Four greek students have banded together to form Advance UA, a group that calls itself a progressive Student Government Association ticket.
Although three of the four candidates come from greek organizations that are members of the Machine, a secret political coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities, their website says they’re running independently of Machine support for the betterment of campus.
“We all want to spread the message that it’s OK to have healthy competition in an election,” said Alex Clark, Advance UA’s candidate for executive vice president. “With everything that campus has had to go through this semester, we’re a fresh, exciting, new group that really feels that we can bring a lot to campus; a lot of change.”
Kyle Zimmerman, Advance UA’s candidate for vice president of external affairs,
said what the group is advocating isn’t so much to beat the Machine and beat the block vote, but rather to have people speak up for what they believe in.
“The system just seemed unfair,” Zimmerman said. “I have friends in New Row fraternities and sororities, even friends that aren’t in a greek house, that have tried to do things on campus and they never had a shot at it because they aren’t in the right fraternities or sororities. They don’t know the right person, their moms and dads didn’t come to UA or they hadn’t given the right amount of money.
“These students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve, and that’s the direction that we want to take our group in. That is what really inspired me to jump on board with this campaign.”
Advance UA’s candidate for Vice President of Financial Affairs, Christian Smith, said he sees the whole election as something that is much bigger than solely his campaign.
“My campaign is…for a movement on this campus to think independently of the Machine,” Smith said. “Win or lose, I feel like the fact that five greek students decided to run against the Machine means progress. I’ve already noticed much progress in the greek system with students questioning the Machine and showing much more interest in SGA.”
Chandler Wright, Advance UA’s candidate for vice president of student affairs, said it’s obvious that there is a lot of turmoil within the inner workings of the greek system and the Machine right now, and that Advance UA is a strong testament to that.
“People give the Machine so much power by simply buying into their system instead of seeing it for what it really is,” Wright said. “I think that, as candidates, we all agree that our campaigns are about so much more than just winning. It’s about making a statement to the greek system, our campus and the state of Alabama as a whole: we are ready for progress and we want to fight for it.”
Despite their current race against the Machine, both Wright and Smith said the Machine had supported them in the past.
“Last spring, I was elected to Senate in the College of Communication and Information Sciences by the Machine,” Wright said. “In some ways, I owe a lot to the Machine. They helped me run my senate campaign last year. But what I learned most in the basement of the Phi Delta Theta house with a group of fellow senators every Tuesday night for the past year is that this sort of corrupt politics is unsustainable. This system is one that is painfully flawed and needs to be changed.”
Smith voiced similar sentiments about his support from the secret society in the past.
“Like David [Wilson, presidential candidate,] I was a Machine-backed senator my sophomore year,” Smith said. “The idea of a secret society on campus was all new and exciting to me. It seemed like something you’d see in the movies. It wasn’t until I was elected senator and began to witness the effects of the Machine that I began to question it.”
Zimmerman and Clark said they hadn’t received any political or financial support from the Machine during their time in SGA.
AdvanceUA does not include a candidate for the presidential race, but received the support of all three students vying for that position.
“I think students should have the opportunity to run any way they want to. If they want to run on a slate, they should be able to do that,” said presidential hopeful Matt Calderone. “If that’s their passion and that’s their tactic, they should be able to form those bonds and work with other students if that’s the way they want to go about leading this campus.”
David Wilson, one of Calderone’s opponents, also supported the group.
“It shows that people are beginning to finally differentiate the greek community from the Machine. It’s awesome because it’s not something we would have seen prior to this year,” Wilson said. “I’m definitely in support of AdvanceUA, because they’re doing what they think is right. I’m not saying that the people running with the Machine are wrong, but I am saying that the people running with AdvanceUA, they are doing what they think is right, and I can support that.”
The third candidate, Shea Stripling, was unaware of the group when asked by The Crimson White to comment but, after researching them, said they were a group she could get behind.
“I think it’s a really great initiative, and there’s so much loyalty in the group,” Stripling said. “This is a great way to endorse loyalty and transparency.”
The group consists of: A.J. Collins, vice president for academic affairs; Kyle Zimmerman, vice president for external affairs; Christian Smith, vice president for financial affairs; Chandler Wright, vice president for student affairs and Alex Clark, executive vice president.