"A lot of experiences/instances of racism led to my choice to drop out of Alpha Gamma Delta in the fall of 2016 after pledging in fall 2015; sharing them here as succinctly as possible. Some of this will be copy/pasted from accounts I or others wrote down during my experience. The first section pasted below outlines my experience living living in the house, which I wrote in 2016 when I experienced these issues.
“I can't handle being in a Panhellenic sorority anymore. I've always had that feeling that I don't belong, and my sisters made it clear that I don't. It's about time I take the hints. I would like to share these experiences with all of you in the hope that Panhellenic sororities everywhere see some reform. I also want black girls everywhere to know what might be in store for them when they rush Panhellenic. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I definitely didn't expect this.
My first semester (fall 2015) in Alpha Gam went well. I met sisters and everyone was very nice. I got a big and she seemed to really like me. I made friends with the other girls who had rushed as sophomores in my pledge class. I was so excited to be a part of it. I was so proud to wear my letters. It was in the spring when things got rocky. Housing sign-ups took place around February. All of us were instructed to sign up with our roommates together so we would be able to choose rooms to live in. Most rooms have four girls, so some of my friends and I signed up to be roommates together. When housing sign ups happen, the entire pledge class was ranked by first-semester first-year GPA (including those of us who were sophomores). So the girl in each room who had the highest GPA would be able to go in and sign up for a room, then the other roommates would add their names to the room spots once it was their turn. One of the girls, X, did not want to live in the room her roommates chose. She was ranked high on the list, and decided to sign up for a room alone. This upended the whole system, and girls had to sign up for rooms with girls they didn't plan to live with.
Everyone was livid. There was fighting and drama and everyone was extremely upset. However, one of the girls came up with a solution: she provided a system of swapping roommates so that all of the rooms would at least have all of the roommates that everyone wanted, and most of the rooms would be as planned, too. That is, except for our room. In order for the solution to work, my roommates and I would be split up. One of us would have to live with X's roommates and the rest would live with X.
We didn't want to agree to this because we didn't see it as fair that our room had to be split up. We told them that we didn't like the plan and that we wanted to try to find a different solution. What ensued was not what I expected at all. Girls were threatening us and insulting us and talking behind our backs. They said that since we would be juniors we shouldn't get to live in the house anyway (usually sophomores live in the house). We were basically guilted into agreeing so that our entire pledge class wouldn't hate us.”
Now pasting below an email my father sent in complaint of my subsequent treatment in the house, which continues this portion of my story.
“For those of you included on this email, it is being addressed to UGA Vice President of Student Affairs and Alpha Gamma Delta National Director of Fraternity Services......with copies to Y, UGA AGD President, Z, UGA AGD Chapter Adviser, Q, UGA AGD Property Coordinator, and W, UGA AGD VP Finance."
Our daughter, joined AGD last fall and moved into the Fraternity house on July 30 for the 2016 - 2017 school year. Since that time there has been an ongoing dispute regarding living arrangements between the 4 young ladies (sisters) sharing the room.
It seems that on one side of the room there is only one closet, which was meant to be shared by the two girls sleeping on that side of the room......which seems fair enough. However, after moving her clothes into the closet with X's clothes, she was told by the chapter advisor that she would have to move her belongings out of the closet. At that point X and her mother began moving our daughter's belongings as they made room for hers.
After some discussion, the Gamma Alpha property coordinator said the chapter would purchase a new closet for our daughter to use. The coordinator also said that they had never had this problem in the past. However, in the meantime our daughter has had to keep her clothes in the other two girls’ closets and dressers, as well as in a closet in the hallway outside the room.
When my wife and I visited our daughter the following weekend (Aug. 6) we met with the Gamma Alpha chapter advisor and the chapter president to discuss the matter. They assured us that the new closet was on its way and they would arrange to have it installed. My wife and I indicated that our position was that if the other roommate was the one who did not want to share then she should be the one to move her things into the new closet (wherever it was placed) since the changes are being made to accommodate her. Both ladies were in agreement with our position, but indicated they had told X she would have her own closet, which may have caused the confusion. However, that made no sense to me since there was only one closet on that side.....but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and trusted that they would make things right.
The new closet did not arrive until last week and when they began to unpack it they discovered it was damaged and had to be returned. However, it is my understanding that a meeting to resolve this issue was held last night between Y, (the house mother), Z, and the 4 roommates, as well as X's mother (who evidently is a member of AGD and a generous supporter of the UGA chapter) on speaker phone. During the meeting it was suggested that they all draw straws to see who got the new closet. All roommates agreed, except X who indicated she was not moving her things either way. At this point the "leadership" is considering other options.
Now it has been almost a month since our daughter moved into the house and she still is not fully settled in. At the same time, X has installed a padlock on the closet to keep others out. Our position remains the same, if one roommate decides she does not want to share and the chapter chooses to accept that attitude, then that person is the one who needs to look for alternatives to what is provided by the dues paid by all members of the house. Why on earth would they have to draw straws when it is one roommate who has an issue?
Our Daughter has been tremendously patient throughout this ordeal, with no concessions being offered to her. However, we have instructed her to hold off on paying her dues until this matter is settled. At this point our patience has run thin and we would like a final resolution to this matter. While we had hoped this matter could be resolved within the UGA chapter, the inability by the leadership team to resolve this matter, and the direct involvement of another parent, compelled me to seek your intervention.
I look at this issue as a test of character and an opportunity for the fraternity to promote and strongly encourage and support team work, cooperation, and unity among its members. In this regard, I am afraid the current chapter leadership failed each of these girls. Not to mention the other members of the organization who are keenly aware of this situation, and watching to see, how it is being handled.
Our daughter is also the only African American undergrad member of Alpha Gam who lives in the house, and while I do not in any way think this issue has any racial undertones, both of you must agree that the appearances are not good.
Your assistance in bringing a prompt resolution to this matter is much appreciated, as I would hate to take other measures.
"Now that many are acknowledging what implicit racism looks like, this is it. We tried our best to be polite, but I think it is clear to anyone reading this that this whole situation was suspicious. This closet was shared by the occupants of that room for years, but now that a member with a still-active mother moved in, she all of a sudden didn’t want to share the closet with me. So they had another closet brought in for me to use. To the point that she put a LOCK on it. This is basically segregation."
Now copying some more emails:
Thank you Z for putting us all in contact and finding a time that works for everyone.
I am looking forward to having a conversation with the four of you at 6:00 pm today. Please use the link below on someone’s laptop (with a camera). We will just need one laptop, since we will all be together. I know that we will be leaving this meeting with a solution and be able to move forward from this situation. I ask that you come open-minded, and be solution based.
Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions prior to our meeting.
Subject: Video Call Tomorrow
I've included M on this email who serves as the Director of Fraternity Services at IHQ.
She will send you all the information you need to connect to the GoToMeeting tomorrow.
Chapter Advisor Gamma Alpha Chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta
Property Advisor is going to be at the house today to help facilitate getting all the new furniture set up and organized. Our goal is to get the new closet in penthouse as well (fingers crossed!). If y'all need anything today I'm sure she will be happy to help out :)
I hope you are doing well. We are very excited that the extra closet has arrived. I think it will be built sometime this week. I just wanted to reach out to ask for your support if X is unwilling to move her things to the new closet in the hallway. We have a feeling that she won’t be very happy about it.
Thank you for your help during this situation!
So, we had this video call in which the AGD representative from nationals expressed surprise that this situation had gone this far and that the chapter hadn’t solved the issue internally. The representative even shared that they would have forced X to share the closet if they had been brought in initially, but instead chose to have our entire room, including the other two roommates y and y, pull straws from a hat to determine who would get which closet out of the 3 now in the room. We pulled straws, and I got the new closet, the other roommates got X's old closet, and X got the other roommates old closet. She put up a fight but eventually relented and proceeded to basically ignore us for the rest of the time living in the room, but sometimes shared outbursts with me and continued to go to the leadership within the house to back her up against me, because she knew they would.
The next incident that fully cemented my choice to leave the sorority happened a few months later, in August. As white supremacist riots broke out in Charlottesville and unarmed black men continued to be killed, unrest gripped the country ahead of the 2016 election. Many in the sorority unabashedly shared their support for Donald Trump’s campaign, including racially charged rhetoric, ignoring how that might impact members like myself and the one other black woman in the sorority (another issue in and of itself). I usually ignored this, but I had to speak up when one member made a joke about the #BlackLivesMatter movement and hashtag. I told her that I found her joke offensive and that I would appreciate if she didn’t make jokes like that in the GroupMe group message that I was a member of (for our 2015 pledge class). I have also shared the screenshots on my Facebook page, but multiple sisters hanged up on me, telling me that “people die every day,” it’s not that serious and they can basically joke what they want to joke about. When I told them to stop teaming up on me outside of the girl I was directing my remarks to, they claimed they were protecting their “friends,” as if I was all of a sudden not their sister. It was that quick. Even more disturbingly, I was sitting at the UGA library studying with my roommates in the house while all this happened. They condemned the behavior to me, but when I asked if they would stand up for me in the group chat, they said “we don’t want them to hate us, too.”
After that, I realized these girls were not true friends, let alone “sisters,” and I decided to leave the sorority. No one was helpful until my exit interview, when a representative from state or nationals (I don’t remember) expressed condolences and that she wished she had known. There are clearly deep issues in leadership and culture that need to be addressed. They tried to get me to stay during the interview, but everything they had done until that point told me that I was not welcome there. I had felt unsafe in the house after the GroupMe experience, as the girls who were mainly putting me down (including the vocal Trump supporter) lived in the room next door. The Trump supporter even wore political paraphernalia to a recruiting event, and the executive team said nothing. From the GroupMe incident until the time I moved out of the sorority house in January, I was given the cold shoulder and largely ignored by sisters throughout the house and made to feel uncomfortable. I elected to stay with my ex boyfriend rather than sleep at the house, even though I was still paying dues. Once I left, no one questioned why I was leaving and no one said anything as I went through the exit interview process.
I don’t think changes have been made to this sorority but I hope this helps. Sharing my message to the former president, when she reached out following my Facebook post containing the GroupMe screenshots. I think this echoes my thoughts moving forward.
“Hey, thanks for reaching out. I always felt supported by you for the most part when you were there and definitely looked up to you at the time as a fellow PR student. I appreciate you for reaching out. This was definitely not the only instance that drove me out of the organization, but it was definitely the final straw.
Although I had multiple conversations with leadership, including involving my parents, nothing was done about the situation until I literally had my exit meeting and they asked if I would stay and that they would try to do better, which by then was too little too late. It was distracting, degrading, and stressful living in that house and pursuing my degrees, and I didn’t see the point in continuing to pay dues or participate in an organization that didn’t respect me. There was a final woman I spoke to during my exit meeting who represented the Georgia organization leadership or something else at a higher level, who was actually sympathetic, and I can’t remember her name but she honestly should’ve been involved from the start since the chapter was unsupportive.
If you are still active/involved, I’d recommend taking a closer look at the leadership/process for complaints, as well as more closely monitoring interaction/culture among members. For example, my AGD roommates at the time were actually sitting next to me in the library when the incident I posted about happened, and when I asked them to speak up, they said they would, but they “don’t want them to hate us, too.”
It’s honestly a culture of groupthink combined with ignorance/racist beliefs that needs to be discussed/dealt with across Greek organizations at UGA, in addition to diversity. I was literally one of I think two black women in the sorority at the time, and the only one in my pledge class.
I’ve obviously moved on and dealt with it in my own way at the time, but it definitely put a stain on my college experience and my hope is that future students/members don’t endure the same thing. So if you are still involved or have influence to share this with others who are, i would recommend encouraging those discussions.
Finally, I understand as a public relations strategist myself that many of the texts/calls I’m receiving are meant to reinforce the image of the sorority as a philanthropic organization, but I also know these stories did not start nor did they end with me, and until these issues are addressed with action/change, this will happen again. Think about how great it would be for this organization to be at the forefront of that change.”