American University Police Department held an event with students at the Bridge to discuss the department’s actions and measures to keep students safe on campus on Monday, March 25.
The event, named “Fact and Fiction with AUPD,” was led by Phil Morse, the head of AUPD, and Dan Nichols, AU’s assistant vice president of risk, safety and transportation programs. While the event was originally supposed to center around a PowerPoint, technical issues caused the event to become a one-on-one discussion between Morse, Nichols and students.
The event was co-hosted by AU Student Government, AUSG’s Center for Advocacy & Student Equity and the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program.
Sophomore Camryn Anderson attended the event hoping to learn more about the goals of AUPD and said she had an open mind going into the discussion.
“I’m just curious about the information they want to get out and the information they want to spread to students,'' Anderson said.
AU Student Government President Valentina Fernández attended to represent SG and to emphasize how conversations between students and university officials are vital.
“I think having these types of conversations that are informal are really important because there are a lot of myths that go on about AUPD, but also students need to know about their rights, and what they are entitled to as students,” Fernández said.
The conversation was based entirely around student questions, which ranged from the precautions to take if an active shooter is present on campus to the jurisdictional rights of AUPD to the mental health struggles of students.
At one point, Morse asked students what they would use in the Bridge to protect themselves if an active shooter was on campus. In July 2018, an armed intruder was reported near American University’s campus and prompted a three-hour lockdown and a search of campus buildings by AU police and the Metropolitan Police Department.
The shutdown left AU community members in shock, with hundreds of students telling The Eagle they did not receive police alerts about the intruder. In September 2018, administrators said they changed the AU Alert protocols to send notifications to all current students “regardless of their [class] registration status,” meaning that students not registered for courses for the semester would still receive alerts.
“The more information we have, the more gaps we are able to find, we are able to make sure future student leaders and other students across campus feel empowered to address them in some regard to enhance student life on campus,” Fernández said.