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The University of Alabama garnered headlines in April 2014 as the UA Student Government Association attempted to pass a resolution in support of the racial integration of the university’s primarily-White fraternities and sororities. While some may tout the resolution’s passage as a major victory, one UA student, Nathan James (2014, ¶2) stated “This resolution is a symbolic victory for equality at The University of Alabama. But if the student body thinks of it as a practical victory, we may be played for fools.” James is right; there is no victory here. While both the university and the organizations with chapters at UA have implemented many strategies to educate and encourage more inclusive recruitment practices, the barriers to inclusion persist. These barriers exist across fraternity and sorority communities nationwide. There is no victory in passing a resolution or changing a few practices that open a pipeline, only to have that pipeline become clogged by the norms, assumptions, policies and practices that prevent underrepresented minority students (URM) students from joining, feeling welcomed by and succeeding in primarily-White fraternities and sororities. Examples of these barriers include member selection criteria that privilege White student experiences, insensitive comments and microaggressions voiced by members or communicated through inappropriate party themes, housing requirements and attendance policies that do not account for a student’s socio-economic and family needs, pressure to purchase certain attire for recruitment or other events, rules and policies that ignore or suppresses cultural differences, and an emphasis on social status and appearance that that prioritizes Whiteness. It is time to confront the reality. Assuming the exclusion is remedied by attracting a few members with intersectional identities is arrogant and a mark of White privilege. While the spotlight focused attention on equal access to fraternal membership at UA, nearly every college campus and every historically-White fraternal organization needs to confront the harsh reality that ideological assumptions and norms embedded in the fraternity/sorority experience prevent and inhibit URM student inclusion.

Perspectives

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Summer 2014

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Profile for Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors

Perspectives Summer 2014  

Perspectives Summer 2014  

Profile for afa1976