The University of Alabama made news last month when student paper the Crimson White published a landmark story on segregation in the school’s Greek system.
Among other points, the article established that there were no Black women in any UA Panhellenic sororities, and those that went through formalized rush were uniformly rejected by the houses. Many current sorority women blamed this on their alumni and chapter advisors, who allegedly interfered with the recruitment process.
However, none of these problems are new. Worse, both the segregation of the Greek system and the inordinate power of UA secret society “The Machine” — which some students say is responsible for the lack of diversity — have been written about for at least 20 years.
Below are two excerpts from a 1992 Esquire magazine cover story on UA’s Greek system, both of which seemingly could have been written this year:
The Machine today faces a crisis involving race. Though they lease university land, the Greek organisations are segregated. The blacks I saw inside the white Greek houses over 10 days at Alabama were blowing on horns in the band at a fraternity party or carrying boxes of frozen vegetables to the kitchen. It’s an embarrassing situation in a state that is more than 25 per cent black. The university is trying to force integration, but it has met enormous resistance from Chad and others who justify their segregation by invoking the great traditions of Greek life at Alabama.
Everyone at Alabama says the fiercest opponents of integration are alumni, especially the men from small towns who are most involved, who come to homecoming games and jam their fraternity houses, the ones who say that after family, fraternity played the biggest part in their success. Alabama vice‐president Harry Knopke says it was alumni who blocked one fraternity — he won’t say which — from accepting an Asian American. Last October, one alum who was enraged by accreditation arranged for an old Cadillac hearse to be driven in the homecoming parade, with white, press‐apply letters on the fenders and door panels spelling out the death of the Greek system.
After the Crimson White’s recent article and the ensuing national media coverage, UA’s administration has taken steps to insure that the Greek system does not remain segregated. But it is remarkable that it took this long to address what appears to be a long-standing systematic issue.
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