University's reputation is students' responsibility

When I read President Judy Bonner’s email condemning the viral Snapchat photo that cast a dark cloud over this year’s historic sorority recruitment, I could only bring a palm to my face and shake my head. Before the school year could begin, The University of Alabama was already scrambling to distance itself from the absurd actions of a few children who happened to be students. It was time to get into PR mode again.

We have all memorized some version of a “we’re not all like that” speech for our friends back home, and we are all tired of watching a minuscule subset of students define the University’s reputation. Sadly, though, no amount of PR can prevent a few students from 
bringing shame upon the University.

Let us be clear, Bonner’s swift email was appropriate, but an administration-led, reactionary PR strategy can only do so much to salvage our university’s reputation. It is up to the greater student body to show the world The University of Alabama we all know and love. We truly are better than the headlines suggest, and we all have a 
responsibility to demonstrate it.

Like many other things we do here, improving the image of the University is a process that starts with an attitude of ownership. Every student is a stakeholder in the University’s future, and we all have an interest in its success. When the University succeeds, we succeed. Anyone who has interviewed for a job or applied to another academic institution understands how comforting it is to be received with esteem simply because your school is highly esteemed. Regardless of where you want to go in life, the University’s good name will precede you. Therefore, we have a responsibility to protect it.

After embracing this attitude of ownership, we should extend it to the way we interact with our fellow students. Consider the impressionable freshman who has never sat in the student section at a football game. There is no instruction manual for how to behave in a stadium swarming with cameras and 
coast-to-coast sports broadcasters. It is up to the upperclassmen to show him or her how to party and where to draw the line.

So if you are an upperclassman, realize that you can have a huge impact on the way upcoming freshmen represent the University in the years to come. Peer pressure works both ways, and we all have a responsibility to challenge one another to live up to a higher standard.

And finally, our attitude of ownership should extend to the general public – those who are on the outside looking in. Every time someone interacts with a UA student, their opinion of the University will be affected, for better or worse. We are the face of the University, wherever we go. If we allow this mindset to permeate into our spheres of influence, we can drown out the noise of controversy and show the world The University of Alabama for what it truly is.

Cruise Hall is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. His 
column runs biweekly on Thursday.

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