American University rolls out plan to promote inclusion, fight racism

WASHINGTON — American University in Northwest D.C. has announced an extensive plan to fight racism and promote understanding among people of different backgrounds.

The move follows several racist incidents on campus, including bananas found hung from strings shaped like nooses and displays of Confederate flag posters with cotton plants attached to them.

The university’s “Plan for Inclusive Excellence” was put together after input was received from more than 1,000 students, alumni, administrators, faculty and staff.

In general, the plan’s five goals are: provide new anti-bias training, improve the campus climate, ensure better handling of reports of bias and discrimination, encourage more diversity and fairness in hiring and promotions, and offer inclusive core curriculum. Read the full plan here.

Under the plan, by fall of this year, all first-year students will be required to take a new class called AU Experience.

“American University can only thrive when we affirm the dignity of everyone, when we demonstrate cultural competence, when everyone — especially students, faculty and staff of color — feels included,” university President Sylvia Burwell said in a video announcement of the plan.

The university will spend $121 million on the effort over two years.

“Change takes time, change takes many hands, and we’re committed to change. So, I hope you will keep us accountable to this plan,” Burwell added.

The university is promising transparency and annual progress reports detailing how the plan is working.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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