University of Alabama students will return to campus this fall with an integrated Greek system for the first time.
Although things have been quiet lately around the issue, Marie Claire magazine dived into how the UA sororities were able to keep women of color from getting bids without outright declaring "No blacks allowed":
At Kappa Delta, the oldest and arguably most prestigious house on campus, the rushees are seated in different rooms depending on how interested the sorority is in pledging them. The best room, called Rush-to-Pledge, is reserved for rushees whom the sorority wants to give the hard sell. Kappa Delta member Kirkland Back, 22, a 2014 graduate, says that in her years in the sorority she saw only two black women ever seated there—and one was a mistake.
"This past year, a black girl ended up in the Rush-to-Pledge room," Back says. "Someone messed up and seated her in the wrong spot … so you can imagine the sad hilarity of watching a bunch of really privileged white girls freaking out. They were like, 'Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God! What are we going to do? She can't think we actually like her!' So they were like, 'Nobody talk to her. … She's gotta know that she's not welcome. She's gotta know this isn't going to work out.'"
"It's not that we've never had black girls come through rush," says Melanie Gotz, 22, a 2014 Alabama graduate and member of Alpha Gamma Delta. "I would see them in the first round, and then they all disappeared. I just figured they didn't make the grades. Until this year, I didn't realize that they were being automatically dropped after the first round. I feel really naïve now—I didn't really think racism existed in such a blatant way anymore."
It should be noted every sorority does rush differently, so how things played out at Kappa Delta wouldn't necessarily be applicable to other houses.
But Phi Mu sister Caroline Bechtel disclosed to Marie Claire she'd hear comments like "Oh, she wore an ugly dress," to explain why the black women weren't being offered bids. "But it was so obviously wrong, so obviously racism," Bechtel said.
But there are still cultural problems that needed addressed, some students say, and there was a controversy in the spring over what the university's student government would do about the traditionally all-white sororities.
Currently, Marie Claire notes, there are 21 black sorority members, which is approximately 0.4 percent of the university's entire Panhellenic population.