Opinion | Dismissing complaints of corruption doesn’t make it go away

Alex Jobin, Staff Columnist

The Student Government Association Elections Board recently dismissed a formal complaint of sororities incentivizing voting. This dismissal ignores overwhelming evidence that reveals that incentivizing is pervasive.

Out of the 19 sororities on campus, The Crimson White “received confirmation of at least six sororities endorsing candidates, three sororities incentivizing their members with points, one sorority requiring members to vote, and all sororities encouraging members to submit voter confirmation.”

By use of intimidation and incentives, these Greek organizations are directly harming the credibility of campus elections. Members of Greek life are coerced into conforming with the political preferences of their organizations’ leaders, creating a disingenuous voter base. 

This reflects a broader and more disturbing trend in UA Greek life at large. Members of many sororities and fraternities on campus lose a substantial degree of free will when they join; they face ostracization if they stray from the rigid instructions of their organization’s leadership, and the fear of such an outcome drives members to comply with behavior that they might not otherwise support.

This frankly cultish character of many Greek organizations goes beyond harmless tradition. It is directly related to the corruption of the Machine — the University’s not-so-secret secret society, which controls campus elections through ties to the SGA and Greek life.

Indeed, the Elections Board’s dismissal of the aforementioned complaint — put forward by SGA Sen. John Dodd, with regard to Pi Beta Phi’s incentivizing of voters — is indicative of the Machine’s iron grip on student government here at The University of Alabama. 

The tactics used by Greek organizations to enforce voter conformity are not well-kept secrets — we are all aware that this corruption is taking place, including the Elections Board.

Unfortunately, the SGA remains caught in a vicious cycle as Machine candidates continue to be elected by Machine-controlled elections and then control subsequent elections in turn. Once these Machine affiliates are in office, they also make sure to dismiss any complaints of corruption, such as Dodd’s. 

The Elections Board’s dismissal of Dodd’s complaint should set off alarms around campus. It should act as yet another wake-up call to the realities of our laughably corrupt student leadership here at the Capstone.

It also must be noted that these unscrupulous practices set dangerous precedents and expectations which reach far beyond our University. The SGA is a direct pipeline to future careers in public service and politics for many students.

When we accept corruption and immorality as the norm here, who is to say that such norms will not extend into the practices of future leaders who found their start in the University’s student government? If the Capstone is “where legends are made,” and it is also a place where rampant corruption is welcomed with open arms, then what “legends” are we really making?

The realities of this situation are discouraging. It feels as though no real change can be effected as long as the Machine exists here on campus. However, we must continue to push back against the perversion of our institutions and values as much as possible. We must refuse to let our votes and voices be silenced.

It is imperative that University administration and faculty finally take a long overdue stand against the Machine. It is ridiculous that those who are supposedly responsible for creating a safe, productive and equitable environment for our student body continue to feign ignorance of the Machine. 

They allow a dangerous, regressive and discriminatory organization to not only survive but thrive. They cannot keep claiming ignorance when articles detailing the Machine’s persistent harm to our campus fill the pages of The Crimson White. The CW is not alone in our criticism of the Machine; anyone paying attention can tell students are tired of the institution that dictates our campus lives.

Dodd’s complaint may have been dismissed by the Elections Board, but that in no way means that the fight against corruption in our elections, student government and Greek organizations is over. It may be tiring at this point to hear complaints about the Machine, but its critics will not relent until we see true justice reflected in campus elections.

Questions? Email the opinions desk at letters@cw.ua.edu.