"Change not welcomed in SGA?"
November 30, 2002
In 1996, the Student Government Association made its return to the University of Alabama campus, and in the eight years since, many claim the SGA has not made a good show of ethical and responsible behavior.
In 2002, the group Students for a Better SGA sponsored a cookout on the Quad where candidates would be speaking. An ad for the cookout, posted in the Crimson White a day before, gave candidates and voters the impression that all candidates would be given the opportunity to address the crowd. Independent candidates such as black presidential candidate Mario Bailey, however, were not allowed their time in the spotlight.
"When I got there," Bailey said, "I wasn't allowed to speak."
The Independent Voters Association filed a complaint with the Student Election Board against the Students for a Better SGA's nominees, saying they not only participated in an event where only certain candidates were permitted to speak, but the group also failed to disclose all cookout expenses.
What some say should have been a disqualification turned out to be a small fine, community service and non-academic probation for those who involved. Although current SGA President Katie Boyd also attended, charges against her were dropped by the IVA.
Only a few years before the cookout debacle, another black independent presidential candidate, Fabian Zinga-Kanza, received death threats and his campaign advertisements fell victim to racist graffiti. This was taken by many as proof that Zinga-Kanza posed a real threat to taking the coveted SGA presidential throne. Although he did not win, voter turnout that year was extremely high.
With the recent curfew placed on Tuscaloosa's watering holes, the SGA again took much heat. Many students expressed the sentiment that the curfew was arbitrary and felt they had solid reasons to expect the SGA to represent those views. This did not happen.
The SGA, responsible for representing the entire student body, voted almost unanimously in support of the curfew, thus stirring more dislike for the students' governing body.
Also this year, voting on campus fell victim to Internet fraud. Reports of false student identification numbers were filed and voting had to be redone, with little change in the results.
Incidents such as these and others have the student body wondering what's going on.
Many blame the Machine, believed to be a small group of white sorority and fraternity members who work solely to influence campus politics. The Machine was also the reason why the SGA was banned in 1993 and, since the recent comeback of the SGA in 1996, it has been assumed the Machine no longer exists.
Others say part of the problem is due to a lack of independent voter turnout. Ironicly, although the Greek population on campus is in the minority, the SGA consists mostly of Greek students.