Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, July 30, 2016

Letter from the vice president of campus life and the provost

Our campus community has been stunned and mobilized by opinions expressed about date rape by an Eagle columnist in this week’s paper. The emotion provoked by the column and the seriousness of the subject make this a powerful learning opportunity for our community and a moment for us to affirm our values as an educational institution.

AU is committed to a safe environment for all and does not tolerate rape in any form or under any circumstances.

American University’s position on sexual assault is outlined in the Student Handbook (pdf) and the Student Code of Conduct (Student Handbook, page 84). AU’s values are expressed in its Statement of Common Purpose and in its policies aimed at protecting the health and well being of our students. AU’s central commitment is to the development of thoughtful, responsible human beings in the context of a challenging yet supportive academic community [see Statement of Common Purpose].

AU also has a commitment to freedom of expression. Consistent with that commitment, individuals have the right to express their opinions — even opinions we find offensive. In this instance, The Eagle editors exercised their independent judgment about what to place in print, and they are responsible to the community for the decision they made. The community holds the editors accountable through the complaint procedures outlined in The Eagle’s constitution. We are ensuring that these procedures are being followed.

Where do we go from here?

The Dean of Students staff, in collaboration with a number of campus partners — students, faculty and staff — recently has produced an enhanced statement of rights, responsibilities and resources related to sexual misconduct. The proposal is under active review with approval anticipated before the end of the semester. We plan to publish the full text of the approved document in The Eagle.

In this challenging moment, when many are searching for what they can do to address the breach that has occurred in the fabric of our community, we invite you to familiarize yourself with the university’s position on sexual misconduct and renew your personal commitment to live up to our community values.

AU has a proud tradition of empowering students to bring about change. The intensity of reactions to The Eagle’s editorial decision reflects student engagement in social issues that affect them and their community. Campus Life staff and AU faculty members have been working with many of the students touched by this controversy to help them respond appropriately. We have been encouraged by students’ expression of their opinions about this issue and by the constructive discussions that are under way. We hope that the dialogue will continue to educate and inform the AU community about our values and the standards of conduct we expect of our community members.

Gail Short Hanson, Vice President of Campus Life Scott A. Bass, Provost