An invitation from the Capstone Coalition

By Ryan Campbell | Guest Columnist

When I arrived at The University of Alabama in Fall 2011, I believed that opportunities were available for everyone. I believed that regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or greek affiliation, a person would be judged on the content of his or her character. I quickly found that this wasn’t the case in applying for First Year Council. That year, three Machine-backed SGA senators broke into the SGA office in the middle of the night and altered applications to exclude non-greek students. Many were thrown out, and minority applications were tarnished with racial slurs. This was my first experience with campus politics at the University.

I attended this university with a cloud of doubt and anger hanging over my head for a long time after that. Many students affected by the scandal would steer clear of politics afterward, thinking the cards were stacked against “independents” like us. I thought the same way for a while, getting involved in political and environmental organizations outside the UA sphere of influence. But I couldn’t avoid it forever. I yearned to make a difference and have my voice heard – to try to solve the many problems that exist on our campus.

Two years later, my anguish over the FYC scandal subsided. I was reinvigorated. I was selected to be a Student Judiciary Justice. My time serving on the Student Judiciary was enjoyable and educational, but I eventually realized that it wasn’t the position for me. I considered running for an executive position, but didn’t know who to talk to about it. This was a different time on campus, when independents who had been cast aside by The Machine like I had been had no organized faction to turn to for help. It was this lack of organization – this lack of real competition – that made The Machine so strong and so unaccountable even to the students it purported to serve.

When things looked hopeless, I met Chisolm Allenlundy and Andrew Parks. They were the executives in an organization called The United Alabama Project, a campus watchdog group attempting to make our political process more fair through election reform. Because of them, I finally decided to run for vice president of Student Affairs. Unfortunately, I lost, but it was still a fruitful endeavor. I left that race having never been more optimistic about the future of this campus. From that election, another organization was born: The Capstone Coalition, the first student organization dedicated to helping those without the resources, backing or blessing of The Machine run for SGA office, finally giving disenfranchised students a voice.

To some, this might seem trivial, but to those of us who were once denied the opportunity to be involved in SGA – to have our perspectives on important issues heard and understood – the Coalition is a symbol of hope and offers a vehicle for independents to organize. The Coalition gives a voice to the voiceless and brings systemic fairness to campus politics for the first time ever. As someone who was wrongfully excluded from SGA and spent many nights thereafter wondering if he would ever have the opportunity to be involved again, I am proud to work with 
this organization.

Since joining, I have run for and won office in the SGA senate, and now serve as Capstone Coalition Chairman. As Chairman, as an SGA Senator and as a student of this university, I will do everything in my power to share this hope with students across our campus. Our journey won’t be perfect. Any time you try something new, it’s a growing experience, and mistakes will be made. But we will learn from those mistakes, and we will grow from them and our campus will grow, too.

I hope you’ll join us as we make our campus a better place for everyone.

Ryan Campbell is a graduate student in marketing. He currently serves as an SGA senator from the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration.

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