New sorority members walk to the buses after Bid Distribution as part of Sorority Recruitment 2017 in Athens, Georgia, on Monday, August 14, 2017. (Photo/Jane Snyder, www.janemarysnyder.com)

At the University of Georgia, Greek Life is a major part of many undergraduates’ experience. There are 19 Panhellenic Greek chapters and 12 multicultural Greek chapters. There are 4,400 women registered in the Panhellenic sororities as of Spring 2017, according to UGA Panhellenic Council. However, numbers do not equate to diversity, and UGA Panhellenic Greek life remains largely segregated by race to this day.

The University of Georgia officially integrated on Jan. 9, 1961 according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Despite the 50-odd years that have since passed, the legacies of segregated schooling continue to follow the University. According to collegedata.com, the campus is still overwhelmingly Caucasian, with 72.4 percent of the student population consisting of white people. 

Liz Habersham is a sophomore English and public relations double major. In an elevator in her residence hall, Creswell, a fellow student once brought up the topic of lynching and white supremacy due to her race.

“It’s a shame that you don’t live in the dorm directly below me so you can see the rope that I hang out of my window every night,” the student said.

Habersham took the issue to the Equal Opportunity Office where the University could handle the case. UGA handled the case well, but Habersham believes its up to students to create change. 

"It’s up to the student body to come together when it comes to [discrimination],” Habersham said.

Until 2006, the University of Georgia chapter of Kappa Alpha held “Old South” parades with members gallivanting in Confederate uniforms and sorority members wearing hoop skirts. According to Habersham, fraternities may have circulated flyers “asking black students if they wanted to pose as slaves and pick cotton in front of the frat houses.”

Less than 10 years ago, the University of Georgia still allowed these objectively racist and harmful traditions to continue and did not stop until students petitioned the university. 

A solution to this problem is to encourage more diversity in Greek life. Habersham started an interest group for a new multicultural sorority, Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. In this sorority, Habersham strives for an environment that emphasizes “celebrating people as individuals." This celebration includes a variety of diverse traditions such as stepping, lines and strolling. The goal is to change the environment of UGA Greek life.

“If girls have the option to go to a sorority where they know that they can be celebrated as an individual and then also learn about other people, we can change the [Greek life environment]," Habersham said. "I feel that people will have that option now [through Theta Nu Xi].”

Many would argue that the reason Panhellenic greek life specifically faces a diversity problem is due to the presence of multicultural sororities or other sororities that are not Panhellenic. There certainly are multiple options for diversity, but greek life in individual sororities does not seem reflective of the actual demographics of the university as a whole.

Greek life is still mostly segregated and still bears the marks of harmful traditions, but change can occur. Habersham and others like her are moving the university forward, but the entire student body has to work together in order to heal the wounds of the past.

The Red & Black publishes opinions from a number of contributors and staff columnists. Their opinions do not reflect the opinions of the editorial staff. The editorial staff is in no way involved with the opinion pieces published with the exception of editorials. Editorials are written by the editorial board consisting of the opinion editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief. Editorials are clearly marked EDITORIAL at the beginning. This article is from contributor Asher Beckner, a sophomore social work and English double major.

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