In 2003, a University of Alabama student Carla Ferguson accepted a bid to Gamma Phi Beta — the first time in the school’s history that a black woman joined a traditionally white sorority.
A decade later and 50 years since the school first integrated, Ferguson remains the only black student to have ever pledged a UA Panhellenic sorority through the formal recruitment process. According to an extraordinary report from the Crimson White — UA’s student paper — many people associated with the Greek system are trying to keep it this way.
At UA, freshmen traditionally participate in sorority recruitment before classes start in August, going through several rounds of touring the houses and meeting sisters. After each round, a student can be “cut” from a house, and is no longer considered for membership.
This year, the alumni or advisors of at least four Panhellenic sorority houses — Alpha Gamma Delta, Delta Delta Delta, Chi Omega, and Pi Beta Phi — intervened in the formal recruitment process in order to remove a black student from consideration, the Crimson White reports. Neither of the two black students who went through formal recruitment this year were offered a bid to any of UA’s 16 sororities that participate in the process, a decision that current sisters say was determined by race.
Members of both Alpha Gamma Delta and Tri Delta told the Crimson White that the sororities’ alumni removed one of the black student’s from discussions, while a member of Chi Omega said the house’s advisor did the same, leading to one member of the house leaving the sorority over her anger at the decision. A member of Pi Beta Phi said her house’s alumni threatened to cut funding if a black student pledged the sorority
One member of Tri Delta told the Crimson White that one black student’s “‘excellent scores,’ influential family and ‘awesome resume’ would have made her a more-than-qualified candidate for Panhellenic recruitment and would have ensured her a bid from a sorority if she wasn’t black.”
“Not a lot of rushees get awesome scores .. Sometimes sisters [of active members] don’t get that. [She] got excellent scores. The only thing that kept her back was the color of her skin in Tri Delt. She would have been a dog fight between all the sororities if she were white,” the Tri Delta member said.
The racial segregation of UA sororities is often glaringly obvious, as in this Tweet earlier this year from the brother of a non-white student — coincidentally a member of one of the houses mentioned by the Crimson White: