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University Of Alabama Student Government Votes To Leave All-White Sororities Alone

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UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA STUDENTS
Univ. of Alabama student Will Gonzalez of Orlando speaks to other students who gathered for a march on the Rose Administration Building to protest the university's segregated sorority system on the campus in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. About 400 students and faculty marched across the campus to oppose racial segregation among its Greek-letter social organizations. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

The University of Alabama student senate killed a resolution supporting racial integration of fraternities and sororities on campus -- a failure the legislation's author partly blamed on a secret society called the Machine.

The student senate voted last week 27 to 5 to send the resolution to committee, effectively killing it. Thursday's senate meeting was the last of the term, and no business will be carried into the new term.

"I submitted this in hopes that it would move the University of Alabama forward," Katie Smith, the student senator who drafted the resolution, told The Huffington Post. "I am saddened that this is debated in the year 2014. However, as disheartening as it is to have an overwhelming amount of senators vote to 'kill' this resolution, I hope that our culture of silence is also 'killed' with their vote and that we can start a conversation about how to advance."

The resolution cited damage to the reputation of the university, in Tuscaloosa, after it was revealed last year that all-white sororities were denying membership to black women based solely on race. The controversy erupted a half-century after National Guard troops forced then-Gov. George Wallace to end his blockade at the university and the first black students were allowed to enroll.

Several black women were offered sorority bids in the fall after an arrangement with the university administration. In November, a historically Jewish sorority elected its first black president.

But Smith said things are far from fixed when it comes to desegregating the Greek system at Alabama. She said she wanted to present the resolution in the fall, when race was a bigger public issue, but was pressured by members of the Machine, which student newspaper Crimson White has described as a political coalition of all-white fraternities and sororities. Smith said Machine members forced her to delay her resolution, telling her the Student Government Association didn't want to take a stand on the issue.

"The SGA is essentially the Machine, so it was really The Machine that didn't want to take a stand on this issue," Smith said.

Smith said members of the Machine told her if she moved forward with her resolution, she would lose a chance for higher positions in student government next year. She said Thursday's meeting was her last as a student senator, so she decided to disregard the warning and present her legislation. If she had introduced it sooner, there may have been time for the resolution to undergo a committee review and get a full vote.

The Machine includes students from Greek houses that secretly endorse student government candidates. The shadow group was the reason sororities still shunned black women last year, according to the Crimson White.

Earlier this month, following student government elections, student activists criticized the newly elected members as handpicked by the Machine.

Some student senators said they were concerned the language in the integration resolution would lead to an affirmative action-like Greek system. Some asked whether traditionally black or Latino fraternities would be required to admit white students.

"Given the history of the University of Alabama in the civil rights movement, it is imperative that the campus takes every necessary action to remove the stigma that currently surrounds this campus regarding its legacy of segregation," the measure read.

Numerous senators who opposed the resolution either declined to comment or did not respond to emails. The university is currently on spring break.

"The overall feeling was that most of the Greeks took this as a personal attack, although the wording of the resolution should not have elicited that feeling," said Justin Thompson, a co-sponsor of the resolution. "Looking back, if they weren't going to vote yes based on everyone being equal, they could have at least voted yes from a public relations standpoint. This only reinforces the international stereotype of the state of Alabama."

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