UA community members march against segregationBy Deanne Winslett | 09/18/2013 10:37am
Update with quotes from UA President Judy Bonner Faculty, alumni and students both greek and non-greek alike joined hands Wednesday in a march against segregation within the University community. The march began on the steps of Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library and traveled across the Quad to the steps of the Rose Administration building.
Ross Green, a student organizer of the march, said the march was intended to be a peaceful demonstration that students and the administration would no longer tolerate segregation on campus, and students would continue to put pressure on the administration to further 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 Stand in the Schoolhouse Door 2013 march.
Green said that since learning about the march, the administration has worked with the organizers to ensure the march's 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."
People began gathering around the steps of Gorgas at 7:00 am and by 7:30 am the crowd united hands and began their march to Rose Administration, where they were met by members of the administration, including President Judy Bonner, who mingled with the crowd and greeted marchers as they made their way onto the steps.
Brandt Montgomery, an alumnus of the University of Montevallo and the current assistant priest at Canterbury Chapel, 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 alumna 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.
Senior American studies major Paul Grass said that it is disheartening to see that the University is still struggling with the issue of segregation, although he is relieved to see that 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.”
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 that he would like to see former reforms from the administration to continue to bring the University culture up to the current year. He believes that in order for more progress to be made people from all different aspects 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 2013 march. Cummings attended an inner city high school in Birmingham and was one of only a few white students enrolled at the school. When she came to The University of Alabama to pursue her undergraduate degree, she encouraged her black friends that she had made in high school to go through rush with her.
“I had a very different experience coming into this University than a lot of other people did,” Cummings said.
At the time Cummings did not understand why her black friends would not go through rush with her. She said that at the time she was young and naïve and that 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 had a great sorority experience while in college and 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, but she admits that she feels as though her experience was lacking because of the lack of integration, especially compared to her high school experience.
Cummings said that as a former sorority advisor, she feels like her and people like her are responsible for the current issue of segregation on campus.
“I blame the adults, like me. 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,” Cummings said.
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 members of campus present – students, professors, administration and President Bonner – the march was intended to be a symbol of a movement forward. President of the Faculty Senate Steve Miller said that he believes the march has accomplished its goal and that 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 that is not up to member 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 their Facebook page, UA Stands, and join in the conversation on Twitter with #UAStands.