By Mark Hammontree and Sarah Elizabeth Tooker | CW Staff
University of Alabama President Judy Bonner issued a video statement Friday about the recent progress made by Panhellenic sororities to integrate.
After The Crimson White’s article “The Final Barrier,” which detailed alumnae interference in Panhellenic sororities’ attempts to integrate, UA administration established a continuous open bidding process in which all 16 Panhellenic sororities were allowed to extend bids to increase their size to 360 members.
“We have taken the first steps toward removing barriers and ensuring access and opportunity throughout our greek community,” Bonner said in the video. “I am confident that we will achieve our objective of a greek system that is inclusive, accessible and welcoming to students of all races and ethnicities; we will not tolerate anything less. The process of continuous open bidding is already yielding positive results.”
In the address, Bonner told students that Panhellenic sororities had issued a total of 72 bids to young women, including 11 to black students and three to other minority students. Bonner said as of Friday afternoon, 18 of the total bids had been accepted, four by black students, two by other minorities.
Bonner said other students were still considering accepting the bids.
AL.com reported Friday that Alpha Gamma Delta and Kappa Alpha Theta were among the sororities that had bids accepted by black students.
“We are very excited to be a part of this forward movement that’s happening on our campus,” Alex Graham, president of Alpha Gamma Delta, said. “We appreciate the University’s support and we congratulate all the young women that are now a part of our Panhellenic sisterhood.”
In an interview with AL.com Friday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley commended the University’s efforts.
“I had the utmost confidence in the leadership at the University to make sure this issue was addressed,” Bentley said. “Today’s news is a positive first step.”
U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance announced Thursday that her office will be monitoring the allegations of racial discrimination following the publication of “The Final Barrier.” Vance said it is the duty of her office to enforce civil rights laws in the United States.
“I think there’s a general sense among people on the campus that it’s time to evolve past this,” Vance told the CW. “This history of segregation in the greek system is incredibly harmful because it’s not just 40 years and then it’s done. It’s really shaped many of the business and social relationships that survived long past college, so it’s in many ways a generational issue.”
Though there is no active investigation, Vance said she has plans to continue to stay in touch with UA administration to support racial progress at the University.
Bonner said while progress has been shown from certain sororities, the administration will not stop its efforts to achieve diversity in the greek community.
“While some sororities are further along than others, I am encouraged that chapter members are proactively reaching out to a diverse group of women,” Bonner said. “The process of open continuous bidding will continue, and we will see these numbers increase over the next few weeks.”
Additionally, Bonner said the administration is taking steps to ensure that permanent changes come to the historically segregated greek system.
“Let me reiterate, we are going to create and sustain an environment that enables our students to be successful in the academic and social aspects of their college life,” Bonner said in the video. “This will fulfill our primary mission to prepare and equip them to be successful throughout their lives and careers. Let me emphasize that we are taking the steps necessary to make systemic and lasting change.”
Bonner thanked the “administrators, students, faculty, staff and alumni who have and continue to work diligently to uphold our values and our expectations of access and opportunity.” Bonner said the support of the UA community was necessary to sustain positive change.
“This campus will be a place of inclusion and opportunity for all,” Bonner said. “We will continue to make progress. We will do the right thing, for the right reason, the right way.”