The University of Alabama, a landmark in the fight over racial segregation, is increasingly becoming a cultural melting pot — in the very Greek system where none of the all-White fraternities or sororities accepted a Black for decades.
Phi Iota Alpha has established itself as the first Latino-based fraternity on campus and Sigma Lambda Beta seeks to be the first multicultural fraternity in the state. This is just two years after Alpha Delta Sigma and Delta Xi Phi, two racially integrated sororities, were established.
“I feel it brings a lot more diversity to the campus,” said Gibran “B.B.” Hernandez, president of the group seeking to form Sigma Lambda Beta. “It’ll bring a lot more cultural awareness, which is what (the university) is seeking.”
Racial segregation in the Greek system at the university — where Gov. George Wallace tried to block the enrollment of two Black students in his 1963 “stand in the schoolhouse door” — drew wide notice in 2000 and 2001 when Melody Twilley, a Black honors student, was rejected by all of the university’s White sororities.
That helped forge the creation of Alpha Delta Sigma, a local sorority that describes itself as “diversity-based,” in 2003. That same year Delta Xi Phi, a national sorority whose mission is to “increase multicultural awareness,” was established.
“We’re in the middle of making a lot of changes in our Greek organizations,” said Tim Hebson, associate dean of students. “We’re really excited about where we’re heading.”
The university has long wrestled with integrating its Greek system, once delaying rush from late summer until after classes start in the fall to encourage more students to take part and encouraging the White groups to seek out qualified minority members.
But the delayed rush was short-lived amid complaints from students and faculty that it created academic hardships for students dealing with rush activities while getting their first college classroom work.
After that, two majority White Greek organizations, Lambda Sigma Phi, a faith-based group, and Gamma Phi Beta, an international sorority, accepted Black members. Since then, university officials said, some other majority White Greek organizations pledged Black members. Precise numbers weren’t available; the Greek Life office said it does not keep track of race.
The two integrated sororities that formed in 2003 are still small, compared to the longstanding Greek organizations at Alabama. But their size is similar to other multicultural sororities nationally. Alpha Delta Sigma has eight members, two of whom are Black, while Delta Xi Phi has 13, two of whom are Black.
Leaders of the 20-member interest group forming Sigma Lambda Beta said it attracted members because of its success nationally and because it was not exclusively Latino.
The interest group, which is the starting point to create a chapter, had dinner last week with traditionally White Chi Omega at its sorority house, marking the fraternity’s first formal social event on campus.
“I think it is a great addition to the Greek system,” said Chi Omega President Mary Ila Heard.
— Associated Press
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