Opinion: The University punishes for its image, not its morals


Heather Gann, Staff Columnist

Over the past few weeks, the University of Alabama campus has fallen victim to a great deal of controversy, both in dealing with the resignation of Jamie Riley and with the suspension of professor Joel Strayer. Riley resigned – some say forcibly – after “inflammatory” tweets surfaced from his account, and Strayer was formerly on administrative leave because an individual who is said to not even have been a student at the University shotgunned a beer in his class.

Strayer was allowed to return to teaching on Tuesday after the University decided to reverse his suspension, seemingly because of the outcry of students, alumni and faculty alike. My question in both of these cases is this: Where does the University’s administration draw the line? At what point do they realize that these men are individuals with the right to an opinion and no control over what others do? 

In the case of Strayer, what would the University have liked him to do in that situation? Run up and tackle the guy to knock the beer out of his hand? When we are growing up, our parents, teachers and the world always tell us to ignore asinine acts such as this one because the people doing them are just seeking a reaction. I don’t doubt for a moment that the only reason the young man drank the beer in that video was for an appearance on Barstool Bama. I believe Strayer acted maturely and as a professor should in that situation. He simply ignored the nuisance and continued to teach. The fact that he was suspended for this is ludicrous, and likely only happened because a video was posted. The University of Alabama is a very traditional, image-driven school, and they will stop at nothing to protect said image. 

If no video had been posted, the Strayer instance would have just been a funny story, shared among classmates. ”Hey, remember when that kid shotgunned a beer in here?” Just like if Riley’s tweets had not been published and brought to the University’s attention, he may still be here. This is not because the tweets were anything terrible or something to be ashamed of. One of my current teachers has admitted that both she and her colleagues have similar things on their pages. No, these tweets were an issue because this University aligns itself with a certain set of ideals and virtues, and anything that strays from that must be gotten rid of. Ironic, considering the Capstone Creed itself encourages us to pursue knowledge and foster civic responsibility. Apparently, if you wish to work here, there are addendums to that creed. You may pursue knowledge that the University wants you to pursue, and you can only engage civically with societies and ideals they deem appropriate. 

The Student Government Association is currently working to pass a resolution that will further protect the intellectual freedoms of the faculty and students of the University. I think it will be interesting to see what effect it will have, since Gov. Kay Ivey had already passed a bill that was supposed to do the same thing. 

The true root of issues like these cannot be solved with resolutions and bills; we must confront the source of power, the mob mentality of image protection and “good Southern values” this university seems to hold. Only then can we have a welcoming community that fosters the differences of humanity for both students and faculty.