SGA Senate made wrong call on recent voteBy Letter to the Editor | 04/02/2014 11:00pm
It was just last September when President Judy Bonner said, regarding Greek system integration at The University of Alabama, “I am empowering our students to do the same thing that our students did 50 years ago [when some student leaders helped Vivian Malone and James Hood break the color barrier at UA]. I have great confidence that our students are going to do the right thing, and they are going to do the right thing in the right way. I am very confident that you will be proud.” Unfortunately, she would be wrong about that.
In its last session of the term, the SGA Senate did exactly the opposite of what the UA President had confidence her students could do: the right thing.
In that session, Sen. Katie Smith proposed a resolution that would have supported “complete integration” of the UA Greek system. The resolution began by praising the “positive contributions” Greek letter organizations make to the UA community and commending their “tradition of scholarship, civic responsibility and philanthropy.” It continued by noting that, “in spite of these positive contributions, there is a distinct and also unique portrayal of a number of Greek organizations at The University of Alabama as having membership defined on the basis of one’s race,” and that numerous national media outlets have reported at length on this “stigma.”
In an effort to remove this stigma, the resolution concluded, “The Senate supports the complete integration of all Greek letter fraternities and sororities at The University of Alabama, with respect to social diversity among its membership.”
As a senator who attended that meeting and voted in support of Sen. Smith’s resolution, I’d love to continue this story by saying that the resolution passed unanimously and, like all pieces of legislation that were passed this term, the entire body applauded. But that would have been the right thing to do.
Instead, Sen. Smith was essentially scorned as she read the resolution aloud. Immediately after she finished reading, she was bombarded with hostile questions and comments. One senator methodically related diversity statements from fraternity charters with UA chapters until everyone noted the contemptuous point. Another asked if Smith had proof that the Greek system remained segregated and asked her to name specific sororities that remained segregated.
Finally, the very notion of there existing a negative national stigma about the UA Greek system was questioned, as if the questioning senator had lived under a rock for the last year (or 50). By the time a senator made a motion for suspension of the rules for immediate consideration, the fate of the bill was sealed. Twenty-seven senators killed the resolution by mockingly “sending it to committee” (in the last session, that means the bill dies; nothing rolls over to the new term).
Remarkably, SGA Senate resolutions have no power whatsoever to do anything except make a statement reflecting the stance of the Senate and, hopefully, the student body whom the senators represent. Yet, a majority of the SGA Senate in 2014 could not seem to get behind a stance in favor of “complete integration.” It doesn’t really matter what organization the resolution was referring to – one would think that integration would continue to be a worthy cause.
Instead, the Senate did the wrong thing in the wrong way by denying the mere existence of a race problem on this campus and denying that everyone outside the campus can see it. UA will deservedly continue to receive negative national attention until we as students and administrators are at least able to open our eyes and see that it is there. As a famous English writer once said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
Lane Morrison is a second-year law student.