Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, December 17, 2017

Op-ed: In defense of the American way

Jon Shapiro defends the University response to recent racial tensions

Op-ed: In defense of the American way

In light of recent events on this campus, it has become abundantly clear to me that the student body is awash with Trumpism. Not the kind of Trumpism that prefers a certain race to another, although that may also be present, but the “outsider” mentality that insists that anyone in a position of authority is wrong. Regardless of that authority, or the issue, or their position, they are wrong.

This mentality is dangerous.

Most recently, as any follower of this publication would know, I am referring to the banana incident. I make no attempt to defend those who threw the banana, or any of the other related activities, but I must stand in defense of the University’s response.

The University has responded in two main ways: publicly and behind the scenes. This campus, be it the Undergraduate Senate or the Black Student Alliance, has condemned both types of response. Yet neither can properly articulate a preferred method of dispute resolution. For those short on time, I’ll get cut to the point: there is no better response. By limitations of circumstance and the law, the AU administration has done what they can.

For those of you with more time, and who are unconvinced, let’s look at both types.

Publicly, the first response was the town hall. Naturally, AU wanted to be able to express the things they were doing to improve the climate of the University and ensure the safety of our students. What could be wrong with that?

The accusation quickly came that this town hall was scheduled on too short a notice. This ignores temporal reality. It was Friday. To wait to hold a meeting until Monday would have resulted in an even worse scandal. So stuck between a rock and a hard place, the University chose as Odysseus did: make a decision that loses some fans (his crew, for those unfamiliar with the story) but not all of them.

Given the circumstance, not taking action would have been far worse.

On the private side, much less is (justifiably) known. The claim circulating social media and protest rallies is that the offending students will face no justice because AU values their tuition money. Similarly, it is said that these students will not be expelled.

I am certain that AU values tuition dollars, mine or anyone else’s. I am also certain that the conduct system will render some form of punishment. I make no guarantee as to what that will be, but something will happen.

I make another guarantee: every party to the conduct process will be disappointed. The responding students will feel the punishment is too harsh. The complainants (you may call them victims) will say it was not strong enough. And the public? As they already have, will tell that the system is rigged, and even if it catered to their every demand it will be insufficient.

That’s where we come to Trumpism. We’ve seen it before on this campus, like in dealings with changes to how AU addresses Title IX cases. Having worked behind the scenes in student conduct, I can tell you that administrators care. Gail Hanson, Heather Pratt, Katie Porras and many others that work in the Office of Campus Life, especially those that work close to the conduct process, care.

But despite caring, and wanting to do the best for the student body, they cannot make decisions outside of established judicial practices. They cannot randomly expel students before a hearing. Equally important, we cannot assume that the process will yield a bad result before it yields a result, especially with how little information is held by the public about these cases specifically, and how far along they are in the conduct process.

Do not assume that the University will fail you because you disagree with them. One day, you may be on the other end of a conduct process. And trust me, you’ll want them to be as impartial then as they are now.

And they will be.


Jon Shapiro is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Chair of the Student Government’s Judicial Board.

edpage@theeagleonline.com


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