The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same?

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With the Crimson Tide’s football season beginning in earnest it would be reasonably thought that all thoughts on campus would be centered on the fortunes of Coach Nick Saban and his brave gridiron warriors. For at least nearly three quarters of the Colorado State game most students in the student section were interested enough in the football game to remain in Bryant Denny Stadium. A headline for an article in The Tuscaloosa News was Students don’t hang around in Alabama’s win against Colorado State

Athletic Director Bill Battle had hinted that poor student attendance at games might result in a policy change for students. It was reported in The Tuscaloosa News that he said, “If we can’t solve the problem we may reduce the student section,” That’s not off the table, but we don’t want to do it.”

Even football coach Nick Saban had published a letter in the student newspaper The Crimson White exhorting students to support the team: “Bryant-Denny Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in the country because of the atmosphere our students and fans help create. You make a huge difference in terms of how our team responds each Saturday. Sometimes the result of a game may come down to a single play, and we all have a role in what the result of that play may be. You have an impact, whether it is the noise on third down when the opposing team has the ball, or the energy you provide for the players when we try to win the fourth quarter.”

In an attempt at encouraging student “diversity” after the controversy about traditionally white sororities having discriminated against black pledges the “block seating,” aka “student organization seating,” at Bryant Denny Stadium  was suspended for last weekend’s first home game for The Crimson Tide.  Last year new student seating rules looked as if they might curtail the  hegemony of fraternities with ties to The Machine. The Crimson White reported: “Some fraternities that belong to the Machine, a secret political coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities, saw their seating placement deteriorate after the implementation of the automated process.” But, other than the change in seating placement  things remained much the same. “All but six of the 34 organizations that applied for block seating are exclusively male greek fraternities.”

In spite of the “open” seating at the hard fought Colorado State game the student section by halftime began to empty. It was never completely full. By the end of the third quarter about half of the student seats were empty. The game’s outcome for most fans in the stadium was far from certain until the fourth quarter but many of the students seemed to have other things on their minds.

Members of the Faculty Senate at the University seem to also have something other than the fortunes of the football team in mind. Many in in the Senate would like to throw a monkey wrench into The Machine at the University. According to Ed Enoch in The Tuscaloosa News the Faculty Senate “is scheduled to resume discussion today of a statement urging action by the UA administration following recent allegations of voter fraud by Greek organizations during the recent Tuscaloosa municipal election and racial discrimination during sorority recruitment.”

An article University of Alabama officials tread lightly on segregation by Associated Press reporter Jay Reeves provided some insight on the discrimination issue:

Some critics seem rankled by what they see as leaders’ apparent hesitancy to confront the problem more directly. Cleo Thomas Jr., an Anniston attorney who became the first black student government association president at Alabama in 1976 and later spent 19 years as a trustee, said administrators before Bonner have taken more direct actions to confront campus problems linked to fraternities and sororities. In 1993, Thomas said, then-President Roger Sayers temporarily shut down the Greek-controlled Alabama SGA over allegations of wrongdoing in campus elections that included a cross-burning. And just last year at Alabama, Thomas said, administrators under then-President Guy Bailey suspended fraternity pledge periods amid allegations that new members were being hazed.

Brandt Montgomery, a minister at an Episcopal church in Tuscaloosa, was among the hundreds of people who marched against segregation in Greek groups during a campus demonstration last week. Montgomery, who is black, was wearing a jersey with the Greek letters of a mostly white fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha. Montgomery said he not only joined the group while attending the University of Montevallo, a small liberal arts school south of Birmingham, but was elected president by the majority-white chapter. “It was just never a big deal in our chapter,” he said.” I don’t understand what is going on here.”

The University of Alabama, whose President Judy Bonner has direct ties to The Machine, has made a few gestures towards eliminating racial discrimination in sororities on campus. But as far as the “voter fraud” charges are concerned, only the Faculty Senate seems to think that the University has any business being involved.

Students could register to vote within ten days of the municipal election and participate in the voting process under state law which has no “durational residency requirement.” ( There is a part of the Code of Alabama, 11-46-38, where a thirty day residency requirement is stipulated but it is likely to be superseded by the newer requirement. ) Students who even registered after the ten day registration requirement could still cast provisional ballots. There was no way to verify if a registrant is living within the voting district that would be voted in at the time of registration. Representatives of The Machine were allowed to carry stacks of mail-in registration forms onto the campus for the Greek students that they controlled to fill out. There was no analogous avenue for registration for the general student population.

 

Whether the apocryphal stories of Greeks being given drink vouchers to be used at two Machine friendly bars or points in the University’s Panhellenic system for voting are true or not, students from the rows of fraternity and sorority houses registered in droves immediately before the election. They rode in limousines to the polls and piled out of them to vote in a local school board election for Machine endorsed candidates.

It may all boil down to the fact that many privileged University students from posh neighborhoods in the state or elsewhere have a sense of entitlement. They believe that, just as their parents felt, that they should control the shots. The peons who live in the community that have children in school should bow in homage to the might of The Machine. So should the University’s administration … and even the Faculty Senate. For surely the faculty members who dare squeak in protest will be brought to heel. And things will get back to normal at the University of Alabama and the city that it controls.

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