The latest problem began last week with a UA student newspaper Crimson White article, “The Final Barrier: 50 years later, segregation still exists.”
The article details how a pair of black students “tried to break what remains an almost impenetrable color barrier” by joining an all-white sorority. “Fifty years after Vivian Malone and James Hood became the first black students to desegregate The University of Alabama, there remains one last bastion of segregation on campus: The UA greek system is still almost completely divided along racial lines.”
What followed was an onslaught of negative press from across the nation. Given the ugly history on the Tuscaloosa campus, it’s an easy storyline for the national media: Alabama won’t tear down those racial barriers that deny African-Americans a seat at the table.
That sentiment, like most stereotypes, may contain a kernel of truth. However, the Crimson White’s reporting shows that the objections to these well-qualified black students came not from current students, but from sorority alumnae.
In the larger scheme, the source of this bigotry is less important than correcting it.
By the end of last week, the university’s administration and board of trustees were sending the right signals.
“We support the efforts of our administration to effect the change necessary to bring this principle to reality in the entire University of Alabama system,” said Paul Bryant Jr., president pro tem of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, in a prepared statement.
Judy Bonner, university president, said last week, “The UA administration is working with our local chapters and their national organizations in order to remove any real or perceived barriers.”
She added, “We’re going to help our young people do the right thing.”
And so the university should.
We are pleased to see reports that Bonner met privately with Panhellenic sorority advisers on Sunday. Take it as a signal that Bonner realizes the negative spotlight won’t leave Tuscaloosa until real and substantial changes are made regarding race and UA’s Greek system.
Of course, this situation is well past the point of gentle encouragement or neatly penned reminder notes left on the pillows of UA’s Greek system. This problem won’t fix itself. Administrators will have to play an active role, applying serious pressure if necessary.