AU student leaders, school officials work to unify following hate crime incident

- Student government leaders held a town hall-style meeting at American University Thursday after racist displays were placed around campus earlier in the week.

On Monday, bananas with string placed around them in the shape of a noose were found at multiple locations with writing targeting the predominantly black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. The words “Hamambe bait” were also seen written on the bananas. It happened on the same day as Taylor Dumpson, the newly-elected student body president, began her first day in office.

The incident, which has been classified as a hate crime, continues to be investigated by university police. Surveillance video was released of a person of interest suspected of hanging the bananas on campus. The FBI is also assisting in the investigation.

This has received the attention of people across the country as some members of Congress have called for a federal civil rights investigation.

After the town hall meeting, Dumpson met with school officials behind closed doors to discuss ideas on how the school should move forward.

Also in attendance in support of Dumpson at the town hall meeting Thursday were Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, the international president of Alpha Kappa Alpha, along with other sorority leaders. The top brass of this historic sorority with deep ties to D.C. area is very concerned.

“This is a campus that is a source of a lot of pride for us, that has produced significant leaders for the organization, and when an incident of this nature occurred, it caught us quite honestly by surprise,” said Buckhanan Wilson.

“We continue to work very, very hard, tirelessly in fact, until first and foremost the individual or individuals that are responsible for the act are brought to justice,” said American University President Neil Kerwin. “And then beyond that, building on Taylor’s example today, the town hall earlier in the week, to engage this community and the type of searching, conversation about how we can ensure that every member of this community – black women and others – feel safe on the campus and can use their time here to the greatest possible benefit.”

“I’m really proud of the way that the university as a whole is handling this,” Dumpson said. “I’m greatly thankful for the support of my organization as well as the support of students and the community."

Dumpson is the university’s first black female student government president.

“This is historic for her family, this is historic for Taylor, this is historic for the chapter and for our organization, and we don't want that marred by this unfortunate incident, but we are going to be watching it very carefully,” Buckhanan Wilson said.

Kerwin also stated they have made progress in how the university should move forward in terms of the investigation into the hate crime.

"As far as Alpha Kappa Alpha is concerned, we want whoever it is that is behind this brought to justice swiftly and in a very direct manner," said Buckhanan Wilson. "We don't expect the person to be given a slap on the hand. This is a hate crime and we view it as such."

This was not the first time a racially-charged incident has been reported at American University. A banana was thrown at a black student who was among a group from the Black Student Alliance preparing for a demonstration last September. There was also a report of a banana being placed near another black female student's door.

Related Stories:

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Surveillance video released of suspect in American University hate crime displays

Upset American University students march out of meeting on campus hate crime incident

Racially charged incidents at American University investigated after banana thrown at black student

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