The Crimson White

Recent podcast calls out SGA ties to Machine

Photo+courtesy+of+Reckon+Radio
Photo courtesy of Reckon Radio

Photo courtesy of Reckon Radio

Photo courtesy of Reckon Radio

Jackson Fuentes, Contributing Writer

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The Student Government Association reads the Capstone Creed before every Senate meeting. A former student senator, a former machine senator, an SGA Director and Alabama’s Secretary of State have concluded that exact Creed is not being followed due to alleged loyalty to the Machine.

The Creed, which is a non-binding pledge the SGA promises to follow each week before its Senate meetings, is infringed at every possible turn, said Michael Smith, a former independent senator, a senior majoring in economics and finance and a graduate student studying economics.

“The Student Government Association not only doesn’t abide by the Capstone Creed, it even goes so far to defy every single word,” Michael Smith said. “The SGA actively works to undermine fairness, degrade respect, shirk civic responsibility and spit in the face of inclusion.”

Amber Scales, one of three SGA presidential candidates last year and a senior majoring in public relations and theater, said the SGA does not abide by the Capstone Creed.

“If you can’t have a free and fair election, how are you going to act with integrity?” Scales said. “I really don’t know why they read the Capstone Creed.”

Alex Smith, a former Machine senator and first year law student at George Mason University, also said the SGA fails to act with integrity because of their open denial of an organization they are enmeshed with.

“The key word that gets me is integrity, and I think that when these Machine candidates that are serving in executive positions within SGA openly and publicly deny the fact that they are in the Machine when in fact they are, that is an outright lie,” Alex Smith said. “That is not having integrity. That is not speaking up and owning who you are.”

SGA President and alleged-Machine-member Price McGiffert, a senior majoring in civil engineering, said in a statement released earlier this week he intends to focus on improving the University instead of addressing multiple accounts from AL.com’s Reckon podcast, “Greek Gods,” tying the Machine to the SGA.

“I am so sorry, but I have made a conscious decision to concentrate my efforts on completing my initiatives, which will be challenging at best,” McGiffert said in the statement. “I am also determined to remain positive about The University of Alabama and try to be the best president of the SGA that I can possibly be.”

Multiple sources corroborated claims from AL.com’s “Greek Gods” podcast that the Machine and the SGA are interconnected and working to serve their own interests still to this very day.

Alex Smith said the Machine strips its members of basic freedoms of choice along with their integrity.

“I think ultimately the Machine is a rather fascist system,” she said. “What ultimately drives me to say that is the Machine takes away the choice their members have of either agreeing or disagreeing.”

Alex Smith renounced her membership from the Machine in a Crimson White article nearly three years ago, when she said the Machine oppressed her by intimidating her to vote a specific way.

“I did receive text messages, and they would explicitly say vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on resolution No. 76 for example,” Alex Smith said. “At times they would suggest that we need someone to speak in favor of this or we need someone to speak in opposition of this.”

Because the Machine is not a Source-registered organization, no public contact information exists for current members or its leadership. However, the organization, which former-SGA President Jared Hunter openly claimed was supporting him throughout his 2017 campaign, did have a point of contact exposed in 2018.

The Crimson White contacted Richard Pipkins, an accused Machine member from 2015, after his phone number was acquired via a public Reddit file that was released in the spring of 2018. Pipkins said he did not wish to comment about the story or the Machine.

Alex Smith said the Machine and the SGA work hand in hand, pinning McGiffert as a member of the Machine despite his continued claims that he is not associated with the underground organization.

“I mean, yes, Price McGiffert is in the Machine, and he is the president of SGA,” Alex Smith said. “I think that it would be foolish to say that SGA and the Machine don’t work together when they are in theory the same person.”

Alabama’s 53rd Secretary of State, John Merrill, said he’s seen the effects of the Machine’s continued involvement with the SGA while living in Tuscaloosa. Merrill said he dealt with an immense amount of Machine influence while he served in multiple SGA roles: as president, vice president and senator.

“There’s no doubt that the Machine is very involved in student government today and student organizations as well,” Merrill said. “You could see it from the way that certain executive officers would interact with other executive officers, and you could see it from things that actually took place as far as policy and procedures were concerned.”

Merrill, who defeated the Machine-backed candidate in 1986 for the SGA presidency, said it was much easier to pass legislation by introducing it via his Machine-backed vice president.

“Even when I was president, one of the things that we did was – if we wanted to make significant changes in the code or the constitution – was I asked my vice president, Chris Doris, who was a Machine-backed candidate, if he would be the one to introduce the idea and take it forward to the Senate,” Merrill said. “If it came from him, the likelihood of it passing was extremely high.”

In last year’s SGA Senate, some bills were not given a chance because of their independent authorship, Michael Smith said.

“I had numerous bills meant for the general enjoyment of all students,” Michael Smith said. “But, because I thought of it, or because one of my fellow independents thought of it, it was dead on arrival.”

The struggle for independence also manifests itself in appointed positions. Scales said a new piece of legislation that would hand over the position of director of diversity, equity and inclusion to the executive cabinet would make the position more difficult to attain for independent students since the executive cabinet is consistently Machine-controlled.

“Making the position for diversity, equity and inclusion a VP position again makes it a barrier to a lot of students,” Scales said. “At the heart of it, it gives the Machine control over who gets that position.”

Greek students who aren’t explicitly part of the Machine, but whose sorority or fraternity is, are also penalized as a consequence of the Machine’s stranglehold on campus politics, said AL.com reporter and Reckon team member, Amy Yurkanin, a recent co-host of the podcast.

“There are a lot of really accomplished students that belong to fraternities and sororities,” Yurkanin said. “When you have a group that decides that only one of them can run for a certain role, you’re kind of keeping people within that system from having a shot at something as well.”

Alex Smith said among all of this shadow and intrigue is the occasional bright spot, but that spot should expand to illuminate the entire campus.

“While the SGA does put forth some great initiatives and does serve as an example to the Capstone Creed, I believe it’s only to a certain extent,” Alex Smith said. “That, honestly, is very sad and is very hard for me to explain.”

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Recent podcast calls out SGA ties to Machine