Law professor, BOE candidate's husband seeks action in wake of voting fraud allegations
On Tuesday, the city of Tuscaloosa held its municipal elections to decide several city government positions, including city council and board of education seats. While many of the races were close, two seats in particular have gained a great deal of attention. Cason Kirby, a Tuscaloosa lawyer and and former SGA president at The University of Alabama, defeated incumbent candidate Kelly Horwitz by a margin of 72 votes for the District 4 seat on the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education. Lee Garrison, also a UA alum, defeated Denise Hills by a margin of 203 votes.
Controversy has surrounded the two races as accusations of voter fraud and illegalities have emerged in recent days. Reports include one by WVUA, stating that 10 UA students registered to vote in a single family home and reports by AL.com of "incentives" being offered to members of sororities in return for going to vote for Kirby and Garrison.
On Wednesday, The Crimson White obtained an email sent to members of UA's Faculty Senate written by Horwitz's husband Paul Horwitz, a UA law professor. In the email, Paul expresses frustration with the University's failure to address the alleged voting law violations that occurred on campus and were committed by UA students. Horwitz calls on the Faculty Senate to demand a response from the University administration, including steps to address the power that the greek organizations and the Machine, a secret political coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities, have over the University and the community.
The email is published in its entirety below:
Dear President Miller and Faculty Senate Colleagues:
At the end of last year and the beginning of this year, we--and you especially, Steve, for which I applaud you--decided that one thing the Faculty Senate ought to do each year is pick a couple of issues or themes that deserve our sustained attention and efforts and which will serve the greater good of both the faculty and the entire university. A big one this year, it seems, is making the final push toward a smoke-free campus. That can be a worthy choice for a big-picture, sustained agenda item, I think, because 1) the issue has been around a long time, 2) it's worth addressing for the good of the university, and 3) it is one of those issues that is talked about all the time, but on which concentrated effort is needed to definitively address the issue.
I write to suggest another item for our agenda, one that meets all those qualifications. That is the question of who runs our university and how. Simply put, the question is whether university is going be to [sic] a modern institution that honors fairness and the rule of law, or whether it will, in important respects, retain remnants of the kinds of views and behavior that this university has been burdened with and failed to definitively address for at least fifty years.
I should say up front that I am not a perfect person to raise this issue, since it involves my spouse, Kelly Horwitz, who has served on the city school board for the last four years and was purportedly defeated last night at the polls. (That result has not yet been conceded or finalized.) I acknowledge that I have a personal stake in the matter. But I also have a civic stake in it, and I have a professional stake in it as a full professor of this university. If my Senate colleagues, coming from another perspective, see the issue differently or less urgently, I certainly would understand. That is why I am sharing this suggestion with all of you: So that you can make up your own minds and chime in one way or the other.
I am not concerned in this space to criticize the result of the election(s) or any particular candidate. People of good faith can disagree on such matters. But the process is a different matter, and here I think all people of good faith would agree that there was a total breakdown in fairness and fidelity to the rule of law--one in which our university is unfortunately complicit.
Doubtless we will learn more in the coming days. But we might start with the following: 1) At least ten students of this university fraudulently registering to vote by giving an address at which they do not live. 2) The massive presence of signs for particular candidates on sorority and/or fraternity lawns on election day, in violation of intrafraternity and university rules. I am told that several students complained to the appropriate authorities about these blatant violations and were basically told to go away. 3) The likelihood--the certainty, really--of other fraudulent registrations and votes by students of this university. 4) The use of what appear to be widespread promises to trade drinks for votes, which may constitute criminal conduct under state law. And that, I'm afraid, is probably only the start.
Some or all of these and other actions constitute violations of university rules and of the student honor code. Those rules must be enforced. The university ought to be saying so today, loudly. It ought to launch a full investigation, seek disciplinary proceedings against students who violated the rules of the university or the laws of the state, and refer cases of law violation that it finds to state authorities. Violations of university and intrafraternity rules with respect to political signs should likewise be investigated, and punishment levied against those houses as appropriate. I am sure everyone will agree with me that this issue deserves our attention, and that it is our duty as the Faculty Senate to make sure the university does its job.
Of course, there is a broader issue here, and that is the seemingly endless question of the role of both the Greek system and, especially, the so-called "Machine." I do not seek to tar members of the Greek system with a broad brush. The Greek system is certainly a longstanding part of the university, and I'm sure that many fine individuals, including friends of mine, participate in it. But neither can there be any question that the relationship between the university and the Greek system is not a healthy one.
As for the "Machine," it is difficult to talk about an organization that takes such a lack of pride in itself that it continues to deny its very existence--while, every now and again, sending out one or two people to explain to the press that it's really not a big deal. I suppose if it didn't exist, it would by definition not be a big deal! But it does and it is. Its conduct yesterday was atrocious and illegal, and it besmirched the university--all of it, including its faculty and leadership--every bit as much as it did itself.
Both the Greek and Machine questions have of course come up many times before. But they have not been addressed with clarity, tenacity, and a willingness not to stop until the issue is fully and completely aired in the open and addressed forcefully. A smoke-free campus is a fine thing, no doubt. But so is bringing our university into the present in all kinds of other ways. In important ways, our university is corrupt. It seems to me that it is the duty of the Faculty Senate to arrest this corruption. Dealing with these issues is in my view an obligation, and one that we should take on--not just this year, but until we are done--as a signature issue of the Faculty Senate. I am asking you, Steve, and my other Senate colleagues, to make sure this happens.
I don't doubt that many people who agree on this basic point will have different ideas about how to define the problem and what to do about it. That's all to the good. But we should address it, soon, often, publicly, and with determination. May I suggest that one place to start would be to invite Chancellor Witt, President Bonner, and perhaps the chair of the board of trustees to appear publicly at a Faculty Senate meeting this year, together or, better still, individually. I think we have every right to ask them some hard questions, and that they have every obligation to appear and answer them.
I would add in that light that I am a little disturbed on two counts. The first has to do with the credibility of the university leadership. Both President Bonner and Chancellor Witt made sizeable donations to at least one of the Machine-backed candidates. We all remember last year's events surrounding former President Bonner; I am still unconvinced that I have yet heard an honest explanation of those events, or that Professor Bailey's sudden partial departure had nothing to do with his criticisms of some members of the Greek system. This too adds to the administration's credibility gap. Many will also recall then-President Witt's reply to a question about the horrendous lack of racial integration in our Greek system--fifty years after the official integration of the university--in which he said, "As independent social organizations, it is appropriate that all our sororities and fraternities--traditionally African-American, traditionally white and multicultural--determine their [own] membership." This was, of course, a wholly inadequate answer. As a First Amendment scholar I praise freedom of association and take a broad view of its scope. But the right to fail to integrate the Greek houses, if it is a right, does not change the fact that it is utterly wrong not to do so, and that a university leadership that exercises no moral leadership on this issue is no leadership at all. Finally, and with respect, there is the question whether Chancellor Witt made any further, private promises to Mr. Kirby regarding financial support and other matters concerning his future. I am reluctant to mention that question because, precisely because of all the entrenched behaviors I discussed above, this town often runs on rumors instead of transparency. I hope this rumor was wrong. But it is understandable that in such an environment, rumors will fly, with a resulting lack of trust in the university leadership.
An even greater cause to be disturbed is the lack of will and resolve on the part of the university administration when it comes to issues involving, inter alia, the Machine. These issues arise from time to time, are not firmly addressed, and continue to haunt us on a regular basis--as yesterday's law violations demonstrate. It is our job as the Faculty Senate not to rest until the university leadership, including President Bonner, Chancellor Witt, and the board of trustees, have shown a full measure of a quality they have seemed too often to lack: courage. Otherwise, people of good faith who give all their time and effort to making this university great will continue to have reason to wonder just who runs the university, and whether anyone does at all.
Again, I appreciate that I have a particular personal perspective on these issues. As a law professor, to be sure, I also have professional reasons to be outraged by violations of the law. But I do acknowledge a personal perspective here. I would not have shared all this if I thought that was all there was to it. I believe many of our colleagues on the Faculty Senate and elsewhere will agree with everything I said here--will, if anything, believe I was not harsh enough. Steve and other Senate colleagues, may I suggest that this university has a serious and longstanding problem with the Machine and its component parts, that the administration has failed to address it adequately, and that as a body we should put this on our short list of issues to be pursued vigorously and most definitely publicly.
Paul Horwitz Gordon Rosen Professor of Law