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"Group to fight Machine"
Mike Faulk
The Crimson White
December 5, 2005

Political action committee to raise money, awareness, members say

Two days before her initiation into Alpha Omicron Pi last year, Michelle Fuentes, a junior majoring in political science, said she and the other members of her pledge class were brought in for an important meeting with her sorority's Machine representative that she described as "crushing."

"I was told that if we couldn't support the Machine, then we didn't need to be a part of the sorority," she said.

The Machine is a select coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities designed to influence campus politics.

Now, Fuentes, with a handful of other students, sits on the board of directors for CapstonePAC, a political action committee designed to expose corruption in UA student politics. The new group is made up of independents and some greeks whose organizations are tied to the Machine, Fuentes and two other group founders said.

The group's formation caps a fall semester in which anti-Machine activity has been unusually high.

"People don't usually talk about the Machine until about two weeks before elections," said Matt Dover, chairman of CapstonePAC. "We really wanted to bring the issue out front year round."

The PAC, whose status as a student organization is pending in the Dean of Students office, has 10 members, all of whom serve on its board of directors, said Dover, a junior majoring in political science.

Dover said he helped start the PAC because of what he saw as unethical practices by the Machine in SGA elections and other areas of student government.

A "bulk" of the money raised by the PAC will likely go to fighting the Machine in the spring SGA election, though those decisions are up to the board, said Taylor Nichols, a senior majoring in economics, who is a member of the PAC's board.

The PAC's charter, which is filed in the Dean of Students' office, does not mention the Machine by name. Its purpose, according to its charter, is to "promote ethical leadership" on campus and to "act as a watchdog against corruption, cronyism and intimidation."

Nichols said the Machine is the group's main issue.

Dover said he and others were responsible for several anti-Machine efforts that occurred in past months, including passing out fliers with information about the Machine to students at Capstone Convocation - an August event to welcome freshmen - and taping similar fliers to the doors of rooms in dormitories around campus.

However, it was later that he and his colleagues began discussing the formation of CapstonePAC.

"We decided we didn't want to be secretive like the Machine," Dover said.

The group was not responsible for fliers distributed around campus this week with information about the Machine, Dover said.

He said the Machine is different from a political party because its practices are hidden from the public and it excludes many greeks and independents, especially minorities.

Fuentes said it was important to note that the PAC isn't anti-greek.

"Any institution that institutes brothers threatening brothers and sisters intimidating sisters does not uphold the ideals of the greek system," she said.

Though the PAC will fight against the Machine, it will not support any specific candidates in SGA elections because of spending caps it could put on the organization, Nichols said.

Instead, the PAC will promote voter awareness and dialogue about the Machine.

"That's really the issue here," Nichols said. "To get people to think for themselves."

Fuentes, who is vice chairwoman of the PAC, said some members of her sorority didn't take kindly to the news of her involvement in the group. She said she had private discussions about it with the sorority's Machine representatives.

Fuentes said nothing has happened to make her unsafe.

"My Machine reps don't scare me, and they know I'm not scared by them," Fuentes said.

Assistant Dean of Students Melissa Medlin, a Student Elections Board official, said the board was not concerned about possible tensions between students heading into March's election.

"We will carry on with this election as we do with every election: hoping students carry themselves with respect and integrity," Medlin said.