To preface this piece, yes I am a black student at the University of Arkansas, and no, I do not think Greek life, as a whole, is racist.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the substance of this column.
Last week, the University of Alabama was drowned in controversy that wasn’t exactly of the normal Crimson Tide variety. A female African American “rushee” with a 4.3 high school GPA, who achieved the rank of salutatorian by graduation, and was from a prominent family with a history of involvement with the university failed to receive a single bid from any of the sororities on campus.
The reason? Whispers around the Alabama campus indicated the role of unnamed alumni and an unspoken rule of discrimination against any non-white recruits.
But let’s play devil’s advocate here. There are other reasons that people are rejected from sororities and fraternities beyond their intellect and the prominence of their families. Greek organizations often have distinct social dynamics and cultures and if an individual does not fit in those regards, then no matter how smart or rich they are, then they won’t receive a bid.
Nowhere in all these accusations of racism did I see anyone say maybe the black girl just plain wasn’t nice. I know plenty of people who look good on paper, but when you meet them, they are complete turn-offs. There are plenty of “qualified” white applicants who are also rejected based off aspects of their personality as well. Now, I’m not saying that the girl from Alabama was a bad person in any sort of way, but why was that possibility never involved in the conversation? Because sororities do not have to disclose the reason why they reject or accept members, we will never truly know.
Many people also complain about the low number of minorities in Greek life in general, but let’s not forget the other factors involved. First and foremost is the fact that minorities make up a miniscule proportion of most universities. For example, at the U of A, we African Americans are the largest minority segment, but even then we are only 5% of the student population. Of that percentage you would need to then weed out those who were interested in rushing, not playing a sport, and could actually afford the expensive fees associated with rushing and pledging. What are you left with after that realistically? A very small number.
Let’s not also forget that there are traditionally “black” fraternities on campus. If a white person were to rush one of these organizations, you would be darn sure they would be the talked about. Not because of racism necessarily, but because it’s uncommon. Questions would arise.
“Who are they?” “Why are they rushing a black fraternity?” “Are they like us?”
A poll from Alabama’s student newspaper asked the question whether or not the university should take action and take an active role in making the Greek system more inclusive.
Of the 2,351 students polled, 65% said yes.
Are these students asking for what is essentially affirmative action for Greek life? A mandatory quota for minorities?
I don’t think that either side want a governmental figure to
step in and regulate the amount of black people your fraternity or sororities needs to have for diversity purposes.
Such an approach may create resentment.
I’m not saying that Greek life couldn’t use more diversity, but I don’t like the fact that the media singled out such an easy target as Alabama to raise the issue over without considering all the factors.
David Wilson is a sophmore Finance major and the Opinion editor of the Traveler. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.