Stepping outside of the black tarp

Foreword: Before I begin this column, I want to emphasize that I'm no writer. I'm an engineering major who hasn’t taken a creative writing course since high school. I agreed to write this column during the frenzy of A-Day without a clue as to what I might address. This is my best attempt at creating something worth the time and up to the standards of The Crimson White and its readers.

My initial inspiration arrived late that Saturday night in my room while trying to drown out the Bud Light Party Bus’ Promotional Giveaway at Gallette’s. I found unique clarity in that moment; I knew exactly what I would write about: Nick Saban, engineering (my senior design project, specifically), studying abroad, the overwhelming number of HUGE buildings popping up on campus, Bear Bryant, sneaking into a Bill Nye lecture, social media, the perplexing amount of numbers in my phone from freshman year, investing, the beauty of the College Football Playoff, my childish love for my fraternity, Bill Battle and all other things Crimson, Capstone and generic. Upon review, I ditched all of these ideas.

In place of that scatterbrained stream of consciousness (I love football, okay?), I decided to write about the one college experience that probably qualified me to submit a column. For those of you who don’t know, I'm a Greek who ran for SGA Executive Office alongside Elliot Spillers. Elliot won his race, I lost mine. Here at UA, this implies that I ran against The Machine. For a Greek, this is very much taboo.

I ran for a number of reasons, some personal, some ideological. Many readers may now be expecting me to rail off a laundry list of condemnations against The Machine. I'm not going to do that. After a year of retrospection, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was actually treated fairly well throughout the process, considering the circumstances. At that time, I had a lot of anger in me. A year removed, I’m able to realize that other than a few dirty looks and awkward encounters, I was never openly threatened or personally intimidated. I’ve moved on, and it seems that most everyone else has, too. I remain friends with a number of Machine representatives, many for whom I hold a great deal of respect.

One thing that very rarely gets mentioned is that being a Machine representative is hard, stressful work. These people are full-time students, typically very involved on campus, and are expected to live up to enormous standards. Let’s be clear, this is not an endorsement by any means. All I’m saying is that I can empathize with the organization and its members.

Empathy is the emphasis of this farewell of sorts. During my campaign, I was exposed to facets of campus that I had no idea existed. I met hundreds of people whom I would never otherwise have been exposed to — people outside of what I like to call my “Greek bubble.”

These students are also committed to improving campus life, fighting for their ideals and shouldering responsibility when tapped, all while battling the same stressors as their Greek counterparts. One of the more poignant moments of the campaign was at a rally early in the process when a friend of Elliot’s asked the two of us to pray with her for strength going forward as she broke into tears. The party is a lot less fun when standing on the other side of the big black tarp.

It’s so easy to get caught up in frat tees, game day dresses, pledgeship woes, swaps, formals, date parties, day parties, house parties, pledge parties — and whatever other sorts of socials creative co-eds can imagine — that sometimes we forget that college is about growth and becoming.

I challenge us all to remember why we’re here.

Tate Thomas is a senior majoring in civil engineering and has served as Chief Implementation Officer for SGA Executive Committee and as Senator for the College of Engineering. He will be pursuing his M.B.A. at The University of Alabama through the STEM Path to the M.B.A. next year.

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