Board of Trustees members speak out on sorority segregation

John England Jr. speaks with the press following the Board of Trustee meeting.

John England Jr. speaks with the press following the Board of Trustee meeting.

The topic of greek segregation pushed its way into The University of Alabama Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, as members of the Board spoke out on the issue.

Detailed in Wednesday’s Crimson White article, The Final Barrier, at least two black potential new members going through this year’s sorority recruitment were dropped from all 16 Panhellenic sorority houses. The article, which has received national attention, spurred members of the board and administration to address the issue in a manner different than it has in the past.

Before the board meeting began, President pro tempore Paul Bryant, Jr. released a written statement  regarding segregation on any of The University of Alabama campuses. The statement did not specifically address The Crimson White’s report.

“The Board of Trustees does not support the segregation of any organization at our institutions on account of race,” Bryant said in the statement. “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.”

After the board meeting, UA President Judy Bonner affirmed Bryant’s statement.

“As President of The University of Alabama, I firmly support this statement,” Bonner said. “The University of Alabama administration is working with our local chapters and national organizations in order to remove any real or perceived barriers. We are going to help our young people do the right thing.”

John England Jr., circuit judge for the 6th Judicial Circuit and one of three black members on the UA Board of Trustees, confirmed that his step-granddaughter was one of the potential new members dropped from the sorority houses.

“I view it, perhaps it means a little bit more to me than some of the others because it’s my granddaughter, and so I appreciate the board making this statement,” England said. “I particularly appreciate President pro tem Bryant coming out affirmatively where everybody gets a clear message that we don’t do that at The University of Alabama.”

Later England added that the exclusion of his granddaughter from sorority houses may be a new experience for the board.

“I don’t believe we’ve had a granddaughter of a Board of Trustee member denied either — not that that should matter — because it should be available to anybody.”

England said he was encouraged to hear the reports of active sorority members speaking out on the issues.

“You know the most important thing about this whole episode, it is that much of what’s happening — much of the action that is being taken to address segregation among fraternities and sororities — it comes from the students. And see, that’s what makes me have hope — that it’s the students who initiated it.”

Now, England said it is up to Bonner and the administration to make the appropriate changes to fix the problem of segregation on the UA campus.

“[Bonner] doesn’t need any encouragement from me, because she’s someone who is strongly committed to being inclusive, diversity, and I know the steps that — some of the steps — that the university has already initiated to address the issue,” England said. “I do know that [Bonner and Witt] have contacted the organizations — both nationally and locally — about what they are going to do to make sure that no person is denied because of race.

“I think that University, system-wide, will take appropriate steps to make sure that no other child is denied access to an organization because of race. I have every confidence,” England said. “There are a number of steps that can be taken, and I think they are going to take them all.”