If you give stories some time, you’ll find that there is almost always more to them. And that’s what we are finding with the whole racist t-shirt scandal engulfing Alpha Delta Pi at Samford University. In cased you missed it, here’s a peek at the shirt that caused the uproar.
This shirt was made by Alpha Delta Pi Sorority in Birmingham, Al. When y'all see the problem Retweet & Report. pic.twitter.com/at0dCvjDG1
— Welp (@Ya_Hayati__) May 13, 2016
On Monday, university president Andrew Westmoreland sent students and faculty a lengthy (I mean, this dude likes to write) email detailing a timeline of how this whole clusterfuck went down, and it turns out that ADPi may not have been as responsible as they were originally thought to be.
The most important of the email, which describes how the whole thing happened, seems to exonerate the chapter of intentionally producing the racist shirts:
The process began several weeks ago when the Alpha Delta Pi chapter created a t-shirt design for one of its events. An Internet search for “vintage Alabama maps” led to a stylized map of Alabama. The chapter reports that they did not notice the full details of the image. In combination with references to the event, the sorority and Samford University, the image was then used to achieve the overall t-shirt design.
Next, the chapter submitted a Google link for the image to South By Sea LLC, an apparel vendor. The company completed the design of the shirt. The chapter then asked the company to proceed with licensure approval. At some point in this process, a proof of the shirt design was reviewed by the chapter leadership and at least one chapter alumnae advisor. Chapter leadership has explained that this proof was a small-scaled image and that they did not scrutinize it for specific details.
The Alpha Delta Pi International Sorority, based in Atlanta, utilizes a firm known as Greek Licensing (Affinity Marketing Consultants) for licensing approval of shirts and other sorority-related materials. The design for the shirt was submitted through normal channels and was apparently processed by the Greek licensing company without objection. At the same time, South By Sea submitted the design through Learfield Licensing Partners, Samford’s licensing agency. Because the t-shirt included a reference to Samford, Learfield required the specific approval of the University. South By Sea submitted the proposed design late on April 19 via the Learfield online approval process. The next day, members of Samford’s Marketing and Communication staff reviewed the design and identified the racially insensitive imagery. While the images were small as they appeared on the screen, staff members could identify the image of an African-American person holding a slice of watermelon. A staff member in the Office of Marketing and Communication contacted a staff member in the Office of Greek Life to verify that the design should be disapproved. The Greek Life staff member agreed. On that same day, April 20, the staff in the Office of Marketing and Communication clicked “rejected” on the “design approvals” page of the order.
Additional problems in the process occurred at that point. According to a representative of the apparel vendor, a clerical error was made by its employee who received Samford’s disapproval of the shirt design. Instead of checking “rejected,” the South By Sea employee registered the design as “approved.”
This was a crucial error because the shirt then went into production. The president of South By Sea communicated with Learfield on Friday afternoon his apologies for the mistake. As of Friday afternoon, we have removed South By Sea from Samford’s approved vendor list.
Under normal circumstances when a design is disapproved by Samford, the vendor would notify the client (in this case, the chapter) of the disapproval. Because of the error in coding, the chapter was not advised of the disapproval. I should add at this point that, even though the process calls for communication between the vendor and the chapter, especially under these circumstances, the Samford staff should have taken the extra step of explaining to the chapter the racially-insensitive imagery that resulted in the rejection of the design. I deeply regret that this additional measure was not taken. However, to be absolutely clear on these facts, our staff definitively disapproved the shirt design on the grounds that it was racially insensitive and communicated these instructions to the vendor. The shirt should never have been produced.
Approximately 300 shirts were ordered for delivery. The shirts arrived on May 6 and were then made available to the membership, without recognition of the racially-insensitive imagery on the shirts. This lack of perception does not excuse the offense that it caused.
So it seems like this whole snafu is just a series of unfortunate events. The chapter fouled up by not noticing the issue in the design (although they probably should have noticed when the shirts were delivered), Greek Licensing screwed up by allowing the design to pass inspection, the university dropped the ball on communication, and the vendor totally messed up by making the shirts in the first place.
The lesson in all this? Inspect the hell out of the images you want to put on your shirts, otherwise your shirt may make national news in the worst way possible..