Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Staff Ed: Students deserve transparency about Pitts case




fire

As the sides of the campus shuttles tell us, AU faculty are in the news every 24 minutes. Sometimes it’s not for the reasons we would expect.

On Sept. 3, AU professor and department head David Pitts broke into the Foxhall shopping mall near campus and allegedly started a fire in a parking attendant booth. Very little is known about Pitts’ motivation for this crime, beyond third party reports that thousands of prescription pills were found in his apartment.

Students were shocked by many aspects of this incident, not least of which was the University’s decision not to issue a statement to the entire AU student body. This is not the first time the administration has avoided transparency on an issue of staff competency. Only a few years ago, our last University president embezzled millions of the dollars from the University, and a president from the 1980s was admitted to the D.C. Psych Ward shortly after his term.

“AU students deserve at least an acknowledgement that
the incident and subsequent arrest happened.”

The administration’s reaction to this incident is markedly different from its response to the recent EI scandal. During the EI email leak, it stressed transparency and open communication between the entire community. Now it closed off anyone outside of Pitts’ department and the School of Public Affairs.

AU students deserve at least an acknowledgement that the incident and subsequent arrest happened. We should not have to find out about events like this from outside sources like the Washington Post. It would benefit the school for everyone here to be on the same page about what happened.

The fact that they’re being so slow in responding publicly leads to people spreading rumors that make us look bad; setting the record straight would be better for AU’s image than their current stance of silence.

The fact that we do not know more than the most basic facts (all found from third party sources and The Eagle’s reporting) is particularly worrying. As members of this community, we are entitled to know as much information as possible about the well-being of any faculty member we may have had contact with, particularly one so prominent on campus.

The Eagle recognizes that the administration probably could not have done anything to prevent this incident. Still, we deserve at least the basic level of honesty and transparency on this issue that affects us all so directly. -E