Spillers win 1st step toward UA solutionBy Andrew Parks | 03/25/2015 10:58pm
When visiting with students from Auburn, OU, George Washington, SMU, Texas A&M, Texas and several other nationally prominent universities at an event in Dallas last week, I was pelted with questions about the Elliot Spillers victory in our SGA presidential election on March 10. They varied from “How did he win?” to “Is this a sign of change in Alabama?” and so on. As I often do in such situations, I found it difficult to explain the significance of such an event taking place in the unique, complex and highly irregular political scene on our campus to those on the outside. I did alright until a single question made me think about something I hadn’t previously pondered.
“How did you feel when he won?”
For someone who spends more time thinking about how to get things done than how he feels when things get done, this seemingly simple question was difficult to answer. Accomplished? Proud? Shocked? All of those were apt descriptions. “Speechless” was perhaps the best answer, given that I spent a good 30 seconds stuttering and trying to find words to speak into WVUA’s microphone when the results came into the broadcasting room and News Director Jordan LaPorta asked for comment. Finally, after much thought, an answer came to mind: “Resolved.”
When I say that, I don’t mean that I feel this campus has resolved the many problems which exist in our body politic. What I mean is that the victory of Elliot Spillers, historic though it may be, is not a solution in and of itself, but rather the first step toward one.
Not too long ago, I sat in a room opposite Elliot discussing an election that then seemed eons away. I had three whiteboards with breakdowns of voter turnout in previous election cycles dating back to 2009. I had run the numbers every way I could think of, accounting for every possible scenario, trying to figure out what Elliot’s real odds of winning were. In every case, the statistics favored the Machine. I truly believed there was no way Elliot could win, and the numbers seemed to confirm what other non-Machine politicos and I had always said: The only way for a non-Machine candidate to win the presidency was for years of groundwork to be laid that would slowly, but surely, shift the culture of this campus away from the status quo.
I stand here today having never been happier to be wrong in my life. Elliot defied the odds and my most favorable predictions – he not only won, he did so in record-breaking fashion. The election records I have managed to recover in the past eight months indicate that the 8,602 votes cast for Elliot Spillers on March 10 constitute the largest number a candidate has ever received in a contested SGA election at The University of Alabama.
However, while I may have been wrong in saying that Elliot had little chance of winning, I don’t believe I was wrong about that second part – that it would take years of hard work by graduating class after graduating class of Alabama students to balance the scales and introduce real accountability into campus politics.
This is where my feeling of resolution comes from. Elliot’s win does not merely signify an independent victory. It serves as reassurance for all of us who have dedicated ourselves to improving the UA political climate that here, in a place famous for never changing, progress is not only attainable, but perhaps closer to attainment than we previously believed. It tells those who walked across the stage before us that their efforts were not in vain, and it tells those who will walk across the stage with me in 38 days that we’ve seen the first tangible step taken in that direction with our own eyes.
But most importantly, it tells those who will come after us that they may achieve the goals we could only dream of.
Andrew Parks is a senior majoring in political science. His column runs biweekly.