Claims of Racism Spark Rally at American University

A protest broke out Sept. 20 on American University’s campus after reports that an African American student had bananas thrown at her.

American University freshman Neah Gray claimed that she and another student were the target of racism. Gray claimed that obscenities were written on the whiteboard of her dormitory room door and that a rotten banana was left in front of her dorm room. Another student said that bananas were thrown at her.

After the first claim of racism was reported to the university, A.U. officials said, “Those involved in the misconduct have been held accountable through the student conduct process.” The second incident is under review by the school.

Gray said that anyone who is guilty of racist behavior should be immediately suspended from the university.

Both incidents happened around 1:30 a.m. Sept. 18 in the Anderson dormitory. Surveillance footage appears to show two male freshman as potential suspects, and the university has released a statement regarding the acts.

A.U.’s Black Student Alliance group, an umbrella organization for black groups on campus, has said that the events have sparked outrage on campus and prompted a call to suspend the students who were involved. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time black students at the university have experienced racism, said the group, which cited incidents last year of the n-word being written on students’ doors and students being told to “go back to Africa.” In a statement, the BSA wrote that it wants the school to do more to support vulnerable students on campus. To see their statement, click here.

A.U.’s Student Government President Devontae Torriente also made a statement.

Along with the student body organizations, American University President Neil Kerwin issued the following statement Sept. 20:

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.

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