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Subject: Lucy-Graves Hall
To the UA System Board of Trustees,
My name is [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE] and I am a [STUDENT, STAFF/FACULTY MEMBER, ALUMNI, RELATIVE OF A STUDENT, ETC] at the University of Alabama. When I first came to UA, I was told this is “Where Legends are Made.” But what message does it send when our campus still honors “legends” such as Bibb Graves, a former Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan? By putting Graves’ name alongside Autherine Lucy, the university disrespects the legacy and impact Lucy had on this campus, and I believe the student body deserves answers as to why the Board thought this name change was appropriate. We are currently receiving public attention from national news sources such as The New York Times and NPR highlighting the hypocrisy of having a Klan officer and our first African-American student share a building name. Particularly considering the racial violence Autherine Lucy experienced in her brief time on campus, it seems incredibly inappropriate that the Board would consider this name change acceptable. Our national reputation is now being called into question because of the Board’s actions, and they must take accountability. Your students want answers as to how we got to this point and how we can avoid making similar mistakes in the future.
I want to believe that my university cares about all students regardless of race, but I am deeply saddened to see such a lack of respect and care for your students. However, there are many things that need to change at UA in order to make this a more inclusive environment, and this change only begins with removing the namesakes of all Klansmen and eugenicists, and banning confederate imagery from our campus. There has already been some movement on this front, with the removal of names like Manly, Morgan, and Nott. Other schools, such as Jackson State University, have already removed Graves’ name from their campuses. As JSU demonstrated, the potential legal issues of removing Graves’ name can be easily avoided by paying legal fines. The question is not whether or not we can make this change, but whether or not UA’s Board cares enough to take action.
More concrete steps the UA Board could take would include investing more money in their students and faculty of color. There is no reason why programs designed specifically to address racism and discrimination cannot be better funded. As it stands, there is no physical place on campus for students to report incidents of racism. The Women and Gender Resource center lacks specified counseling for students on campus who experience race-related trauma. The Counseling Center is overwhelmed and understaffed. Students and faculty of color are still dramatically underrepresented in several colleges. Perhaps this is because of the numerous public incidents in the past decade involving UA greek men and women using derogatory and demeaning language toward their Black and Brown classmates. In the Summer of 2020, student activists brought these concerns and more to the attention of the Trustees. It’s been almost two years, and we are still waiting to see what progress UA has made to address these concerns. The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D.E.I) should have more funding. Department specific representatives of D.E.I. should have mandated training and evaluations by the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
While Autherine Lucy deserves better than to share her name with Bibb Graves, the Board cannot simply go back and change the name of a building without acknowledging the culture of discrimination it has allowed to continue unchecked for decades. The damage has already been done; it is deep and structural, and it will take more than names alone to truly change. It is long overdue that the UA Trustees directly address the concerns of students and work towards concrete, anti-racist change here at UA.
Contact Information for the University of Alabama Board of Trustees
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