Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

March to Rose draws hundreds

 By Deanne Winslett and Mackenzie Brown | CW Staff


Faculty, alumni and students – greek and non-greek alike – joined hands Wednesday in a march against segregation within The University of Alabama community. The march began on the steps of Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library and traveled across the Quad to the steps of Rose Administration Building.

Ross Green, a student organizer of the march, said the event was intended to be a peaceful demonstration that students and faculty would no longer tolerate segregation on campus and that students would continue to put pressure on the administration to move forward.

“We were really pleased by how many people were interested in getting involved. We tried to get different parts of campus involved so that everyone would be included,” Green said of the march, which was named Stand in the Schoolhouse Door 2013.

Green said that since learning about the march, the administration worked with the organizers to ensure its success.

“We’ve been really pleased that the administration understands how important this issue is and they are willing to work with us. They’re willing to work with us and not shut it down,” Green said. “Even though we did not apply for a [grounds use] permit, the administration allowed us to keep on working with faculty members and students to see this through.”

Contrary to Green’s statement, Director of Media Relations Cathy Andreen said the University did approve a grounds use permit.

“The grounds use permit is a mechanism that allows UA to determine whether requested events can be held without interfering with academic programs, normal business operations and previously scheduled events,” Andreen said. “UA determined that the event, as described to University officials the day before, would not interfere with the academic and business environment, and a GUP was approved Tuesday afternoon.”

People began gathering around the steps of Gorgas at 7 a.m. By 7:30 a.m. the crowd joined hands and began its march to Rose Administration, where it was met by members of the administration, including UA President Judy Bonner who mingled with the crowd and greeted marchers as they made their way onto the steps.

Following her appearance on the front steps of Rose, Bonner addressed the media.

Bonner said the administration has been investigating allegations that alumnae blocked the integration of sororities. These allegations were reported in The Crimson White’s Sept. 11 article, “The Final Barrier,” which reported that at least two black potential members who went through this year’s sorority recruitment were dropped from all 16 Panhellenic sorority houses as a result of alumnae interference.

“The way in which I am working with the alumni is working with the national chapters,” Bonner told WVUA-FM. “The national Panhellenic and the national chapters are working with the local chapters in order to address any concerns – real or perceived – that are created by the alumni. Some of what is being reported may be true; some of what is being reported is not.”

Bonner did not elaborate what was being falsely reported.

The Rev. Brandt Montgomery, an alumnus of the University of Montevallo and a priest at Canterbury Chapel in Tuscaloosa, was a member of a predominantly white fraternity during his collegiate years. He was inspired to attend the march because he wanted to show that all greek organizations should be inclusive of people from all different walks of life.

“As an African-American [alumnus] of one of the traditionally white fraternities and coming from a chapter that was really open to me and has a history of being open to all sorts of people from social economic backgrounds and racial backgrounds, I just wanted to show that this is the way that all greek organizations are supposed to be,” Montgomery said.

Throughout the march, an emphasis was placed on a need for transparency from the administration as it moves forward with the fight against segregation on campus. Green said that in order for there to be more progress, there will need to be even more transparency.

Deborah Lane, assistant to the president and associate vice president for University Relations, said the administration had been working to remove potential barriers before the national media attention.

“Dr. Bonner said in the message [Tuesday] that those conversations started just about the time recruitment ended – I think was the way she said that – so those conversations were happening and were ongoing to identify what was impacting the decisions and how we could change and influence those,” Lane told WVUA-FM. “At the appropriate time we were going to [release our findings]. Please know that we are going to release that information and you are going to know about that when we have information to share with you, but it’s important that some of those conversations can be authentic and honest, and sometimes they do need to happen in a quiet place, where people feel safe, people can express themselves.”

Paul Grass, a senior majoring in American studies, said it is disheartening to see that the University is still struggling with the issue of segregation; although, he is relieved to see there are finally steps being made to take action.

“That we are still having this issue in 2013 says a lot about this university, that there’s been something systematic and culturally accepted. There’s two cultures: there’s black, and there’s white,” Grass said. “And that’s sad, more than anything else.”

Bonner said she was aware of segregation at the University, but now is the time to take action.

“I was aware that both the historically black and the traditionally white greek organizations were segregated. I’m also aware that there are a number of multi-cultural organizations that are diverse,” Bonner told WVUA-FM. “In order for change to come about, there has to be white students that want to join the historically black groups, and there have to be black students who want to join the historically white groups.”

Bonner said students were responsible for encouraging progress.

“The students wanted to make this happen. The students were saying that there were barriers that were preventing them from making it happen,” Bonner told WVUA-FM. “There were many barriers identified – one that was always discussed was media descending upon them.”

Bonner said the media might be a real or perceived barrier but that the students have cited media as a barrier. She did not specifically cite the CW’s “The Final Barrier.”

When asked how the administration would protect individuals who spoke out against segregation from threats or being ostracized from their sororities, Bonner said that might not be a valid fear.

“See, that would be an example of what I would call a perceived barrier,” Bonner told WVUA-FM. “But we certainly will work with all of our students to support them as they take the steps that are needed in order to make progress.”

Members of the faculty were also present to show their support for not only the desegregation of the greek system, but also an emphasis on integration all across campus. History professor Steven Bunker was present at the march to advocate for further reforms and the continued efforts against campus segregation. He wanted to emphasize a need for integration not just in sororities but in fraternities as well.

“I want to make sure that the issue of the desegregation of the greek system, and I say that of both sororities and fraternities, I don’t want to see that as simply a Band-Aid,” Bunker said. “That we are done with that, and we don’t have to do anymore, because this is a larger issue of a culture on this campus that has allowed these things to repeatedly happen.”

Bunker said he believes that in order for more progress to be made people from all different corners of campus will need to continue to work together.

“I think that students and faculty and administration can work together to bring about a better campus,” Bunker said.

Journalism professor Meredith Cummings was another faculty member present at the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door 2013 march. Cummings attended an inner-city high school in Birmingham and was one of only a few white students enrolled. When she came to the University to pursue her undergraduate degree, she encouraged her black friends from high school to go through recruitment with her.

“I had a very different experience coming into this university than a lot of other people did,” Cummings said.

At the time she did not understand why her black friends would not go through recruitment with her. She said back then she was young and naïve, but now she understands their reasoning.

“I think that what the University is doing is a great positive first step,” Cummings said. “But I think that it has to flow both ways. I think that the black community needs to organize and help us send men and women through sorority and fraternity rush. I’ve always wished that this would happen.”

Cummings said she had a great sorority experience while in college. She said she made friends that would last her a lifetime, even coming to her aid after the April 27, 2011, tornadoes despite having not spoken in years. However, she said she feels as though her experience was lacking because of the absence of integration, especially compared to her high school experience.

Cummings said as a former sorority advisor, she feels that she – and people like her – is responsible for the current issue of segregation on campus.

“I blame the adults, like me,” Cummings said. “I blame the people who have been in and out of sororities for years, who have been advising sororities for years. I blame us entirely.”

The sororities are ready for change, she said, but they are essentially not being allowed to have opinions. They have been banned from tweeting, posting on Facebook and other social media, and commenting about sorority segregation to the press, she said.

“I blame the adults. I blame the parents who raised their children to be okay with segregation. I blame us as educators,” Cummings said. “I doubly blame myself as an educator for not educating my students to be able to think for themselves and stand up for themselves.”

The march, which was started by a small group of students advocating for change, quickly evolved into a symbol of campus unity. With representatives from all over campus present – students, professors, administration and President Bonner – the march was intended to be a symbol of a movement forward. Faculty Senate President Steve Miller said he believes the march has accomplished its goal and the University is ready to take the necessary next steps.

“I find it to be a totally beautiful moment – the march over to Rose,” Miller said. “All of the students, all of the faculty, many staff members collected around the idea of appreciating the sorority women who came forward and ending once and for all institutionalized racism at The University of Alabama.”

Miller said it is not up to members of the faculty such as himself, combined with the efforts of the students, to keep the momentum going.

“We are going to keep the pressure on ourselves, to come up with solutions and to work with the administration, to work with the students and to move us forward from this spot. I really believe this is a line in the sand,” Miller said.

To follow the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door 2013’s progress, visit its Facebook page, UA Stands, and join in the conversation on Twitter with #UAStands.

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