national organization.
posted by pjenks at 8:18 AM on September 13 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


I used to being to a coop who broke ranks with their sorority organization in the 60s when the national office wouldn't let them pledge someone of color.
posted by bq at 10:56 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


People in this thread have been victim blaming...
See, it's quite explicitly not about that, though. It's about voting with your dollars/feet. The nuance is subtle, to be sure, but why would you support a university that steadfastly refuses to reject explicitly (SHIT, USING WORD TOO MUCH) racist frats/sororities? People are honestly wondering "why would this person choose to support a horrible system with their dollars," not "why doesn't this person just DRESS PROPERLY."
Someone rhetorically asked "who I am" to judge another person's life priorities. I'll tell you who I am. I'm me. And if you choose to support a blatantly racist institution because you wanna hang out with your family on the weekends, then I'll say "hey, there are better options." As was mentioned upthread, colleges have been known to ban sororities. This university should do that. Right now. Not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow, RIGHT NOW. If I were a uni president, I'd do that in a heartbeat.
Here's who I am: someone who hates racism. Someone who's lived as an expat for almost a decade, and someone who disagrees with feeding money into corrupt systems. Vote with your feet, vote with your wallet. This shit is absolutely despicable and indefensible, so WHY are people defending this specific decision? If she's not transferred out, she has questions (which she likely has VERY good answers to) to answer.
This is a nuanced situation, people. Let's hear all the voices and not make our judgements until the very end.
posted by GoingToShopping at 11:02 AM on September 13, 2013


I doubt she picked Alabama over Harvard (assuming she applied, got in, etc) for financial reasons.

Maybe she didn't pick Harvard because she was afraid?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:02 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dear Whitney Heckathorne, "White" is not a value.
posted by echocollate at 11:04 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If she's not transferred out, she has questions (which she likely has VERY good answers to) to answer

Yeah, but that's victim blaming. Her (step) grandfather is a trustee of the University. She probably wore UA onesies as a baby. I mean come on, family legacy is a thing for black people too.
posted by sweetkid at 11:06 AM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


See, it's quite explicitly not about that, though. It's about voting with your dollars/feet. .

And go to what university that is free of racism, exactly? Seriously, people keep saying she shouldn't have gone there because racism and rednecks. A ton of us who didn't go to schools in the South can recount lots of stories about racism at our prestigious and not-so-prestigious institutions. She should pick where she wants to go for reasons that are best for her. There are a million reasons to not want to go to e.g. Harvard.
posted by rtha at 11:08 AM on September 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Of course she went there, her step-grandfather is a trustee of the university. I doubt the college councilor at her high school had an ounce of input. The University of Alabama -- hell, Alabama in general -- may well be a "blatantly racist institution," but it's an institution that her family has chosen to commit itself to for generations. I mean, God forbid she have any attachment to the state her stepfather helps run and the university her step-grandfather helped desegregate. C'mon. People are allowed to like things that you don't feel are optimally materially beneficial to them.

And of course she rushed -- if she has any interest in getting into politics (or if her parents are over her shoulder suggesting she might one day want to get into politics) it's a basic building block of networking. What makes this story just ridiculously egregious is that this girl is the image of the elite, connected pledge that sororities normally drool over, and she still couldn't get in.
posted by ostro at 11:08 AM on September 13, 2013 [30 favorites]


I see a new Hollywood films that looks into how much injustice is felt and how much stress this causes the main character, a forward-thinking white woman. (heavy satirical snark, folks) Blacks will be allowed in the film as supporting characters.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:10 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


And if you choose to support a blatantly racist institution because you wanna hang out with your family on the weekends, then I'll say "hey, there are better options."

But this is just made up. We don't know why she chose the college of her choice, and arguing about all of the different reasons she might have is weird.

I'd like to take this one step further though. Let's suppose this stellar academic candidate with her deep family ties to the University of Alabama actually did choose to go there not because of all of the myriad good reasons that she may have chosen, but because she actually wanted to hang out with her family on the weekends.

So what?

And, let's not forget--the "blatantly racist institution" we should be excoriating here is the sorority, not the University of Alabama.

I mean, look, are we seriously sitting here placing any of this on her shoulders?
posted by MoonOrb at 11:10 AM on September 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


If she's not transferred out, she has questions (which she likely has VERY good answers to) to answer.

Why should she be shamed into leaving instead of using her experiences to draw attention to problematic practices and trying to make a difference? She has the weight of her legacy status and family relations to trustees of the school, ffs. She is well positioned to get the ball rolling on institutional changes.
posted by elizardbits at 11:11 AM on September 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


So how's life in our post-racial society going for everyone here? Good? Okay!
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:20 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


How is it exactly that a bunch of goddamned Alabama sorority girls are showing more open-mindedness and moral courage on this, by breaking ranks with their alumnae and university administrators and going to the press on this, than the high-minded types here rushing in to sneer at anybody who would go to a southern state school rather than Harvard and call for burning the Greek system to the ground on general principle.

For fuck's sake, if you insist on reading every FPP as an excuse to explain why you're better than the people in the story, at least try to wrap your head around the possibility that making a different decision than you would or not being from the same social class as you are is not actually doing something wrong.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2013 [33 favorites]


Surely you're not intimating that the problem is The Machine, are you?

It's been a rough month for The Machine, what with the voter fraud, and now this.
posted by fogovonslack at 11:24 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fucking tri-delts.

But is it really a surprise, if you are familiar with the organization?
posted by hal_c_on at 11:28 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was this woman who lived on my floor freshman year. She was a junior, white, from Tennessee. She was literally the first person in her family going back to the 19th century to leave the state for college, and most of her family were UT alums. She used to (kind of) joke that the only reason her family "let" her leave was because there was a chapter of her mother's (and grandmothers on both sides, many aunts, etc.) sorority on campus, and it had a house.

You don't have to agree that this is a good thing, but it does exist; this kind of family tradition is real. And it certainly doesn't exist only in Southern university systems - I knew more than one third-generation student at my school.

On preview: the Tri-Delts on my campus when I was there were pretty damn awesome; I had a lot of friends in the house. It can vary hugely from chapter to chapter, and even nationals change over time.
posted by rtha at 11:30 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fucking tri-delts.

But is it really a surprise, if you are familiar with the organization?


Oh, I think we're all familiar with them.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:31 AM on September 13, 2013


I was not expecting to come out of this liking anyone but the applicant, but I'm heartened by the Philantropy Chair and the Naming Alumni girl. The world needs more of both of them.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:43 AM on September 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Someone who's lived as an expat for almost a decade, and someone who disagrees with feeding money into corrupt systems. Vote with your feet, vote with your wallet.

Ok, let's talk about expatriation in this context. My family -- hell, my ethnicity -- was run out of their country of ancestry by, literally, torch-and-pitchfork-wielding racist peasantfolk, and then out of the next country we went to by government-led racist social policy.

Abandoning everything you've known because you have a sliver of a chance to escape its inherent shittiness not an optimal solution to an institutional problem. It's an act of desperation when hope is lost. Abandoning it because you don't want to put up with it anymore is an act of privilege.

Meanwhile, this young woman has the opportunity and ability to make some noise, get people talking about injustice, make bigots accountable for their awful actions, and make an institution that has been entwined with her family for generations a slightly better place.

I would kindly suggest you put some more thought into your moral pronouncements.
posted by griphus at 11:47 AM on September 13, 2013 [33 favorites]


RolandOfEld: "The real scandal here is why a black girl with a 4.3 GPA who was salutatorian of her graduating class is wasting her time at the University of Alabama.

Yea, screw her for maybe wanting to go there right?
"

Try reading as far as the second sentence of the post before you snipe:

R. Schlock: "Her high school guidance counselor should be fired."
posted by IAmBroom at 12:18 PM on September 13, 2013


ostro: "Of course she went there, her step-grandfather is a trustee of the university."

How many alumni are rethinking their situations based on this realization, I wonder?
posted by boo_radley at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2013


Glad I'm not the only one that assumes the real villain here is her high school guidance counselor.

*said in the driest possible voice*
posted by MoonOrb at 12:20 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


explosion: "To be fair, this is about their social clubs, not the university as a whole."

The University of Alabama keeps claiming they have no control over segregated sororities. They say they're private student organizations and they have no control over membership. But the University could easily say that any fraternity or sorority which segregates is in violation of the University's code of conduct and ban them from recruit new members from the University's student population. They could also rescind any permission which allows them to operate on University property. There's ample precedent of other universities doing that for other reasons.

And of course, we all know that doing so would cost them very little. There are sororities and fraternities that don't pass judgment on people over skin tone. Any would no doubt be eager to step in and take the place of their disgraced sister organization.

So yes, it's absolutely about the university as a whole. They do have some power here, and are choosing not to exercise it. It's about what the university tolerates happening within its student population. And probably also what it allows to take place on university grounds.
posted by zarq at 12:22 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


So yes, it's absolutely about the university as a whole.

Yes, yes it is.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:39 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


And if you choose to support a blatantly racist institution because you wanna hang out with your family on the weekends, then I'll say "hey, there are better options."

The University of Alabama is not a private country club; it's a state public research university. It's partially paid for by taxes, her and her family's taxes, a joint institution that she deserves to be at. It's not like refusing to go to a restaurant with bad service; it's refusing to let a piece of the public be relegated to the enemy. The University of Alabama is for all Alabamans, and if this student wants to go to one of the schools of the state to which she is a citizen, I'm not going to second-guess that choice by supposing the only moral, smart decision is to go to a totally different land to school.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 12:42 PM on September 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Try reading as far as the second sentence of the post before you snipe

In the same vein, you might want to try reading as far as his followups before you say this is all about guidance counselors. RS and others made it pretty clear later that there was no lack of judgement, nay condemnation even, to be heaped on this young woman's choice of school. So yea, I stand by my statement saying that she shouldn't be judged unfit somehow for her choice nor did a guidance counselor muck up her future. As others have stated, it's victim blaming and contrary to the whole point of bringing issues like this to light.

Well, if she's wasting her time at an institution whose prejudice and persisting structured inequity prevent her from achieving everything she might otherwise, then she's screwing herself, isn't she?

She is wasting her time? Sure, run with that as far as you want, I don't buy it. It's condescending and rude to her. I'm glad to see her going where she wants to go and knocking heads to make sure racist shit like this comes crumbling down around her.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:44 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The University of Alabama keeps claiming they have no control over segregated sororities.

This part makes no sense to me. Universities routinely rescind permission for fraternities and sororities to operate -- for example, if they are caught regularly giving alcohol to minors, or if there is a string of sexual assaults. The university controls the student status of the members and it controls the use of its own name. If the president of the university wrote a single letter threatening consequences if the sororities didn't integrate, it would take all of 30 seconds to happen. But that would threaten the oh-so-precious racist alumni donations.
posted by miyabo at 12:53 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


For the record.
Tuition for Harvard is $38,891
Tuition for U of A is $4,725

"Meanwhile, this young woman has the opportunity and ability to make some noise, get people talking about injustice, make bigots accountable for their awful actions, and make an institution that has been entwined with her family for generations a slightly better place."


Yeah, every black woman suffering injustice is not obliged to be Rosa Parks or Ruby Bridges.
posted by vapidave at 1:00 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey, actually, that's a pretty interesting question about what a state university could do in order to force integration of the greek system. I'm curious what the limitations are.

To the extent that applicants of color are not selected because of their race, I think the case is pretty straightforward that the University could sanction the offending fraternity or sorority somehow. I think it would be analogous to a Title VII employment discrimination case: the denied applicant would make out a prima facie case by showing that she or he was qualified and then rejected, while other similarly situated white applicants were selected. The greek organization could try to respond with a racially neutral reason for the decision, and assuming they came up with one, then if there were an inference that the reason was actually pretextual (which, under the apparent circumstances on the Alabama campus is pretty much every situation), then there could be consequences, like suspending the organization's membership (or whatever) or banning it from campus, etc. (or if there were direct evidence of discrimination, but that's typically uncommon, at least in most employment cases from which I'm drawing this analogy).

Of course the devil is in the detail of actually proving the discrimination in this first case, but the inference is pretty damn strong given the current circumstances.

Maybe implementing a policy like this would be enough to encourage greek organizations to recruit and select applicants of color, even as a sort of defensive move to avoid the perception of discrimination. Which wouldn't entirely solve the problem, but would move the ball.

I think the thornier question is whether the University could otherwise force integration. I mean, they can clearly do so in a de jure sense, but given the status of affirmative action, school busing, etc., it's hard for me to think of a clear path forward for even a motivated university to force integration of the greek organizations on its campus.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:04 PM on September 13, 2013


it's hard for me to think of a clear path forward for even a motivated university to force integration of the greek organizations on its campus.

I've thought of this before too. Givens: 1) You can't force greek orgs to accept people they don't want, nor would you want to really. I mean who wants to be in close proximity with people that don't want them and they're private clubs basically so in and of themselves the rules can't really make them take people they want into the fold. See Augusta National Golf Club for reference there. 2) The University can, although they have shown that they have no interest in doing so in these kind of cases, exert control over which organizations are allowed to operate on/around their campus.

To me it looks like the University should simply kick out organizations that are being racially biased.

"You don't like *insert minority here*? Fine, that's your prerogative. However, we do. Go have fun with that... somewhere else."

Then either turn their houses over to other non-crappy orgs or use the land for other buildings that the school requires. The reason why they should do this are uncountable. The reasons they haven't yet are depressing. The nuts and bolts of it are indeed a stumbling block but not a good enough excuse for shit like this to be as pervasive as it is in the greek orgs on UA's campus.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:16 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Roland, I hear what you're saying there. But underlying my questions are constitutional concerns that state universities face. It's one thing entirely to say "When it's proven that you've discriminated there will be consequences" and another to say "we're going to take proactive steps to change the racial makeup of greek organizations."

I wouldn't have any problem advising a university to take the first position. But the second position is tenuous from a constitutional point of view.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:26 PM on September 13, 2013


I'm a UA alum ('92), but I had utterly nothing to do with the Greek system largely because I saw it as offering me nothing of value. I did belong to an organization that functioned not unlike a frat, but since it was (on paper) an honors dorm some of the fundamental aspects were pretty different.

Because of my experience at UA, though, I was completely horrified by my little brother's decision to join Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the small literal arts school he attended (Rhodes, in Memphis). My concerns were pretty short lived, though. Greek life at Rhodes was very, very different from what I saw at Alabama -- for one thing, it was financially trivial, whereas dues for so-called "Old Row" houses at UA could run to thousands of dollars a year. Moreover, the fellows he took as brothers there were uniformly solid and thoughtful young men, most of whom were aware of their privilege. They were horrified by the behavior of their "brothers" in Tuscaloosa (whose shenanigans had attracted regional and national press of the very bad kind, not to mention administrative punishments and some serious hammering from their national organization).

This is a long way of saying that there is WIDE variance in fraternity character from campus to campus, and that in particular Alabama is a poor sample of what it can be.

Finally, the Crimson White is actually one of the best newspapers in the state. It's a liberal bastion, and is ever at odds with the Greek system (and especially the Machine and its toxic influence) and the overemphasis on football, generally speaking. Complaining about its name in this context really just marks the complainer as some Yankee know-nothing who likes to kick southerners, so cut it out.

(Confidential to 10th Regiment of Foot: were you around for the Viselli situation? Also, I'm really trying to parse where you went, but can't get "deep south", "traditional", and "college town is the only major town in the state" to fit.)
posted by uberchet at 1:27 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


MoonOrb, Right. I'm just saying that (and this situation is a bit of a different case because it seem the alumni are the only ones blocking her getting in) forcing a frat or sorority to let someone in isn't ever going to be viable for the inductee. I mean you can't issue a legal writ that makes the people in a fraternity approve of you or like you despite the fact that they had to take you in somehow.

Unlike, for instance, the forced integration of UA back in the civil rights era. That's something that could be done by legal writ because it's not a private organization. Not to mention a school isn't a social, well not primarily, organization either.

I get what you're saying and that's what I meant with regard to the nuts and bolts, but UA can absolutely say who can and can't have a fraternity/sorority house on campus, and I'd be that the grounds for losing said house are well established enough and within the University's wheelhouse that they could remove houses that caused problems.

I mean I recall an incident when a group of UA black student organizations were harassed by a (perhaps several) fraternities as they did a Black History month stroll around campus or traveled between two events. Forgive the lack of details but it was embarrassing and shameful the way it went down, which was basically "White racists in front of their frat house(s) see group of black people and throw numerous slurs and act aggressive and territorial".

I would have loved to have seen charters pulled and groups ejected for that. Instead we got an expose in the CW about how fucked up things were/are/will be and the fraternities in question got a slap on the wrist from various entities surrounding them. Basically enough to tell them that shit only flies if you keep it out of the papers, cut it out you youngsters you.

It ain't easy but it ain't all that hard to do the right thing when it's presented to you on a silver platter. UA all too often decides to ignore said platter and stick with the status quo.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:37 PM on September 13, 2013


If you've never been to Tuscaloosa let me paint the scene (circa end of the last millenium):

To the east of the center of town white people live in modest suburban ranch houses and a mall with a ten-foot tall chainsaw sculpture of Bear Bryant. In the center of town is a block of the worst college bars in existence, the university gift shop (which plays "Sweet Home Alabama" outside 24 hrs a day), a 100,000 football stadium, and the university. To the west of town, black people live in shacks.

There is a ton of 'Greek' housing at UA, consisting of variations on a theme of motels with plantation-greek columns made of cheap-materials (think: bricks painted white) with the stars-and-bars in a couple of bedroom windows. One semester I was there, a local high school girl had the temerity to report being raped at a fraternity party. The following week the sororities took turns writing into the CW to defend the character of their brothers against all-comers.

At my graduate school orientation the university lawyer addressed us incoming graduate students: a sea of faces including many Chinese and South Asian students. He was an earthy gentleman of stout frame and with a friendly tone gave something approximating the following speech: "Welcome to the University of Alabama. We are very grateful that you have come from all parts of the earth to help make UA a great university... but if you touch our women, I will personally run you out of town."

On weekends, men in pickups would drive into town to hoot at the college girls, beers in hand. (Alabama was still an open-container state, you could drive with your beer as long as you didn't imbibe.) A recently departed post-doc in my department was forced to stop riding his bike to school because people would throw rocks at him.

In short, that wheel is still very much in the ditch.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:43 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"including members' claims that the decisions came not from them but were handed down by alumnae."

Textbook definition of institutionalized racism.
posted by markkraft at 1:50 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the president of the university wrote a single letter threatening consequences if the sororities didn't integrate, it would take all of 30 seconds to happen.

That's a mighty big IF. There's a persistent rumor around Tuscaloosa that the previous president of UA, an alum who arrived with great fanfare and who abruptly resigned after less than 60 days on the job, was forced out because he proposed integrating the Greek system. Regardless of the truth of the rumor, it's persistence is tribute to its plausibility. On top of that, the current president was a student here when UA integrated and reportedly took sponge baths in her dorm room rather than showering in the shared bathroom.

On preview, institutionalized indeed.

Many's the day I despair of raising my child here.
posted by fogovonslack at 1:52 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and screw the Tri-Delts. Next time, go for the Tri-Lambs... perfect for nerds *and* blacks!)
posted by markkraft at 1:53 PM on September 13, 2013


To the west of town, black people live in shacks.

To be fair, to the west of Tuscaloosa white people live in shacks too. Alabama is a poor state.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:56 PM on September 13, 2013


I lived in Tuscaloosa for six years, and ennui.bz's picture (which could use substantial editing) doesn't ring very true for me. In particular, the area immediately around UA feels very like the area around any large state U. Bicycles are everywhere. And I never, in all my years living there, saw rednecks in pickups driving in to holler at coeds. I mean, seriously.

Also, this is laughable: "If the president of the university wrote a single letter threatening consequences if the sororities didn't integrate, it would take all of 30 seconds to happen."

It's amazingly naive to think it would be that simple, or that there wouldn't be fighting over it. There are still lots of rich racists, in Alabama and elsewhere, and they are well represented in Old Row alumni circles. Those same circles are also major donors to the University, either to the general fund or as boosters of the football team.

It is far more likely that the Greek system will wither and die than be integrated, IMO.
posted by uberchet at 2:05 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I lived in Tuscaloosa for six years, and ennui.bz's picture (which could use substantial editing) doesn't ring very true for me.

Well kinda yes, kinda no, in particular... I mean in what part of the country where there is a large population of *minority* will you not find a, mostly *minority*, poor part of town. The architecture comments are true. The college bar situation is much improved if it ever deserved the moniker "the worst in existence" and I never heard any hooting from pickup trucks except on gamedays* when everyone of every color was hooting and hollering at the drop of a hat.

And yes the commercial shops that sell UA goods play terrible music with a heavy emphasis on Sweet Home Alabama but the Supe store on campus was much better about that sort of thing.

Sadly the rape thing does ring true and we had an incident like that when I was there. But again, not an exclusive to UA by any means, see Duke or almost any other school for that mindset of 'protect our own at all costs'.

The whole "don't touch our women" message, from a UA employee/lawyer no less, must not have made it to the engineering department I was in because we had many international students, grad and undergrad, date outside their skin color as their time/inclinations allowed. Or maybe time has fixed that a bit as I was there less than a decade ago.

*Exception: I will say that I've never been more embarrassed, both as a person and for my home state and humanity, than when I rode my bike to a halloween party dressed as, of all things,.......

... a beekeeper. You see I had access to white Tyvek lawn maintenance crew suits and it seemed like a perfect, easy costume. Perhaps some of you are seeing where this is heading, lord knows I didn't.

Anyway, I was riding my bike because I was planning on perhaps needing to stumble home and about the time I hit the main strip where all the bars are and I start hearing the occasional horn honk and notice I'm getting some strange looks from groups of people, especially black people, on the sidewalk. Then it hits me about the time I hear this lone voice from a passing truck yell with drunken glee "Wooooo! KKK muthafucka!". Oh god, I'm practically dressed up as a KKK member in this fucking Tyvek suit.

I honestly think had it not been for my girlfriend riding next to me dressed up as a sexy bee I would have gotten my ass beat that night. We were already in the midst of the crowd and I just commenced to babbling on to her about how nice her bee costume looked and how this beekeeper outfit sure was itchy and bees, bees, bees, bees, bees.

*sigh*, those days...
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:27 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


fogovonslack: "reportedly took sponge baths in her dorm room rather than showering in the shared bathroom"

I roll to disbelieve.
posted by boo_radley at 2:34 PM on September 13, 2013


wow, "Alabama Spongebath" is not good googling.
posted by boo_radley at 2:42 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frat perspective on all this from outside the state. (warning: frat perspective).
posted by el io at 3:24 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It doesn't matter the who, the where or the why. Having CHOICE is what makes us a "free society", whatever the hell that means.

Where ever she goes, whatever she does, this kid's our future. I wish her luck. Any sorority that wouldn't take her doesn't deserve her.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:30 PM on September 13, 2013


That frat perspective link is unbelievable. The author of the piece is such a douche, such a dudebro . . . and even he grasps why this is a terrible, terrible thing, for the Greek system and for humanity. I feel like mailing this to the sorority alumnae and saying "EVEN THIS GUY GETS IT."
posted by KathrynT at 4:11 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I couldn't even read through the whole frat perspective thing but yeah...he gets it.
posted by sweetkid at 4:45 PM on September 13, 2013


That frat perspective article, makes me think there has to be a German word for someone making a case for the right side with all the wrong arguments.

Also, reading the comments (I went there!) made me feel like an anthropologist in a time warp.
posted by ambrosia at 5:07 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sadly the rape thing does ring true and we had an incident like that when I was there. But again, not an exclusive to UA by any means, see Duke or almost any other school for that mindset of 'protect our own at all costs'.

Duke? I assume you're referring to the Duke Lacrosse incident. Squalid stuff to be sure, but recall that the players felt sufficiently ill-used by the school that they sued. (The university eventually settled out of court.) This after the players were exonerated and the prosecutor disbarred.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:00 PM on September 13, 2013


Yes, I've got mixed feelings about the article, but when he got to the part about the sororities rejecting the girls partially out of fear that the fraternities would reject the sorority that accepted the girls, I actually did a small spit take:

Are you fucking kidding me, Alabama fraternities? Really? Even the most Klan-y racist who denies the Holocaust and the deliciousness of tacos would still hang out with 99 dimes and a lone black girl who he personally found repulsive, even though one of the black girls in question for this story was actually a pageant contestant, which means he’d probably get blasted on moonshine, have confused feelings, and finally convince himself it’s okay to hook up with a black girl because the founding fathers did it, before ultimately being sexually rejected by said black girl, because she sounds out of his league.

posted by anitanita at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Duke? I assume you're referring to the Duke Lacrosse incident. Squalid stuff to be sure, but recall that the players felt sufficiently ill-used by the school that they sued. (The university eventually settled out of court.) This after the players were exonerated and the prosecutor disbarred.

Huh, good for them, I quit following early on when it was still a quagmire and never heard the rest of that stuff. Huh, it even looks like she's since been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, good lord.

Well, still searches for various combinations of the words rape, accusation, denial, and fraternity turns up enough hits in various schools that I'm still not sure why that characterization would apply to Alabama over any other school with a greek community to speak of. But yea, I misremembered that Duke situation altogether, thanks for setting things straight.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:46 PM on September 13, 2013


That frat perspective is... Interesting. Not the same as the KKK calling out the Westboro Baptist Church, but it did call it to mind.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:26 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a Duke alum, I can assure you that rape culture is alive and well on the Duke campus (as it is on all other college campuses and throughout US society), regardless of the legal outcome of a single court case. It was really fun as a Duke grad student to walk past the dorms where the fraternities live (Duke sororities do not have on-campus group housing). The "fraternity brothers" build large wooden benches with their "Greek letters" on them, and enjoy yelling ratings at women as they walk past. It is charming.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:25 AM on September 14, 2013


I am proud of the sorority members who spoke up and named names. Now (I say it as a white woman from a rich Southern family) let's see them put their parents' money where their mouths are. Rent a house off-campus, 8 bedrooms, invite the rejected prospectives to join them, break away, throw better parties. If there are 50 white female undergrads who are angry about this, and rightly so, then 5 of them must be angry enough to rent a house.
posted by skbw at 9:49 AM on September 14, 2013


The "fraternity brothers" build large wooden benches with their "Greek letters" on them, and enjoy yelling ratings at women as they walk past. It is charming.

What? How does this not end in the police being called and harassment charges?
posted by jaduncan at 9:59 AM on September 14, 2013


Because in towns dominated by gowns the town police will laugh if you call to tell them some frat boys yelled at you. Way back in the 80s, a friend of mine who was an activist on our campus was punched in the face by a guy who ran out of a frat house in order to punch her. Town cops told her to take it up with campus security. Things haven't changed much.
posted by rtha at 10:12 AM on September 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


What? How does this not end in the police being called and harassment charges?

Because the police being called won't result in anything more than some guy with a badge telling you to cover up more and grow a thicker skin. The police are not useful allies in this situation.
posted by KathrynT at 10:43 AM on September 14, 2013 [5 favorites]



What? How does this not end in the police being called and harassment charges?


I'm confused by this. Men yell things at me every day. I'd spend every day in the police station if I called the police about it every time.
posted by sweetkid at 10:45 AM on September 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The real scandal here is why a black girl with a 4.3 GPA who was salutatorian of her graduating class is wasting her time at the University of Alabama. Her high school guidance counselor should be fired.


It's not as easy as it used to be. Girls like that are a dime a dozen. The flagship state school can hardly be considered an automatic safety for a salutatorian. Think of it this way

I briefly led a ragtag bunch of beer-guzzling nerds in a fraternity at a transitioning commuter school. We were racially diverse and cheap as hell, and I had a total blast. If I went to Alabama or another SEC school I can tell you that nobody would've given me a bid...and I wouldn't have been able to afford those dues anyway.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:50 AM on September 14, 2013


The different sides of the Atlantic. I'm in Cambridge UK, and if that happened here I suspect a very dim view indeed would be taken by the police and then the college.

In fact, on a brief look at the complaint procedure any member of the public is guaranteed a full investigation by the head of the institution if requested. Edited highlights:
"The University of Cambridge is committed to protecting the dignity of staff, students, visitors to the University, and all members of the University community in their work and their interactions with others.

The University recognises that to work and study effectively staff and students need an environment in which they are respected and valued for their contributions, irrespective of their:

Age
Disability
Gender reassignment (transgender)
Marriage and Civil Partnership
Pregnancy and maternity
Race
Religion or belief (including lack of belief)
Sex
Sexual orientation"

"The University is committed to providing an environment free from discrimination and affirms the right of all members and staff of the University to be treated with dignity. Racial and sexual harassment, harassment on the grounds of disability, and bullying of one member of the University by another, is wholly unacceptable behaviour. The University will take any incidents seriously and will act appropriately. Harassment and bullying can occur even if the offence is unintended. Full definitions of harassment and bullying are provided in the code of advice."

Complaints will be dealt with confidentially, and normally confidentiality will only be extended after consultation with the complainant and information about a complainant will not be released without the complainant's consent. However if a formal complaint is made it will be necessary for information to be given to the alleged perpetrator, the Head of the Institution as investigator, and to certain other persons involved in the investigation and in any appeals."

"Some kinds of harassment are criminal offences. Any case of physical assault, including sexual assault, should be reported to the police."

"Bullying, harassment and discrimination of a transitioning individual may involve verbal or physical abuse. This could include inappropriate use of

Language.
References to sexual orientation or sexuality.
Continuing to refer to the person's previous gender."
I'm slightly astonished that this isn't how it's done in US universities also.
posted by jaduncan at 11:12 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Expecting the police in the US (and, I suspect, in the UK) to take men yelling numbers at women from a distance as sexual assault is a losing proposition. Be as astonished as you like.
posted by KathrynT at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, I don't think the UK is that different in that regard.
posted by sweetkid at 11:22 AM on September 14, 2013


In fairness to Cambridgeshire police...
posted by jaduncan at 11:41 AM on September 14, 2013


I don't think it's perfect, but I think it's very definitely different. One of the reasons I think so is that if you told the college that the harassment was happening Bad Things would happen to them internally even when the police aren't informed/following up themselves.
posted by jaduncan at 11:44 AM on September 14, 2013


No, indecent exposure will definitely get the cops taking you seriously. This is dudebros yelling numbers, not some guy waving his junk at a teenager.
posted by KathrynT at 11:45 AM on September 14, 2013


And anyway the whole thing is a massive derail. Rather than nitpicking examples, please just believe us when we say that this sort of thing is not something that the police will help with, OK?
posted by KathrynT at 11:46 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Eh, fair enough. I may well be wrong, I'm going to ask local people rather than mansplain something that I only have indirect experience of. It wasn't my intent to be fighty/denying, so please accept my apology if it came across that way.
posted by jaduncan at 11:46 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The school year at the University of Alabama has barely gotten started, and already the campus has found itself in a charged self-examination on issues of politics, power and race, with the exposure of tenacious segregation among fraternities and sororities drawing national attention.

But the turmoil began some weeks earlier. It raised the specter of the Machine, a secret society representing a league of select and almost exclusively white fraternities and sororities, which has been around for a century or more. Once a breeding ground for state political leaders, the Machine (it has long been known by that nickname) today maintains a solid hold on student government through an effective, and critics say coercive, brand of old-fashioned organization politics.

But the Machine’s apparent involvement in an August school board election, a rare appearance in municipal politics, has prompted a lawsuit, accusations of voter fraud and an outcry that in many ways primed the campus for the larger storm over inclusion and tradition that is now taking place."
posted by rtha at 12:44 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

The old aristocracy of the south persists in structures like the Greek system at large state universities, perhaps even more so than private institutions. Bama is just an extreme example, and the current members of that sorority are getting a taste of what it actually means to be on the lower tiers of that infrastructure.
posted by holgate at 10:42 AM on September 15, 2013


Protesters cross University Blvd as they prepare to #StandintheSchoolhouseDoor2013 http://t.co/nFpO8Bns36— The Crimson White (@TheCrimsonWhite) September 18, 2013


As my grad school buddy at Alabama put it, "Not exactly how the administration planned to celebrate 50th anniversary."
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:34 AM on September 18, 2013


After a week of humiliating headlines, the University President called a private meeting with sorority advisors. The decision was made to increase campus total to 5 more than the largest chapter on campus, allowing any chapter to add additional new members through the continuous open bidding (COB) process. I have been told by those present at the meeting that the President did not beat around the bush regarding the reason for increasing total - the sororities should take the opportunity to do the right thing and pledge the women they want to pledge.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:40 AM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Protesters cross University Blvd as they prepare to #StandintheSchoolhouseDoor2013 http://t.co/nFpO8Bns36— The Crimson White (@TheCrimsonWhite) September 18, 2013

Pretty proud of the participants right now. Another article on the, short* but meaningful, march.

*I do not know if that's the route they took or if they went in a more roundabout fashion, I just wanted to, pedantically I admit, make clear that this wasn't a distancewise comparison to previous famous civil rights marches in Alabama.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:43 PM on September 18, 2013


From the NYT: Renewed Stand on Integration at Alabama.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:39 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Today the sororities admitted 11 black students, including the girl in the original article. This only happened after the sororities received an order from the university president -- the sororities and their national organizations don't seem to have gone through a change of conscience.
posted by miyabo at 9:33 AM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would be so weird to be one of the black students admitted by a just-yesterday-all-white organization. Didn't we do this decades ago? How come we have to keep fucking doing this?
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on September 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Less weird, I think, because the active members really wanted to bid these young women but were prevented from doing so by people who aren't physically present in the house. Hopefully the atmosphere at those sororities was more "YES we finally won out over those racist old fucks" and less "We extend a warm welcome to our institutionally-mandated tokens! That couch over there is for y'all, we're going out."
posted by KathrynT at 10:09 AM on September 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


To me the bigger news is not that things are changing at the Greek organizations--it's that the university, a government-funded organization that has known better for a long time, is finally being forced to stop looking the other way.
posted by skbw at 11:18 AM on September 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hope you're right, KathrynT.
posted by rtha at 11:29 AM on September 21, 2013


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