"SGA pres acknowledges Machine"
The Crimson White
February 16, 2006
Carroll says she was member of secret group
SGA President Mary Margaret Carroll said she was once a member of the secretive campus group known as the Machine on Wednesday afternoon at a meeting of the UA Student and Campus Life Committee.
The statement marks the first time in at least 10 years anyone has acknowledged membership in the group, much less a high-ranking SGA official. Machine members and candidates backed by it usually deny the existence of the group or say they have no knowledge of it.
"I used to be in the Machine," said Carroll during a discussion over whether to implement a proposed SGA political party system. "I'm seeing this from a large array of perspectives."
In an interview Wednesday night, 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.
"I was a part of a group that worked for the candidate they chose to support," said Carroll, referring to campaigns in previous years before she ran for SGA president. "I want to make it very clear that all it is is people working for their friends."
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 assertion Wednesday. "I wouldn't have said that because that's not true," she said.
Carroll said she chose not to mention her involvement in the Machine during her campaign last year because she didn't think it was relevant to the SGA. She said the group has nothing to hide and that "humbleness" has been mistaken for secrecy and corruption.
Carroll said the secret fraternal society Theta Nu Epsilon does exist at the University, but said the Machine is not a part of it. She said she was not a member of Theta Nu and declined further comment on the organization.
Historically, however, Theta Nu Epsilon has been regarded as the Machine's official name. The organization was founded at the University in 1888, a quarter of a century before a student government was even formed at the Capstone. CW editors dubbed Theta Nu as "the Machine" in the 1920s because of its efficiency at getting its candidates into office.
Carroll asserted, however, that she did not like calling the coalition the Machine, instead referring to it as "a group of friends."
Carroll said the Machine was not responsible for vandalizing her opponent Zac Riddle's campaign signs during the 2005 election, as some had asserted. She said intimidation of opposing candidates is not a practice of the organization.
"I would never be associated with something that's threatening," Carroll said.
She also denied any knowledge of whether accusations of Machine intimidation against non-Machine candidates in the past were true. "I don't know what happened before I got to school here," Carroll said.
Carroll said she wants students to know that there is no "supernatural force" that controls SGA elections or student government. She said the Machine doesn't choose who will run for office and that its only purpose is to provide a base of support for SGA candidates that have befriended its members. She said it was only "networking."
"The greek system is a community, and if they choose to support someone, then that's just how they feel," Carroll said.
Carroll said the Machine's goal is not to put students in the traditionally white greek system above students who are not in those groups. Carroll said her administration has been open to any student playing a role in the SGA and said accusations of student governmental corruption have hurt the positive steps taken by its officials.
"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."
Committee delays party vote
Meanwhile, the Student Life Committee delayed voting on a proposed SGA political party system aimed at stirring interest in the student government and avoiding its marginalization as the campus grows.
Committee Chairman Don Simmons asked representatives to go meet with their constituencies to discuss the issue more and the committee would vote on a recommendation at a later meeting. Simmons said the time and place of the committee's next meeting is yet to be decided.
On the proposed party system, Carroll said the campus is overcoming stereotypes of the SGA and students are starting to naturally come together to work on improving life at the Capstone. She said political parties would only incite more divisions among the student body.
"I just think that right now we are moving in a positive direction and creating political parties is going to make us backtrack," Carroll said.
John Joseph, student chairman of the UA Student Elections Board, said parties were the best-suggested method of encouraging more student involvement in the SGA. He said the University's SGA has a higher voter turnout than some others, but he said that it's still not good enough.
"It's not where we want to be," Joseph said. "We don't aspire to 20 percent [of student participation]."
Joseph said the University and student body had nothing to lose if a party system in SGA didn't work out. "It's not that there's a huge downside, there's just a huge upside," Joseph said.
Dean of Students Tom Strong, who is a liaison to the committee, said it meets several times throughout the year. The number of meetings depends on how many issues come up that need to be addressed immediately, Strong said.