Friday, March 10, 2006

Non-basketball related post

If you're here just for the hoops, you can skip this one. But as a Birmingham-Southern alum, there's something I've gotta vent about. And here's the best place for it.

If you keep up with the news, you probably know that a rash of church burnings swept through West Alabama in February. You probably also heard the news by now that three college students were arrested this week and confessed to the crime. Two of these were Birmingham-Southern students and the third had met the other two while attending BSC, before transferring to UAB.

Like all BSC alums, I have been by turns in a state of shock, blindingly furious, and deeply saddened since the news broke. Birmingham-Southern does not keep a high profile, even in Alabama; within Birmingham the school is overshadowed by UAB and Samford and outside it's all the Tide and Tigers. There are probably many, many rural Alabamians who had never even heard of BSC until this week. And the idea that my alma mater is now Church Burning U--that wearing by BSC cap in the same Greene or Sumter counties where I've covered high school sports might be seen by some of the people there as some kind of deranged support for these punks--makes me so angry I could scream.

Because, of course, Birmingham-Southern as a school had nothing to do with this kind of madness. No, BSC's not perfect: it could be more diverse, there's too much on-campus emphasis (from this independent's admittedly somewhat dated perspective) on Greek life, and the wall and security checkpoints surrounding campus--while necessary--don't exactly project a sense of community involvement.

But when talking about a crime as depraved as this one, environment has nothing to do with it. BSC has, in fact, a long record of service and good works. Yours truly was part of the inaugural "Interim" (i.e. January mini-term) service project in the downtrodden Birmingham neighborhood of Woodlawn. That project has continued on a yearly basis, and there have been dozens of others.

I can admit that the characterization of BSC as a school for Alabama's privileged elite is, while an exagerration, not completely off-base. But BSC does an excellent job, in my experience, of connecting those privileged students to the less privileged world around them. I should know: I arrived looking for the College Republicans sign-up sheet and left it a donating member of the mailing list of Alabama's most prominent lobby for the poor.

In this particular case, no, the school apparently did not make the kind of impact the BSC community hopes for. But what school would have? This kind of insanity goes beyond a student's college community, far beyond his choice of school. As our president said in today's Birmingham News, this is not an issue of responsibility. And I hope anyone who wants to smear BSC with a brush dipped in the black ink of this week's newsprint remembers that. I'm here to tell anyone who cares to listen: to the extent that any school would "try" to prevent this kind of unimaginable thing from happening, BSC tried. I, for one, am still plenty proud to wear my 'Southern cap.

p.s. I don't think I honestly have many BSC readers, if any, and any I do I'm sure have already heard about the school's rebuilding efforts. But just in case, here.

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