Protests to political speakers: spring 2011 in review
From protests to fundraisers, spring semester was packed with news and events.
• The Westboro Baptist Church protested AU’s “fag lifestyle” on Jan. 14. In response, over 1,200 AU students held a counter-demonstration celebrating tolerance of gay rights with musical performances and speeches. “The rally was a major success and, aside for coordinating the student mood and protecting students from potential lawsuits, we drowned out the WBC and even used the opportunity to raise money for the GLBTA community,” former Student Government President Nate Bronstein said.
• The semester’s political speakers included retired Gen. Colin Powell, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and former interim Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile. Celebrities of all sorts also visited campus, including Dan Rather, Topher Grace and Gloria Steinem.
• Those passionate about the “Arab Spring,” a series of pro-democracy protests in the Middle East and North Africa, rallied in Washington as well. On Jan. 29, Egyptian students and supporters protested former president Hosni Mubarak’s regime — both in front of the White House and the Egyptian Embassy — chanting, “Obama you should know, Mubarak has to go.”
• Violent political demonstrations in Tunisia began in January as well, soon spreading to Egypt, where 11 AU students were studying abroad. After days of uncertainty about their program’s future and political unrest, AU evacuated and relocated the students to programs in other countries. In total, 17 AU students were evacuated from Egypt and Syria last semester, according to AU Abroad Director Sara Dumont.
• AU rose to the top of the charts in sustainability this spring. The University earned a gold ranking under the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) in February 2011.
• AU undertook initiatives to expand campus facilities by releasing the 2011 Campus Plan on March 18. This outlined the school’s plans to expand its residence halls and classroom buildings, as well as move the Washington College of Law to Tenley Campus.
• On March 23, Tim McBride was elected SG president for the 2011-2012 academic year. “This year’s SG elections were the most competitive for the position of SG president with over six candidates running for the same spot,” Bronstein said.
• AU raised $80,000 for cancer research at the annual “Relay for Life” on April 2.
• More than 40 students encouraged Vice President of Campus Life Gail Hanson to sign a grant proposal for sexual assault education and, when the university did not sign, camped outside Hanson’s office April 4. Ultimately, Hanson agreed to hold an open forum on sexual assault this fall.
• The school year ended with the death of Osama bin Laden on May 1 during exam week. Large numbers of AU students joined the crowds celebrating at the White House that night.