In 2014, The Franklin Stove Blog (FSB) was linked to at the end of a touching and disturbing letter from an Alabama student’s mother to the University of Alabama President Judy Bonner.
Patricia Ann Smith was concerned about the negative experiences of her daughter Katie at the Capstone and with the Machine. Bonner was serving as the first women President of the University of Alabama. (Many of the letter’s readers from T-Town only could find the letter on The Franklin Stove Blog‘s post, because it was never published in the Tuscaloosa News.)
Bonner had her hands full at the Capstone. In 2014, after a a member of the Chi Omega University at the University had made a racially offensive Snap Shot post, she sent an email addressing the situation. The email (as was Smith‘s letter) was published in full on the FSB. In her email Bonner said, “We are all extremely disappointed when any student uses language that is disrespectful or offensive to any segment of the UA community.”
The FSB reported about the sorority’s history:
A 2013 story in The Crimson White reported that a member of Chi Omega, who asked to remain anonymous, said “‘I know [the recruit] got perfect scores from the people in chapter the first day, and she got cut after the first day and I know it had to do with our advisor – is the one that dropped her,’ the Chi Omega member said. ‘Her name is Emily Jamison.’”
The Chi Omegas had just dropped their one black recruit in the most recent rush.
Bonner stepped down from her position at the University in 2014. Reporting by the FSB in the post “Goodbye Judy” included:
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 or sister, 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.
After Bonner‘s departure from the University, the Machine still dominated campus politics and racial improprieties continued, as had been reported in the FSB. There were still racist posts on social media. And students sometimes faced modest consequences.
The problem with institutional racism at the University seemed intractable. It was indisputably linked to the importance of Greek life at the Capstone.
Bonner was recently given accolades, as reported in Tuscaloosa News reporter Jasmine Hollie‘s June 10, 2022, story “University of Alabama renames Child Development Center in honor of first female president.” Hollie wrote:
In 2016, the university first awarded the Judy Bonner Presidential Medallion, which recognizes a member of the UA community who has gone above and beyond normal expectations. And Eighth Street, between Colonial Drive and Sixth Avenue, is now known as Judy Bonner Drive.
In all likelihood Bonner has fond memories of her time at the Capstone. The University has certainly given her the recognition that she deserves. Smith‘s letter to her in 2014 was doubtlessly just a blip on the radar screen to her.