UA, AU meet to improve relations

Katherine Martin

About 75 people from the University of Alabama and Auburn University met Tuesday for Better Relations Day on the UA campus, said Grant Cochran, the Student Government Association’s vice president of external affairs.

“Members of both SGAs as well as other leaders on campus – Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic and Student Alumi Associations, came together to focus on the goal of better relations,” Cochran said.

SGA President James Fowler said Better Relations Day is an opportunity for both universities to work together to discuss ideas and challenges faced on both campuses.

“I think Better Relations Day is the best day of the year,” Fowler said. “It’s an opportunity for both institutions to come together in a sense that this is more about collaboration than it is rivalry.”

Kurt Sassar, Auburn’s SGA president, said everybody involved with the events of the day did a good job.

Representatives from Alabama and Auburn were introduced to their counterparts from the other school that held the same leadership position.

Both presidents agreed that this was one of the highlights of the day.

“I think the most beneficial part was actually splitting up with our counterparts,” Sassar said. “I met with James Fowler and his office and he took me around the Ferguson Center, and we were really able to bounce off a lot of different good ideas, a lot of creative ideas that I hopefully can take back to Auburn and we can brainstorm and go off some of those ideas that he gave me. Hopefully, I gave him some ideas that he can go off on as well.”

Fowler said working together with Auburn’s SGA is not a new thing. Recently, the SGAs collaborated on the gubernatorial debates that were held on both campuses.

“Those types of events could not take place without the events of today,” Fowler said. “Events that allow for discussion and dialogue about different issues. We can share ideas and get to know each other. It certainly creates a different environment on campus where student leaders from all over campus, not just SGA, can come together and meet their counterparts. It certainly creates a strong partnership with Auburn.”

Sassar said the main discussion of the day was finding better ways to work together on different projects.

“One thing is, what is a specific problem in the state of Alabama and how can we fix that through both universities,” Sassar said. “How can we identify that and take the initiative and go out and fix that problem.

“Think, we have 25,000 at Auburn and 30,000 at Alabama. What if we basically doubled the size and really go out and find a problem we have? Think of what we could solve through that.”

The SGA presidents signed the 2010 Better Relations Agreement that promised a positive environment for the Iron Bowl game.

“It’s a rivalry,” Sassar said. “It’s always going to be. You know, Auburn wants to win just as bad as the University of Alabama. Hopefully, we can call it a healthy rivalry and we can keep those relationships and truly work on bigger problems than a football game. It’s a good rivalry and it’s a fun football game and hopefully we can keep a fun atmosphere. That’s what today was all about.”

Better Relations Day began in 1948 after 40 years of no athletic relations between Alabama and Auburn, according to a history handout from the event.

After the 1907 Iron Bowl, coaches from both schools could not agree on the details for the 1908 game and would not play again until 1948.

In the spring of 1948 student leaders at each school began a common plan of action to promote the highest type of athletic relationships, the handout stated.

“The University of Alabama SGA is happy to be able to carry on the tradition of Better Relations Day,” said Katie Breaseale, SGA’s press secretary. “Better Relations Day serves as a wonderful opportunity for Alabama and Auburn to come together, share ideas and create an environment of sportsmanship before the Iron Bowl.”