The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

September 17, 2013

UA president: Sorority decisions based on race

(Continued)

University of Alabama trustee John England Jr., a state court judge in Tuscaloosa and a former member of the Alabama Supreme Court, last week confirmed his step-granddaughter was one of two young black women who tried to join an all-white sorority but were rejected for membership.

Gov. Robert Bentley and trustee Paul Bryant Jr., son of the legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, are among those who have publicly criticized segregated Greek-letter organizations at the university since The Crimson White story.

The charges of racism are marring a year in which the university is trying to show racial progress in the 50 years since then-Gov. George C. Wallace's "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" blocking integration at Alabama, and with the school's football team ranked No. 1 nationally.

Allegations of racism at Alabama provided a backdrop over the weekend at ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 bombing that killed four black girls at a church in Birmingham. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson suggested picketing all-white sororities at the university, and Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, whose district includes Tuscaloosa, said the situation at Alabama shows discrimination isn't dead.

"When we still have fraternities and sororities in our state that block because of race, we still have work to do," said Sewell.

The university enrolled a record 34,852 students this semester, and about 13 percent of its students last year were black. Its Greek organizations have been segregated by race since the first black students enrolled and established social organizations, with one oversight organization composed of white sororities and another composed of minority sororities.

Only a few blacks ever have attempted to join historically white Greek groups at Alabama, where there are also historically black fraternities and sororities.

University spokeswoman Cathy Andreen said Bonner's order on recruitment applies to 18 white sororities in the Alabama Panhellenic Association, the campus arm of the National Panhellenic Conference. Eight black sororities and fraternities at Alabama are affiliated the National Pan-Hellenic Council Inc.

The Interfraternity Council overs 27 historically white fraternities, and an umbrella organization is composed of leaders of all three groups.

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