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"SGA president at UA reveals membership in secretive 'Machine'"
The Associated Press
February 16, 2006

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Often discussed and rarely revealed, a shadowy group called "the Machine" has supposedly controlled campus politics at the University of Alabama since the late 1800s.

Breaking ranks with generations of cloak-and-dagger tactics, the current president of the Student Government Association, Mary Margaret Carroll, revealed publicly that she used to be part of the group, which many claim doesn't even exist.

"The Machine" isn't really all that secretive, Carroll said in a story published Thursday in The Crimson White, the student newspaper. It's just humble, she said.

"I want to make it very clear that all it is is people working for their friends," she said.

The newspaper reported that Carroll's statements mark the first time in at least 10 years anyone has acknowledged membership in the group. Machine members and its candidates typically deny the existence of the group or say they don't know anything about it.

"I used to be in the Machine," Carroll said Wednesday during a discussion over whether to implement a proposed party system for SGA elections at Alabama. "I'm seeing this from a large array of perspectives."

In an interview, Carroll said many students have a mistaken image of the select campus political coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities and its purpose. She said it is not the "monster" it has been portrayed to be.

Carroll said she has not had any role in the Machine since the 2004 SGA election. At the final debate of the 2005 election season, The Crimson White quoted Carroll saying the Machine hadn't existed since the 1920s, but Carroll denied making that statement.

"I wouldn't have said that because that's not true," she said in the interview.

Historically, Theta Nu Epsilon has been regarded as the Machine's official name. The organization began at the university in 1888, 25 years before student government started. Editors of The Crimson White dubbed Theta Nu as "the Machine" in the 1920s because of its efficiency at getting its candidates into office.

Machine members have been accused of using intimidation and other tactics to control campus politics through the years, and someone vandalized campaign signs put up by one of Carroll's opponents, Zac Riddle, during the 2005 election.

Carroll denied that the Machine was behind the vandalism last year, and she said the group doesn't try to intimidate its opponents.

"I would never be associated with something that's threatening," Carroll said.

The Machine is usually associated with members of the university's white fraternities and sororities, but Carroll denied that the group's goal was to put those people in office over nonmembers. Carroll said her administration has been open to all.

"I'm tired of the stereotypes, and I know everyone else is tired of the frivolous stuff, too," Carroll said. "People are trying to be looked at for who they really are."