On first glance, you might not notice anything unusual about the diverse group of students on the University of Alabama homepage. Dressed in graduation gowns, they’re congratulating each other and shaking hands.
If you look closely, though, the hands of the black student in the photo appear a little lighter than his face. Could it be that Alabama Photoshopped a black kid’s head on a white kid’s body in an attempt to inflate its minority representation? (It wouldn't be the first time.)
That’s the consensus on Reddit, where someone posted a link to the University of Alabama homepage with the headline “Alabama Photoshops Black People Onto Their Main Website.”
The photo spread to Reddit’s r/funny forum, and ultimately to Twitter, where author Scott Stratten tweeted it to his 158,000 followers:
Within four hours of the original r/WTF post, redditors had an alternate theory: It was the lighting that made the hands look lighter. Redditors even tracked down the student in the photo so he could weigh in.
Seems like they were right. “The photo was not altered, manipulated or photoshopped,” said Chris Bryant, a representative from the university, in an email to the Daily Dot. “The lighting we used during the photoshoot explains concerns or questions that have been raised.”
An Alabama commercial (featuring the student at 00:24) was posted to show how the lighting is what made the photo look altered.
“I went to Alabama and was in one of these photoshoots for the website,” TL-PuLSe commented. “I can guarantee you they didn’t have to photoshop a black guy for due to lack of diversity in the shoot. They carefully select a well distributed crowd for these and make sure there is always a mix of races and sexes in each photograph.”
In 2000 the University of Wisconsin was accused of a similar rumor after a photo from its undergraduate application booklet featured a black student who just looked out of place. A reporter at the school newspaper studied the photo and discovered that the lighting on the student’s face just looked off. Turns out, the student, Diallo Shabazz, was clipped from a 1994 Welcome Week layout and Photoshopped into the admissions booklet cover.
Shabazz, according to Snopes, was a “prominent African American student activist who has never attended a UW football game and is deeply involved in efforts to promote campus diversity.”
Photo via the University of Alabama