Who are we?
If you are reading this post, you are one of the thousands of men and women who have a connection to our university. Our numbers are vast due to the explosive growth of our campus over the past three decades. Many of us are first generation college graduates thanks to the “little university in southside.” In fact, statistics show that 60% of undergrads enrolled at our university in the mid 1990s fit into this category thanks to the creation of this university and the opportunity it afforded the citizens of central Alabama.
If you are like me, you are here because you are grateful for the experiences and connections that were given to you by our university, and want to see those passed on to the next generation. Recent events have threatened our alma mater and attempted to reshape the campus and its mission. The good news is that we can put an end to these attacks on our legacy, and protect it from those who would limit what our university and our city could become. Attacks that date back to the late 1970s, when our university was less than 10 years old. Attacks that could have been detrimental had our family not stepped up and defended our campus. Here is our story:
How did we get here?
In the late 1970s, higher education in Alabama was undergoing changes that would affect funding distributed to each university and university system. The state legislature created the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) and tasked the group with defining the funding needs of each university. This process led to concern amongst the university presidents and trustee boards as to how their university would be classified in relation to funding needs. Questions arose as to how much funding each university would be allotted. Would universities attached to graduate programs such as medical and law schools be afforded more funding?
In 1980, in response to the higher ed funding arms race, the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees issued a statement defining its three undergraduate campuses based on a report issued by the ACHE. The report classified the Tuscaloosa campus as the central “main” campus of the University of Alabama System. It also classified the Birmingham and Huntsville campuses as an “urban universities.” Many critics have said that this move was designed to limit the size and scope of work of the campus in an effort to maintain the dominance of the “main” campus in Tuscaloosa. This was due to the fact that the Birmingham campus’ connection to the medical school, which garnered a substantial increase in funding, and could have possibly led to the Birmingham campus overtaking Tuscaloosa as the central campus of the system due to enrollment and academic programs.
The late Dr. Arnold Grobman, widely considered the leading scholar on the urban university phenomenon, was a consultant on the 1975 ACHE report that led to this formal definition of our university in 1980. Grobman states that “the difference between rural (land grant) universities and public (urban) universities is the partnership that exists between the public university and the community it serves, making the institution vital to urban life.” He states that this “new” kind of university will lead to a new kind of campus that draws students using the programs offered as well as the city backdrop that offers prospective students options for activities and growth as both an undergraduate and as an alumnus of the university. These urban universities will output graduates who will directly affect the city surrounding the university as they often put down roots in the area after graduation.
Dr. Joseph Volker, the first president of our university understood the importance of the urban university and its connection to the city surrounding the campus. In his 1971 Newcomen Society address he stated: “The destinies of cities and their universities are inseparable. One cannot flourish unless the other prospers.” It was this inseparable bond that led to the monumental growth of our university from 1975 to the present day, as well as the speculation surrounding the 1980 decision. This bond stands as the cornerstone that moves both entities forward into the next 50 years of our existence.
Where are we headed?
Birmingham is currently enjoying an era of unprecedented revitalization. A brief look out any window on the south side will grant you a view of a city on the rise and a view of countless construction projects underway. We are once again dreaming big and striving to better ourselves. We feel that our university can be a vital part of this revitalization with the right leadership and programs to take advantage of our mutual partnership with the city. As the city proper and the surrounding suburbs continue to grow, so do the multitudes of future students who are looking for a campus to call home. Young men and women who will be the next generation of leaders in the city of Birmingham, and the state of Alabama. We would be remiss if we did not do all that we can to offer these men and women an opportunity to receive a quality education and collegiate experience right here, in their hometown. We want to see the next generation feel a sense of pride in Birmingham and the state of Alabama, and continue to invest their time and talents in their hometown.
How are we going to get there?
Our philosophy is simple. We embrace the “urban university” moniker that has been bestowed upon our university because we possess the tools needed to make our university and our city world-renowned. We know that our university can stand along side other urban universities like UCLA and the University of Miami as a campus that offers first class academic and athletic programs. We understand the “inseparable bond” that we have with Birmingham and the state of Alabama and will continue to foster the connections that have made our university the campus all that it is today. Most importantly, we dare to dream and strive equality and our rightful place in our university system and our state’s higher education community. We will accomplish these tasks by uniting in an organization that will work toward these goals. An organization that will serve as the conduit to connect the city to the university by funding and creating programs that brings out the best in both entities. We will see the visions of our forefathers realized. We will continue the growth and success of our university and its people.
We are the Green and Gold Foundation.