WASHINGTON - School officials at American University say they are continuing to investigate racially charged incidents that occurred on campus while members of the Black Student Alliance prepare for a demonstration.
The first incident occurred on September 8 when a young African American woman reported that she was struck by a thrown banana while on campus. A second incident involved a banana being placed on or near another black female student’s door.
"In recent days, two incidents of unacceptable student behavior were reported that left our African-American students and others shaken, upset, and even feeling unsafe," said American University President Neil Kerwin in a statement. "The second act of misconduct involved an explicit racist incident in a residence hall. Such acts are reprehensible and are the antithesis of the values and standards we embrace as a university."
American University said the first incident was investigated and those involved had been held accountable through the student conduct process. The second, they say, is still under investigation.
Ma'at Sargeant, of the Black Student Alliance, said that members of the group will hold a demonstration Monday at 4 p.m. "The main reason that we’re doing the protest is to raise awareness that this is happening on campus," Sargeant told FOX 5’s Bob Barnard. "A lot of people see American University as a diverse and inclusive campus, however, once you get on campus you are faced with a different reality."
"This is not a one-time incident," Sargeant continued. "There are always racial incidents on campus." She said that incidents are getting worse because the university has not addressed previous occurrences properly.
FULL STATEMENT FROM AMERICAN UNIVERSITY:
In recent days, two incidents of unacceptable student behavior were reported that left our African-American students and others shaken, upset, and even feeling unsafe. The second act of misconduct involved an explicit racist incident in a residence hall. Such acts are reprehensible and are the antithesis of the values and standards we embrace as a university.
I share with many of you deep disappointment and frustration that these events have disrupted our community and challenged our efforts to build an inclusive campus culture. They simply have no place here. We will confront racist expressions with forceful condemnation and respond to discrimination with every tool at our disposal. It is incumbent on the university to respond clearly and to educate those who cause harm with their insensitivity and ignorance.
Staff have been working tirelessly and directly with students since last week, providing outreach and support, including a town hall meeting last Friday. The first incident was investigated and those involved in the misconduct have been held accountable through the student conduct process. The second is under investigation and a statement released to residents last week specifically calls for anyone with more information to contact Public Safety. The directors of Housing and Dining have written to all resident students, reminding them to live up to the community standards they participated in establishing.
There will be opportunities to discuss our expectations and our concerns during a series of events, entitled Courageous Conversations, in the weeks to come. The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Counseling Center, Faculty Staff Assistance Program and Kay Spiritual Life Center are places to seek support and solace. We will speak directly and listen carefully in an effort to help our community heal and overcome the hurt that has been expressed.
Do not be discouraged. We will not be dissuaded from our goal to create a more inclusive climate. Despite the efforts we have begun, there is still a great deal more to do. Given the events we have seen across our country in recent months, this work will continue for the foreseeable future.