American University tackles inclusion issues on campus

- The University of Missouri’s racial tensions on campus have reignited a vital dialogue at college campuses across the country, including at American University, where a movement focusing on meaningful inclusion is underway.

FOX 5’s Tisha Lewis reports “inclusion” is the new buzzword on college campuses nationwide and plenty are watching closely to see what happens at Mizzou. They may want to pull a page from American University’s playbook. AU survived social media accusations about racism on campus this year.

We spoke with faculty and students who said the solution to tackling those tensions was attacking them head on and even that effort continues.

“So there's been a lot of rhetoric from American University especially in regards to what they are trying to do to combat racism on campus,” said 19-year-old sophomore student Aaron Torop.

It is critics like Torop who AU’s Diversity and Inclusion czar Tiffany Speaks has the task of reaching.

“We're listening and we're moving, but we don't move quite as fast as you do with 140 characters, but we are responsive,” said Speaks. “What has happened is really we can have small groups to have these intense conversations, so you can talk about race from the experience of someone who may or may not have experienced white privilege.”

Speaks said the university’s dialogue program regularly hosts the aforementioned conversations with students and staff. There is also a Mapping My Identity course targeting inclusion that is mandatory for incoming freshman.

“I took away that you shouldn't be judging other people based on what they believe in,” said freshman student Helene Bosman.

Even so, Torop said there is a long way to go before problems surrounding racial tensions are solved.

“I think that we need to keep fighting for equality, keep standing behind students of color and being allies as we work towards creating a better campus climate,” said Torop.

Speaks said the goal is to listen to the students, take what they are saying seriously, respect it and respond.

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