Letter to the Editor | We are better together

Elizabeth Prophet, Guest Columnist

Elizabeth Prophet is a junior at The University of Alabama, currently serving as an SGA Senator for the School of Social Work. She is a member of the Alpha Chi Omega national women’s fraternity. 

My name is Elizabeth Prophet. I am a junior at The University of Alabama, a current Senator for the Student Government Association, a member of the Greek community, and I have never sought or received backing from the underground political organization, the Machine. 

This past year, as a Senator, I have written and passed legislation intended to enhance the lives of the student body. On countless occasions, my commitment to the student body and the mission of the Capstone Creed has been intentionally disrupted and prevented by the Machine. 

Although many of the actions taken by the Machine remain secret, I am here to tell you, unequivocally, that the Machine does exist and continues to control SGA and influence decision-making on campus.

For those that don’t know, The Machine is a secret political organization, also known as Theta Nu Epsilon, created by white fraternity men in 1914. It was originally created to keep white fraternity men in power and is known for a number of racially motivated threats and actions, including several white-cloaked members burning crosses and chanting after the election of the first Black SGA president, Cleo Thomas, in 1976. 

Only then, following that election, were Alabama Panhellenic Women invited to join the Machine, a strictly political move done only to maintain control of campus governance. The Machine has carried out other acts of violence, intimidation and corruption including wire-tapping John Bolus’ phone in 1983, breaking into John Merrill’s office in 1986, and physically assaulting a non-Machine female student who ran for office in 1993 with a knife, resulting in the suspension of SGA until 1996.

Let me be clear. My life has never been threatened by the Machine nor have I heard of any other non-Machine candidates or students who faced any recent acts of physical violence. Instead, however, the Machine repeatedly submitted violations against me and other non-Machine candidates throughout this campaign in an attempt to disqualify me and others from the race altogether. 

But I’m not writing a Machine exposé.

I am writing to tell the 3,572 students who voted for me, thank you. 

Thank you for believing in me and believing that this University can be more. I know that seeing the Machine win another race is disheartening and frustrating. However, I didn’t run this race to win. I ran because I wanted to show others that it is possible.

You can be a member of the Greek community and still believe that the Machine is inherently flawed and systematically unjust. You can love your sorority and still decide to forge your own path without permission or backing from the Machine. I can’t tell you that it will be easy — emotionally or even physically — but I can tell you that it’s possible.

My time in SGA is coming to a close, but I can confidently say that I have done my best. To the students who don’t feel represented in University decisions, who have been silenced by the Machine, who have been denied opportunities at the hands of the Machine by their sorority or fraternity, who aren’t in Greek life and are left without a voice, and the students who want no part in SGA, but want to see positive change at this University:

The Student Government Association and its major influencer, the Machine, do not control everything. If they did, our campus would look exactly as it did in 1914 at the Machine’s inception.

This is not intended to blame any individual student or Greek organization, but rather, the system that we all inherited. Like many of my counterparts, I had no idea what the Machine was until I joined a sorority. Being a part of Greek life, or even the Machine, doesn’t inherently make you a bad person. 

However, it does mean you have a choice to make. Will you choose to remain silent and reap its benefits? Or will you use the platforms you have to dismantle it in every possible way? 

It is time something is done about this broken system. I acknowledge I have a great deal of privilege by speaking up and acting out in the way that I do. Without the bravery and sacrifice of many before me, many of whom were students of color, I would not have had the courage or opportunity to take action. Our student body has the responsibility to continue the legacy of determination, sacrifice and social change that has taken place at The University of Alabama.

It is time for the University to acknowledge the existence and prevent the influence of the Machine. If they won’t speak up, I will. 

I can no longer remain silent. I will no longer be an elected member of the SGA, but I promise to continue being your partner, your friend, and your advocate. As far as I have researched, I am the first from my sorority to ever do this. 

You can be too. Greek life or not, I’m here to support you.

We really are better together.