Goodbye, Judy

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Judy Bonner won’t be getting another letter from a concerned mother.

No. She’s stepping down from her position as President at the University of Alabama.

Her press release said: “To all who know me – my faculty colleagues, our dedicated staff, our outstanding students, and our loyal alumni – you can imagine that this was not an easy decision to make. Like many other Alabama families, ours, too, has a long and deep connection to this special place. More than 100 years ago, our grandfather graduated from The University of Alabama and, earlier this semester, my niece began her freshman year. Four generations of my family have called the Capstone home, and Alabama’s first university has been – and will always be – an integral part of my life.” 

Bonner attended the ribbon cutting for the Omicron Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. The building was said to be the “greatest fraternity house on campus.” Pi Kappa Phi’s credo was: “A house, a grip, a badge, a song, an emblem. These do not make the fraternity. It is the unseen things: friendship, brotherhood, character, honor, courage, ideals. These make the fraternity and the man.”

But there was always a fly in the ointment. “Brotherhood,” when it came to having a black brother, was relative. Bonner took modest efforts to integrate the University’s Greek system. Many who dealt with the University on issues related to student ethics felt that Bonner was constrained by the cozy relationship that the University’s administration had with the Greek system. Nearly thirty percent of the student body are Greeks and many come from wealthy and powerful families.

Bonner’s position on the sabotaging of the local school board election by The Machine was never made clear. Students living in Alabama and out of state students were bribed by promises of free alcohol and given limo rides to the polls for voting for a Machine candidate in the heavily student dominated Fourth District.

The saying “if you can’t stand the heat you’d better get back in the shade” may apply here. The question is what “teflon coated” new President will be crowned at the University?

Bonner’s brother Jo? ( He left Congress to assume a vice chancellorship position at the University. ) Condi Rice? ( She has participated in the “coin toss” before an Alabama football game and was for a time Provost at Stanford University. )

Whoever takes Bonner’s place will probably not “boldly go where no man has gone before.” The “status quo ante bellum” that existed before all of the negative publicity about racial discrimination at the University will doubtlessly be continued. But the new leader may be more capable of lying through his or her teeth while grinning broadly.

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