AU administrators investigating reports of man wearing Confederate flag hoodie in TDR
University response was a result of students speaking out about incident on social media
After students posted on social media about a man wearing a Confederate flag sweatshirt in American University’s dining hall Thursday night, the University has released a statement regarding the incident.
Fanta Aw, the University’s vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, sent a memo to students Friday afternoon acknowledging that a man wearing a Confederate flag hoodie entered and dined in the Terrace Dining Room last night. The theme of the evening in TDR was “Spanish Night,” a for students.
“An AUPD officer spoke with the individual after students nearby expressed concern about his presence,” Aw wrote in the statement. “The man later left. We are reviewing information about the event and have reached out to the students involved.”
Aw did not identify the man wearing the sweatshirt by name, or say whether he was a student at AU. She added that administrators will communicate with students as they “continue to understand” what happened.
“We recognize that the Confederate flag feels threatening to members of our community,” she wrote. “As a university that values inclusion, freedom of expression and a culture of openness, we recognize that resolving the tensions that can arise between these issues is challenging.”
The University’s response to the incident was prompted by a public Facebook post that was shared by several students on Thursday night.
AU student Francis Hernandez wrote that the man in the sweatshirt made her “anxious” to the point that she could no longer eat or enjoy her meal in the dining hall. Hernandez, who shared three photos of the man in her post, declined to comment further to The Eagle. AU’s NAACP chapter also declined to comment for this story.
“I’m tired of being told there is nothing to do by this university,” Hernandez wrote in the post. “I’m tired of constantly having to witness and experience incidents like these because this university refuses to do the work that is needed. ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ only matter to this school when they can capitalize on it.”
The University is no stranger to racist incidents on campus in the past several years. In September 2017, an unidentified man with cotton attached to them across campus. A suspect was never identified and no one was arrested. In May of that year, tied in the shape of nooses on the day that Taylor Dumpson, Student Government’s first black female president, took office. It was later investigated as a hate crime by the FBI.
Hernandez later posted that the University had reached out to them about the incident and criticized AU for putting more effort “into responding to incidents vs. actually preventing or addressing them the instant they happen.”
Other students shared their outrage about the incident on social media. Kelvin Riddick, a freshman at AU who wasn't in TDR at the time of the incident, said his “heart sank” when he saw pictures of the man wearing the hoodie.
“You have to understand that that symbol puts such a feeling of dread and oppression on people like me and minorities and anyone who’s been oppressed by it,” Riddick, who is black, told The Eagle. “I do believe that the school does know how the sign has made people feel but I'm hoping that it wasn't just a quick fix, I hope that something actually happens.”
This story has been updated.