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University of Alabama president pushes sororities to end segregation

In this Aug. 17, 2013 photo, female students at the University of Alabama run from Bryant-Denny Stadium to their new sorority houses after receiving their bids in Tuscaloosa, Ala.Dusty Compton / AP

The University of Alabama will make changes to its sorority system following a report in a student publication revealing discrimination in the Greek-letter organizations' formal recruitment process.

University President Judy Bonner acknowledged Tuesday that the on-campus organizations are segregated by race.

Bonner ordered members of a campus association composed of typically white sororities begin using a continuous recruitment process in which new members can be added at any time. Up until now, the formal fall sorority recruitment lasted for a limited time and ended in August. 

Bonner also mandated that groups may have up to 360 members -- to increase the chances for prospective members.

"The University of Alabama is taking the unprecedented step of opening up the continuous open bidding process to every student, to every sorority on our campus,” Bonner said in a video statement released by the university

The president added that the nation is watching Alabama just as it did 50 years earlier, when the university admitted its first black students.

"This time it is because our Greek system remains segregated and chapter members admit that during the recruitment process that ended a few weeks ago decisions were made based on race," Bonner said.

The commotion started last week, when the student publication The Crimson White reported that some all-white sororities had blocked chapters from adding two black students as new members in August.

University spokeswoman Cathy Andreen told The Associated Press that Bonner's mandate on recruitment applies to 18 white sororities in the Alabama Panhellenic Association, the campus arm of the National Panhellenic Conference. 

"While we will not tell any group who they must pledge, the University of Alabama will not tolerate discrimination of any kind," said Bonner, who is the university's first female president.