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Crimson White Online

October 18, 2006

Grades not solely responsible for bloc seating

Machine fraternities have best seats


By Ellen Burkes
Assistant Student Life Editor


During last year's football season, Lambda Sigma Phi fraternity had less than desirable seats in the bloc seating section, the south end zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium.


Yet the fraternity also had the second-highest GPA out of all the fraternities, according to UA documents. The spots in the bloc seating section are given out to organizations, mostly fraternities, by the SGA Bloc Seating Committee, and are supposed to be based partially on grades.

What has drawn skepticism of the committee's judgment in recent years is that usually fraternities with bloc seating closest to the field, including this year's front four, have all been linked to the Machine, a select coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities designed to influence campus politics. Those four also do not have the highest GPAs of the organizations in the bloc seating section.

The fraternities on the front row this semester are Sigma Nu, with a GPA of 2.829; Phi Gamma Delta, with a GPA of 3.051; Delta Kappa Epsilon, with a GPA of 2.90; and Kappa Alpha, with a GPA of 2.840. GPAs are based on spring 2006 grades.

The two fraternities with the highest GPAs were Alpha Tau Omega, with a GPA of 3.195, and Theta Tau, with a GPA of 3.2. Theta Tau sits in the second bloc from the top of the end zone, farthest away from the field, and Alpha Tau Omega sits in the third bloc from the field.

Several students tied to organizations that have annually been denied the best seats said they think the Bloc Seating Committee is influenced by the Machine, but because of the sensitivity of the issue declined to comment on the record.

Rick Funk, associate director for regional recruiting, said in the past some fraternity members have brought complaints to him regarding seating locations of other fraternities. Funk said he told the fraternity members to speak with the Bloc Seating Committee chairperson about their concerns.

Afterward, Funk said he follows up with the committee to make sure the concerns have been addressed.

"The chair has to handle it; he or she can't ignore it," Funk said.

Complaints have not come to him in the past few years, he said.

Margaret King, vice president for student affairs, said she has not heard the idea that older fraternities or fraternities linked with the Machine receive preference from the Bloc Seating Committee.

"No complaint has ever come to me [regarding the Bloc Seating Committee]," King said. "Complaints are not coming through administrative channels."

John Brooks, chairman of the Bloc Seating Committee, said grades aren't the only aspect the committee considers before assigning bloc seats to organizations. Placement of organizations depends on three major criteria: grades, behavior and involvement on campus, Brooks said.

"Behavior refers to how an organization holds themselves in general, at games too," Brooks said. "It's about who misbehaves and who doesn't."

If an organization misbehaves, he said, the Bloc Seating Committee takes action.

"If there's fighting or misbehaving [during the game], organizations can move just for the game or for the whole season, depending on the situation," Brooks said. "Usually no one moves, but it's a possibility."

SGA President Justice Smyth said all three criteria are weighed evenly. Smyth said he has never heard of a situation in which an organization had the same grades, was the same size and had the same amount of campus involvement.

Older fraternities do not receive preferences in the Bloc Seating Committee, he said.

"No one has brought complaints about the Bloc Seating Committee to me, and I don't know who's associated with the Machine," Smyth said.

Brooks and Smyth are DKEs.

"If you're the chairman of any committee, that goes into the campus involvement part of the criteria," Smyth said.

The Blount program has bloc seating for the first time this semester. Blount resident Haynes Haselmaier said this is why his residence hall sits at the top of the south end zone, farthest away from the field.

While the senior majoring in physics said he is content with Blount's location this year, he's skeptical about Blount's location during future seasons.

"I would not expect for Blount to do much moving because of the many Machine fraternities," he said. "If things go the way they do on campus, then they'll [the fraternities in the front row] probably keep those same seats."

As far as behavior problems during the football games, Funk said they don't happen too often. But he did remember a specific incident from a few years ago.

"A number of years ago, people were throwing cups on the field," Funk said. "If we could identify someone throwing a cup, we moved the organization. If the incident happened a second time, the organization would lose their bloc seating."

Wade Smith, a sophomore majoring in management and information systems and a member of Lambda Sigma Phi fraternity, said organizations meet before the football season starts to see where their blocs are seated for the year.

"We're told [the criteria] was supposed to be grades, campus involvement and current number of members," he said. "I feel the system in place is good, if they follow the guidelines."

But in order to prevent one organization from getting preferential treatment over another, Haselmaier said he thinks the criteria for bloc seating needs to change.

He said he proposes a lottery where the first organization pulled would choose its location and then the second.

"This would help so that new organizations would have a chance with the 20-year-old ones," he said. "I think that's almost the only fair way to do it."

Despite rumors of older fraternities getting seating preferences, Funk said this does not happen.

"There's a perception that that's the case," he said.

Brooks also denied those rumors.

"Organizations are just looked at through the criteria," Brooks said. "Older fraternities are absolutely not given preferential treatment."

When it comes to seating in the south end zone, Brooks said, "There's not really any bad seats, but near the front is better."

In addition to the three major criteria, size is considered before designating a block for an organization, Funk said.

"Sometimes a group might need to be in one location, but it might be easier to put another group there because of the number of members they have," Funk said. "Also [size is looked at] because of railings and the number of seats available in that particular block."

Each student organization with a bloc is given enough seats for its entire organization, Brooks said, along with dates.

What Funk said many students may not know is that any student organization is eligible for bloc seating, not just fraternities.

In the past, the School of Law, Wesley Foundation and ROTC have had bloc seating, Funk said. This year, Wesley Foundation, Blount, the School of Law and Yell Crew have bloc seating.

Brooks said he wasn't sure how many organizations applied to sit in the south end zone this year.

"Everyone that did turn in an application has a bloc," he said.

The seating arrangement changes every year, and in order to get a bloc in the stadium student organizations must turn in an application to the SGA office. There is also a $75 fee. Organizations must apply no later than one week before the first game of the football season.




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