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Ohio State Greeks react to Alabama sorority controversy


University of Alabama potential new members register for 2013 sorority recruitment Aug. 10.
Credit: Courtesy of Facebook

Some Ohio State students are saying the same type of discriminatory recruiting practices that were happening recently at the University of Alabama could not happen at OSU.

The students of Alabama voiced their discontent and the streets of Alabama’s campus were filled Sept. 18 with students and professors protesting the racial segregation that continues to exist in the university’s Greek Life system.

The revelation came after a story published Sept. 11 by the student newspaper, The Crimson White, reported a very strong candidate for Alpha Gamma Delta, who was an African-American female student, was denied based upon her race by alumni of the organization. She did not receive a bid from any of the 16 Pan-Hellenic sororities at the university.

University of Alabama President Judy Bonner has since introduced changes that the sororities in question that were employing discriminatory recruiting practices must begin to follow. These sororities must also change their recruiting system so new members can be added anytime. The sororities under review then sent bids to 11 black female students, and four of these bids had been accepted as of Saturday, according to New York Daily News.

Representatives of Sorority & Fraternity Life at OSU are not worried this type of discrimination could occur at OSU because of the commitment and value it places upon diversity, said assistant director of OSU Sorority & Fraternity Life Sharrell Hassell-Goodman.

“Our community is one where I don’t particularly worry about these practices happening because diversity is something we value through and through … we have diversity programs that our chapters do every semester, and so they are constantly educated on various aspects of their social identity, such as race, ethnicity, gender and religious preference,” Hassell-Goodman said.

In an interview with The Lantern Monday, OSU Interim President Joseph Alutto said he thinks sororities and fraternities are a worthwhile way for students to get involved.

“I think they add a great deal to the experience of individual students, as long as students have the ability to chose that’s what they want and that is the experience they think is valuable for their time at the university,” Alutto said.

OSU’s student organizations have a non-discrimination policy, which includes sororities and fraternities, Hassell-Goodman said. The non-discrimination clause is a part of the constitution of every student organization, she said.

Hassell-Goodman credits the mixture of cultures and races found among the four councils of Greek Life — Interfraternity Council, Pan-Hellenic Association, Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hallenic Council — to the diversity that exists at OSU and in Columbus.

“We have so many opportunities because we have 64 different groups, that we have organizations that appeal to all walks of life … if you actually look at our membership, it is pretty diverse across all four councils, and that is something that is unique,” Hassell-Goodman said. “I think sometimes when you look at institutions and the makeup of their members, because the city of Columbus is diverse and because Ohio State is diverse, our membership reflects that diversity.”

Of those 64 organizations, there are more than 20 organizations that are specifically for or include women. There are also four National Pan-Hellenic Council sororities that are predominantly African-American sororities – Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., and Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

The opinions of alumni Greek Life members played a role in the discriminatory recruiting practices at Alabama, but Hassell-Goodman said alumni play a very minimal role at OSU.

“In general, all of our organizations vote on members themselves, and alumni are there to serve as advisers,” Hassell-Goodman said. “We offer adviser training and certification where we talk about the role of advisers and alumni. We have not had any incidences that I am aware of in which chapter members cannot select people, and (it happened because) their alumni dictate what their selection looks like.”

Sorority and Fraternity Life does not have a process to monitor whether or not a Greek Life organization is recruiting a diverse group of students, Hassell-Goodman said.

“We don’t have a monitoring system or any form of quotas for each group … we are trying to teach students the understanding and the values behind diversity so its applicable in all aspects of their organizations,” she said.

OSU has not received any complaints from students indicating they were denied access to a sorority or fraternity due to their race or ethnicity, Hassell-Goodman said.

“Currently, it is not happening that I am aware of,” Hassell-Goodman said. “If this was an incident, our first course of action would be to reach out to the chapter leadership, the local alumni advisory board and the national organization to kind of determine what actually is happening and to do some fact finding. We would automatically report it to the (Bias) Assessment (and) Response Team.”

The Bias Assessment and Response Team is a committee that aims to help OSU community members who feel they have experienced or witnessed a hate- or bias-related incident, according to its website.

In addition, if a Sorority & Fraternity Life official found out this was the case, they would encourage diversity training and workshops about inclusivity, such as the Open Doors program, which is a four-hour training program focusing on addressing bias, Hassell-Goodman said.

Fourth-year in psychology Adrienne Poe-Hinton, a black PHA member, said she thinks OSU does a good job overall at preventing discriminatory recruiting practices.

“As far as Pan-Hellenic (and IFC), which are predominantly white sororities and fraternities, I think they do a pretty good job of not being discriminatory,” Poe-Hinton said. “I think when it comes to the National Pan-Hellenic Council, they base (their membership) more on the fact that they are predominantly African-American institutions so I think that it is harder to be in that outgroup.”

Poe-Hinton could not disclose the name of her sorority because she is participating in recruiting new sorority members as a recruitment guide.

While Poe-Hinton said she believes that being a minority in a predominantly white sorority can present challenges, race does not inhibit joining these types of organizations.

“Being an African-American in one of those predominantly white sororities definitely has some type of impact,” Poe-Hinton said. “I know in the African-American community it’s looked at a certain way, like ‘why didn’t I want to join an African American sorority?’ I have had some negative experiences on the other side of the spectrum from other PHA members, but I don’t think they have ever been bad enough to make me feel as if I don’t belong.”

Fourth-year in biology Monica Saccucci, the president of Multicultural Greek Council sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma, agreed with Poe-Hinton that Sorority & Fraternity Life are doing a good job of preventing similiar situation to Alabama.

“We have these mandatory standards of excellence, and under these standards of excellence we have academic standards, and diversity standards that we need to uphold. Members are required to attend these events that are seminars about diversity, what it means to be diverse, and how to recruit a diverse group of people,” Saccucci said. “It helps us branch out and learn about different cultures.”

Her sorority does try to recruit a diverse group of students, even though Sigma Lambda Gamma is a Latina-based sorority, Saccucci said.

“At OSU, you do see the different groups of African-American, Asian and Jewish populations, a lot of times you don’t see those groups intermixed,” Saccucci said. “What we are really proud of is that you see African-Americans, Hispanics and white people in our sorority, so you see culturally different and socioeconomic differences in our sorority.”

Saccucci said she thinks that while discrimination does not occur with sorority recruitment at OSU, many people may be unaware that each sorority is accepting of all backgrounds.

“I think that sometimes people get confused because they look at PHA and they see that they are predominantly white, and maybe they look at an Asian group and they are predominantly Asian … maybe people look at that and it is kind of intimidating,” Saccucci said.

Fourth-year in natural resource management Jamie Moore, the president of IFC fraternity Acacia, said the race of a student would not inhibit the acceptance of a student into a Greek Life organization.

“Our school is so diverse, and we interact with each other so much, I don’t think it would matter,” Moore said. “Our organization is not specifically trying to be diverse. What we are trying to do is grab the best, most qualified members that we can find, and it just so happens that we end up being a very diverse house … We have guys from very different religious backgrounds (and) we have a good mix of different religious bases.”

Poe-Hinton said she still sees room for improvement though.

“It’s definitely growing from the time that I came in, when there was maybe about five or six (minority members), and now there is a good handful of about 20 (in PHA),” Poe-Hinton said. “I definitely think that we can do better in that area.”

The reluctance of minority students to join sororities and fraternities that are predominantly white has a lot to do with the stigma of being in sororities from other minority backgrounds, Poe-Hinton said. She added it is a lot easier to join an organization in the Multicultural Greek Council than to look at the bigger Caucasian majority sororities.

Poe-Hinton said the many different types of Greek Life organizations offered at OSU can actually diminish the amount of diversity in sororities and fraternities.

“We just have so many opportunities here at OSU, and it’s good to be inclusive with everyone, but we kind of have a lot of opportunities to be exclusive,” Poe-Hinton said. “I think a lot of people just look at those instead of branching out and looking at other things.”

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