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

UA must develop ethical leaders

Last summer, people around the country buried their heads between the pages of “The Help,” a heartwarming story of African-American maids in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. The book spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Time’s Best Seller List and was written by University of Alabama alum Kathryn Stockett.

More than 800,000 Americans wake up each morning to “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, where another proud Alabama graduate, Joe Scarborough, runs through the issues of the day. When Joe Scarborough was a student, he ran against the Machine for SGA president but dropped out in order to unite his supporters behind another non-Machine candidate.

After Republicans took over the United States House of Representatives in January of this year, Congressman Jo Bonner of Mobile became the chairman of the House Ethics Committee. When Bonner was a student here, he also ran against the Machine for SGA president. He lost that election, but he never lost his moral foundation. Today, he is the leading ethics watchdog in the U.S. House.

The University of Alabama has produced many outstanding alumni who, while at the Capstone, opposed the coercive influence of the Machine at every turn and stood for a progressive, democratic and ethical culture.

Stockett, Scarborough and Bonner represent the best of what this University has to offer. Our single most important goal should be to develop more leaders like them, who can perform enormous services to our country while also proudly representing the University.

We come to college with a very fundamental sense of right and wrong. It is our duty, as a student body, to create and sustain an environment that reinforces good judgment and provides a strong ethical foundation for those who follow. If we fail at that task, then our ability to generate such high caliber leaders will be diminished.

That is why the scandal in the First Year Council selections process earlier this semester is so important. That is why it is critical that the student body understands what went wrong.

But the flurry of headlines about different students stepping down from their positions and ongoing judicial affairs investigations miss this larger issue. I doubt anyone has gotten involved in SGA with the mission of corrupting the First Year Council selections process. That’s just how business has been done in our SGA. That’s what has been expected and, unfortunately, accepted.

So, good people are now bearing the consequences for a culture that has been cultivated for nearly a century – a culture they did not create or condone. They got involved through the system because it was the only way they knew how to get involved – because it was the only way they could get involved.

Thankfully, we have the opportunity to correct these systemic perversions. We have many great leaders – both inside the SGA and around campus, both inside the greek community and outside of it – who are working to change courses and chart a different path for student involvement and leadership at the Capstone.

I have made many mistakes in my college career. One of them is that I have often equated campus politics to a chessboard and devoted much of my energy to a fruitless endeavor to become a chess master. The reality is that we shouldn’t be working against a black king or a white king. We should be working against the board itself.

We should be working against the idea that student involvement is a game to be mastered and toward a vision of a campus where every student has an equal opportunity to get involved.

I got involved on campus because I wanted to address the parking situation at Lakeside my freshman year. SGA and other leadership groups should give students an outlet to work on projects like that and to truly serve the UA community, not to fight against one another along the false divides that sustain those who rely on a segmented student body for power, money and privileges.

I have never been more disgusted and disillusioned with the coercive aspects of our campus than I have been the past few months. But, I have also never been so hopeful that students from disparate groups are ready to stand up and make the changes necessary for our University to reach its full potential.


Ryan Flamerich is the speaker of the SGA Senate.

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