Protesting response to race-related incidents at AU

A protest right now, on the campus of American University over some unsettling racial incidents.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - A black female American University student had a banana thrown into her dorm room. It’s one of several incidents that sparked a protest on AU’s campus Thursday, where members of the student body joined AU’s Black Student Alliance calling for change in how the university responds.

The students are calling for AU to change how it responds to race-related incidents, asking for an alert system that informs students when a race-related investigation is underway.

The students also want the university to change how it educations the student body on situations like this.

A sophomore, Jade Bell told WUSA9, she was a target of racism on the campus last year but also says, no one was punished. She believes nothing was done.

“My first week as a freshman, I would have my laundry constantly ripped out in the middle of the night … could never do laundry on my floor. Me and my friends would have n---- on my whiteboard,” Bell said.

"I was scared to go outside. I didn't know what they were going to do to me. If I'm going to get beat up in the middle of the stairwell, and then I have to get these pep talks from my dad and my mom crying saying I can do it, I can finish out the year. It was just such a hopeless feeling,” Bell also told WUSA9.

Neah Gray described a similar feeling, becoming emotional as she addressed the students and staff. Fists of all colors raised in solidarity with her. Gray is the female student who had a banana thrown at her.

“I don’t know, I was just angry with it happened and now I feel empowered. I’m just appreciative of everyone who cares about what happened,” she told WUSA9.

Some of the students WUSA9 spoke with hadn’t heard of the incident at all. Others who did, said they learned about it through news reports or on sites like BuzzFeed.

“It’s really embarrassing to have to tell my friends from home that this is the school where bananas are thrown at people’s doors, “said Ben Khoshbin, a Freshman from Texas. He tells WUSA 9 anyone who let this happen without reporting it is just as guilty.

“I can’t believe that happened at all. I’m from South Carolina actually, so I thought I would’ve left all that stuff behind,” said Grad Student, Ashley Rodgers.

Last week, the University confirmed the incidents with this statement:
Regarding the known facts, on September 8, an incident that was not characterized as bias related occurred in a residence hall and was reported to Residence Life staff. The Dean of Students office reached out to the affected party and to the perpetrators. Based on the accounts provided, the DOS filed conduct charges, which are currently being adjudicated through the Student Conduct process. The Department of Public Safety was notified and conducted its own investigation.

Actions can and do have impact beyond their intent and that was the case here. The University condemns discrimination and discriminatory harassment and all violations are handled through the Student Conduct process.

On Monday, the University’s President increased the response with not only continued denouncing of any discrimination and harassment, but AU’s President also announced the following:

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.

Dylan Williams is a Senior from Prince George’s County. He is black and described growing-up in a mainly Black community. He called the experience, “eye-opening.”


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