The American University experience is a toss up that no one can predict
The undergraduate experience is nothing more than a means to an end
We were sitting in the back of the Bridge Cafe when he asked, "If my son were applying to colleges right now, would you recommend them applying to American University?" Listening and pondering the question, I leaned back to relax, bracing myself on the left arm of the couch. I paused. As I opened my mouth to respond, I could feel the words being snatched out of my mouth, leaving me with not much to say, but everything to think about.
I didn’t want to tell him the truth because he is employed by the University, but I also didn’t want to tell him the truth because he knows, like I know, that this may not be the most conducive space for those of the chocolate complexion. Instead, I gave him a prediction. I told him that I believed, by the time his young son was ready for college, American University would be a school worth considering because it would be a different environment than it is now.
Despite greeting me with a financial aid package at the front door, American University has hardly been the home of education, innovation and diversity that it portrayed itself to be. The weekend I visited American University as an accepted student was a mixture of Chance The Rapper concerts, somewhat interesting classes and few people of color.
However, I would be remiss to not acknowledge what soon followed. The weekend of my arrival on this campus, I was mistaken for a Howard University student because of the color of my skin. During my sophomore year, certain groups of students took to Yik Yak to voice their bigoted views towards other students. During my junior year, there were not one, but two racial incidents that went viral. I could go on about how this university isn’t what I expected. I could very easily write another post about how this campus is horrible for people of color. I’m not going to do that.
Instead, I’m going to tell the prospective young, black, American University student that this university is not healthy, but it’s doable. You will break down. You will want to quit. You may hate academia. However, the reality is that AU can be a means to an end. This university may be the most affordable for a select few and for that reason, I can understand if some students stay the course and stick it out through four years. I can also understand if you feel that you may have a different experience from me. The bottom line is that it’s a toss up that no one can predict. In the end, I could lie to the parent in the Bridge Cafe, but I won't. American University is your best friend and worst identity. You may love it and you may hate it, but the bottom line is that it will change you if you don't fight to change it. American University is what you make of it.
Ryan Shepard is a senior in the School of Communication.