warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Diversity In The Greek System: USC And Alabama Aren't That Different

Katrina Kaiser |
September 25, 2013 | 4:41 p.m. PDT


Alabama is not the only school that needs diversity in its Greek system (Huw Williams, Wikimedia Commons)
Alabama is not the only school that needs diversity in its Greek system (Huw Williams, Wikimedia Commons)
The revelation of chronic racial discrimination in University of Alabama's Greek system has opened the door to questions about diversity and racism in Greek communities across the country. Institutional racism here is not unique to the South, and USC fraternities and sororities can draw some lessons from the "turnabout" in Alabama last week.

First, some background information: several women in sororities at UA alleged that two black women were subjected to unusual scrutiny, then rejected from four sororities this rush season due to alumni pressure. In less than two weeks, UA responded to the national pressure and on-campus protests by not only acknowledging that the system is racially segregated, but actively reopening the sorority bidding process so sororities can offer informal bids throughout the entire year, and by increasing the maximum house size to 360 members.

One woman in particular was not only well-liked and had excellent scholarship and leadership credentials, but was also extremely well-connected as the granddaughter of former Alabama Supreme Court justice and UA trustee John England Jr. and the stepdaughter of state representative Rep. Chris England. One anonymous Tri Delt member even commented, "The only thing that kept her back was the color of her skin in Tri Delt. She would have instigated a dog fight between all the sororities if she were white.”

It is important to take away from this story that segregated sororities and fraternities are not limited to the Deep South. Matthew W. Hughey, an associate professor of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut, reported from his research that "the Greek letter system – all over the United States, not just in the deep South – has traditionally been based on exclusion…. We shouldn’t think organizations based on exclusion will all of a sudden become inclusive.” USC, like UA and many other college campuses, plays host not only to houses from the Inter-Fraternity Council and the Pan-Hellenic Council, but also newer houses dedicated to minority or professional groups. 

For instance, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Incorporated has governed historically Black fraternities and sororities since 1930. USC has seven active NPHC houses and UA has eight. More recently, the Multicultural Greek Council was founded in 1997 and includes a mixture of national and local Greek organization, including some founded at USC.

Are students and observers right to be pushing membership diversity when there has been an explosion of difference in Greek councils both locally and nationally? Or do recruiters need to stop taking the ideas of brotherhood and sisterhood so literally and only accepting people that look like they could be related?

Danielle Harris, Diversity Chair at PHC sorority Sigma Delta Tau, suggests that diverse recruitment practices begin with "avoiding saying things like "I don't see race" because we shouldn't erase people's experiences… it's healthy and good to "see race" and to recognize that we can all learn things about each other and about ourselves by exploring cultures different than our own."

Why, then, do some girls choose more traditional, historically white sororities while others choose minority ones? One member of an Asian Greek Council sorority, speaking anonymously, reported, "Many times I have seen girls go through formal recruitment and quit half way because they realize the process and the organizations are not for them… Most of the time those that go from formal recruitment to culturally specific [sororities] are looking for a sisterhood, but did not feel that the Panhellenic sororities gave that to them... the other organizations are smaller and thus have a close-knit feeling that they are looking for."

The decision to join a non-PHC sorority can also be about financial barriers and classism inherent to the traditional Greek system, and not race alone: "Personally for me I did not want to join a traditional sorority because of the stereotypes (most of which have now been proven wrong), but the ultimate decision came down to the recruitment fee and annual high dues."

But according to Professor Hughey, the question at hand should be less about identity politics and more about equality: "Although there can be a slew of chapters focused on serving minority students, white Greek letter organizations usually get the most campus resources… and have the most knowledgeable and seasoned advisers."

There is some evidence of different treatment at USC as well. The young woman in the AGC sorority indicated that while "personally working with the Fraternity/Sorority office, they have been extremely helpful. But the difference in treatment comes down to the nature of these councils and the fact that they are the minority and in order to cater to their needs it is sometimes necessary to have treatment be different."

On the other hand, Harris suggests that The Row gives IFC/PHC houses higher visibility and more security and planning resources, and overall "the university spends lots of time and effort in both supporting and (sometimes) reprimanding individual houses and the system as a whole." The woman in AGC offered a more specific suggestion: "I would like to see the formal recruitment being more open and accepting of different backgrounds."

Despite the best intentions of students, it seems that racial segregation in the Greek system across the country is unlikely to be abolished for a host of complicated reasons. Harris talked about how at USC and in society at large, "dominance tends to go undetected or unexamined by remaining invisible… In this way, the dominant group (in the case of race, white people) are established as "normal," and all else are exceptions to the "norm."

"I would say that the IFC/PHC councils are definitely considered the "normal" sororities and fraternities, even though I would argue that there is nothing normal or abnormal about race."


Reach Contributor Katrina Kaiser here; follow her here.


Live On Twitter


Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.



nike free run 5.0 billig (not verified) on March 12, 2014 3:57 AM

I view something genuinely interesting about your weblog so I saved to fav.

marc jacobs plånbok pris (not verified) on January 21, 2014 8:30 AM

Thank you for helping out, good info. "If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. Men will believe what they see." by Henry David Thoreau.

belstaff gangster herren (not verified) on January 3, 2014 7:21 AM

I think this internet site contains some real great information for everyone. "A sense of share is not a bad moral compass." by Colin.

Spaccio Woolrich bologna (not verified) on January 2, 2014 10:11 PM

Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We've ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Great. I am also a specialist in this topic so I can understand your effort.

belstaff gangster herren (not verified) on December 25, 2013 5:18 PM

I really appreciate this post. I've been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thx again!

woolrich outlet deutschland (not verified) on December 23, 2013 6:59 PM

I do believe all of the ideas you've presented to your post. They're really convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for newbies. May just you please prolong them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

outlet woolrich bologna indirizzo (not verified) on December 20, 2013 10:02 PM

I think this site has got some really good info for everyone. "Philosophy triumphs easily over past evils and future evils but present evils triumph over it." by La Rochefoucauld.

piumini donna moncler (not verified) on December 18, 2013 10:58 PM

You are my inspiration , I have few blogs and infrequently run out from to post .

oreo 5s (not verified) on November 23, 2013 2:06 AM

oreo 5s exceptionnel !!, produit avec qualit¨¦ puis envoy¨¦ tr¨¨s soign¨¦, c'est vraiment parfai

http://www.tianwanggu.com/plus/view.php?aid=164766 (not verified) on November 22, 2013 7:19 AM

Teva footwear uses thin, lightweight, and waterproof linings called Sympatex to keep feet dry and to allow them to breathe. The Outlast Temperature Regulation feature allows for the outlast materials to change form in order to adjust to the changing temperatures of bodies. This feature keeps feet at a constant temperature, rather than allowing them to overheat or to become too cool during certain outdoor activities..ugg boots sale However, he did not start so good luck, the day, did not sell a pair of boots. However, he did not lose heart, or even some stubborn that will be a success. market, there will be a place for him in the boots of the world. You can definitely find low cost Sparkle Uggs on line which has a number of shopping internet sites offering these individuals in less expensive prices. Just remember that , do not just choose a bargain that provides mainly because in a very affordable. Uggs On Sale This can be a great bogus combine but not the true one, which costs additional. Rasa cam dah nak raya plaks. Abis ajer show tue, terus serang Sahri.cheap uggs Macam biasa, dia semestinya di kelilingi oleh para peminatnya yang asyik bergambar. Women have cottoned on, now the demand for these little gems comes from both sides of the fence. Theye also wearing our ties.http://www.bootsonsalecheapu.com ho wears the pants in your family? Regardless it the women is usually the trend setter and can make or break her husbands?style.. Fourth, comfort does voice. As more and more designer break into the range of Ugg boots clearance online , some of them provide us with imitations at times. Do not expect comfort on incredible cheap prices. Lacoste Shoes - every adult movie will nothing to a lttle bit a infant shoe for its exceptional color.?Lacoste Shop, Loneliness is also lots of acutely felt regarding other people, on the subject off with others, truly with a lover sometimes, we suffer up and down all of our differences with component to taste, temperament and atmosphere. Human bedroom activities often an unhealthy key reach that we soften toddler plus of perception, or withdraw one of the many toddler a little bit sharp about grown-up truth for fear just about hurting, even known as pertaining to being wrongly present, after about it is crossways say naked, within a a poor poor social well placed. on their own many with us equipped to afford down be wholly whatever we are, likewise with to feel whatever everyone feel clearly.