UA Gala honors Greek women, but not all womenBy Alex Smith | 02/05/2018 8:04am
This year marks the 125th year of women being able to attend The University of Alabama. The University and various organizations across campus have been in the process of planning events throughout the year to revel and reflect on how far women have come on our campus. One such event will be the a ball put on by the honors organization, the Anderson Society.
I want to preface this article by stating I am a proud member of The University of Alabama’s Anderson Society. I was ecstatic on Honors Day as one of my greatest mentors and friends approached me with a framed certificate of recognition, as it is an honor to be a member of an organization comprised of some of the greatest leaders on this campus. However, I also pride myself in my ability to have the tough conversations, to shed light on campus and organizational issues that are unjust or conflict with my personal values.
To kickoff the year-long celebration of 125 years of women on campus, the Anderson Society and other sponsoring organizations – Greek organizations – will meet for a formal gala at the President’s Mansion mid-February. If you haven’t been invited to this event, I regret to inform you that tickets are completely sold out.
For an organization’s members to attend the black-tie kick-off event, groups had to select either a sponsor level of: Silver ($500) or Gold ($1,000). All groups that chose to sponsor the event will be printed on display materials and recognized at the gala.
As of last Friday, the list of Gold and Silver sponsors include: Alabama Panhellenic Association, Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Tau Omega, Chi Omega, Interfraternity Council, Phi Mu, Sigma Chi, Zeta Beta Tau, Zeta Tau Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Delta Delta and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Not only does this sponsor list perpetuate the belief that honor societies are nothing more than a mechanism for Greeks to congratulate themselves, it diminishes the worth of the 125th year of celebration itself. This event is not pro-women, it is pro-Greek women.
I dare you to list the ways that the executive board of Zeta Beta Tau has championed women’s causes in comparison to UA Crossroads, the American Association for University Women, or Not On My Campus, a sexual assault advocacy group.
While I’m sure these organizations might have received the invitation to sponsor, it’s unrealistic to expect any organization would have this amount of extra funds lying around for a rainy day. Unless you’re a fraternity or sorority, of course.
Small, grassroots organizations like URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity) and Not On My Campus may not have had the ability to pay $500 to participate in the gala, but that does not mean members of this organization should be absent from the conversations taking place at the event.
Because of these exclusionary, price-based sponsorships, an event that could have been an opportunity for meaningful discussions about the challenges that women at the Capstone have overcome and those that we still face has instead morphed into nothing more than an opportunity for Greek executive boards to dress up in fancy clothes and go shake hands.
Additionally, despite individual members raising concerns, little has been done by Anderson to recognize that this 125th year really only marks the anniversary of white women being able to attend the University, as it would be decades before women of color like Autherine Lucy and Vivian Malone Jones could attend. While two traditionally black sororities have been recognized as sponsors and will be attending the event, the sponsor list dominated by white Greek organizations has all but guaranteed that this will be a night centered around white women as they clink glasses merely yards away from former slave quarters.
Despite its problematic nature, any profit made from this event will go towards the 125th year of celebrating women. That means that Anderson is going to have a lot of money to spend to champion women's causes on campus. While that may be terrific, I hate that it has to be at the expense of not having important voices present at the event.
Alex Smith is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Her column runs biweekly.