Preliminary campaigning for Student Government Association offices begins today, and the Machine, a secret political coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities, has picked its candidates for executive positions. According to sources familiar with the Machine’s election plans, the group met Monday night to determine which students it would support in campus-wide elections to be held on March 6.
In the race for SGA president, sources confirm that the Machine is supporting current SGA Deputy Executive Vice President Matt Calderone.
“Define the Machine for me,” Calderone said when asked how the organization would impact his campaign. “There [are] different interpretations for people throughout campus as to what it is and it’s all speculation and hearsay.”
When asked if he had any contact with the Machine, as defined by The Crimson White’s confirmed facts about the group, Calderone said he had never had contact with the organization.
“With the Machine you’re referring to, which is described in the CW, I have had no contact with them ever,” he said. “I’ve never been supported by the Machine in any way,“ he added later.
Calderone said he had gathered all of his information about the Machine from The Crimson White.
“Again, all the information I have is stuff I’ve gathered from you guys in the CW,” he said. “You know, I’ve read those stories but I don’t speculate and make assumptions about something that I’ve never been a part of. I’ve never been to these meetings that we assume they have, that people talk about. It’s all hearsay to me.”
This year, the Machine has also decided to support candidates from non-Machine fraternities, sources said. For the position of Vice President of Academic Affairs, the organization is supporting Denzel Evans-Bell, a member of the historically black Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Evans-Bell is the only black candidate to receive Machine support for an executive office in this SGA election. He said that his campaign was an individual effort not intended to make Alpha Phi Alpha a part of the Machine.
“I’ve seen enough of the University to take this next step but it wasn’t to get my fraternity anywhere,” Evans-Bell said. “This is basically an individual campaign.”
Evans-Bell said he had no knowledge of the Machine supporting his campaign. “If I do have that, I would be grateful for any support,” he said.
The Machine is also supporting Will Pylant for the position of Vice President of Student Affairs, the sources said. Pylant is currently an SGA senator from the College of Arts & Sciences and a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, which isn’t affiliated with or paying dues to the Machine.
“As Vice President for Student Affairs, I promise to work with honesty and integrity as we, the student body, work together daily to improve our University,” Pylant said in an emailed statement sent in response to a question about how having the Machine’s support would impact his campaign.
The Machine is also supporting SGA Senator Andy Koonce of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity for Vice President of Financial Affairs and Senator Jimmy Taylor of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity for Vice President of External Affairs. Both Koonce and Taylor currently represent the College of Commerce & Business Administration in the SGA Senate.
“I am running for VP of Financial Affairs because I want to make a transparent impact in our SGA,” Koonce said in a statement. “Through this position, I will reestablish trust in the SGA by thoroughly and accurately doing my duty.”
“I don’t know anything about being the Machine candidate but I do know that I officially found out I was a candidate when I submitted my statement of candidacy,” Taylor said in an emailed response to a question about how he found out he was the Machine candidate. “I appreciate all of the support I can get and I certainly am not going to refuse any one person’s support.”
For Executive Vice President, the Machine is supporting current SGA Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Harris, a member of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. Harris was unavailable for comment at press time.
The Crimson White could not confirm the Machine-supported candidate for Executive Secretary by press time.
Calderone said some may assume members of traditionally white fraternities have relationships with the Machine, but that being greek doesn’t define him.
“The reason we’re asking all these questions, you’re bringing all this up to me, is because I’m in a white fraternity,” he said. “You know, we assume that that’s a relationship with the Machine … I am a Sigma Nu. I’m proud to be a Sigma Nu, but that does not define me. That does not define who I am. What I also represent is the Blackburn Institute, Honors College, the city of Tuscaloosa, my work after the tornado, my work with nonprofits.”