TUSCALOOSA, Ala — On September 15, 2017, Mrs. Autherine Lucy Foster stood under a tent on Graves Hall lawn and faced a crowd of over 200 eager faces anxiously waiting for her to speak on her experience. Mrs. Foster had returned to The University of Alabama to be remembered and honored at the same school that had expelled her sixty-one years earlier because of the color of her skin. But today, the University of Alabama would unveil a historic marker in her honor for paving the way for many of African-American students at the University.
Friends and family gathered under a tent surrounded by students, faculty, and news reporters; all of whom couldn’t think of a place they’d rather be than right there on Graves Lawn in the Alabama heat standing before a legend. Everyone, friends and strangers alike all hovered in close to hear what Mrs. Foster had to say.
“Everyone went silent when she spoke. No matter the anxiousness, no matter the heat, when she spoke everyone got quiet,” said Stacy Jones, Associate Dean of Students and fellow Zeta Phi Beta sister of Mrs. Foster.
The 200 individuals present at such a monumental event basked in the presence of such a courageous and historic figure. However, there should have been many, more people in attendance, and many more would have liked to have been present. So why weren’t they? Because, as many students and faculty feel, The University of Alabama dropped the ball in informing the student body that Mrs. Foster would be presenting on campus that day.
The students in attendance either found out about the event the night before or the day of through a few student-run social media sites like the Black UA snapchat account. The University owns and operates multiple sites, like University Programs, that serve the purpose of keeping students in the loop about upcoming events and guest speakers. Within each building, dorm hall, or rest room, there are bulletin boards covered in flyers about events taking place across campus. Students are even bombarded by emails detailing the events that will be taking place each week on campus.
So, “why wasn’t it on University Programs?” asked Mikaela Anderson, a senior psychology student at the University. Anderson caught word of the event at the last minute. She was able to attend but was disappointed by the lack of students in attendance.
A few students even took to twitter the day of the honoring and demanded that the
University publicize the event. Students questioned whether or not the University wanted them to know that the event was even taking place.
A student pointed out the fact that the NAACP came to the campus and the student body didn’t know about that either. Allegedly, President Bell responded, “The people who were deserving were in attendance,” when students questioned him about the lack of information given to the campus about such a visit.
“With this being an institute of higher education, it makes me question the University’s competence,” said Brittany Bounds, a senior social work student, who also expressed disappointment in the lack of students present and widespread publicity surrounding the event.
The honoring of Autherine Lucy Foster was a monumental and historic occasion at the University of Alabama that many will remember for the rest of their lives. Yet, many will wish that the University would have informed them of the chance to witness history every time they walk past the marker that stands in front of Graves Hall.