WASHINGTON — Investigations are underway at American University after allegations of racially biased behavior Sept. 8 in a dorm building. Despite student reports, however, the university said in a statement Friday that it was not characterizing the incident as bias-related.
There was not enough evidence to characterize the incident as bias-related, according to Kelly Alexander, public relations director at American University. Because of privacy rules, she could not discuss specifics about the case, she said.
But sophomore Ma’at Sargeant, president of the Black Student Alliance (BSA) at American University, said the Sept. 8 incident was blatant racism. She said the BSA had contacted the two freshmen — both black women — who were involved in the situation.
“One night last week, around 1:30, white boys were running up and down the hallways, and they placed boxes in front of one girl’s door, as well as a rotten banana, and they drew penises on her whiteboard,” Sargeant said. “Then they went to another black woman’s room and opened her dorm door and threw a rotten banana at her while she was in her room.”
Both women reported the incident immediately, Sargeant said.
The two males have been brought up on code-of-conduct charges, Alexander said. While the BSA is upset and feels this incident is racially charged, Alexander said, there was not sufficient evidence to make that case.
“Actions can and do have impact beyond their intent and that was the case here,” the school said in its statement Friday.
Meanwhile, a protest is planned for Monday at the school to call for the suspension of the male students involved because, as Sargent said, “we think that that is a fair consequence for someone who committed a hate crime as well as an assault.”
At the Monday protest, they plan to not only speak out about the incident, but they also plan to raise awareness, Sargeant said.
“This is not an isolated incident,” she said. “Racial acts such as these happen every single year, and they are always unaddressed by administration or swept under the rug.”
The school held a town hall Friday to give the students a place to discuss the issues, Alexander said.
The Dean of Students and Department of Public Safety at the university are continuing to investigate allegations of other incidents, according to the statement.
Additionally, the university’s newly created President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion should be holding its first meeting soon, Alexander said. The council, which was created in the spring, will look at diversity issues and policies.