New Greeks: Welcome to the MachineBy Alex Smith | 08/31/2017 12:51am
Manipulative. Selfish. Unqualified. Each time these words flowed from the mouths of my fellow brothers and sisters to describe me, my heart ached a little more. It seemed as if no one questioned my integrity when I was a member of The Machine. No one told me I was not competent enough to pursue leadership positions on campus when I was a devoted member of the exclusive group. It became evident that attempting to remain a member of the Greek system while simultaneously refusing to associate myself with The Machine was going to be quite a challenge. As I hopelessly attempted to navigate my relationships throughout my sophomore and junior year, I couldn’t help but reflect more on how I wished I had known what I was getting myself into when I made the decision to rush at Alabama.
If you would like to know more about my departure from the Machine, see the article below.
When I decided to participate in the recruitment process, I did so in order to pledge a sorority, not The Machine. As a freshman entering the Greek system, I had no idea how synonymous these two entities were. Perhaps I was too naïve; perhaps I should have worked harder to personally research the inner workings of this campus myself. Ultimately, though, I know that even if I would have made those efforts, I wouldn’t have discovered much, considering that the University does not even publicly acknowledge the existence of The Machine to begin with.
When you join the Greek system at Alabama, you inherently join The Machine. You aren’t given a choice. By default, you are burdened with the expectation to fall in line with the choices your in-house Machine representatives make for you. While you aren’t being technically forced to vote any certain way, those who occasionally muster up the courage to question their representatives are consequently treated much worse.
Based on my firsthand experiences and observations, there is an unrelenting loyalty that fraternities and sororities have toward The Machine that ultimately trumps supposed brotherly and sisterly bonds. Fraternities and sororities claim to love their members, yet houses continue to put their brothers and sisters in compromising and extremely difficult situations. Houses frequently refuse to support their own chapter members who aren’t selected by or opt not to run with The Machine. They treat their very own brothers and sisters as outcasts, as if they no longer belong solely because they refuse to let The Machine dictate their decisions.
It felt as if I became the enemy of not just The Machine, but also the Greek system when I chose to be honest about what I was experiencing as a member of a society with historically questionable motives such as burning crosses and interfering in local Tuscaloosa elections. The people I believed to be my friends quickly deserted me during a time when I desperately needed someone to tell me everything was going to be alright.
My goal remains to educate others in hopes that there is another Greek man or woman who perhaps shares the same sentiments or reservations I once had. This is ultimately the driving reason why I choose to remain part of a system that is so painfully interwoven with the oppressive organization I choose to speak out against.
To the Greek houses that are initiating unknowing freshman into the culture of The Machine: Recognize that explaining to your new members they are simply a member of a “voting bloc” will no longer suffice. It’s time to stop normalizing The Machine. It’s time to stop ignoring The Machine’s coercive behavior simply because campus is more comfortable saying “The Machine” aloud. It does not justify the individuals who are oppressed daily or the culture this group perpetuates. It also does not justify the number of students who have been systematically excluded and improperly represented.
To all the new members of the Greek system, know that it’s okay to think for yourself and disagree with others around you or in your house. Recognizing or speaking out against an oppressive system is a crucial step, but it’s only a first step in the process of attempting to abolish or reform a corrupt organization that has restricted individual freedoms for decades. It won’t feel easy or comfortable at first, but know that you are not alone. Not even the anger and resentment others directed toward me could overshadow the excitement I felt to embrace this campus as my own independent person. And yes, I would do it the exact same all over again.
Alex Smith is a senior majoring in political science and journalism. Her column runs biweekly.