American University Student Government hosts town hall on Monday's hate crime
SG President Taylor Dumpson calls Monday’s incident “the tipping point”
The American University Student Government held a standing room only town hall and press conference on Thursday afternoon to discuss action steps in response to the hate crime on Monday that targeted the historically African-American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
Student Government President Taylor Dumpson led the two hour town hall. She plans to work with University administration on the steps discussed, which include public safety patrols at night, increased campus security and structural racism trainings for students.
“It is unfortunate that we were all brought here together by this event, but I believe this was a tipping point that officially caused everyone to say ‘enough is enough,’” Dumpson said.
Dumpson then thanked the AU and D.C. community for their support. Many alumni of Dumpson’s sorority attended the event. They wore the sorority’s colors, pink and green.
She discussed why she chose AU for college, citing the school’s reputation as a politically active campus as the motivator for her decision to attend. She brought up a racial incident that occurred on Yik Yak, the defunct social media platform, in 2015.
“Three years ago, I made one of the best decisions of my life in choosing American University, I found some of my best friends, my passion and my voice,” Dumpson said. “I never imagined that one day I would be placed in this position. I never imagined that I would become the AUSG President or the target of a hate crime.”
Student leaders demonstrate how the incident’s perpetrator could be prosecuted under the Student Conduct Code
Will Mascaro, the director for the Center for Advocacy and Student Equity, formerly known as the Student Advocacy Center, followed Dumpson’s speech. He explained recent changes to the Student Conduct Code regarding bias incidents, or events motivated by prejudice. The changes were made before Monday’s hate crime, which qualifies as a bias incident.
He explained how the perpetrator of Monday’s hate crime, if that person is a AU student, will be prosecuted under the Student Conduct Code. If that person is not an AU student, the Student Conduct Code does not apply.
Dumpson sees the recent revisions to the code as productive, but wants to see the University create stricter punishments for perpetrators of hate crimes, she said.
Following Mascaro’s speech, SG opened the floor for student, faculty and staff discussion. Members of the AU community raised their hands to ask questions and make statements.
Lauren Lumpkin, a junior in School of Communication and editor-in-chief of The Blackprint, spoke about how she believes there needs to be more transparency within the process of the Student Conduct Code.
“I think it just so hard to figure out where you start at,” Lumpkin said. “So, I think it needs to be easier and there needs to be a lot more transparency and what happens after a complaint is filed.”
Alexis Arnold, a freshman and member of The Blackprint, spoke about the communication between the University and students about hate crimes.
“Beyond AU Alerts, my issue with the last incident is that... the consequences weren’t clearly communicated to the student body, so I would like to see if there are formal steps that the university will take in this process,” Arnold said.
Natalie Hedden, a junior in the School of Public Affairs, spoke on the footage released from the University and asked for a reevaluation of the security cameras placement on campus.
“I don’t know where the security and surveillance cameras are, but it’s absurd to me that filming two videos that are now out and the angles that they are I just find it interesting that they aren’t located on the major buildings on campus,” Hedden said. “So just reevaluating that would be a good idea.”
University communications updates community on the investigation of Monday’s hate crime
The town hall was followed by a press conference led by Terry Flannery, vice president of University communications.
“The investigation is continuous and the University is working with its law enforcement partners,” Flannery said. “As we described, the American University Police Department has the jurisdiction and authority in regards to investigating this with the assistance of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI. We are not able to comment further on the status of this investigation.”
University President Neil Kerwin then gave remarks about the town hall. He acknowledged Dumpson’s “intelligence and courage” and her “tremendous ability to lead” in just her fourth day of office.
“We’re determined to ensure that the rest of this campus and the entire community, in fact the nation and the world, understand that what occurred here has nothing to do with the fundamental values of this university,” Kerwin said.
Kerwin has only three weeks left before President-designate Sylvia Burwell takes over the position on June 1.
After President Kerwin’s remarks, he entered a 30-minute “debriefing” session along with Dumpson, members of the SG executive cabinet and AU administrators. They discussed types of actions moving forward into the summer months and next year.
President Kerwin and Dumpson did not accept any further questions, but Flannery made herself available to the press after the conclusion of the debriefing. SG Secretary Kris Schneider and SG Vice President Solomon Self provided a brief of the meeting’s discussion.
“I think that we’re going to get a lot out of this town hall. I think a lot of students came,” Schneider said. “They were able to voice their opinions in ways that we haven’t seen before at American University. Dr. Kerwin said that this was the most productive town hall that he’s been to… I would agree.”