Lovely morning. I went to the park and tried to walk but after two laps I was soaked so I had to retreat to home. So be alert that this morning’s blogging may reflect that setback.
Having been a student at the campus of the Black Warrior only a few years after George Corley Wallace stood in the door of Foster auditorium (where registration occurred in those days)(I think it was Foster?,) tried to block the registration of admitted students of recent African heritage, and was evicted from the premises by nationalized state militia troop at point of bayonet – like he was a Brit, I have some familiarity with the integration situation, at least in those days.
It was a non-entity. In those days the campus was divided in several dimensions but the ones that mattered were Greeks and Independents, Hippies and Straights. The only exclusion I can recall was that there were essentially no Greek (fraternity/sorority folks) Hippies. But then there were very few Hippies, and they were all majoring in art or something related and stayed geographically in the old quadrangle. I had an English class in one of those halls and I got to observe the immiscibility at close quarters.
The Greeks were equally a world apart. The women were mostly majoring in education or home economics but actually looking for the “right” husband; the men were mostly majoring in business or pre-law. A few majored in pre-med but that was as close as Greeks got to STEM. A few of the men would occasionally date Independent women but more as a fling than honesty; the women never dated Independents. The Greeks kept trying to pass themselves off as an upper caste but this always failed because of their inability to excel at any metric anyone cared about. But they did dominate campus politics and the student government, which assured the administration of plenty of well groomed and behaved freebie lackeys.
The only place where exclusion was open was among the Greeks and the Jocks. The football coaches were pretty direct in not recruiting (or admitting) people of color to the team. This changed shortly after I graduated, mostly on account of those metrics I mentioned. Football is the main reason the campus exists, that and partying, and the two are not separable, and football players of recent African departure were too good not to be included.
But the Greeks were pretty much pink except for the Bolshevik fraternities. They even had a few Hippies as members. But so far as I know the sororities were unbrown. Except from tanning.
I find out this week that things have not changed much.[Link] The sororities are still pretty well pink. And a power unto themselves. The Greeks always survived by being meek and pseudo-compliant in public to the administration and sullen and self-assured (reportedly) in private. They saw themselves as the guardians of civilization and if that meant trampling on a few Plebeians, so be it. Gleefully!
And they stayed pink because they were private organizations. They had charters to be on campus but they were tenants, not part of the university. So like any private club in those days they could select their membership. The bad thing about the movie Animal House is that it doesn’t do a good job of portraying how all the fraternities, even the Bolshies, were exclusionary. And geeks and nerds were only acceptable in very small doses, if they stayed in the attic or basement, and pulled up the house GPA. Barely. And don’t expect any legacy privileges.
I stayed away from the Greeks. Mostly they wasted too much time. And were too noisy. And partied too much. And got in the way of learning. I didn’t have political opinions in those days. I recognized if the Greeks wanted to do politics there was little to be done in the field. Besides, they smelled. Not odoriferously, but behavior-wise.
And they apparently haven’t changed. But this time the Independents struck back. Which is good. A guillotine might have been better but then the state militia would have come back, like they did my senior year. To protect the Hippies. Anyway, the administration made some demands that are unobviously anything but cosmetic. And a few recent African departees have been admitted to the more liberal sororities. But it is unobvious this is more than tokenism.
I am not delaying respiration over this. I do not expect the Greeks to change, at least actually and in the core. And I am not sure I care very much. Yes, I deplore the exclusion, but since it is a cancerous institution I fear all I can do is summon a bit of pity for anyone who wants to perpetuate the sickness. Integrated cancer is still cancer.
One of the unfortunate things about academia is that it inherently likes to pat itself on the back. Frequently. And with almost no attention from outside. Which is why the academics are so avid for those back pats. Academia is the epitome of the uselessness of awards. And this appears to be one such The Greek organizations can now pat themselves for being progressive and democratic and the administration can pat itself for being politically correct. And both are stage show.