Students discuss race’s role in HC elections

Katherine Martin

It’s been 24 years since Deidra Chestang, the last successful minority candidate, was elected as the University’s Homecoming Queen. Before Chestang, Terry Points became Alabama’s first black Queen in the history of the school, according to the 1987 and 1974 Corolla’s.

This year, Pandora Austin, the representative for the National Pan-Hellenic Council, is the only minority represented on the 2010 Homecoming Court.

Although trying to remain optimistic, Austin said she thought her chances of being crowned Queen are slim.

“There’s a system at Alabama that seems to work around the greek system,” Austin said. “They stick together. It seems to be effective.”

Austin said she believes so few minorities are represented on the court because, overall, minorities do represent such a small number of students on campus.

“I feel like we are the minority on campus, and it’s kind of expected to only get one or two representatives,” Austin said. “I feel blessed and honored to be represented on the court, and maybe we can improve the number in the future.”

Shannon Matheny, a freshman majoring in health studies, said tradition plays a big role in a minority’s chances of being elected Queen.

“Although it’s a problem,” Matheny said, “it’s just always been like that, so people won’t back up those who are new. People lean more to what has been, instead of trying to branch out.”

Like Austin, Matheny said she doesn’t think Austin’s chances of winning are very good and that some people on campus would be taken aback if Austin were to win.

“It’s not the norm,” Matheny said, “but eventually people will realize that if she was the best candidate it would be good for the University. And publicity wise, for the University, seeing our diversity will help us out.”

Xavier Jones, a senior majoring in psychology, said since the black population is so small at the University, it is expected that there will be a small minority representation.

“[With] the large number of people on this campus, of course there are always going to be minorities,” Jones said. “Because of that, we don’t have as many minorities to participate in something like the Homecoming Queen elections, student government elections and others like that.”

Jones also calls Austin’s chances “pretty slim.”

“I’m going to be totally honest,” Jones said. “Unless [Austin] is known by the majority of the student population, a total stranger isn’t going to vote for someone they don’t know anything about.”

Jones said it does not come down to a black and white division – it is just something that can’t be helped, because of the numbers.

Jones said the same thing goes for back in 1986 when Chestang was crowned.

“Back then, the person who got elected was probably well-known,” Jones said. “It probably didn’t matter what color they were then either. The fact they were the minority was the thing that stood out, but really, they were probably well-connected with the majority of the student population.”