Cheating–A Capstone Tradition?

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At the University of Alabama–when it comes to the game of campus politics–usually The Machine has the best hand. Many might call this cheating.

To many the choice of 2021’s Homecoming Queen seemed to be involved with such cheating.

Ironically the theme for the 2021 Homecoming was “Together We Rise,” “recognizing the collective spirit of the tide.” There did seem to be a collective disappointment over the selection of the Homecoming Queen.

As Bama Central‘s Katie Windham reported, the crowd at the Homecoming Pep Rally was disappointed when Montana Fouts was not crowned. Windham wrote:

The most anticipated moment of the night, the announcement of homecoming queen, was dragged out until over an hour into the pep rally. 

To the disappointment of a large portion of the crowd, Alabama softball pitcher Montana Fouts did not win homecoming queen. Instead the honor went to Tuscaloosa’s McLean Moore. The election was decided via votes from the student body on Tuesday. 

Any football fan who went to the Homecoming game on October, 23, 2021, would have noticed that during the halftime presentation of the Homecoming Court that the runner up Fouts was enthusiastically applauded by the crowd, whereas the actual Queen got obligatory clapping. One person said that, “Every time the stadium camera zoomed in on Montana, the crowd went crazy.”

After the campus newspaper, The Crimson White (CW), printed articles that challenged the propriety of the victory of a Machine endorsed candidate, Vice President for Student Life Myron Pope sent an email to the student body claiming that there is no basis for the election to be contested or overturned. Pope said that he contacted the campus newspaper’s editor although the CW’s Assistant News Isabel Hope editor wrote that he did not “discuss the contents of his email with The CW before sending it to the student body.”

Cheating? Naw! Not according to the Elections Board…

The Crimson White‘s Isabel Hope and Kayla Solino reported on the outcome of a Student Government Association Elections Board meeting that took place at the beginning of November.

The Elections Board ruled that “insufficient evidence was found to substantiate the allegations” that the Homecoming Queen election was fatally flawed.

In the CW article a “sit-in” protest that occurred on November 1st was also reported: “On Monday, the day before the Elections Board released its statement, more than 50 students attended a sit-in at the SGA Office on Monday to protest the actions of the Elections Board throughout homecoming week, including a timeline error that invalidated the election from the beginning.”

Opinions of the students who participated in the the protest were included in the CW article:

College of Arts and Sciences Senator John Dodd said the student protest was also a protest against the Machine, a more-than-century-old underground political organization on campus that controls elections.

“Even though it’s on a small scale, the student government is still a democracy,” Dodd said. “The Machine field of politics here at The University of Alabama will one day expand to state politics and Alabama. Eventually [these Machine candidates] are going to become your state representatives, they’re going to become your state senators, and they’re going to carry out this corruption that they learned in college and make it a part of their career forever.”

Sean Atchison, a sophomore majoring in international studies, said he contested the election to support increased transparency in the SGA. He said Pope’s email “crossed a line” because of the ongoing judicial appeal against the Elections Board.

“It was bull—-,” he said. “I believe that the SGA should be run by students, and there should have a certain level of autonomy from the administration. The administration can not decide when they don’t like something that they’re going to step in. Dr. Pope has put the administration’s weight behind a particular narrative, and nothing can be done without the shadow of that.”

The protest was an opportunity to point out transgressions by the SGA for Garrett Burnett, a junior double majoring in history and Spanish.

“Obviously everyone sees the homecoming election as the main issue,” Burnett said. “But I think it runs so much deeper than that. A lot of people don’t realize the blatant corruption of the SGA, the corruption of the Elections Board.”

Atchison said he feels clear on what students are fighting for.

“We’re going to continue to keep having these problems as long as we are not talking about the Machine,” he said. “This is not just about the Elections Manual. This is not just about that email. This is about ending the Machine once and for all.”

Just as in the case of voting in a T-Town municipal school board election, where the turnout had usually been low, an orchestrated bloc vote by The Machine for Homecoming would win the day. In the case of the Homecoming Queen election the winning candidate didn’t even get 50 percent of the total vote. Whether, if a runoff election had been scheduled, the more popular Fouts would have won will never be known. One outcome of this episode in the history of The Machine is that a little more light was shown on the notorious, “secretive” university organization

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