Editorial: Making a difference — Award is fitting for Alabama student who spoke up on campus
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 24, 2014 | 2811 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this  Sept. 18, 2013, file photo, about 400 students and faculty members of the Univ. of Alabama march across the campus to oppose racial segregation among its Greek-letter social organizations in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The University of Alabama became embroiled in controversy after the student newspaper reported that traditionally white sororities had refused to admit blacks as members because of race. Administrators changed recruitment rules and some of the social organizations admitted minority members, but some faculty members are pushing for systemic changes to prevent a return to nearly total racial segregation among Greek-letter groups. Photo: Dave Martin/The Associated Press/File
In this Sept. 18, 2013, file photo, about 400 students and faculty members of the Univ. of Alabama march across the campus to oppose racial segregation among its Greek-letter social organizations in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The University of Alabama became embroiled in controversy after the student newspaper reported that traditionally white sororities had refused to admit blacks as members because of race. Administrators changed recruitment rules and some of the social organizations admitted minority members, but some faculty members are pushing for systemic changes to prevent a return to nearly total racial segregation among Greek-letter groups. Photo: Dave Martin/The Associated Press/File
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Last week, a group of Tuscaloosa-based colleges — the University of Alabama, Stillman College and Shelton State Community College, along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — held their annual Legacy Banquet to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There they handed out awards to community members “who have made and continue to make significant contributions to the King legacy.”

Anniston’s own Cleophus Thomas Jr., who was UA’s first and only black Student Government Association president and is a trustee emeritus on the UA Board of Trustees, received the Realizing the Dream Call to Conscience Award for the leadership role he has played in the UA community and the state. Former President Roger Sayers received the Mountaintop Award for his work at the university from 1988 to 1996.

Also recognized that night was Melanie Gotz, the UA student who during the 2013 sorority rush saw the unfair treatment of a young black rushee by Gotz’s own sorority and spoke out against it. More than that, she went on record in an interview with the Crimson White, the UA campus newspaper. The investigation that followed found that alumnae, chapter advisors and at least one university official kept the sorority from offering the girl membership because she was black.

This revelation was followed by student and faculty protests, which led to changes in the university’s supervision of the Greek System and the opening of sororities and fraternities to more minority students.

Anyone who knows the bond of institutional loyalty that forms among members of Greek organizations understands how difficult it is to speak out against the way those organizations operate. For Melanie Gotz to not only speak out but to allow herself to be identified as the source of the information was an act of courage that Thomas summed up when he mentioned how honored he was to be recognized with Gotz.

Because of what she did, there is “really a fulfillment of hope that there would be indigenous, organic change at the university.”

And one young lady made it happen.
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