Students feel the university should do a better job in teaching its history and traditions

Micah Sanders, Editor-In-Chief

Since its inception in 1867, Alabama State University has grown into an institution of knowledge, perseverance, and progress. From the end of the Civil War to the American Civil Rights Movement to the present day, the university is the home of several notable alumni who have made significant changes to not only Montgomery, Alabama but to the entire nation. 

Names such as Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Thelma Glass reign high in honor and appreciation at ASU, with numerous buildings,  and classrooms plastered throughout the university honoring their legacy. 

154 years later, their names can still be seen and heard. However, their significance has slowly diminished as various current students do not know who these alumni are or their significant contributions. 

“I know some of their names since they are on some of our biggest attractions like the library or the cafe, but I really don’t know why,” said senior biology major Darien Byles. “I mean, I sometimes would look them up on Google just out of curiosity, but I still don’t fully grasp the concept of their legacy.” 

Ralph David Abernathy Hall, the university’s College of Education building located on the west side of campus, was named after ASU alumnus and civil rights activist Ralph David Abernathy. Abernathy, alongside Martin Luther King Jr., was responsible for organizing the historic Montgomery bus boycotts and co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). 

“Coming to this university in 2018 and about to graduate in a couple of months, I did learn who some of these notable alumni are, especially Abernathy, since I have had classes in that building since my sophomore year. He is extremely important to our university,” said senior history major Antoinette Fisher. 

At the university, students are required to take Freshman Orientation, ORI 100, during their first or second semester. The course is designed to provide an orientation to the purpose of higher education in general and to Alabama State University in particular. Students must learn the university hymn, historical figures, and the history of the university. 

“I remember taking ORI 100 fall 2018, and I honestly don’t recall anything that I learned,” said senior biology major Myka Harvard. “I do remember us having to recite the university hymn since it was a part of our test, but like of course I just remembered it specifically for the test and then afterward, it was gone from my memory. Same goes for the historical figures and alumni.” 

“If I could win $1 million to name at least 10 notable alumni and their significance, I wouldn’t win,” said senior rehabilitation services major Reginald “Reggie” Ellis. 

Senior interdisciplinary studies major Briannah Davis believes that in order to combat the ignorance surrounding the historical figures, the university should implement the history of these people throughout the general study courses. 

“If ASU could somehow put the stories of how many flyers were made [for the Montgomery Bus Boycott] into a math equation for our math classes or maybe even us writing a short story on one of the historical figures in our English classes, that would allow students to obtain and maintain those people in their brain a lot more.”

Along with ORI 100, students must take HUM 103, Humanities through the African American Experience. The course provides an integrated study of the art, literature, music, and history inherent in African American culture.  A primary purpose of the course is to promote the student’s awareness of the many contributions and achievements of African Americans. One of the units of this course is to explore the American Civil Rights Movement and the cultural and political contributions made. 

Since the university is located in the heart of the American Civil Rights Movement, it can be deemed that the students should know some important figures from the HUM 103 class, but according to senior forensic science major Troy Harrison, he did not learn as much as he thought he would. 

“We learned about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but those were mainly the two that we spoke on the most regarding the bus boycott. I think after doing my own research and talking to some of my professors, I think I have learned enough about some of the important people of the university.”

Senior business administration major Johvonna Washington agrees with Harrison but thinks that the university should do a better job of teaching the students more about different figureheads besides the most popular ones. 

“Students are paying so much money to learn things, and we are getting the bare minimum,” Washington said. “ I should not have to do my own research on the basic history of the university if I am paying you to teach me.” She further states that if a name like Thelma Glass was mentioned in a conversation, she would recognize the name but not know her life story. 

LaDeja Thompson, a senior biology major, believes she is well prepared and educated to leave ASU. 

“I took honors courses during my freshman year here, and I think they truly helped me learn what I needed to know regarding notable alumni,” Thompson said.  

“I think I know enough about Fred Shuttlesworth, Frederick D. Reese, and Alvin Holmes because I like to read, but only because of that. In my freshman classes, those names were never spoken of,” said senior computer science major Kingsley Douglas.