Photo via Melissa Brown/al.com
Sorority formal recruitment recently came to a close at the University of Alabama. While many bright, sweet, and presumably qualified young girls received bids to one of the 16 sororities involved in recruitment, two bright, sweet, and presumably qualified young girls, one whose grandfather is on the university’s board of trustees and the other whose father is apparently a renowned politician on the state level at the very least, did not. According to the University of Alabama’s student newspaper, The Crimson White, that is because the two girls in question were black.
I’m debating how to properly respond to this story beyond my initial disgust at the blatant racism (and don’t be little whiny douches and confuse this with elitism, it’s not, these girls came from BIG TIME families, probably bigger than many of yours). Perhaps I’ll respond with a sigh and an “ugh” as I pour a glass of bourbon to numb the pain of more HORRIBLE Greek Life PR. Or maybe I’ll let out a nice, rousing, “FUCK!” as I throw a paperweight at the intern and blame him for all the world’s problems while he brings me the bourbon I asked for? Probably both.
The events the Crimson White story describes are pathetic, and they make the Greek system, sororities in particular, look petty and backwards, if not completely repulsive. These are the types of situations where we, as Greeks, can cite our higher GPAs, better graduation rates, successful alumni, and millions raised to fight cancer, help blind orphans, etc. until we go bluer in the face than a pledge shouting his fraternity’s preamble balls deep in ice water, but it doesn’t matter. Is that fair? No, because despite the larger scale of this most recent black mark on our records (apparently Alabama sororities find black marks acceptable), we are still, by a vast majority, good people, in our own special way. Then again, what transpired during the University of Alabama’s sorority formal recruitment wasn’t fair either, so I suppose we deserve to be treated as we purportedly treated others.
By all accounts it appears that two seemingly nice, intelligent, gorgeous girls got supremely screwed over, by us. There was, from what I have gathered between the Crimson White story and dozens of emails from Alabama sorority girls, full blown, old school, 1930s Disney cartoon racism going on here. I’m not one to throw out the racism card lightly. This isn’t an instance of some obnoxious PC morons claiming you’re a racist if you call a person who illegally immigrated to America an illegal immigrant; there is actual systematic, deeply ingrained prejudice at work here.
I’d trade this for a dozen butt chugging stories, I really would. Here’s hoping we start carpet-bombing Syria tonight so the country can get angry at a black guy living in a palatial, columned estate instead of the white people who wouldn’t let a black girl live in their palatial, columned estates.
According to the Crimson White, two black girls (though the story focuses more on one in particular) went through Alabama’s sorority formal recruitment and were dropped by every sorority based solely on their race. Even without the various sorority girl testimonies, the CW reporters collected to back up this assertion, the evidence they present makes it objectively clear that were these girls white (or maybe Latina but white looking? Half-Asian? At the very least a Saudi oil princess? I don’t know, I don’t have Alabama Greek life’s official Race Handbook) they would have been given a bid. That’s important to note because the Crimson White has a sordid history both in their extreme anti-Greek bias, and a very recent history of reporters fabricating quotes. The former is less of a concern these days, however, as the majority of the most recent incarnation of the Crimson White staff, including the paper’s Editor in Chief and Managing Editor, are Greeks. It is noted at the end of the CW story that no Greek staffers were involved with the reporting.
Some Alabama sorority girls who I interviewed for this piece expressed distrust of the two reporters who wrote this story. One Alabama sorority girl in particular, when asked about her distrust, cited a specific example of the story’s reporters either willingly or negligently changing the details of information they collected using less than ethical means.
…a friend of mine (who is in a sorority not mentioned in the article, but whose response to the rushee was exactly the same) was approached by a girl claiming to be a Theta, who asked her questions about the whole ordeal. This girl was proven to not be in any Greek organization, and was actually a Crimson White writer. The information my friend told her appears in the article, but is claimed to have been said anonymously by a girl in a different sorority.
Here is the passage in question:
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.
Despite rightful concerns, considering the Crimson White’s history, an Alabama sorority girl emailed to confirm that she was the Pi Phi who gave the quote. The meddlesome alumnae and funding cut off threats were a common denominator among many of the Alabama sororities during their recruitment deliberations. Nearly every Alabama sorority girl with whom I exchanged emails confirmed as much.
On a side note, I really enjoy imagining the witch hunt that went on in Pi Phi after their exec and alumnae read that quote.
President: (full of rage) Find me the dumb bitch who ratted us out!
VP Internal: (nervously) Madam president, all the girls are claiming ignorance. They say that none of them provided the information.
President: LIES! SOMEONE MUST BURN! Bring me the arrow of truth! Tonight we hunt traitors.
I like to pretend we live in a world where, because Pi Phi’s symbol is an arrow, they hunt down treasonous members (and cheating boyfriends) with an ornate, bedazzled bow and arrow. That’s definitely why I never dated a Pi Phi. Arrow fear. Totally. (*starts crying*) FORGET TONY ROMO! YOU SHOULD HAVE MARRIED ME CANDACE!
Other than that contention, the information the Crimson White presented appears to be accurate. One quote in particular is especially groan-inducing in terms of the sheer disappointment and disbelief any rational person reading it will feel.
The Tri Delta member said the student’s “excellent scores,” influential family and “awesome resume” would have made her a more-than-qualified candidate for Panhellenic recruitment and would have ensured her a bid from a sorority if she wasn’t black.
“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.”
As bad as that quote is, and it’s Riley Cooper bad, it’s also misleading. It would be incorrect to assume that 200 hundred racist girls sat in every sorority house on campus while the secretary said, “Snaps if y’all hate blacks…okay by the volume of snapping that appears to be a majority, our sisterhood remains as white as our pearls for another year! Great job, y’all!” The bigger picture that the Crimson White story paints pretty clearly is that the sorority alumnae appeared to be the main players in the discriminatory recruitment. Girl after girl interviewed by the Crimson White claimed that they would have been happy to welcome a black girl into their sisterhood, but that their alumnae advisors weren’t having it.
Here are a few examples from the Crimson White story:
Gotz was the one to openly question the motives behind executive members and alumnae of Alpha Gamma Delta as to why they dropped the black student that she and others wanted to become a pledge.
Active sorority members then began standing up to voice support for the recruit and challenge alumnae decisions, Gotz said.
An active member of the University’s Delta Delta Delta sorority, who asked to remain anonymous, also said her chapter’s alumnae interfered with the proper voting on the same black student being recruited by Alpha Gamma Delta sorority members.
The Tri Delta member said she knew of other Panhellenic houses that wanted to pledge the recruit and were also hindered by alumnae members.
Alumni control freaks are the worst. Unfortunately, and I can vouch for this as a Greek alumnus, it’s often in our nature to want to control our younger brothers and sisters. Lord knows every time I walk back into my old fraternity house I angrily shout, “Someone get me a beer! NOW! And where’s all the pussy!?! I came here to rage and smash! Christ! Is this what you fucksticks call a party nowadays!?” Sadly, that’s usually met with, “No, sir, this isn’t what we call a party, it’s noon on a Tuesday, and you just showed up drunk and unannounced.” I have some demons I’m wrestling with, you guys.
While all Greek alumni are a little controlling, in southern Greek life, specifically at Alabama, that control appears to be much tighter. One Alabama sorority girl put it perfectly.
At Alabama, sororities and fraternities are run like privately-owned businesses. Hundreds of thousands of dollars (MILLIONS for some Old Row organizations) are invested in these things. Inevitably, everything comes down to the money and keeping the alumnae/shareholders happy. Other than member dues, alumnae donations are a large majority of the funds, and they are very much involved in recruitment. Think of it like a presidential candidate going against the wishes of his or her most crucial donor. Bad things happen.
A member of one sorority seriously considering one of the black PNMs specifically described how her alumnae advisors exercised that control:
I’m a member of Alpha Gamma Delta & I assure you we spent 3 hours in our chapter room crying over this. The black recruit mentioned comes from a great family, father is a senator I believe (or very highly regarded in politics), she does pageants & has amazing grades. And MORE IMPORTANTLY has an amazing personality. We were met with eye rolls from alumnae who sat in the chapter room with us telling us it simply was not possible, that due to her rec her score would be lowered & she would not receive a bid. The alumnae went to the extent to vaguely bring up the brand new house that was just built for our chapter & say that we should be thankful for what they do for us & not question their authority. Girls from other schools may not have as intense of a rush as we have here, alums are big $$$ providers….I mean “decision makers”
Another sorority girl fighting for one of the black girls to be considered for her house was also met with stiff resistance from alumnae advisors.
our advisor let me know that she had been fielding calls all week from women saying that they would cut off donations if this is something we decided to go forward with.
Objectively, that makes sense, and in principle I can’t disagree with the sorority alumnae’s decisions. People don’t want to pay for what they don’t want. This is America and you’re totally free to act that way, even if it is sad, bitchy, and controlling. I like to imagine these sorority alumnae are like the Nazi chick at the end of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: desperate and hanging by a thread while reaching hopelessly for eternal youth. Also, blonde.
Does that mean this can all be blamed on racist old alumnae who will gasp, clutch their handkerchiefs, spill their tea, and snap shut their checkbooks should they find out about a black girl joining their sorority? Close, but not quite. While I’m sure racism that’s as pure as the driven white snow all these old ‘Bama sorority alums would like the color of their sisterhoods to remain is a largely contributing factor, the bigger factor seems to be much pettier, and SO much more pathetic.
The funding from these rich alumnae of varying ages likely won’t disappear simply because their sorority signs a black girl. Instead, the checks will stop coming in because the alumnae, being the amazing sisters that they are, don’t want to back a loser, er, losers. As it happens, nothing makes your sorority a bigger group of losers at Alabama than signing a black girl, just ask Alabama’s Gamma Phi Beta chapter (who I’m sure are all actually sweet girls and I’m sorry for calling you losers it’s just for the story, I swear, let’s have drinks sometime). This is from one of the Alabama sorority girls I emailed with:
Gamma Phi here is not like Mizzou’s. They’re honestly the fat girl leftover sorority…because of 2003 [when Gamma Phi bid a black girl, purportedly the last black girl to be bid at Alabama]. Their alumni basically cut all funding, everyone dropped and they’ve never recovered. So that’s another way alumni have an influence because there’s a large amount of our alumni who would cut us off if we took one too.
Why did Gamma Phi’s alumnae supposedly “cut all funding” after the actives bid a black girl in 2003? If they were donating before that, and many likely were, it doesn’t make much sense to sabotage your own investment, let alone what you consider a dear sisterhood. In that case, you’ve wasted all the previous money you donated, not to mention you’re, you know, screwing over your sisters. If these alumnae actually wanted the sorority to succeed (and clearly they don’t unless it’s totally on their terms), wouldn’t they instead power through the INSURMOUNTABLE AND TERRIFYING obstacle that is signing a black girl? The only thing that makes sense in this scenario is that the alumnae wouldn’t think any contribution they made could overcome the CRIPPLING BLOW of signing a black girl, because the sorority would be, socially speaking, too far gone, thus any future contributions would essentially be money wasted. Man, I thought I lived pathetically in the past because I work for TFM and hang out at the Blind Pig so much. At least I’m getting paid for it and not the other way around. Like I said, Alabama sorority alumnae only want to back a winner. Real quality sisterhood there. I can relate to these sorority girls. When I was a teenager my grandma wouldn’t give me Christmas money unless I could prove to her that I had attended lots of cool high school parties that year.
“They have to be parties with the cool kids too! None of those queer lamb parties.”
“They’re LAN parties, grandma.”
“HA! Tricked you! The fact that you know what they’re called tells me you haven’t been to any football parties. No ten dollars for you, homo.”
Damn you, Grandma.
Here’s where the fraternity guys make their shitty appearance. I really thought we were going to make it out of this one unscathed, guys. I really did. Alas, we never do. According to many of the sorority girls I emailed with, the consequences of signing a black girl are swift and severe. Here’s one girl’s take:
People think that if we take a black girl, it will seem like we did so poorly in rush that we had to kind of stoop to that level. That we couldn’t find good enough white girls who wanted to come back to our house. The results of that would be fraternities not having functions with us, therefore making our “status” on campus plummet. Then, half our chapter would drop because that “isn’t what they signed up for”, and our chapter would go under, and the whole thing would be for nothing because the chapter would be gone.
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.
If you’re wondering where the sorority girls get ideas like “half the house will drop,” you have no further to look than their alumnae advisors, who make yet another undignified contribution to this backwards ass story, according to another Alabama sorority girl.
We took a chapter vote regarding whether we were going to further rush the black girl, but right before any of us made our decision, our Recruitment advisor made a long speech on how it would affect our chapter, and how half of our chapter will go inactive if we take her (and some bitches even cried). Come voting time, our advisors decided to vote “Chapter decision” style instead of what should have been the “New member selection” way. The difference is CD is simply majority when NMS is a certain percentage (not certain on the exact percent, but, I think 80%-20%)… basically, they made it near impossible for the motion to pass.
The alumnae advisors vehemently claimed that half the house would drop because of the supposed consequences of signing a black girl. It’s too bad none of the girls stood up and said, “Which of you bitches are going to drop the first time some fraternity doesn’t want to make us Jello shots? If so, then just get the fuck out now. You don’t belong here anyway.”
Hey, sorority nationals, you realize these are the people you have working for you, right? Maybe next time instead of emailing TFM ten times a week using hollow lawsuit threats to get us to take down a picture of one of your girls doing shots in letters you should get up off your asses, head down to ‘Bama, and replace the racist, manipulative women you have running your chapters and threatening young girls. Not only are they denying worthy girls membership, but they’re shitting all over your sisterhood and its democracy as well. I feel like that hurts your rep a little more than a picture of Sarah Sratty in letters, chugging Evan Williams.
While many will be quick to blame the active sorority girls, and surely there are some to blame, in my eyes it seems that these Alabama girls are being held hostage by vague threats of lost money and social status, mostly coming from their alumnae advisors, who I don’t think quite grasp the meaning of “advisor.” Plenty of the girls I emailed with made that much clear.
I do have a lot of friends, however, in other houses, where their alumnae are really strong. I think it varies on a spectrum from places like my house where they are not allowed to be involved, to the extreme, where they supposedly hand-pick the new pledge class. I also know women who are recent alumnae from those houses referenced in the article, and they have told me that yes, that is exactly what happens. Regardless of whether or not alumnae have an actual say in voting (which, like I said, definitely happens in some houses), you have to think about being in the position of the girls inside the house. If you’re a sophomore, this is your first year of going through rush. We have the biggest Greek Life in the country, and it’s kind of an intimidating process. If an older woman who everyone in the room respects (especially in the South, where respect for our elders is essential), comes in and says this isn’t something we’re going to do because of a, b, and c, you’re not going to vote for it. You don’t know any better. It sucks that some of these girls just don’t know enough about what’s going on to make an informed decision, but that’s how it works a lot of the time.
Alumnae pettiness, control, manipulation, racism and latent fear were all common themes both in the Crimson White story and in my many conversations with Alabama sorority girls. Essentially, the whole thing read like a cross between Mean Girls and The Help. However, there was another consistent theme in my conversations with the Alabama sorority girls as well.
She [the black girl] was one of the nicest girls I’ve ever met, and far more genuine than anyone else I talked to during rush. She was smart, well spoken, funny, and absolutely beautiful. She had fantastic grades, was the president of the National Honor Society and Beta Club chapters of her high school.
The black recruit mentioned comes from a great family, father is a senator I believe (or very highly regarded in politics), she does pageants & has amazing grades. And MORE IMPORTANTLY has an amazing personality.
The black girl in question is not the first of her type. The year I pledged I went through with a national merit, gorgeous, super funny black girl. She was dropped from every single house by the end of round 2. She transferred and is now an alpha gam, which, mind you, is probably to Alabama what ADPi is to the state of SC.
The black girl in question was as perfect as they said. Great GPA, a shit ton of high school involvement, her family is influential and has a lot of money, and she was really pretty. On paper, this girl was a top recruit. People should have been busting their balls to get at this girl. It’s funny that everyone is so against taking black girls, since the black girls coming through our rush are literally just like us. It’s not ratchet black girls from the hood of Tuscaloosa going through Panhellenic recruitment, it’s privileged kids from wealthy families, just like the majority of our Greek population.
The girl had everything each house is looking for.
I never had the pleasure of talking to her during the recruitment process, but, I heard nothing but great things regarding the girl. She was well over qualified to be a member of my sorority.
As far as the black girl is concerned the CW is accurate in saying she was the perfect potential new member, excellent grades,great personality, very involved and of course beautiful.
[redacted] was more than a perfect resume. She was elegant, sophisticated, intelligent, and generally perfect. Everything I would want in one of our babies and more.
At least, it would seem, there is a possibility for decency and rationality in the future. Hopefully that’s the near future, after the raging alumnae bitches currently constituting the SHADOW RUSH GOVERNMENT of Alabama sororities are ousted, because guess what, Alabama — you’re making the rest of us look bad, not to mention screwing over some poor girls, and it’s fucking annoying. The girls in question clearly earned the right to be in a sorority, and keeping them out because of something they can’t control is complete bullshit. Now you’ve made all of Greek life look racist, and dammit, if someone is going to assume I’m a racist, I don’t want it to be because of something I can’t control. It should be because I earned it.
(*Puts on sombrero, pours margarita, leaves for Illegal Bros and INS Hoes party*)
To the girls of Alabama sororities, I would encourage you to bid a (worthy) black girl the next chance you get, alumnae, donations, and idiot guys (who will likely come crawling back) be damned. To make that case in the most boy way possible, I say this: signing Jackie Robinson worked out pretty damn well for the Dodgers. Hopefully you find your Jackie Robinson dressed as Jackie-O soon.
Or we could just get Nick Saban on the case. I assume that would solve everything in about three seconds.
Thank you to the nearly two dozen Alabama sorority girls who emailed me and answered my questions. You were all extremely helpful, intelligent, and charming.
[via The Crimson White]