Alabama, Auburn grow new roots


Jennie Kushner

Feb. 23, 2011 marks a milestone in the history of the rivalry between the University of Alabama and Auburn University that is much stronger than Spike 80DF.

Student Government Association presidents from both universities held a news conference at Samford Hall in Auburn Wednesday to announce the planting of sister trees on each campus, symbolizing mutual respect.

Auburn SGA President Kurt Sasser said he and UA SGA President James Fowler worked together to create an idea that represented respect and a healthy rivalry.

“It needs to be more than just a statement; it needs to be a public display of mutual respect between the two universities,” Sasser said.

Thus, the sister trees will be planted on both campuses with a plaque describing the institutions’ shared admiration.

“There is going to be a lot discussion and a lot of excitement as we begin this project,” Sasser said.

The location, time and type of trees to be planted are yet to be determined, Sasser said. Student leaders and university planners, in compliance with both universities’ ground guidelines, will determine those decisions.

Fowler said the rivalry between the two schools is decades deep, but despite what happens on the football field, both universities work together civilly.

“Our rivalry is more than just a game; it’s a partnership,” Fowler said. “More times than not, our partnership is one that unites us instead of divides us.”

Fowler said the incident at Toomer’s Corner left students, faculty, staff and fans of the University feeling disheartened.

“We knew that we wanted to continue our partnership and to tell both families, the Auburn family and the Alabama family, that this is about more than football,” he said. “This is about our partnership that continues and that has been going on for many years.”

Fowler said the sister trees will be a lifetime remembrance of harmony between the two universities.

“These trees will be a symbol of the honor of our rivalry,” Fowler said.  “This joint venture developed as a grassroots effort by students of both campuses who sought to support Auburn.”

Kirsten Leeke, a UA senior majoring in business management, said since the poisoning of the Toomer’s trees, onlookers have viewed the Capstone in a negative light. She said she hopes this initiative will prove otherwise.

“I think this effort shows the respect Alabama students have for our rival school,” she said. “Despite assumptions made by outsiders, Alabama students have worked to raise money for Auburn, and planting these trees is another way we hope to show reverence.”

Justin Boykin, a UA junior majoring in journalism, also said he thinks the sister trees is a great olive branch between the two schools.

“With us being a school with rich tradition, it shows that we understand how significant something of this caliber is,” he said.

“It also shows that we may be rivals but we still stand for the same thing, and that’s a united Alabama.”