Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

The Great Divide: Old Money vs. New Money

With SGA elections looming, it is becoming increasingly apparent that our student body is at a crossroads. We are threatened by a great divide, a divide so deep it risks unraveling the social fabric of the student body and even our cohesiveness as a university. I am referring, of course, to the divide between old and new money.

This university, like most universities, has run on old money for generations. And, judging by the state of our campus, it has done a good job. Just look at our gorgeous new frat castles, recently expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium and the President’s Mansion, a daily reminder of the plantation aristocracy that once ruled.

The new money guys, though, aren’t appreciative. They are becoming increasingly assertive, almost annoying.

You know them. They are the students who walk out of the Honors College, get in their foreign-made luxury car, and drive to Surin for lunch. They have fancy titles, refer constantly to things like “campus leadership,” and are always eager to plug the nonprofits, committees and programs they are starting.

They have big egos, because they actually earned their money (or, at least, their parents did). They come from places like Spanish Fort, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, Madison, or, worse, out of state. They were lured here when high-level campus administrators showed up at a recruiting event, promised them lucrative scholarship packages, and, more importantly, a vaunted spot atop the campus totem poll. They were surprised and taken aback when they arrived, and found out that starting a conversation with “Well, I could have gone to an Ivy League school, but…” is actually much less impressive than, “I graduated from UMS.”

They complain about all the time they have to spend doing schoolwork, even though their major is philosophy and they wiped a year off college in high school. At random points, the “Teach for America Application Deadline” pops up as their Facebook profile picture.

Old money students, meanwhile, eat lunch at the fraternity or sorority house, if they make it out of bed in time.  They spend their evenings at Gallettes or The Red Shed and are always asking their friends if they are “going out tonight.”

They drive the Escalades and Tahoes their parents drove before they bought a new model. They don’t flash their wealth because, well, what’s theirs to flash?

To them, the Black Belt is a massive 18 county hunting reserve, not a fertile ground for social entrepreneurship. Their main concern is not as much finding a job as it is avoiding a death tax hike. Vineyard Vines and Polo are fine, but there is no significant marginal value in wearing something from Brooks Brothers over a game day T-shirt.

These students have likely not been to Barnes and Noble since they moved to Tuscaloosa, and probably view the Ferg as more of an airport terminal than a student center. Every few months, they devote their profile picture to a political cause, like “Bradley Byrne for Governor” or, more importantly, “Vote Yes for Seven Day Sales.”

Overall, these guys are relaxed, low-key, and legitimately fun to be around.

However, such conflicting personality types cannot coexist peacefully forever. I fear we are nearing a point when the sheer drive and intelligence of the new money elites will lead them to direct confrontation with the likability and influence of old money.

Only time will tell if we can bridge this divide, and create a united front for the future of our campus. There are reasons to be optimistic. Eventually, all this new money floating around will become old, and then a few of these guys will get a seat on the Board of Trustees. After all, they’ve earned it.

Tray Smith is the opinions editor of The Crimson White. His column runs on Monday.

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