U of Alabama students protest 'whites only' sororities

Students at the University of Alabama marched Wednesday to protest racial segregation among sororities and fraternities. School President Judy Bonner issued a video statement acknowledging the system is segregated by race

(AP Photo/The Tuscaloosa News, Dusty Compton)
Female students at the University of Alabama prepare to run from Bryant-Denny Stadium to their new sorority houses after receiving their bids in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The university is ordering changes in its sorority system amid charges of discrimination.

Several hundred people marched Wednesday at the University of Alabama to oppose racial segregation among the school's Greek-letter social organizations.

The marchers headed from the university library to the administration building, where the president's office is located. The group was gathered on the steps of the administration building, standing behind a large banner that said "Last stand in the schoolhouse door."

Faculty Senate President Steve Miller had announced the demonstration at a Faculty Senate meeting, where professors spoke out against long-standing racial segregation in fraternities and sororities.

School President Judy Bonner issued a video statement acknowledging the system is segregated by race. She is requiring that sororities belonging to a campus association composed of white sororities begin using a new recruitment process aimed at diversifying the groups.

The allegations that some groups had denied entry to black students were first detailed by the student newspaper, The Crimson White.

"While we will not tell any group who they must pledge, the University of Alabama will not tolerate discrimination of any kind," said Bonner, who became the university's first female president less than a year ago.

On Wednesday, the crowd included both students who were members of Greek organizations and those who were not.

Yardena Wolf of Corvallis, Ore., a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Alabama, said she is still a member of her all-white sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. But she moved out of the sorority house after facing criticism on social media for breaking sorority policy by speaking publicly about the decision to not offer membership to black pledges.

"Rush was really, really hard to go through living in the house. We obviously didn't pledge an African-American girl like I thought we would. It was really frustrating, and I faced some difficulties in my room and my house, so I just thought it would be better if I moved out," Wolf said.

Khortlan Patterson of Houston, 19, is a sophomore and is not involved in a Greek organization. Patterson, who is black, said many of the students speaking out about segregation within the system also are from outside Alabama.

She said that while she and others love the university, they are surprised to find segregated social organizations when they arrive in Tuscaloosa.

"The institutional racism came as a shock," she said.

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