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The University of Alabama was founded in 1831 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It is the state's oldest public four-year institution. The school, also known in Alabama as "the Capstone," had an enrollment of more than 20,000 in fall 2003. Its president is Robert Witt. The university has garnered regional renown for its programs in business, communications and law, and its engineering and natural sciences programs are also on the rise, thanks to recent cash infusions from donors.
The school's athletics teams are known as the Crimson Tide. They compete at the NCAA's Division I level and are members of the 12-member Southeastern Conference. The Tide's football team has brought national attention to the state in recent decades, winning 12 national championships and 21 SEC titles. The football team plays in 83,818-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium, which is named after legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and former UA President George Denny. The gymnastics team, which, like the school's basketball teams, competes in Coleman Coliseum, has also won four national championships.
Student life at the school is marked by a division between students who are members of traditionally white social fraternities and sororities and students who are not. The university's white sorority system admitted its first black member in fall 2003. A new Christian fraternity admitted a black student in 2001, but the white greek system otherwise remained largely segregated. Several traditionally black fraternities and sororities have accepted white members.
The divide among students often shows up during the school's annual Student Government Association elections, which are usually dominated by white Greek candidates backed by a secretive group called the Machine. SGA elections have been marred by violent assaults and death threats in the past, but turnout among so-called "independents" remains low because of apathy.
The university in recent years has developed an image as a "party school," thanks to rankings from The Princeton Review and other publications that cited lots of drinking and drug use on and near campus. University officials responded by starting a series of late-night, on-campus entertainment programs and successfully pushing for a citywide limitation on bar hours.
Campus landmarks include Bryant-Denny Stadium, the President's Mansion, Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library and Denny Chimes, the clock tower located on the Quad next to University Boulevard. The school is also home to the Paul W. Bryant Museum and the Alabama Museum of Natural History.
Famous alumni include former Supreme Court justice Hugo Black, Pulitzer Prize winners Harper Lee and E.O. Wilson, former Alabama Gov. George Wallace and Super Bowl champion quarterbacks Joe Namath and Bart Starr.