"Fellow Independents: Put a sock in it" Jonathan McElvy Dateline Alabama October 26, 2005
According to my students, and even some of my classmates in Alabama's graduate school, I'm an old man. But it wasn't that long ago when I was an undergraduate student at the Capstone, and I suppose it's not surprising that most social ideas on campus haven't changed.
Like most students at Alabama, I was considered an independent - a GDI by other accounts. Any way you cut it, I wasn't a member of a fraternity, didn't get invited to swaps, and I sure didn't do any chicken dances on the front row of a band room.
A few years ago, as an undergrad, I recall all the moaning and groaning of fellow independents. More importantly, I remember the utter disdain independents felt for "The Machine." You've heard the clichéd lines by now: The Machine controls the University; The Machine selects the SGA president; The Machine elects the homecoming queen.
I didn't say much as an independent undergrad, but these days, having been absent from the college scene for a while, I'd like to be the first to say to all my fellow independents: "Put a sock in it."
Here are a couple of numbers for you: There are roughly 2,000 students at Alabama who belong to Greek social organizations. That means there are roughly 18,000 students who are independents.
Now, compare those numbers to real-life politics (which some people on this campus just don't understand). Say you're a Republican and you have 18,000 registered voters in your city who claim to be fellow Republicans. The Democrats, on the other hand, have 2,000 registered voters in your city. If you're a Republican, you should win every election, shouldn't you?
There's a reason independents at the Capstone never win an election. (As of this writing, the results for Alabama's homecoming queen had not been announced.) The reason independents can't win an election is two-fold. First, the independent students are disorganized. Second, the independent students spend too much time worrying about "The Machine" and not enough time worrying about themselves.
I guess you could include me as a member of the independents, but frankly, I couldn't care less. The Machine, the Greeks - whatever you want to call them - make more of an impact on our campus than any other single organization. They know how to organize social events that better our entire community. If it weren't for the Greeks, our homecoming activities would represent the circus that just left town.
The Greeks are as valuable to the University as any other group, and it's childish for independents to sit around complaining about students who know how to organize. Sure, most Greeks come from wealthier families, but spend the rest of your life worrying about social classes and you'll spend a life in misery.
If independents want to change the control of "The Machine," then a student - or a group of students - must develop an organization that understands how to recruit fellow students. Second, the organization must figure out a way to motivate other students to participate. Finally, the organization must offer fellow independents a reason to become involved.
It's just like any other form of politics. Find a leader, support that leader, and follow that leader. Either do that or spend the rest of your collegiate days complaining about a group of students who understand how to win, and keep, positions of leadership.
Otherwise, put a sock in it and appreciate having folks who care about making this campus respected across the nation.