[OUR VIEW] UA should not remain silent on election allegations

Our View

From claims of 10 University of Alabama students registering to vote from a single residence, to promises of limo rides, free drinks and no cover charge at two bars in exchange for voting, Tuscaloosa’s City School Board elections last week were rocked by an unprecedented level of scandal. The Crimson White’s pages have been full of letters from concerned and angry citizens, faculty and alumni who feel their voices and votes were cheated that day by students who have no stake in the city’s public school system. Their statements have examined and re-examined the ethical decisions of UA students’ actions.

Even as at least one candidate has announced she will challenge the results of the election, the legality of some of the election day actions of students are not clear. As such, they are not an issue we feel justified in addressing. However, a distinctly separate issue – that holds definitively harmful effects for campus – has arisen from this sad affair: an environment on campus that encourages severely misplaced priorities.

Additional correspondence between sorority chapters and their members has been provided to the CW, but sources are refusing to allow the information to be published for fear of retribution. Now, the decisions and announcements that students were so boldly willing to make to their peers leading up to the election have since been shuffled behind a curtain of silence. In the place of email chains endorsing candidates along with drink specials, Instagrammed pictures from the inside of limos comes outright denial and, in some cases, defiance.

The University is faced with an environment in which students are empowered to brazenly and openly take actions that are, at the very least, legally and ethically questionable, while those who would do what is right are intimidated into silence. We believe it should be the exact opposite on a university campus.

Unfortunately, the University administration has done nothing to rectify this disparity. It has yet to publicly address the accusations leveled against its own students, much less actually announce a course of action. The silence is deafening. In a long-standing culture where students cower to exposure, the University’s inaction has implicitly encouraged student silence in regards to a potential criminal investigation. Administrative silence, therefore, perpetuates this taboo on campus.

At the very minimum, the UA administration must publicly address these accusations and encourage its students, many of whom look to it as an example, to cooperate with the appropriate authorities. It is not demanding that they take a side or prematurely judge the legality of the situation; they should tell students to follow the law and assist with a legal investigation. In doing so, the University will take a much needed step toward cleansing the environment of fear and silence.

The University has an obligation to ensure an environment of accountability on this campus. Remaining silent and, by proxy, encouraging the silence of those who speak truth about the events that happened on election day, is an unacceptable alternative. Staying quiet may temporarily suppress allegations and attention. However, the attention is not going away, particularly with potential legal challenges. Recognizing this reality and publicly addressing the issues at hand will, in the long run, lead to a healthier University and a more accountable student body.

But only if the administration has the courage to stand up for what is right and do so.

 

Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White Editorial Board.