If you’ve been keeping up with on-campus politics, you’ve probably heard about Dr. Riley’s recent resignation. The former Dean of Students stepped down after a few of his tweets concerning racism in America resurfaced. A large population of the University of Alabama students is infuriated with the situation, as the administration refuses to be transparent on the reasoning behind Riley’s resignation. There has been widespread media coverage of the ordeal, and many students are taking action to find answers.
Dr. Riley’s resignation has served as the catalyst for a larger conversation concerning the University of Alabama. Why does the University claim a commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” when it’s constantly diminishing the voices and opinions of minorities?
UA’s past is riddled with racism and oppression. This long, painful history began when enslaved people built the University, and continued when they were forced to work here without compensation. After the abolishment of slavery and reconstruction, racism continued its’ hold on UA. In 1956, Autherine Lucy was the first black student to set foot on the University’s campus. She was expelled for her own safety within three days, as angry rioters and protestors threatened her life. Black students were barred from entering the University until 1963 when Vivian Malone and James Hood were successfully enrolled. When these two students tried to obtain their course schedules and start their academic careers, they were met with Governor George Wallace guarding the schoolhouse door. The University has been integrated since this time, but on-campus racism still lingers far after 1963.
The University of Alabama’s Panhellenic Greek life was not formally integrated until 2013. Just two years ago, we witnessed the scandal of a sorority girl who felt the need to announce her blatantly racist opinions on camera. The same year, a white supremacist was invited to speak on our campus.
I’m detailing this brief history to make a point: the University of Alabama was built on a foundation of anti-blackness. Recently, the University has made it a point to shift its framework to include “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” These buzzwords, however, do not mean very much when they are not producing real change.
This past week, I marched in a protest concerning Dr. Riley’s removal. Upon arriving at Rose Administration, Dr. Bell gave a brief speech about being thankful for student opinion before promptly turning around and walking inside. He did not stay to listen to the demands of the students who have been so viciously hurt by his actions. His duty as president is to serve all UA students, yet he has chosen to neglect an entire section of the student body.
With a past as deeply entrenched in racism and anti-blackness as the University of Alabama’s, one cannot simply turn a blind eye to injustice. Every day must be treated as a part of the battle to overcome the inequities of the past.
The students of color at this campus deserve better. They deserve better than feeling like their feelings, thoughts, and opinions go unheard. They deserve better than having the president quite literally turn his back on them in a time of distress. They deserve to feel recognized every day for the bravery it takes to set foot on a campus built by their ancestors. The students at the University of Alabama deserve honesty, justice, and an acknowledgment of past wrongdoings.
So, to the University of Alabama, do better. Your students are depending on you to actually pursue the ideals you have so brazenly written on every memo.