The Widdershins

Remain Calm, Etc: Our House

Posted on: September 19, 2013

Good Thursday, Widdershins,

Our good friends at the University of Alabama find themselves in another “school-house door” row.  This time, the step-daughter of a prominent African-American jurist was denied membership in the sorority of her choice, presumably a victim of racial bias.  UA’s new – and first woman-  president Dr. Judy Bonner is now sticking her foot into the door of sorority houses and wedging them open.

The picture that you see on the right is my own chapter house at the University of Georgia.  It is on the historic registry, as is most of Athens.  While it looks antebellum, it is not, as few structures survived Sherman’s march.  It was built near the end of the 19th century as a residence for the mayor of Athens.  I spent three great years in that house in the room that you see on the upper left-hand side, and met some terrific young women who grew into useful, productive members of society. While I am aware that our Fredster did not enjoy his fraternity experience, I make no apologies for being a Greek. I continue to this day to support my sorority with small but regular donations, as well as by being on the alumnae advisory board of two local chapters.  I also admit to being both touched and gratified when my daughter chose to follow me into the sorority as well.

When I got to college, I had some pretty firm ideas about which sorority to pledge, as my mother and aunt belonged to the same well-known group.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, while pretty much obliged to take me, they were less than thrilled because I am (gasp!) Catholic.  I briefly toyed with the concept of insisting, then decided that it would mess up whatever benefit I might derive from membership.  In fact, out of 22 sororities, only four accepted Catholics.  Two were Jewish only,  sixteen Protestant only.  In the end, I pledged the sorority that seemed to be the best fit, and have never regretted that decision,

The thing of it is, while the local chapter has some control over membership, there are other factors.  One is clearly the number of legacy applicants, and these women are generally considered first.  Chapters have defined numbers of members and are constrained in the number that can be pledged at any given time.  Also, the organization’s charter dictates who they may pledge,, which is really no different from the Knights of Columbus, the Masons,  or the Rotary Club.  If the charter specifies race and/or religion, the chapter is stuck.  My sorority was founded in 1874 at Colby college and I  bet that the only women there were white and Christian, so the founders did not address either race or religion, simply qualifying membership as open to women students of good character.  Therefore, we have pledged women of all ethnicities and religions for many years,  Our FIU chapter has AA women and Latinas galore, and FAU has several young ladies of East Indian background.  Then again, Sigma Kappa has produced women of substance for generations -a senator, an astronaut, the attorney who prosecuted Roe v, Wade, the creator of Barney,  Reagan’s speechwriter, and the dietitian who came up with Weight Watchers, to name only a few.  We also boast a number of beauty queens, including Miss Miami Beach, Miss Philippines, and reigning Miss America, Nina Davuluri.  (I encourage you to open the link and scroll to the bottom of the page to read the names and accomplishments of the brilliant women that I get to call “sister”) .

Most sororities are active in social and charitable endeavors as well, as evidenced by the time I spend every year helping to organize the Alzheimer’s Walk for my groups. I just have to believe that these are worthy purposes.

Dr.  Bonner is acutely aware that her primary challenge will not be the students, but rather the alumnae.  I am not the only old woman in America who sits on advisory boards, counsels young women and writes checks at regular intervals.  Many women my age and older would welcome a broader base of membership, but there are still some who are wedded to the past.  My particular alumnae group is on the younger side, but there are 85 year old members out there, and they may well not be on board with this. The South is still deferential to older women, and we might just have to wait for some of these ladies to die off.

Yes, I am fully aware that many consider all of this to be a royal waste of time, but bear with me just a bit longer.  In the South, the Greek system factors in to more than you would think.  In fact, the Greek system provides the basis of The Machine, which is the Southern version of Skull and Bones, and the power of The Machine in both business and politics is undisputed.The Machine is an offshoot of Theta Nu Epsilon fraternity, organized originally as a chapter of Skull and Bones.  TNE was a sophomore class society, consisting of outstanding students who were tapped for membership at the end of their freshman year.  Over time, TNE disappeared from most campuses, but only superficially so.  The membership called themselves something else, or consolidated into specific fraternities and sororities, but the Skull and Bones/TNE principles remained consistent.  In other words, “we are the people who will run this city/state/country”,  If you remain skeptical, just check out this list of winners from the 2010 election, and realize that this covers only those newly elected.  Also, it does not cover advisers, judges, or cabinet members.

For ever Skull and Bones member in the halls of government, there are probably five Machine members sitting next to them, as there are comparatively  few Ivy League schools.   The “machine” nickname came from the efficiency with which the group gets its candidates elected, first in student government, later to state and national government on every imaginable form.  During my college career I met Sonny Perdue, (Governor of Georgia), Senator Saxby Chambliss, and most of the members of the Georgia Mafia that helped elect Jimmy Carter at various Machine-affiliated frat parties,  The same methodology applies to the corporate world –  Machine members are there in seats of power, and it is these alumnae and their spouses that Dr. Bonner has chosen to tackle through their daughters ‘current memberships.

This will be interesting to watch.  Unfortunately, the sprocket in this wheel of progress may well be the fact that there are specified AA, Latina, and Asian-Pacific Basin sororities, as well as Jewish sororities who will be (and rightfully so) held up as examples of organizations of exclusivity.  I’m not even certain if anything can legally be done to change the basic charter of an organization that specifies exclusivity, unless the charter itself enumerates such a mechanism.  Courts have been historically reluctant to interfere with the membership requirements of private clubs, so the outcome of this is unclear.  All hell will break loose if Dr. Bonner takes the easiest and most obvious route of banning Greeks from campus, as Alabama has a long Greek tradition that contributes to campus life.  While it may seem relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things, I think that the outcome might possibly  influence business and government in the future.  If it goes well, it may breathe some fresh air into the system.  If this goes badly, it may further entrench matters for years to come.

This is an open thread.

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49 Responses to "Remain Calm, Etc: Our House"

Chat, thanks for this post — quite honestly, this is something I would have never thought about or even known had you not shared this.

My fraternity experience was also a good one. It allowed me, then shy and somewhat sheltered through the isolation of living in the hills, to meet and come to know people I would have never had the opportunity to know otherwise. It made me a better person and certainly a person whose horizon was expanded through the experience.

Exactly so. I am an only child from a tiny town (now discovered by retirees from the north and has grown to a town of 35K) who badly needed the support system that the sorority afforded. That said, I have learned more about the process as an active alumna than I ever did as an active member.

Very informative Chat. I went to a Catholic college which did not allow sororities. I didn’t think much about it at the time. Now that we’re old, my friends and i have been talking about how we were given these fine educations with ABSOLUTELY NO ABILITY TO MAKE A LIVING! How would the Sisters of Notre Dame have taught us what they did not know?

We knew nothing of business, and there was maybe one economics course on campus. We were supposed to be teachers, graduate Ph.D’s who lived forever in academia, or good Catholic wives and mothers.

I have a number of friends with BFAs and MFAs who would never recoup the price of their education these days.

chat said: Courts have been historically reluctant to interfere with the membership requirements of private clubs

And that’s the issue here. Something like this was done in the 70s/80s with the old-line carnival clubs in nola. There was an african-american councilwoman there who went after those clubs when an a.a. gentleman “applied for” membership to one of them. Well that’s not the way it works. You have to be invited. She demanded that they open their membership since they used city, public facilities for their parades and their bal-masques. Several of the krewes simply stopped parading and then moved their balls to private facilities instead of using municipal auditorium.

While I am aware that our Fredster did not enjoy his fraternity experience…

Yeah, the pledging, and more like the hazing was something I was not thrilled with and the only reason I joined was because of the attractive young man I had a crush on. 😉

Not a single clip of this movie, just some stills. The Group

Great book, great movie.

I did the sorority scene starting in 1950; being a legacy, I was never exposed to the ‘cutting’ process. I figure my sorority got value from my membership–in the form of quite a few points toward the ‘best sorority on campus’ trophy. What it gave me was license to be me–to have friends who were not in the ‘in’ group, to take part in the activities that interested me, to stay out of the dating scene for 11 quarters, even to skip meetings when they conflicted with my non-sorority gigs. I could be ‘peculiar’ because I wore ‘that’ pin and was a BWOC to boot.

I had followed mother and sister into the sorority and in time one daughter also joined. She, tho, butted into the ‘race’ issue because one of her very best friends was not white. I suppose there was not a word about race in the rules and by-laws back in the 80’s, but that was still a battle we lost. Sorority life as I knew it is gone forever. As are the frat house guys I knew, what with ‘national’ being quicker to put a damper on ‘unbecoming’ behavior. Personally, I’d be surprised and maybe a bit disappointed if my daughter’s daughter decided to become a “Greek.”

Oh, exactly, Molly. While I can hardly claim BWOC status, it was a good experience in the mid-Sixties as well.

chat@9: Yes, it was.

@4, Chat, a BFA or MFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts or Master of Fine Arts) is a degree in art, music, or sometimes theatre. No one really expects to recoup the cost. That is why artists and musicians have day jobs. It’s the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Master of Arts (M.A.), the standard undergraduate and master’s degrees which are pretty useless. They are the standard liberal arts core curriculum: English Lit, sociology, psychology, foreign languages, philosophy, and in the men’s schools, economics.

The only people I know who have decent pensions are teachers our age, and state and federal employees. The younger teachers aren’t likely to have that and a friend who retired from the federal government a few years ago told me she’s in the last group who’ll get the 80 percent. It’s being reduced.

My friend with te BFA/MFA was groomed to be a museum docent. In many instances those are no longer paid positions.
Of course, back in The Day, $3000.yr paid for everything at a state college. Sorority room and board was maybe 10% higher than the dorms and meal plans, and the accommodations were considerably better.
I can’t begin to tell you the number of people I worked with who went to a transition program and became nurses. They had BAs, MAs, degrees in marine biology and the like.
My state pension in FL provides 35%. Police and fire are close to 80, but no one else. The damndest part of that is that nursing is now considered to be a more dangerous job than police. They have more protection against bad guys than we do infectious organisms. Oh, well. At least I have one.

Mary Luke said: a friend who retired from the federal government a few years ago told me she’s in the last group who’ll get the 80 percent. It’s being reduced.

Was she under the CSRS plan or FERS? Folks under CSRS paid 7% of salary into the retirement fund but did not contribute to Soc. Sec. (and got nothing from S.S. unless they had another job that covered them). The feds created FERS under Raygun and with that you contributed to Soc. Sec, a small amt for pension (and a smaller pension) and then the TSP account which is like a federal 401k.

Well isn’t this special? All of a $200,000 fine for Haliburton in the B.P. oil spill. 👿

That must be about 15 seconds worth of income for them.

@chat: Exactly. Grrrrr…

The GOP-led House voted Thursday to trim spending on food stamps by $39 billion over 10 years, cutting off benefits to 3.8 million Americans, including 71,000 in Louisiana, according to estimates by the Agriculture Department and congressional budget staffers.

@me-above: Oh the stupid…it BURNS!!

Some Republicans cited a recent report by Fox News that profiled a self-proclaimed “surfer dude,” who told the network’s reporter he’s not really interested in taking a regular day job because it would hurt his chances of developing a musical career.

Anyone other than Fox validated said surfer dude story?

Oh of course not!!! (snort!) And neither does that little anecdote say he’s getting food stamps. If surfer dude is single he won’t get SNAP unless unemployment is over a certain amount in his state.

One change, included in the House passed bill, would end a waiver program that allows states in high unemployment areas to waive a requirement that limits benefits for jobless adults without children to three months every three years. In Louisiana, there were 62,953 households receiving the waiver, as of June, according to the Department of Children and Family Services.

Well apparently there is some truth to surfer dude’s getting SNAP benefits.

http://tinyurl.com/m2om9ru

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/food-stamp-work-requirements_n_3949716.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

Currently, benefits average about $1.50 per meal, per participant.

Republicans won’t admit that the reason the number of recipients has gone up is still due to the Great Recession and although people are working, they aren’t making enough, or rather they still fall within the income guidelines.

I think that perhaps they are quoting, rather than validating Fox.

Faux news wants to imply he’s the rule and not the exception.

I’m certain that all those surfer dudes in Idaho and Nebraska would rather lay on the beach and shoot the curl than try for gainful employment.

@25: And 85% of the people getting SNAP benefits are just pretending to be children, disabled, or elderly. It’s really easy to do that. They are actually surfer dudes. Everybody with a brain knows that’s a fact. /s

All the people on SNAP in Indiana are planning to spend tomorrow catching a wave.

Surf’s up on the Hoosier Ocean!!!

Beata@28: Rock on Hoosiers!

chat said: I’m certain that all those surfer dudes in Idaho and Nebraska would rather lay on the beach and shoot the curl than try for gainful employment.

But of course. They have the best lobster in Idaho and Nebraska!!

Video of SNAP surfer dudes taken about a mile from my house:

@Beata & chat: Tee-hee! 😆

Chat’s SNAP surfer dudes are way kewler than mine!

Surf City AND SNAP!

Beata@34: they must have had a better diet with more lobster.

@35 & 36: LOL. I hear SNAP is a real chick magnet, too. Nothin’ like a surfer dude tellin’ a hot beach babe, “Hey, I get my food stamps on the 20th of the month. Let’s go to the Piggly Wiggly for some lobster and a bag of tater tots tomorrow. My treat!”

About sororities: All the women on my mother’s side of the family belong to a certain sorority going back a few generations. I would have been a legacy but decided not to join any sorority. It just didn’t interest me when I was in college. In retrospect, I wish I had joined since membership does provide an important networking resource for women and often life-long friendships. It will be interesting to see how the case in Alabama turns out.

BTW, a well-known senator from a particular southern state near and dear to a Widdershin belongs to the same sorority as my mother.

Beata@37: LOL! Great, esp. the tater tots!!

@38: Oh my…

I just saw on the TV guide that Chelsea Clinton was on The Daily Show. 😦

I’ll have to catch the repeat at midnight.

@38: Initials KBH? She’s a Pi Beta Phi, I believe.

@39: In fact, my ( very ) extended family has played a big role in NOLA politics for a long time. It’s funny because I’ve never even been there. Maybe someday!

Thanks for the heads up about Chelsea. I’ll watch the repeat.

@41: Guess again.

@43: Mary Landrieu is a Delta Gamma.

Here is a list of all of the Greeks in the 113th Congress.
http://www.nicindy.org/blog/greeks-in-the-113th-congress/

chat@45: Shame they can’t spell. 😉

(14 Democrats, 1 Independant, 24 Republicans

@45: Interesting that of the eight women in the Senate who belong to sororities, two are Delta Gammas. One is a Pi Phi. My mama always said “D.G. girls are smart but Pi Phi’s marry well”.

Very interesting. I’ve never known much about sororities and fraternities except what I’ve read in books. I am a Greek though! heh heh.

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