Although progress has been made, Southern universities continue to deal with the historical impact of segregation — and Greek organizations on campus, including at Ole Miss, are part of that legacy.
Critics call it “institutionalized racism.” It has existed in the Greek community for decades and it recently appeared again as The University of Alabama was catapulted into the spotlight for allegations that the predominately white Greek organizations, specifically sororities, were denying African Americans bids solely based on their color.
Some African American Ole Miss students say they find it ironic that College Magazine recently named the University of Alabama the second best university in the country for Greek life. The University of Mississippi ranked 1oth.
“For many years now the University of Mississippi has encouraged a very diverse and inclusive Greek system, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Assistant Dean of Students, Scott Wallace.
Integration within Greek organizations is still somewhat elusive at Ole Miss, but students such as former Associated Student Body President Kimberly Dandridge have broken racial barriers and provided a pathway for others.
According to some statistics provided by Wallace, If we look at the students who registered for Panhellenic recruitment based on ethnic background this is what it looks like:
Seventy three students registered and participated who self-reported during the admissions process that they have an ethnic background that is non-white. Fourty seven of those students were placed or received a bid at a Panhellenic sorority. Of the 26 that were not placed, 18 withdrew and 8 were released. “Withdrawal” in this sense means that the student participated but at some point in the process decided not to continue. “Released” means that the student participated in the process but did not receive a bid (invitation) from a sorority that matched the student’s preferences or choices.
Students and officials agree the university is taking significant strides to offer a more welcoming and inclusive Greek life but there is more work to be done.
Last spring, Wallace and others worked with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation to facilitate cultural awareness discussions for Greek students. By facilitating similar programs to promote being culturally aware, Wallace sees the University moving forward.
“I am hopeful that our efforts will lead to an environment that is more and more diverse. We hope that our students see the value in having a diverse population of brothers and sisters,” he said.
“It’s 2013 and at this point color barriers shouldn’t even be an issue. As long as someone is qualified and benefits your organization, that’s all that matters,” stated first year masters student and member of Phi Beta Sigma, Terrell Hall.
As students, it’s up to us to be that change and to rectify the marred and stereotypical reputation of universities in the South.
By Sha’ Simpson. Simpson is a journalism student at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media