Editorial: Tradition does not legitimize discrimination

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

As the University of Alabama’s Greek system went through its recruitment process last week, it became clear that racism still exists at the university. Two black women attempted to rush sororities, but neither received bids from any of the 16 Panhellenic organizations on campus.

As with many other Southern universities, such as Ole Miss, Greek life is catered toward white students. There are no formal policies and rules in place to prevent students of other races from rushing or to prohibit sororities from giving a bid to non-white students. Perhaps more frightening is the capacity of the advisers and alumni to step in and prevent a tampering with their “white” tradition.

Last week, as Alabama’s Greek system began its rush process, two black women rushed for acceptance into a sorority. One of the women, salutatorian of her graduating class with close ties to the university and hailing from a family with a history in public service, was a prime candidate for acceptance into a sorority. Yet, as rush came to a close, neither woman received a bid. 

For student groups that pride themselves on preaching acceptance, sisterhood and philanthropy, an act of such explicit racism seems almost incomprehensible.  

But it appears to be an act of racisim, as the Crimson White, Alabama’s student newspaper, reported that members of the university’s chapters of Alpha Gamma Delta and Delta Delta Delta sororities came forward after advisers and alumnae denied them the chance to invite one of the black women back for the next round of recruitment. The sorority members said that the majority of current members wanted the woman as part of their sorority, but the voting process was intervened. In Alpha Gamma Delta’s case, the potential new members had been chosen without active members’ input.

Although sororities and fraternities have policies in place at the national level that prevent racism from taking place, enforcement of these rules needs to be more strict. Universities and their student bodies need to hold Greek organizations and the campus Panhellenic associations accountable for the actions of their chapters and groups.

Sororities and fraternities have long been seen as organizations used for networking and improving leadership skills among its members. Preventing individuals from taking part in this type of organization prevents them from making connections and attaining skills that will be beneficial to them later in life. Organizations rooted in tradition, such as Alabama’s Greek system, need to re-examine the foundations of their traditions and realize that what has always been does not equate with what is right.

We applaud the individuals responsible for coming forward and drawing attention to this injustice. It is impossible to enforce laws and policies without individuals who are willing to come forward, recognize violations of the law and condemn hypocrisy.